DA expects El Niño in Bicol starting September until next year

The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture is advising farmers to take advantage of the available soil moisture in their land preparation and crop establishment this month until August as the following months this year until early 2016 could be an El Niño season.

DA expects El Niño in Bicol starting September until next year
Photo via Pixabay
For rice, early maturing varieties such as GSR8 and GSR5a should be used in irrigated paddies while drought-tolerant varieties like GSR11, GSR5a, GSR1 and GSR2 are advised, the agency said in its Seasonal Climate Outlook and Advisory (SCOA) for the region, covering the months from July to September, released over the week.

The SCOA is a special project of the DA that intends to keep agricultural stakeholders in the region guided on the seasonal weather situation for more productivity.

DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas explained that the GSR hybrid rice varieties are among the options under climate change-related stresses wherein they have been tested in both rain-fed lowland and upland environments as top performing lines with up to 62.5-percent advantage over check varieties.

For Bicol farms devoted to vegetables, the advisory suggested that okra and squash or legumes like cowpea, winged bean and mungbean should be used.

Cowpea, he said, can be planted either before or after rice enriches food production from a land area as it has been grown for centuries in the tropics, being well adapted to prevailing environmental stresses.

It tolerates drought and can grow on poor, even acid soils where other food legumes do not perform well.
Bragas said cowpea, which complements the mainly cereal diet of Filipinos, is an important crop as it is a rich source of proteins and calories, as well as minerals and vitamins.

Similarly, winged beans that have several common names like asparagus pea, Goa bean and four-angled bean but called locally as “parapagulong” are typical to humid climatic and grown in many
places of the region for its nutritious and nitrogen fixation properties.

This bean is said to be blessed with optimum health benefits as it contains the highest proportion of calcium which make bones strong and prevents breakage while Vitamins A and C, along with several minerals, make up the legumes that endow the body with powers to fight diseases, he said.

Its edible seeds and wing-like leaves are also vital source of protein as well as the flour derived from the former.

Bragas said this plant, whose unusual name is endowed due to the physical appearance of the beans which seem to have wing-like features, is another prime crop of Bicolanos apart from legumes, some of its parts are also eaten.

Mungbean (Vigna radiata), popularly known in the Philippines as mungo and mainly used as human food, is one of the cheapest sources of plant protein which contains at least 27 percent protein.
It is also a good source of minerals such as calcium and sodium while its dried seeds are high in vitamins A and B, and when sprouted, come as rich in vitamins B and C.

Locally, mungo is a raw material in major food processing such as mungbean sprout production, sotanghon manufacturing, hopia processing, starch noodles and dishes like soups, porridge, snacks, bread, noodles and ice cream.

Mungbean is drought-tolerant and requires a warm climate during its growing period.
The temperature and humidity prevailing in the region during dry spell situations is suited for optimum yields, Bragas said.

According to the SCOA, chance of El Niño is greater than 90 percent through the end of the year with 85-percent chance that it will last until 2016, based on probabilistic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Outlook as of June 2015.

It also cited the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia report on the same month that cited the continuing rise of ocean temperature in the tropical Pacific.

Bragas said the available moisture for the month of July favors land preparation and crop establishment this wet season cropping in both upland and lowland areas but crop yields, specifically in rainfed and upland areas in Bicol -- except the province of Albay, may be affected by lack of moisture starting September.

Way-below-normal rainfall is expected starting September and could last up to the last quarter of the year due to El Niño that draw increased temperature due to reduced rainfall, which could result in low crop yield in rainfed and irrigated areas, according to the SCOA.

It would also cause heat stress to livestock and poultry production, it said.

In anticipation of this unfavorable climate condition, the SCOA advises Bicol farmers to repair and clean water canals and irrigation systems for efficient drainage and water conservation.

To conserve moisture in vegetable farms, mulching may be applied using plastic sheets, rice straw or any other available materials, it said.

For both large and small ruminants, the SCOA said, sheds should be provided and the “cut and carry” feeding practice must be applied while silage making is more applicable during the drier months that also need the provision of drinking water to livestock to minimize heat stress.

Bragas said farmers all over the region have started planting earlier starting last June until this month, taking advantage of the high moisture availability owing to normal to above-normal rainfall during the period and enable them to harvest before the forecast drought

However, he warned that the above-normal rainfall in early July due to “habagat” (southwest monsoon) might cause prevalence of insect pest and fungal disease on crops; chronic respiratory or bacteria diseases in poultry; hemorrhagic septicemia in ruminants; and pneumonia and diarrhea for swine.

“In this case, they should adopt Integrated Pest Management approach to control infestation during this period,” the DA regional chief said. (by Danny Calleja, PNA)