These Women Farmers Train on PalayCheck System
Their men are so busy with their jobs and farm activities that they don’t have time to attend seminars and trainings on farming. Yet these three women from the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija have been able to participate in spite of their jobs and responsibilities.
They are Pacita de Guzman, 46; Rufina Paulino, 51; and Gina Reyes, 43. They have trained on PalayCheck system, a holistic and objective approach to rice production that integrates recommended management practices and learning processes. They voluntarily participated in the PalayCheck Field School (PFS) in the Science City of Munoz during the 2008 wet season.
Pacita is a midwife at the Rural Health Unit ll(RHU II) in Munoz. She participated in the PFS for her husband was busy with farm activities, while Rufina, a nurse at the RHU II, attended because her brother who had been taking care of their family’s farm was so busy managing the farm.
Gina, on the other hand, is a farmer and chair of the agriculture committee of the council of Barangay Rizal. Her husband is also a farmer, but he doesn’t have enough time to farm because he is busy with his work as the city meat inspector that’s why Gina got to attend the PFS. After all, she really should attend considering her position in the barangay, her degree in business administration, and her work experience as enumerator at the Socioeconomics and Social Policy Research Division of PhilRice.
At first, Pacita and Rufina were just curious about the PFS as it was being conducted at the barangay hall of Barangay Bical where the RHU II office was located. Since there were not much patients going to the RHU II, they used their free time to learn about PalayCheck. They just go back to their office whenever patients come.
“PalayCheck is about everything we need in order to produce high yields because it integrates all the recommended rice production practices into one system,” Pacita said.
Hence, she asked her husband to adopt what she has learned from the PFS at least for the dry season crop. At times she even insisted that he follow certain farm practices included in the PalayCheck. For instance, when there were insects feeding on their rice crop and her husband wanted to control these by applying insecticides, she contended that he shouldn’t do so for it would reduce biodiversity and disrupt the natural balance of insect pests and beneficial organisms.
Pacita also shares her knowledge on PalayCheck with other farmers. She takes every opportunity to teach them so that they, too would better their farming. One time, she saw rice crops with yellowish leaves near the barangay center and right away, she informed the owner that the crop was suffering from nitrogen deficiency and taught him how to manage it.
Like Pacita, Rufina also insisted that PalayCheck should be followed. What’s more is that she now regularly visits her family’s farm whereas before, she simply left the management of it to her brother.
“There are times when my brother and I argue a lot, especially when he does not want to follow a particular recommendation,” she admitted.
However, Pacita and Rufina regretted that the PFS started late; it began in August 2008 when they had already established their rice crop. They believe that their yields would have been higher if the PFS commenced before land preparation started because they would have known about PalayCheck earlier.
Rufina’s crop for instance was already one month old when the training started. Although the planting distance of her crop was within recommendation, the land was not properly leveled. In fact she was only able to accomplished five out of eight key checks with her wet season crop.
“The growth of the rice crop was okay, but our harvest was low,” she said. From 4.8 hectare (ha), they just harvested 360 bags, which was below average yield in Munoz. “How I wished the PFS- started a lot earlier,” she added.
Gina, on one hand, has already transplanted PSB Rc82 in 2.7 ha and NSIC Rc105 in 0.5 ha when the PFS started. She has not also accomplished all the key checks; she has only followed six of these.
Final leveling was done in a hurry; it was done in just two weeks with one plowing and three harrowing. Whereas in the PalayCheck, weeds and stumbles must be plowed 10 cm-15 cm deep at 3-4 weeks before transplanting or direct wet-seeding to allow decomposition and recycle of plant nutrients. Decomposition is faster in moist soil. If organic materials are not fully decomposed, the soil tends to become acidic and some nutrients become less available.
In addition, field must be harrowed at one-week interval. First harrowing is done a week after plowing to break the clods and incorporate the stumbles. This allows drop seeds and weeds seeds to germinate. Second harrowing (across the direction of the first plow), on one hand, further incorporates the volunteer plants and allows the germination of remaining drop seeds and weed seeds. These practices help reduce the initial pest population and maintain the hardpan.
Gina was also not sure if her crop had sufficient nutrients at early panicle initiation to flowering as recommended in the PalayCheck. Although she applied fertilizer in three splits, these were done 10 days after transplanting (DAT), 20 DAT, and 30 DAT. So she was not sure whether nutrients were sufficient from early panicle initiation to flowering, which is a very critical period for sufficient nutrition.
In spite of what happened, she harvested an average of 5,333 kg/ha from PSB Rc82 and 5,900 kg/ha from NSIC Rc 150. Her yields, however, could have been higher had she attained all the key checks, she said.
Anyway, what is important now is that they all have learned and are practicing PalayCheck. And if they will continue to do so, they will certainly harvest far higher than what they have expected.