Better weather info for PHL agriculture urged

February 7, 2012 7:20pm

The weather office should start fine-tuning its weather report for agriculture to aid farmers who are grappling with extreme weather events, a crop scientist at the University of the Philippines Los Banos said.

Dr. Lucille Elna De Guzman, a researcher at the UP College of Agriculture and a member of the UPLB Interdisciplinary Program on Climate Change, said the weather for the past year has become “so erratic.”

At present, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services (Pagasa) only provides a general agricultural weather report every month.

De Guzman, in an interview at the sidelines of a climate change adaptation workshop organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, said the report should be localized as weather in one place is different from another.

“The weather in the plains is different from the weather in the mountains,” she said.

De Guzman said many Filipino farmers still base their planting schedules on observable weather patterns. This, she said, is not advisable anymore as the patterns have become too unpredictable.

It would be helpful for farmers to have a more accurate information on rainfall, temperature, and sunlight so that they can plan their planting schedules to avoid extreme weather, she said.

Recently, the DA said it would purchase weather systems for farming communities to better equip farmers against the threat of climate change.

The Philippines have been experiencing the effects of climate change, scientists said. A Pagasa study of climate data from 1960 to 2003 showed significant increases in the frequency of hot days and warm nights in many areas of the country.

Pagasa also observed that cooler days had decreased. This trend mirrors the experience of other countries in Southeast Asia, Pagasa said as it predicted more rains in the Philippines in the coming decades.

Previously, DA Undersecretary Segfredo said the DA is the only country in the region that doesn’t have its own meteorological service.

He estimated that P1 billion should be enough to cover the main agricultural lands with automatic weather stations.

Having accessible data on the weather would boost farmers’ resiliency and lessen their risks against climate change, officials said. Experts said more accurate data on weather patterns will help farmers decide on what and when to plant and harvest their crops.

In Sorsogon, a province that faces the Pacific Ocean and is on the path of typhoons, the local government and the Department of Agriculture recently piloted an early warning system report for farms.

Sorsogon Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Tess Destura said the weather bulletin for farms provide data on soil condition and issues advisory on what to do with crops and livestock.

The weather calendar also has information on when the monsoons would start and end, giving farmers a better idea when to plant and harvest their crops.

Destura said there were difficulties along the way. She noted that the bulletin was sometimes late. There was also the matter of interpreting data for farmers.

“We requested Pagasa to assist us on how to forecast weather,” she said. They also translated the bulletins to the local dialect for farmers.

Destura said Sorsogon has started to experiment with early maturing varieties of rice as part of their strategy to adapt the agricultural sector to climate change. She noted that calamities always pull down their rice yield.

The province, Destura said, is hoping that by using early maturing varieties of rice would allow their farmers to harvest rice before the stronger storms hit their region. — TJD, GMA News

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