ARMM research unit uses modern technology to determine drought damage

AMPATUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 1 March) – The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAF-ARRM), through its Agricultural Research Center (ARC) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is using modern technology in assessing drought damages to crops in Maguindanao, officials said Tuesday.

Under the Philippine Rice Information System Management (PRISM) program, researchers could gather exact information as to crop damages using satellite imaging, global positioning system (GPS) and actual field imaging using smartphones, said Saudi Mangindra, senior ARC researcher.

“The main objective of this project using a tool for precision agriculture is to gather accurate data on the effect of the dry spell to crops and the extent of pest infestation,” Mangindra said.

He explained that using GPS, actual damages are recorded. Data gathered are then processed by PRISM personnel. “Accurate data on the extent of damages will help our policy makers and leaders determine what assistance the government can extend to affected farmers,” Mangindra said.

Bryan Arap, PRISM-ARMM focal person, said agriculture technical experts go to the fields, assess the situation and using smartphones, could determine what kind of insects and pests have destroyed agricultural crops.

“Soon we will come out with identified rice areas using maps so we can identify the country’s rice producing areas,” he added.

Johny Maloom, PhilRice researcher, said the system is using satellite images to come up with a drought map. “What we are doing now is to pinpoint affected areas and come up with data that will help determine the extent of damages,” Maloom said.

PRISM will also monitor the damages brought by calamities like floods and infestation using the technology.

For most farmers, this year’s drought can be the worst, which destroyed a huge part of agriculture areas in the region.

ARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Among the rice producing towns of Maguindanao is Ampatuan municipality, where the extent of damage caused by the dry spell can be readily seen by the naked eye.

Mandag Sumagayan, 58, of Barangay Malatiman in Ampatuan, could not imagine how to recover his losses.

“Look around and you can see the extent of damages. Newly planted palay now looks like ordinary carabao grass,” the father of eight said to illustrate how his green farm turned into brown and super dry field.

Rats feasted on his rice that has already produced grain.

“I am yet to recover from rat infestation and here comes the El Niño. How can I recover?” Sumagayan lamented.

He added a government extended palay variety could not be planted because there is no water to prepare the fields for planting.

He is keeping his fingers crossed that the rainy season will come soon and hopes that a government response to help them will come.