Agriculture - - Hi-Tech - BY DR. MA. VIC­TO­RIA O. ESPALDON

Professor, School of En­vi­ron­men­tal Science and Man­age­ment, UPLB FILIPINO FARM­ERS have long been work­ing in the field, but with the re­cent changes in weather pat­terns, and oc­cur­rences of ex­treme weather events, it has been hard for them to adapt. Take, for ex­am­ple, the ex­tended El Niño pe­riod from 2015 to 2016, which caused a to­tal of R4.7 bil­lion in crop dam­ages (Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture). Dur­ing this pe­riod, North­ern Min­danao suf­fered the high­est share of losses of R358.4 mil­lion. How can we adapt and make our agri­cul­ture sec­tor more cli­matere­silient?

One im­me­di­ate ac­tion we can take is to pro­vide the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and stake­hold­ers with up-to-date and rel­e­vant information. This is where Project SARAI (Smarter Ap­proaches to Rein­vig­o­rate Agri­cul­ture as an In­dus­try in the Philip­pines) comes in. One ma­jor out­put of this re­search pro­gram is to pro­duce a SARAI knowl­edge por­tal (http://sarai.ph/) to serve as the on­estop-shop for all SARAI-gen­er­ated information.

Project SARAI is a three-year re­search pro­gram that aims to pro­vide so­lu­tions and up-to-date agri­cul­tural information to the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and its stake­hold­ers. It is funded by the Depart­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy – Philip­pine Coun­cil for Agri­cul­ture, Aquatic, and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Re­search and De­vel­op­ment (DOST-PCAARRD), and im­ple­mented by the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines Los Baños (UPLB).

This knowl­edge por­tal is tar­geted to cater to the information needs of mu­nic­i­pal agri­cul­tural of­fi­cers (MAOs) and other stake­hold­ers such as aca­demic and re­search in­sti­tu­tions. This setup gives the MAOs ease in bring­ing real-time information to the field while pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance to the farm­ers. Us­ing the por­tal, MAOs can ac­cess mu­nic­i­pal-level suit­abil­ity maps for rice, corn, co­conut, banana, cof­fee, and ca­cao. Th­ese suit­abil­ity maps help them de­cide where they can ex­pand crop pro­duc­tion given the suit­abil­ity level of the area. The suit­abil­ity lev­els are gen­er­ated based on the fol­low­ing pa­ram­e­ters: cli­mate type, tem­per­a­ture, rain­fall, soil, slope, and el­e­va­tion.

The knowl­edge por­tal also offers the down­load­able MAIZE Nu­tri­ent Ex­pert ap­pli­ca­tion. The nu­tri­ent ex­pert works like a cal­cu­la­tor for NPK (nitro­gen, phos­pho­rous, and potas­sium) and rates of us­age, and may help im­prove the prof­its of farm­ers who fol­low the ap­pli­ca­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tions. The ideal setup is for MAOs to as­sist the farm­ers in com­plet­ing the sur­vey form of the nu­tri­ent ex­pert, and then the farm­ers will be given printed copies of the re­sults. The re­sults pro­vide a com­par­i­son of ap­pli­ca­tion rates and prof­its be­tween the farmer’s cur­rent prac­tice and the nu­tri­ent ex­pert’s rec­om­men­da­tions. The ap­pli­ca­tion can be used for both desk­top com­put­ers and mo­bile smart­phones.

Other information that the pub­lic can ex­pect from the knowl­edge por­tal are site-spe­cific plant­ing dates, nu­tri­ent man­age­ment, and wa­ter man­age­ment ad­vi­sories. The knowl­edge por­tal will also host near real-time and site-spe­cific crop pro­duc­tion area mon­i­tor­ing and fore­cast­ing. For re­sources and other train­ing ma­te­ri­als, the stake­hold­ers can also ac­cess tu­to­rial videos and man­u­als from the knowl­edge por­tal.

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