How Iloilo Farmers Get More Income (Part 1)
Just like farmers in other places, farmers in Iloilo also have farm problems. What makes them different from others is their openness to new ways of coping with their problems, willingness to innovate and eagerness to gain more income.
For instance, take three farmer leaders in Brgy. Pandan, Dingle, Iloilo – Virgilio “Butsoy” Guanga, Jr., Nenita “Nits” Dagohoy, and Lydia “Nanay Lydia” Gomito. Like other farmers in the barangay, they had difficulty controlling the weeds in their rice farms despite using herbicides.
Since they were direct seeding their rice crops, they believed that weeds could be controlled only by spraying herbicides. Until lately, however, they noticed that the weeds were getting more and more difficult to control despite increasing the dosage and frequency of application. Some of the weeds could not even be killed anymore. As a result, their production cost increased while their net income was commensurately decreasing.
Fortunately, a farmers’ field school (FFS) conducted jointly by PhilRice (Philippine Rice Research Institute), Department of Agriculture (DA)-Region 6, and the Municipal Agriculturist Office (MAO) saved them from their woes. Together with 27 fanners, Butsoy, Nits, and Nanay Lydia learned that herbicides need not be applied” whenever weeds are seen in the field, which has been their usual practice.
They also learned that preventing weeds from growing is cheaper and easier than removing them. To do this, they must prepare the land thoroughly and properly at least a month before planting.
Butsoy, 42, said they also learned to employ the stale seedbed technique by killing the growing weeds one to three weeks before germination either by herbicide application or by repeated harrowing. Certified seeds must also be used to ensure that there are no seeds mixed in the rice seeds.
The farmers also learned that for direct-seeded rice, which is their usual practice, pre-emergence or early post emergence herbicide may also be applied one to four days after seeding (DAS) to ensure that weed seeds which have not germinated yet will no longer grow. Then flood the field at seven to 10 DAS and maintain water depth at 5 to 7 centimeters (cm) until the grains mature.
For transplanted rice, however, pre-emergence herbicide may be applied at three to five days after the final leveling of the field. Where the golden apple snail is not a problem, flood the field three to four days after transplanting and maintain water depth of two to three cm to prevent emergence of weeds.
Butsoy and his group observed that these practices in integrated weed management are more effective than what they have been doing in the past. They learned that if some weeds still grow, they may just as well remove the weeds manually if they occupy only less than five percent of the field. They also learned that at this level of weed infestation, farmers need not weed their fields anymore since the weeds will not affect their yields.
Nits, 42, and Nanay Lydia, 78, said that they learned that indiscriminate use of insecticides kills friendly insects, which help keep the population of harmful insects at a tolerable level. This is because friendly insects cat harmful insects.
In the past, they did not know that there are friendly insects; all they knew was that all insects are harmful. Thus, they sprayed insecticides almost every week because they were afraid of insects. Now they can already distinguish the friendly insects from the harmful ones and maintain the population of the friendly insects.
Farmers who attended the FFS learned to monitor the insect population as their basis of deciding when to spray their crops with insecticides. Nits and Nanay Lydia said they also learned to collect insects by sweeping, and then they count the friendly and harmful insects. A ratio of five harmful insects or less to one friendly insect tells farmers not to bother and that there’s no need to spray insecticide because this level will not affect the yield.
The use of insecticides among the 30 farmers in the FFS has been greatly reduced, resulting in more income. They lament, however, that many farmers in Dingle still spray insecticides even if there is no need for it. The truth is many Filipino farmers still do this because they still don’t know about the existence of friendly insects and their importance.
The FFS also taught fanners to use lesser amount of seeds to save on cost and to decompose their rice straw to save on cost of fertilizers.
The three farmer leaders said that for a hectare, they were direct seeding 160 to 200 kg of seeds from their previous harvest. Now, they are using only 40 kg of certified seeds.
Like other farmers, however, they used to burn rice straw after harvest. But now that they realized that rice straw is a valuable resource, they decomposed it to become nutrients and organic matter. Before preparing the land, they spread the decomposed material in the field to be incorporated in the soil during the first plowing.
Eventually, the municipal council, upon the recommendation of the Municipal Agriculturist Office, passed an ordinance prohibiting the burning of rice straw. Thus, all farmers in Dingle have abandoned their old practice.
Because of what they learned from the FFS, Butsoy, Nits, and Nanay Lydia said their crops have become much better except when affected by a natural calamity. And because of then- increased yields, Butsoy and Nits were able to buy a water pump for their own use; Nits also bought a hand tractor.
The three leaders have not kept the technologies to themselves. They taught other farmers who did not participate in the FFS. Nits said she have convinced more than 10 farmers, while Butsoy and Nanay Lydia taught four and two, respectively. Today, about two-thirds of the 100 farmers in the barangay have followed the three innovators.