Ilocos farmlands feel effect of El Niņo
by Cristina Arzadon
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (18 February) -- Farmlands in Ilocos Norte are beginning to dry up and may cause a reduced rice production this year.
Norma Lagmay, provincial agriculturist, said 1,750 hectares of farmlands around Ilocos Norte could not be planted with rice because of the dry spell.
The agriculture office has started educating farmers on various measures they could adopt to soften the impact of the prolonged dry season.
Lagmay said instead of planting rice crops, farmers have been advised to plant drought-tolerant plants like legumes, leafy vegetables and other short-term crops.
"We have advised our farmers to observe proper cropping system to help them reduce their losses," she said.
Lagmay said farmers have gained wisdom from previous El Niņo episodes that they have learned to adjust their cropping calendars.
Instead of the usual cropping period from March to July, farmers now observe the July to September cropping pattern.
Lagmay said agriculturists have focused on educating farmers on how to adopt preventive measures instead of giving curative methods.
Farmers have been told to go irrigate their farms only from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and avoid going to the fields between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"The proper hours spent in the fields would lead to proper crop water absorption and protect farmers from the cruel sun," Lagmay added.
The agriculture office may resort to providing water pumps to help draw water for crop irrigation. But Lagmay said some farmers are lukewarm to the idea of using water pumps because of high gasoline process.
Since rainfalls have become scarce beginning late last year, farmers in Pagudpud town have been keeping watch on their rice lands more than usual making sure that the soil is wet.
More than 500 hectares of farmlands planted to palay in six Pagudpud villages rely on the nearby Cabacanan River for their water needs during off-rainy season. Their crops are now in danger because the river may dry up due to prolonged drought.
Errol Calivoso, a rice farmer from barangay Badduang, said crop owners have been spending more time in the fields beginning January to ensure that their lands are fed with sufficient water coming from the river.
"We are drawing more water for our fields. We hope the river does not dry up until we are able to harvest our crops," he said.
Farmers are hopeful that the river could sustain their crops until the third and last cropping period which usually ends in February.
Calivoso said farmers may resort to planting alternative crops next month should the dry spell continues. (PIA) [top]