GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 January) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 will start its planned cloud seeding operations on Wednesday as it moves to mitigate the worsening impact of the continuing dry spell on farm areas in various parts of the region.
Zaldy Boloron, DA-12’s regional technical director for operations, said Tuesday the move was based on the results of the final assessment conducted by the agency and personnel from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) central office.
He said the cloud seeding operations will focus on localities with standing crops that have already been showing signs of wilting due to the intense dry weather, which is triggered by the prevailing El Niño Phenomenon.
The official cited palay and corn areas in portions of the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.
“The cloud seeding will start tomorrow (Wednesday) and will continue until March,” Boloron said in a radio interview.
Cloud seeding is the process of manually spreading either dry ice or salt into the upper part of the clouds to help stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.
The DA central office had identified cloud seeding as among the immediate counter measures to mitigate the impact of the El Niño, which was predicted to last until June.
Boloron said they have commissioned an aircraft form the Philippine Air Force for the cloud seeding, which will be done on a daily basis, depending on the cloud formation.
He said DA-12 and the BSWM have dispatched personnel within the target areas to act as cloud spotters.
The official said they have allotted an initial P6 million for the cloud seeding operations, which costs P45,000 to P50,000 per sortie or flight.
“We have set one to two sorties per day, depending on the weather and cloud formations in the target areas,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Boloron said their monitoring showed that vast tracts of palay and corn areas in the region were already affected by the dry spell as well as the emergence of pests like rodents and army worms.
But he said they have not yet received any report on damages as a direct result of the dry spell, which already affected around 7,000 hectares of farmlands in South Cotabato.
“There are crops that are already showing signs of wilting and these will be the focus of our cloud seeding operations,” he said.
As to the infestations, he said local agriculture offices have reported occurrences of army worm attacks but there have been no significant damages so far.
The rat infestations are currently worsening in parts of South Cotabato and North Cotabato but noted that the agency’s Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) has been working to address the problem, he said.
Boloron said the RCPC has dispatched technical teams, and distributed rodenticides and insecticides to help combat the infestations. (MindaNews)