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From conventional to organic farm

February 10, 2011


February 3, 2011, 2:03am

MANILA, Philippines – What does it take to convert a rice field cultivated the conventional way into an organic farm? One technique is to follow the system of Pastor Jerry Dionson of Humayan Ministry) in Bago City, Negros Occidental. He has been helping the farmers in this rice bowl of Negros in converting conventionally farmed fields into organic farms.

Dionson and his farming colleagues have good reasons for converting rice fields into organic farms. For one, it is economical to produce rice the organic way since the farmers themselves are taught to make their own fertilizers and plant protection inputs. Usually, an organic farmer can grow organic rice at a cash expense of only about P14,700 per hectare. For another reason, the price of organic rice is much higher than the conventionally produced grains. The selling price is P60 to P80 per kilo.

As per the experience at the Humayan Ministry, the yield increases as the years pass by. In 2005, when they started converting their farms, the yield was only 75 cavans of palay per hectare. This increased to 87 cavans in 2006, 93 cavans in 2007, 115 cavans in 2008 and then 128 cavans in 2009.

Dionson said that the gross income from a hectare in 2009 amounted to P115,000. After deducting the cost of production plus the cost of harvesting, threshing, drying and milling, the farmers got a net income of P84,000 per hectare.

During the first year of rehabilitation, the use of herbicide, insecticide and fungicide is totally cut off.

Before the irrigation is directed to the field, the water is passed through a filter pond to filter the chemical residue accumulated through the years.

It takes about a month to prepare the land for planting. Before planting the rice seedlings, the land should be thoroughly prepared. Five passes of the power tiller are usually made. The land is also sprayed with indigenous microorganisms (IMO). After leveling the field, before transplanting, 2 to 2.5 tons of vermicast are applied per hectare. After transplanting, the rice field is sprayed every week with biogas sludge which is a byproduct of the biogas digester used as source of fuel. If they don’t have biogas sludge, they can spray their own concoctions of IMO, fermented plant juice (FPJ), calcium phosphate, vermi tea and organic herbal nutrients (OHN).

The FPJ is very economical to use. It is sprayed on the soil once a week for six weeks starting from land preparation up to the vegetative stage. The FPJ, according to Dionson, serves as food for the indigenous microorganisms in the soil which favor proper growth of the rice plants. The field treated with FPJ also seems to discourage infestation by insects.

From the vegetative to the dough stage of the panicles, the rice plants are sprayed with seaweed extract (Pregrow brand) and calcium phosphate.

These make the stalks sturdier and also help avoid grain shattering.

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