Monday, March 28, 2016

Sustainable Productivity: Key to Profitable Agriculture and Balanced Environment

Green Revolution at the Grassroots 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog  []

Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Lesson first presented on November 9, 2011

I learned these practical farming techniques from old folks at home, and from successful farmers, here and abroad, which inspired me to look into their scientific explanation in college.
Death of large scale agriculture in agrarian societies 1. East-to-west orientation Arrange the rows of plants on an east-to-west orientation. This allows better and longer sunlight exposure which enhances photosynthesis. There is less overshadowing among plants compared to north-to-south, or any direction, especially when inter-cropping is practiced. You can increase crop yield to as high as 10 percent by this technique lone.

Have a compass at hand, and remember that an-east-to-west orientation of rows does not only increase yield of your regular crop, but allows you to practice layered or storey cropping as well - thus, enabling you to increase the effective area of your farm. Incidence to pest and diseases is greatly reduced by this practice. Crop quality is likewise improved such as sweetness and size.

There's one drawback though. When it comes to sloping terrain, it is advisable to observe the rules of contour farming that minimizes soil erosion and conserves soil moisture. Consult your nearest agriculturist. Learn from local farm models.

2. Inter-cropping and alternate cropping. In peanut-and-corn alternate planting, peanut is a nitrogen fixer and provides nitrate fertilizer to its companion crop - corn. Corn on the other hand, is a heavy nitrogen feeder. When planted alone and repeatedly, the tendency is that the soil becomes depleted of nitrogen. Peanut benefits from irrigation given to the corn, and gains protection from excessive wind and dryness from its taller companion. And to the farmer, having two crops is like doubling the effective area of his farm, not to mention the maximum use of space in double cropping, which also benefit the animals with corn fodder and peanut "hay."
Massive erosion leads to irreversible low productivity  
Here are some common combination of crops.
  • tomato and pechay
  • sugarcane with mungbeans
  • coconut and coffee or cacao
  • coconut and lansones
  • stringbeans (pole sitao) and rice
  • papaya and pineapple
  • peanut, corn and sweet potato
  • pigeon pea (kadios) and rice
  • grape on hedge and cabbage or cauliflower

3. Non-cash technology principle. Don't spend, save on farm input and labor cost through practical means. Here are proven practices.
  • Follow recommended use of the land, the crops to plant, cropping system to follow. Consult local agriculturists, successful farmers.
  • Go with the seasons and be part of community farming - when to prepare the seedbed, plant, irrigate, harvest. Off-season planting is expensive and risky, and is done only for special reasons.   
Wastes clog rivers and irrigation canals, destroy soil fertility and deposit toxic chemicals.
  • Fallowing. Give your farm a break. Nature takes a rest usually in summer. You can hear the land breath, the cracks harbor aestivating frogs, fish, crustaceans, snails and other organisms. Break the life cycle of pest and disease organisms. Give yourself too, a break.
  • Plow after the first heavy rain to turn over the weeds, converting them into organic fertilizer, and keeping their population down.
  • Plant native varieties, they are sturdier and simpler to take care. Less fertilizer, less pesticide, if needed. There is a growing market for native crops and animals. People are avoiding pesticide and antibiotic residues, more so, genetically modified crops such as Bt Corn.
  • Avoid hybrids as much as possible. They are heavy soil nutrient feeders. They are genetically unstable, you cannot make your own binhi (planting material) out of your harvest.
4. Practical Postharvest technology. Avoid crop loss in all stages - from planting to harvesting to manufacturing. At all cost avoid wastage. It defeats your goal and objective. And remember there are millions of people around the world whio have little to eat.
  • Harvest on time and promptly
  • Know the shelf life of your harvest. For perishables, sell or process immediately.
  • Use proper tools and equipment
  • Have your harvest properly dried, packaged and stored, specially if you plan to keep it for some time. Keep it away from the elements and pests.
  • Consider quality, not only quantity.
5. Processing increases value added. Why don't you do the processing yourself, rather than sell your harvest directly. Milled rice rather than palay. You can go for second processing - or manufacturing - rice flour. puto (rice bread), suman, bibingka (rice cake), rice wine (tapoy). , Promote local industry, generate employment for the family and locality.

6. Use by-products efficiently. Farm wastes are converted into many useful products.
  • Rice hull and sugarcane bagasse for fuel.
  • Corn stover, rice hay for livestock feeds.
  • Rice and corn bran for poultry and piggery feeds.
  • Crop residues, and weeds for composting.
  • Banana leaves, rice hay for mushroom growing
  • Tobacco stalk for pest control (spray or dust)
  • Coconut shell for charcoal (activated carbon)
  • Rice hay for mulching (bed cover of garlic, onions, other crops)
  • Manure as organic fertilizer and composting
7. Multi-commodity or diversified farming. Grow two, three or more crops, with animals and fish, and other commodities.
  • Palay-isdaan (rice and tilapia, hito, dalag, gurami)
  • Sorjan farming - alternate upland and lowland culture. Field is divided into strip, alternately elevated and depressed.
  • Piggery and biogas digester for biofuel. Biofuel to run your own generator.
  • Poultry on range, feedlot for cattle, fishpond, field and vegetable crops.
  • Agrotourism. Combine farming with ecology. Make farming attractive to tourists, specially children. Let them experience planting, harvesting, catching fish or butterflies. Have you farm suitable for camping.
Farming is as old as civilization, and for thousands of years has been the mainstay of economy and well-being of man and his society. Farming is the root of festivities and rituals. It keeps the family working, playing and living as a unit. It in turn, sustains communities Farming is food security, it gives the sense of independence and self-sufficiency.

Practical farming is the answer to many problems we encounter today such as
  • High cost of production
  • Pollution from farm chemicals
  • Loss of farm productivity
  • Decreasing profitability
  • Harmful residues in crops and animals
  • Loss of soil fertility, soil loss due to erosion 
Community Gardening, San Juan, Metro Manila

  • Idle farms, abandonment of farms
  • Desertification - farm land to wasteland
  • Unemployment and underemployment
  • High dependence on mechanization and expensive input
  • Technology transfer gap
These and other practices flourish in many farms all over the world. Let's preserve them, they are the fallback to today's modern agriculture.

This simple article is dedicated to the memory of my professors, Dr Eduardo Quisumbing, Dr Deogracias Villadolid, Dr Rufino Gapuz, Dr Juan Aquino, Prof Francisco Claridad, Prof Leopoldo Karganilla, Prof Emiliano Roldan, Dr Nemesio Mendiola, Dr Juan Torres, Dr Fernando de Peralta, et al, advocates of natural farming and acclaimed leaders of the so-called Old School of Agricultutre.  

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