SouthCot to revise cropping pattern to prepare for El Niño

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) – Agriculture personnel in South Cotabato are planning to revise the area’s cropping pattern in preparation for the foreseen onslaught of another long dry spell or El Niño phenomenon in the area in the coming months.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture officer, said Wednesday they are specifically looking at setting cropping or planting adjustments for palay, corn and other agricultural crops in the province’s to cope with the impact of the dry spell, which was predicted to begin by next month.

“We’re studying the possibility of adjusting or making a new cropping calendar that would be suitable for the situation,” he said.

Legaste said they are set to launch a series of consultations with farmers and irrigators’ associations in areas within the province’s 10 towns and lone city that would likely be affected by the dry spell.

He said these areas include portions of the province’s upper valley that are served by the Allah River Irrigation System (RIS) in Surallah town.

The upper valley area, which is considered as the province’s rice granary, covers the municipalities of Banga, Surallah, T’boli, Norala, Lake Sebu and Sto. Niño.

Around 9,000 hectares of palay farmlands in the area were earlier affected by a three-month shutdown of dams 1 and 2 of the Allah RIS to undergo the needed repairs and rehabilitation.

The two dams were reopened by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) last month following the completion of the repair works, which included the linings and distribution canals within the six municipalities in South Cotabato and nearby Sultan Kudarat province that were covered by the irrigation system.

NIA-South Cotabato supervisor Ramon Bugacia assured local farmers that they will not opt for another closure of the area’s irrigation systems in case the dry spell would hit the area.

He said they are currently preparing some mitigation measures for the El Niño, among them the reprogramming of the schedule of irrigation services in areas that would be affected by the calamity.

In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the El Niño will likely hit various parts of the country beginning October and would last until May 2013.

The El Niño, which is caused by an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, will initially cause below-normal rainfall that would later progress into drier conditions.

In 2010, a mild El Niño caused farmlands in the province and the nearby areas to dry up for several months, destroying millions worth of agricultural crops.

Legaste said the province’s weather condition is still considered normal and it continues to experience occasional rains.

Some parts of the province are still considered at the peak of the palay harvest season while some areas are preparing anew for another cropping.

But Legaste said they are closely monitoring possible changes in the area’s weather patterns that might lead to the predicted dry spell.

“We’re regularly getting updates from PAGASA regarding the El Niño. So far, it has not yet reached our area but some parts of Visayas, like the province of Bohol, are already reeling from its effects so we also need to prepare for it,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)