SoCot farmers warned against drought
Written by Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews
09 March 2007
KORONADAL CITY, Philippines – Agriculture officials here advised farmers to stop planting palay and corn crops until next late month due to the onset of the El Niño phenomenon or long dry spell.
Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture officer, said their monitoring shows that most farm areas in the province's 10 towns and lone city have been experiencing below normal rainfall condition since early February.
"The level of heat intensity that we are experiencing right now shows that the dry spell has already started and crops planted at this time would not likely survive until the condition would normalize by late next month," he said.
This year's El Niño phenomenon, which is characterized by the lack of rains and unusually intense heat, is the second that has hit the province in the last two years.
In 2005, a strong El Niño practically dried up farmlands and destroyed at least P100 million worth of agricultural crops in most parts of the province, prompting the provincial government to declare the entire province under a state calamity.
Last week, [Legaste] said DA officials sent a team from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) to monitor the situation in the province.
He said the BSWM initially offered to launch cloud-seeding operations but he said the task force and the local government declined them since it would affect the flowering of fruits in the area, especially of mango and durian.
Cloud-seeding involves the manual "planting" of salts to the rain clouds by the use of an airplane to induce rains.
Legaste said that based on the province's experiences during the past droughts, the induced rains only provided temporary relief to the farm crops but never saved them.
"So instead of losing both our farm crops and our fruits, we decided to advise our farmers to defer their planting and instead concentrate on growing drought-tolerant crops like watermelon. We made a policy not to allow any cloud-seeding activity during the period so we will not disrupt the production stage of our fruit trees," he added.
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