Farms vs. climate change says no to clean culture, yes to natural farming

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If farmers wish to win the battle against the debilitating effects of climate change, they should seriously consider the practice of organic agriculture and diversified farming. Thus was the general idea presented by Dr. Victoria Espaldon of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) when she presented in a seminar during the 7th National Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).

“It is imperative that the agriculture sector adapt to climate change,” said Dr. Espaldon, professor and dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management at UPLB.

In her presentation, she emphasized the significant impact that organic farming and crop diversification could bring to the farming communities. The best climate change strategies, she said, includes sustainable agriculture and good agricultural practices.

Specifically, she recommended using climate-ready crops, integration of livestock and non-farm income generating activities, adjustment of the seasonal calendar, climate-resilient postharvest storage and postharvest processing, and inclusion of climate risks in agricultural planning.

On why organic agriculture helps mitigate global warming, Dr. Espaldon said that it promotes better water infiltration, retention, and delivery to plants, which help sustain crop yield during drought.

She likewise presented the case of some farms in Puerto Princesa, Davao, and Bukidnon where the current agricultural practices defy the prevailing system of farm management.

Espaldon explained why organic farmers should not be too concerned about eradicating weeds from their farms:

“Organic agriculture disregards ‘clean culture’ because many weeds are not really enemies. In fact, they serve as green manure by helping to conserve soil moisture and prevent erosion. The presence of weeds could also be an effective source of free pest control,” she explained.

Moreover, she encouraged the application of natural fertilizers made with indigenous microorganisms (IMO) to see improvements in the health of both crop and soil. She said that this approach to organic farming can be successfully practiced in either commercial or backyard farms.

“IMOs can be easily prepared using farm or kitchen waste such as rice and banana peelings and mixing them with moldy leaves and molasses. After a few days, the IMO produced can be mixed with water and drenched to soil or compost,” she explained.

“The regular application of manure and compost (vermi) would also inoculate the soil with beneficial organisms,” she added.

Dr. Espaldon further explained that through organic farming, fighting off new diseases and pests with changed growing conditions could be effective adaptation measures. She likewise emphasized that crop diversity and re-integration of livestock on crop farms would increase the economic value of forage crops that add organic matter during phases of rotation.

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