Now is the time for all good farmers to make judicious use of water for their crops. The dry spell is here and is poised to remain longer than usual.
By Zac B. Sarian
So, what can be done? One approach is to adopt the drip irrigation system. This is the technique that delivers water drop by drop to the roots of plants.
The drip irrigation technology may be considered an old one. The Israeli farmers are among the first to adopt the technique in a big scale since most of their farms are in the desert. It is really amazing how they can achieve bumper crops despite their lack of abundant water. One reason, of course, is their use of the drip system.
(Story continues after photo.)
When we were invited to visit the farms in the Arava Desert in Israel in 2011, we saw for ourselves how they could produce 300 tons of tomatoes from one hectare of greenhouse in one year. In the Philippines, we are already happy if we can harvest 30 tons per hectare.
In the drip system, the drops of water are delivered through drippers in amounts just enough to moisten the root zone. Overwatering that could damage the roots is avoided. Fertilizer can be added to go with the water in the right dosage so one can save on labor and on fertilizers, too. When fertilizer is broadcast manually, as is often the case in the Philippines, much of the fertilizer is wasted.
Here in the Philippines, drip irrigation has been introduced many years back. However, not many of our farmers have adopted the technology principally because of the high cost. Most of the systems are imported from Israel, India, and more recently, China.
Today, there is hope for more local farmers to adopt the technology. At the recent Agri-Kapihan at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Greg delos Trinos showcased his homegrown version of drip irrigation. As a good number of farmers have already found out, his system works just as well as the imported variety. The difference is that it is very much cheaper.
As Dr. Rene Sumaoang from Tarlac will attest, he had a portion of his farm drip-irrigated for about Php30,000. When Greg calculated what Dr. Sumaoang could have spent with the use of his materials, Dr. Sumaoang would not have spent more than Php5,000 for the same area. Among the satisfied users of Greg’s drip system are a black pepper farmer with 4,000 plants in Sorsogon; a mango grower from Zambales; vegetable farmers in Cavite and Rizal; and a lady dragon fruit farmer in Nueva Ecija.
Actually, Greg started developing his drip technology as early as 2002. According to a big mango plantation owner from Zambales who was his first customer, Greg’s concept was very good but the materials he was using were inferior. Fortunately, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) saw the potential of Greg’s technology and gave him a grant of Php500,000 in 2013 so he could improve the quality of his drip hoses and micro-hoses. He now uses virgin materials so that they can last for many years.
Greg has also come up with a very practical way to regulate the amount of drip delivered at a time. But he is not stopping there. He continues to innovate. Hopefully more local farmers will adopt the drip system as it is now more affordable. Greg can be contacted at 0920-522-3761.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July 2015 issue.