Former Electrician Becomes A Top Yielder
From 1983 TO 1989, Engracio Martin of Brgy. Pag-asa, Rizal, Nueva Ecija worked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as an electrician. Even if his initial salary was not much, $380 a month with food allowance in the first three years, it even went down to $320 in the next three years.
Realizing that his employer only wanted to take advantage of the unemployment rate in the Philippines by offering lower salary, he finally decided to go home even if he did not have any definite plan for the future. He was certain that he would be able to manage his financial situation in no time at all. For one thing, he had saved some money from his meager salary and second, since he has a college degree in agriculture from the Sabani State Agricultural College in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, he could venture into farming.
When he went home, he bought a tricycle and used it as a public conveyance vehicle. It did not take long before someone mortgaged a hectare of rice land to him for P30,000 and that was the start of his farming. Three years later, an additional 7,000 sq. m. was mortgaged to him again. He drove his tricycle in the mornings and worked in the farm in the afternoons so he would be able to provide well for his family.
Engracio recalls that when he started farming, he did not yet have much contact with agricultural technicians. He said that although they may have been going to Barangay Pag-asa, he did not know them.
He also recalls that his yields in the dry season were 80 to 90 bags per hectare (bags/ha), fresh from the thresher. The actual yield, however, was much lower when the grains were already clean and dry. In the wet season, yields were even much lower by 15 to 20 bags/ha.
Fortunately, even if traders bought his grains at a low price, the price of farm inputs was also low and, hence, his profit was still enough to support his family.
When the government started to promote the commercial production of hybrid rice Mestizo, farmers like him were eased from the burden of obtaining credit for farm inputs as the Quedancor provided fertilizer loans amounting to P10,000/ha. The loan consisted of 15 bags organic fertilizer and eight bags inorganic fertilizer – two bags urea (46-0-0), four bags complete (17-7-17), and two bags 170-17. Agricultural technicians of the local government unit also started to visit the barangay more frequently because they were educating the farmers on the new rice technology.
He planted hybrid rice in one hectare in the wet season, not knowing that it would spell some kind of doom for him. His crop was infected with bacterial leaf blight and the flag leaves dried up at heading stage. To his dismay, he was not able to pay his loan from Quedancor because he only harvested 60 bags of light grains.
Undaunted by his failure, he tried again in the following dry season, which is normally more favorable for hybrid rice. He harvested 96 bags/ha since he was still grappling with the hybrid rice technology, enabling him to pay his loan.
As the new hybrid rice technology was being developed, Engracio’s yield also kept on increasing, making him more aggressive than before.
In 2004, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) selected him as a farmer-extensionist in Rizal, paving his participation in a training program on the hybrid rice technology in Dinalupihan, Bataan.
In the wet season that year, however, he planted the inbred PSB Rc82 because of the risk of planting hybrid rice during the wet season as he had already experienced and harvested 5.36 tons/ ha (t/ha). In the dry season of 2005, he planted Bigante, which was provided by ATI during the training. He direct seeded the hybrid rice seeds and harvested 8.87 t/ha.
The highly contrasting yields of PSB Rc82 and Bigante convinced him that hybrid rice is much better than inbred rice.
When the third PhilRice-JICA technical cooperation project was just starting in nearby Brgy. Agbannawag, he saw what his fellow farmers were doing and so he requested that he, together with two other farmers from Brgy. Pag-asa, be allowed to participate in the project.
“My yields kept increasing since the time I joined TCP 3,” Engracio said, adding that this was due to the technologies he learned from the project.
With TCP 3, his yield in 2005 wet season (4.95 t/ha) was a little lower than his yield in 2004 wet season by 410 kg. Then in the wet season of 2006, he obtained 8.96 t/ha from Bigante which he direct-seeded with the use of a drum seeder. This was the highest yield among the TCP 3 participating farmers that season and it was even higher than the yields of the techno-demo farmers who obtained only 4.88 to 6.16 t/ha.
His yield in 2006 wet season was actually almost twice his yield in 2005 wet season (4.95 t/ha), or 81 percent higher.
Engracio was also one of the six TCP 3 farmers who obtained 10.34-12.19 tiha in 2006 dry season. He harvested 11.08 t/ha from direct-seeded Bigante and was 2.21 t/ha more than his yield from the same variety in 2005 dry season.
In the 2007 dry season, his yield from BIO 401 (10.75 t/ha) was slightly lower by 330 kg or almost 3 percent, but he was still one of the eight farmers whose yields were at least 10 t/ha (10.05-14.90 t/ha). He hopes that Mestizo 7, which he planted the 2007 wet season, will also perform well or even better.
Among the important technologies that he has learned is the decomposition of rice straw in the field. He said that unlike before, he no longer burns the rice straw “because it contains some nutrients that must be returned to the soil and the decomposed rice straw also makes land preparation easier.”
Engracio levels his field very well before planting and, hence, there are no high spots where weeds would grow and no low spots where golden kuhol would thrive.
Engracio said he also learned about the proper way of irrigating his plants. He applies 2 to 3 cm deep of water three days after transplanting. When the water becomes shallower, he brings in water again. He maintains the water depth at 3 to 5 cm from panicle initiation to one week before harvest.
He now uses the MOET or the minus one element technique to determine possible nutrient deficiency in his farm. Before panicle initiation, he uses the leaf color chart or LCC to determine the need for additional fertilizer. Whenever the reading in a four-window LCC is below 3, he applies 1 to 1.5 bags of urea per hectare.
He makes sure that all the fertilizer that his plants need are already applied before panicle initiation. Actually, he has learned to calculate his fertilizer needs – 115 kg nitrogen, 50 kg phosphorus. and 60 kg potash.
Constant monitoring of his crop, especially on insect pests and diseases, has become part of Engracio’s daily chores. Whenever he finds egg masses with more hatched eggs, he sprays insecticides.
He makes it a must to harvest his crop when 80 to 85 percent of the grains are already mature and threshes immediately after cutting. He is also certain that the moisture content of the grains is already 14 percent if the grains cling to his hands upon inspection.
“The TCP 3 has provided us a lot of help and knowledge. Through this project, our yields have increased unlike before when we lacked technology and we were following traditional practices.”
Engracio’s case shows that farmers must keep their minds open to new information and technologies in order to improve their farming practices and increase their yields. He is a farmer who keeps on learning, applying new practices, and respected by his fellow farmers.