In fact, as early as last month, DA has been implementing cloud seeding operations to induce rains in major watersheds and farming communities in Cagayan Valley that did not receive a rainfall for at least a week, said Secretary Alcala. And with a protracted dry spell now an increasing possibility, Secretary Alcala said DA would intensify cloud seeding operations so as to save harvestable crops and other produce from damage, in tandem with DOST.
To date, the DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) has already completed 28 cloud-seeding trips in drought-affected municipalities in Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and other areas in Cagayan Valley. In Isabela, these sorties prevented damage on some 4,155 hectares of corn farms, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in the vegetative, agriculture officials explained. Each flying hour costs around P43,000, including expense on salt being dispersed above clouds suitable for seeding.
Aside from cloud seeding sorties, the Department has also started to distribute shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to help farmers in areas most affected by the drought. For rice, it includes PSB Rc14 popularly known as “Rio Grande," a rainfed lowland rice variety which matures in 116 days with a maximum yield of 6.1 tons per hectare. Meanwhile, farmers who don’t intend to plant rice are being advised to consider drought-resistant crops such as sweet pepper, ubi, alugbati, mungbean, cassava and sweet potato.
Several water-saving technologies are also available. For instance, in rice, the Philippine Rice Research Institute promotes controlled irrigation or alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology. It also minimizes greenhouse gas emissions in paddy fields. PhilRice has also been teaching farmers nationwide to adopt Palayamanan Plus, a highly integrated and diversified system of farming where rice is grown with other crops and livestock, among others. With diversified sources of food and income, farmers are able to enhance their resilience to adverse weather conditions such as a prolonged drought.
DA through the National Irrigation Administration has been in touch with irrigators associations nationwide to ensure efficient water allocation and use in irrigation systems.
Undersecretary Emerson U. Palad of the DA-Field Operations Service (DA-FOS) said a newly formed task force on El Niño will meet on Wednesday to firm up strategies meant to cushion the impact of the impending extended dry spell on farming and fishery sectors. The task force -- composed of Usec. Palad as head, with members that include heads of key attached bureaus and agencies and national directorate programs for rice, corn, livestock, fisheries and high value crops -- is expected to come up with an action plan and its corresponding budgetary requirements.
For the purposes of monitoring and crafting of possible interventions, DA-FOS has identified 44 provinces and two cities as highly vulnerable and moderately vulnerable local government units to the impacts of a prolonged dry spell.
Highly vulnerable LGUs include: Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union and Pangasinan in Ilocos Region; Cagayan in Cagayan Valley; Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in Central Luzon; Cavite and Rizal in CALABARZON; Occidental Mindoro and Palawan in MIMAROPA; Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental in Western Visayas; Zamboanga City in Zamboanga Peninsula; Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao; and Sarangani and South Cotabato in SOCCSKSARGEN.
Moderately vulnerable LGUs include: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province in the Cordilleras; Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in Cagayan Valley; Batangas, Laguna and Quezon in CALABARZON; Romblon in MIMAROPA; Sorsogon in Bicol Region; Aklan and Antique in Western Visayas; Bohol in Central Visayas; Samar in Eastern Visayas; Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay in Zamboanga Peninsula; Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao; and Davao Oriental and Davao City in Davao Region.
The last prolonged drought recorded in the country was in 2009-2010. (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)
Department of Agriculture
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
6 May 2014