Aklan Farmers Gain Much from the New Technology
Three farmers in Malinao, Aklan have different stories to tell about their lives, but they are one in saying they are benefiting much from the new rice technology.
For Arlene Infante, Stephen Inac, and Rodiel Intenta, a greater portion of their traditional rice farming practices have been discarded and their yields have been increasing as a result of learning the new rice technology.
Arlene, 45 and a mother of three, started learning her farming tricks at an early age. When she grew older, farmers already hired her to transplant rice seedlings. She started to cultivate a small area for rice production on her own when her children were still very young. For her one-fourth hectare farm, all she needed were two panegas of seeds, weighing 26 kilograms (kg), for direct seeding. That was much too many seeds, but farmers in Malinao have been using this seeding rate all along.
Although she planted twice a year as rainfall is almost evenly distributed throughout the year, her yields were relatively low compared with what she is harvesting now.
Arlene and the New Tech
Using the new direct seeding technology, Arlene now cultivates about 2 ha located in four sites in Kinalangay Nuevo, Malinao. She learned the technology from Pat Rebuelta, then a PhilRice [Philippine Rice Research Institute] trainer based in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija and now an instructor at ASU [Aklan State University]. Incidentally, Pat comes from Brgy. Kinalangay Nuevo.
Like other farmers, Arlene direct seeds her first rice crop in June, and sows her second crop in November to December. In the past she was seeding 240 kg (six cavans of 40 kg each for the 2 ha (or 120 kg/ha), reasoning out that the extra seeds were needed to compensate for losses due to the golden apple snail, chickens, rats, and ants. Indeed, the population density of her crop then was very high.
With the new direct seeding technology, however, her seeding rate has decreased somehow to 90 kg/ha, resulting in considerable savings on seed and seeding costs. This rate, is still high but chances are great that it would be reduced eventually to 40 kg/ha, as she and the other farmers in the barangay are now immersed in the new direct seeding technology.
In addition, like the other farmers in the community who have learned the new direct seeding technology, she has learned to apply the right amount of fertilizer at the proper time. However, much too many rice plants are still using the fertilizer she applies.
The yield before was very low compared to the present, Arlene said. From the 2 ha during the dry season before we visited her, for instance, she harvested a total 6,680 kg. After removing the harvesters’ share, she has 5,540 kg, which she considers a great harvest as she never saw this before she learned the new direct seeding technology.
Arlene recalls she had so many doubts on the new technology when it was introduced to them. She had lots of questions that needed to be answered.
To be able to answer those questions, Pat conducted a season-long training program to show to the doubting Thomases that the technology works. However, he could not drastically reduce the seeding rate, as he would meet tremendous resistance.
Like the other participants in the training program, Arlene immediately practiced in her farm what she learned from the training program. She devoted 800 sq. m. as her practice area for the new technology, which was a requirement in the training program. It was her first crop where she applied the new technique. And true enough, she harvested 200 kg or an equivalent 2,500 kg/ha.
More than that, Arlene now plants a new crop in addition to the two crops of rice in a year. After the dry season rice crop, Arlene and two other farmers now plant watermelon. At the start, it was only Arlene who tried the new crop, but two other farmers followed her example in the second year.
Arlene literally made a killing with her watermelon harvest, as she was the lone farmer who planted the crop. The fruits were easily sold, as watermelon sold in the local public market is “imported” from some distant towns.
From the 800 sq.m., Arlene derived a net income of more than P1,500. Compared with the income of watermelon growers in Luzon, however, this income level is relatively low. This could be due to the low buying price offered by buyers in Aklan, as there is not much urban areas around, saved by Iloilo City, which is quite a good distance.
Suffice it to say, however, that Arlene found an additional source of income in watermelon after the second rice crop. After all, the land would be in an unproductive fallow state if it were not planted with a short-maturing third crop.
A Rice Farmer by Accident
Stephen, 46, on the other hand, went to rice farming by accident. A graduate of BS in Marine Transportation, he worked earlier in an international shipping company for six years before he met an accident in 1978 during a cargo handling operation in Madras, India. As a result, he developed a phobia to the sound and sight of large cranes.
Since then a gnawing fear made him nervous every time he saw heavy equipment like cranes. Four years after the accident, he finally decided to leave his work and went home to Malinao, Aklan.
Between 1982 and 1994, farming was far from his mind. However, he had to find something that would make him productive and become an asset of society once again. Because there were not much employment opportunities in Aklan, he started to cultivate about half a hectare of rice land in Kinalangay Nuevo, which has been left to fallow since five years earlier due to lack of irrigation water. Sad to note, the land was also undeveloped.
