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April 15, 2008

Organic farming boosts rice production in Phillipines

Improved implementation of organic farming and proper land management this year have helped spare Davao del Norte rice farms from pest infestations and boosted rice production in the province, local agriculture officials said.

Dominador Encarnacion, provincial agriculturist, said that not a single farm in the province has suffered from infestation so far this year. This has resulted in good harvests and enabled farmers to earn more and recoup losses suffered in previous years.

Two years ago, floods and pest infestations, notably black bugs and stem borers, caused a drastic decline in the province's rice production. The problem forced farmers to borrow from private moneylenders.

"Pest infestation is now only confined in Luzon and in other areas in the country. Our farmers here have already taken notice of doing away with synthetic fertilizers," Encarnacion said. He said commercial fertilizers and chemicals kill organisms that are "natural enemies" of rice pests, so farmers in the past often report surges in pest attacks and lower yields in spite of costly farm inputs.

Jerry Rivera, president of a farmers' group in Sto. Tomas town, said the income of farmers in the area has increased since they went into organic farming. He said the adoption of organic farming has significantly lowered the cost of inputs.

"Our farmers there are also helping in the local government's thrust at proper solid waste management since we do not anymore burn rice hull," said Rivera, the president of the provincial farmers' action council, a body that serves as a conduit of programs related to agriculture between the farmers and the provincial government.

By allowing the survival and proliferation of insects and organisms that prey on rice black bugs and stem borers, Encarnacion said organic farming has taken over the role of chemicals in dealing with rice pests. "Through the integrated production and pest management program our farmers' yields have increased from 3.8 tons to 5.5 tons per hectare of inbred rice and from 4 tons to 7.5 tons per hectare if the seeds cultivated were hybrid (seeds)," he said.

A similar thrust is being undertaken in neighboring Compostela Valley province, and according to agriculture officials there, a pilot area was being developed.

Dr. Rolando Simene, Compstela Valley provincial agriculturist, said 80 hectares of rice land in Compostela town would be tapped to become the province's "organic farming pilot site."

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