Extreme heat hits rice farms in southern Negros

BACOLOD City – The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) in Negros Occidental has monitored reports of damage to rice farms in a southern municipality due to extreme heat.

Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino said as of Sunday, they are validating reports which indicate that farmers in Cauayan whose rice crops are now in different stages have incurred damages.

“Lack of water in this area might already be an effect of the upcoming summer season intensified by El Niño phenomenon. We are also monitoring other localities in the province,” he said.

Masculino said OPA validators are assessing whether the damage in Cauayan is an effect of dry spell or not.

Late last month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in an advisory that a mild El Niño phenomenon has already been affecting some provinces in the country.

A weak El Niño is occurring in the tropical Pacific region and will likely continue until the second quarter of the year, it said, adding that this may cause varying impacts such as warmer than average surface temperature and prolonged dry season.

Masculino advised farmers to observe “timing” in planting crops, and to avoid planting rice in areas where water sources are depleted for the meantime.

Farmers may instead resort to vegetable production, he said.

The OPA chief said that for sugarcane, the main crop of Negros Occidental, 35 percent of the total farms is still up for harvest.

“The remaining areas for planting may have problems especially when the farms have no near water sources like irrigation,” he added.

Based on weather forecast, extreme heat and its effects will be felt most during this month as rainfall is way below normal.

“Given this projection, we could expect that summer and El Niño effects can be felt only in a short span of time,” Masculino said.

He said, however, that mitigating measures should be put in place to lessen the possible adverse effects of dry weather to the province’s agriculture sector.

Funds will be allocated for possible cloud seeding operation, and the OPA also requested for support from the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Western Visayas, he added.

Masculino said they are also speeding up the procurement of equipment such as water and irrigation pumps especially for areas that need water. (PNA)