Ex-trike Driver Finds Farming Much Better
Although he comes from a rural area, it was only recently when this former security guard and extricycle driver realized that the prospects for a better life are in the farm. Now he can already claim without reservation that it is much better to cultivate his small rice farm of 1.176 hectares (ha) with the use of the new rice technology than to be either a security guard or tricycle driver.
For almost 10 years it did not occur in the mind of Pedro “Jun” Panahon Jr. of Purok Bagong Lipunan, Agbannawag, Rizal, Nueva Ecija that by combining diligence, receptivity to agricultural innovations, and application of the new rice technology, he can be more secured financially and live a more comfortable life.
Jun became a security guard in 1979 after his mother strongly rejected his plan to join the Philippine Constabulary (PC), which had already sent him a notice to commence his service. He was already qualified to be in the military then as he had already finished the third year in criminology.
But because his mother was crying, he opted to become a security guard in a private firm with an initial salary of P700 a month. The salary was, of course, tempting because it was higher than the salary of security guards in the government service at that time.
In 1986, his salary was more than P2,000 a month already, but he was already fed up with the routine of being assigned to three different shifts. He also got tired being alone in the night and early morning shifts and worse, his income was no longer enough for himself and his family. At that time, his three children were already studying.
So he resigned from his work, bought a tricycle from which he earned P300 to P400 a day. To earn this much money every day, he had to double his efforts. Whenever he wanted to earn P400 a day, he would not rest until that amount was already in his pocket. For four years, he drove his tricycle through the streets of Cabanatuan; he was a part-time farmer at the same time.
Jun’s average yield was 80 bags a hectare, which he considers now as appallingly low since he was already planting IR 64 and the like back then. This was because he was not a full-time farmer. He was driving a tricycle in Cabanatuan City, later in Rizal, and at the same time farming, preventing him from fully taking care of his crops.
He gave that responsibility to a hired farm hand who got a certain percentage of the harvest. However, unless the hired farm hand fully realizes that his income depends to a great extent on how well he takes care of the crop, one could be certain that he would not exert much effort to attain a high yield. And that’s precisely what happened.
Jun later brought his tricycle to Rizal so that he could cultivate his farm at the same time. In Rizal, however, “if you earned P100 a day, that was already big,” Jun said, referring to his income as a tricycle driver.
TCP 3 TO THE RESCUE
Jun learned when he participated in the PhilRice-JICA technical cooperation project (TCP 3) two years ago that the big factor on the profitability of rice farming is the use of the new technology.
JICA or the Japan International Cooperation Agency has provided a grant aid for the improvement of the PhilRice Central Experiment Station and a series of technical cooperation since 1990.
From the very start of the project, this 46-year old farmer tried hard to get a
complete grasp of the new technology by attending all sessions of the farmers’ field school (FFS) during the 2006 wet season. Moreover, he got 80 percent passing rate in the 50-question post-test.
Before he joined the project, Jun’s harvest from a drumseeded private hybrid was 7.43 tons a hectare (t/ha). In the first season of the project, 2005 wet season, he transplanted PSB Rc14 and harvested 4.90 t/ha. This was 610 kg or 14 percent higher than his harvest from the same variety (4.29 t/ha) in 2004 wet season.
In the 2006 dry season, he harvested 12.19 t/ha from a private hybrid that was direct seeded with the use of a drumseeder. This was 4.76 tons or 64 percent higher than his yield from the same variety, which was also drumseeded, in 2005 dry season.
However, Jun, and other farmers, already-learned that it is risky to plant hybrid rice during the wet season. Thus, he shifted to transplanted PSB Rc82 in 2006 wet season, hoping that its yield would be better than PSB Rc 14. True enough, he harvested 6.27 t/ha, indicating an increase of 1.37 tons or 28 percent over 2005 wet season.
He again planted and drumseeded the private hybrid in 2007 dry season, but the yield decreased to 9.46 t/ha. Although this was 2.73 t/ha or 29 percent lower than his yield in 2006 dry season, it can still be considered a great improvement over his performance before he took part in the TCP 3.
Jun said, however, that his 2007 dry season crop was damaged by golden kuhol. The field was irrigated seven days after seeding by his youngest son who was with him in the farm to help in the land preparation when we interviewed Jun. The irrigation water caused the snails to come out from the soil and eat the newly germinating seedlings. Fortunately, he was able to replant the damaged areas.
He said that the yield of 200 cavans would have been easily possible if snails did not damage his crop.
He also recalls that before TCP 3, technicians of agro-chemical companies were already conducting seminars in the barangay but were not as extensive as the project’s weekly FFS. Take note. private companies were the ones conducting seminars, but for the purpose of selling their products.
Comparing his past practices with his present practices, Jun said everything in the past was done in a hurry. “Land preparation in the past was done in a hurry; planting was done after one week of preparing the land. Right now, land preparation reaches one month to fully decompose the weeds and rice straw,” he said.
“[Now] each parcel is completely leveled before planting, unlike before when the land had lots of high and low spots, which is a shame and irritating to see,” Jun added.
While he was seeding 120 to 160 kg of seeds in the past for his 1.176-ha farm. the amount has been greatly reduced to 42 kg, thereby saving on seed cost.
He also learned to time the application of fertilizer based on the maturity date of the variety, as he top dresses three bags 17-0-17 at 65 days before harvest. For basal fertilization, he applies four bags of complete fertilizer (17-17-17) and two bags ammonium sulfate (210-0). At 5 to 10 percent panicle emergence, he applies a bag of urea (45-00). And whenever he finds out that the population of friendly insects is higher than insect pests, he no longer bothers to spray insecticides.
He also now practices what he calls “alternate irrigation” during the dry season. During the wet season, he often drains the field to prevent lodging. He explained that lodging occurs even if the variety has strong stems if the crop is continuously flooded. He also said that there’s no need to economize on irrigation water during the wet season since the water supply is more than enough.
He harvests his crop at 85 percent maturity so that the grains would not shatter.
Finally, he allows the rice straw 10 decompose – one important practice that he has learned from TCP 3 – to return some of the nutrients absorbed by the rice plants from the soil.
Jun said that after TCP 3 he will continue to consult PhilRice researchers. And, besides, PhilRice is not so far from Rizal, he said.