DOST to set up smart technologies for crop yield improvement


DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 Feb) — Smart technologies will soon be integrated to farming practices for the improvement of crop yield, Secretary Mario Montejo  of the  Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

In his keynote address at the launching of “Smarter Philippines” here on February 20,  Montejo said the DOST  is currently “evaluating/finalizing” a project involving smarter agriculture.

He said these technologies include the installation of soil moisture sensors, and getting weather information from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

He said a nationwide internet-based management information system will be set up to provide farmers with “timely agro-meteorological data, such as rainfall trends, soil moisture data, evapo-transpiration levels, to support farming decisions.”

Given this information, farmers can then apply the appropriate amounts of water as required by a particular crop within a certain growth stage, he said.

DOST regional director Anthony Sales said the project is a component of  “Smarter Countryside” with the DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development regional consortia and the Advance Science and Technology Institute.

He said the installation of soil-moisture sensors and a nationwide internet-based information system for farmers will be implemented this year upon the availability of funds.

In a telephone interview, Valente Turtur, officer in charge of the City Agriculturist’s Office said the DOST’s technology will be introduced to farmers to help increase crop productivity.

He noted that agriculture in the city still lacks mechanization to increase crop productivity.

But he said the city established the “Magsasaka Siyentista” (farmer-scientist) project, a farmer-to-farmer extension approach to tap and develop knowledge of local farmers for the advancement of farming practice.

Turtur explained that while mechanization in agriculture helps increase the productivity, it may also have adverse social effects such as a decrease in jobs, as workers are replaced by machines.

He also noted that highly mechanized farming means utilizing fossil fuels that will impact the environment.

Pedro Arnado, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Southern Mindanao, welcomed the technological advancement, but wondered if this would be given to the farmers for free.

“It is important that such technology will fit the current conditions of farming in the countryside,” he said.

He cited the lack of appropriate agricultural supports such as electricity, farm-to-market roads and advanced farming tools.

Above all, he continued, the main problems of farmers in the countryside are low prices of agricultural products, usury, land distribution, and the impacts of militarization and climate change that forcibly displace farmers. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)