Isabela is the country’s top producer of corn but with the current dry spell affecting the country specially the province, corn production is expected to drastically decrease this harvest season. In an interview to Dr. Danilo Tumamao, Isabela provincial agriculture officer said that, more than 90,000 of the 130,000 hectares of corn farms in the province have already been damaged. This is equivalent to a total production loss of more than two billion pesos worth of corn. Out of the 500,000 metric tons (MT) of projected harvests from January to June, more than 200,000 MT is already been declared as lost. “We foresee that the number of losses will increase in the next coming weeks”, Dr. Tumamao added.
Isabela is currently under the state of calamity as the looming dry spell damaged hundreds-of-thousands of hectares of farmlands throughout the province. However, with proper management and farming technology introduced through the Site-specific Nutrient Management or SSNM, corn crop stands healthy and harvestable in Brgy. Arubub in Jones, Isabela. The corn crops survived the dry spell and are showing potential for even higher yield despite the drought that is currently devastating the region. In fact, the crops stand more than seven feet tall and bear long and big corn ears which are promising high yield for farmers in Isabela.
SSNM is a field-specific approach of farming strategy that enables farmers to determine and apply the optimum amount of fertilizer needed by the crop. This approach guides farmers to adjust fertilizer application considering the nutrient needs of corn crops and the nutrient supply from naturally-occurring indigenous sources like soil, crop residues, manures, and irrigation water.
Through the Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CVIARC), Brgy. Arubub in Jones Isabela was chosen as the first area for the upscaling after four season of field testing conducted all over the country. The area is composed of 30 hectares of cornfields with 42 farmer cooperators.
The SSNM also introduced the use of the Leaf Color Chart (LCC) to help farmers decide whether the crop needs additional fertilizer or not.
SSNM promotes strategies that lower the costs of inputs while increasing the profit of the farmers by using organic matters as fertilizer supplement. Organic matter such as humus increases the soil’s water holding capacity while the use of Bio-N enhances root development of corn at the early stage resulting in well-developed rooting system that penetrates deeper in the soil. The combination may have been the reasons for the sturdy growth of the SSNM corn farms despite of the El Niño.
Another factor that saved the crop from drying up was the early synchronized farming strategy pursued by the farmer cooperators. According to Mr. Roger S. Salvador, Arubub barangay captain and farmer leader said, they planted their corn field almost simultaneously, and at the right time because of the inputs provided through the project. “Without the assistance from the project, many farmers would have planted later, in such case their production would have been hit by the drought” stressed Brgy. Captain Salvador.
“We strictly followed the package of technology, especially the proper planting distance to give the crop the better environment for growth and development to meet the optimum projected yield” he added. Salvador is a CVARRD Magsasaka Siyentista and an Outstanding Corn Farmer for Gawad Saka 2007-2008 in Region 2.
In addition to better yields, the project also resulted in better cooperation among farmers who participated in the scaling-up activity because of the regular community meetings and sharing of experiences conducted as part of the upscaling activities.
The local government unit is also very supportive to the project and provided technical assistance through their municipal agriculture officer Engr. Florante Leaño. According to Engr. Leaño, the LGU provided fuel subsidy to the farmers in order to facilitate irrigation in the 30-hectare corn plantation in Arubub. “With the good harvest we expect from SSNM in Arubub, we are quite sure that other farmers not only in Jones Isabela but in other parts of Cagayan Valley will be encouraged to try SSNM as well.” said Engr. Leaño.
The project is scheduled to conduct a farmers’ field day on 17 March 2010 at Arubub, Jones, Isabela to showcase and promote the technology to nearby farmers and to all interested corn farmers all over the region.
The SSNM for corn was implemented by the CVIARC with funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the DA-GMA Corn Program in partnership with the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI).(Edmon B. Agron)