Organic Rice, Fish & Veggies
Organic rice farming can be a sustainable and profitable undertaking, especially if farmers will integrate growing fish and vegetables. That’s what Armand and Tere Perez-Saniano are trying to show in their Earthkeepers Learning Farm in Brgy. Lalig, Tiaong, Quezon.
Last October, they put up a 5,000-square meter showcase where they grew organic rice together with their favorite vegetables like tomato, eggplant, hot pepper, taro, soya and okra, as well as fish (tilapia and hito).
The half-hectare lot was divided into five rice paddies, separated by dikes that are about a meter wide. Along the dikes surrounding the rice plants in each paddy, they constructed a canal which was stocked with either tilapia or hito. That’s where they stayed when the rice field water ebbed. But if the water was maintained above the ground, the fish roamed the entire field, in the process feeding on the harmful insects that may have been attacking the rice plants. Their feces also served as fertilizer to the rice plants.
On one of the dikes of about 32 meters long, they planted exactly 44 seedlings of an open-pollinated variety of tomato. They purposely chose this so that they could use the seeds for planting in the next cropping. The Sanianos started harvesting the tomatoes last December and as of February 6, they had already harvested 150 kilos. After removing the seeds for planting, they preserved the fruits by drying.
On another dike, they planted hot pepper that is better known as Tingala. They also started harvesting from their hot pepper in December and have been harvesting to this day at an average of one kilo every three days. They sell their harvest in the local market at P150 per kilo, according to Tere.
On one other dike, the couple planted Crotolaria, a leguminous plant that is rich in nutrients. They planted this crop for the purpose of producing seeds for planting in the next cropping season. The seeds will be used to produce green manure. The plants will be plowed under during land preparation so that they will serve as fertilizer.
In this diversified organic rice farming system, the Sanianos didn’t use any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. That is the reason why it is possible for them to stock each rice paddy with 1,000 fingerlings of either tilapia or hito. It is also convenient to grow vegetables on the dikes since water is readily available from the canal anytime it is necessary to water the plants.
Tere explained that only about an area of 3,000 square meters that was actually planted to rice. This yielded 25 cavans of organic palay which is equivalent to about 83 cavans per hectare, which is considered already high for organic rice. The profit could just be as high or even higher than in the old system of rice farming. After all, the cash involved in production is much less, and the price of organic rice is much higher than rice grown the traditional way.
By Zac B. Sarian