DA worried over dry spell in Region 12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 4 April) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Southwestern Mindanao is keeping a close watch on the region’s agricultural production areas due to a prevailing dry spell affecting some parts of the area.

Zaldy Boloron, officer-in-charge of DA Region 12’s operations division, said they are regularly monitoring the farm areas that were affected by the unusually intense summer weather to facilitate the necessary interventions in case the situation worsens.

But he said there were no reports so far of any damage or severe impact to farm crops in any part of the region as a result of the intense weather condition.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“We have not yet received any report regarding crop damages or if there are farm areas that already started to dry up,” Boloron said.

The official said that based on their monitoring, there are areas that have been experiencing occasional rains these past weeks.

But this city and parts of nearby Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces have been experiencing severe dry weather since early March, with field temperatures reaching as high as 36 degrees Celsius.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration station here earlier said the rising temperature was mainly due to the onset of the summer season, which was expected to intensify until next month.

Boloron said they expect drier conditions by next month but noted that they have already prepared some interventions to counter its impact on farm crops in the area.

“When that happens, local government units may request for the conduct of cloud seeding operations,” he said.

In early 2010, DA central office stationed personnel from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in the region to coordinate the conduct of cloud seeding operations in areas that were hit then by a mild dry spell or El Nino Phenomenon.

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 operations are conducted by BSWM personnel through aircrafts commissioned by the agency.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato provincial agriculturist, said they are prepared to launch cloud-seeding operations in case the area’s weather condition will worsen in the coming weeks.

But he said their evaluation showed that there’s no need yet to conduct cloud-seeding as the dry spell has not yet affected most of the standing crops in the area due to substantial irrigation supplies.

Legaste said the prevailing dry period has been beneficial to local fruit producers since it falls on the flowering stage of the fruit trees, especially of mangoes.

Legaste said they are hoping that the area will go without any rain for another week to complete the critical 35-day flowering stage of mangoes.

He said the Provincial Environment Management Office is currently assisting them in monitoring the impact and intensity of the dry spell using the planted bamboos in the area as indicator.

He said they agreed to launch the cloud-seeding activities if 10 percent of the standing bamboos in the province are already affected. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)