Stephen, who grew up in the town proper, had the farm leveled and the levees repaired. For a start, he divided the farm into only two parcels (2,500 sq. m. each), which later became just one whole parcel. For this operation alone, he already spent a good amount of money, which he does not regret anyway.
Because he had no technical background on agriculture even as he grew up in a rural area, he followed just about every practice then being used by the farmers in the community. He tried to read the only available old books, but did not help him at all.
Sad to say, he did not harvest a single grain from his first crop, as his rice plants practically got burned due to lack of rain and irrigation water. He said their former tenant even had a better luck because he used to get 480 kg from the area.
Persistent Like A Weed
Like the weed that continues to grow even with the minutest amount of moisture, Stephen persisted with a ray of hope that sooner or later he would succeed. True enough, he harvested 480 kg [equivalent to 960 kg/ha] the following year. The harvest was just enough to cover the cost of production. This time, he told himself he was already as good as the former tenant.
But he had to be better than that since he finished a college degree. As he expected, his harvest started to perk up as he persisted in his newly found venture. As if good fortune was going his way, he harvested 1,600 kg/ha in the third year, and then 2,800 kg/ha in the fourth year.
He joined the Kinalangay Nuevo Multi-Purpose Cooperative in 2000, enabling him to participate in training programs and seminars intended for the members. Those training activities, which usually lasted for two days, provided him opportunities to learn the new rice technology.
In 2002, Rebuelta conducted a farmers’ field school for members of the Kinalangay Nuevo Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Stephen used the half-hectare as his practice field, which was a requirement in the farmers’ field school. Each participant was required to have a field where he had to apply whatever he learned from every session of the season-long training program.
Stephen must have learned much from the farmers’ field school, as his harvest continued to increase since then –3,020 kg/ha in 2002, 3,120 kg/ha in 2003, and 3,200 kg/ha in 2004. He is optimistic, however, that with the new technology, he would harvest more.
In addition, his seeding rate has also tremendously decreased. From the 60 kg that he had been using for 0.5 ha, it is now only 30 kg, a reduction of 50 percent. His other farm, used to be seeded with 120 kg; it is now only 70 kg, a reduction of 42 percent. Moreover, he no longer uses insecticides.
Bountiful Harvest Assured
Rodiel of Brgy. Cabayugan, 56, declared that the new direct seeding technology has assured a bountiful harvest to farmers in Malinao. He cultivates 1.5 ha of irrigated and 1.0 ha of rainfed rice fields.
He has drastically reduced his seeding rate by half from 106.67 kg/ha to 53 kg/ha. More than the volume of seeds that is being saved, it is no longer as tiresome as it used to be to broadcast the seeds, he said. And the extra seeds have become additional food for his family.
Rodiel, who has been a PhilRice farmer-partner in integrated pest management (IPM), varietal trials and hybrid rice production, estimated that he must have harvested 6,400 kg from 1.5 ha in the first cropping season. That was equivalent to 4,267 kg/ha.
He pointed out that with the new direct seeding technology, his yield has increased by 30 percent over the traditional practice.
He usually plants three to four varieties every cropping season. During the past seven seasons, he has been planting IR 20, IR 42, IR 44, IR 64, PSB Rc 10, PSB Rc14, PSB Rc82, MS 8, and the hybrid varieties. Among these varieties, PSB Rc10 is the best for direct seeding in Brgy. Cabayugan due to its high yield. From 1.0 kg of seeds, he harvested 128 kg, which he said was the first time in his life.
Hybrid Rice Production
His yields from hybrid rice have become equally impressive. From one-fourth hectare of transplanted Mestizo 1 (PSB Rc72H), he harvested 4,640 kg/ha, even as he experienced low seed germination.
His yield increased to 5,128 kg/ha in his second crop. In the cropping season before we interviewed him, he harvested 4,800 kg/ha of NSIC Rc116H or Mestizo 3 from the same area.
As an IPM practitioner, Rodiel does not spray insecticides unless extremely necessary. He only needs to spray when a considerable number of adults and nymphs or larvae fall into the water when the leaves of the rice plants are shaken.
Unlike in the past when he sprayed insecticides every week as scheduled, he no longer follows a regimented schedule. He said he did not even spray insecticides in the season before we met him.
He takes pride in saying that he himself has taught IPM and the new direct seeding technology to 40 farmers in another barangay, which is five kilometers away from Cabayugan.
The cases of these Malinao farmers tend to show that gradual introduction of change might be needed when great resistance to a much different technology is perceived. It is possible that farmers would eventually change for the better as they experience improvements in their yields.
By Sosima Ma. Pablico, Ph. D.