Rain neutralizes volcanic ash, minimal damage to sugar crops

SRA personnel collecting soil samples. (SRA photo)

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – Rain helped neutralize the acidity of volcanic ash from Kanlaon Volcano’s recent eruption, resulting in minimal field damage, according to a weekend assessment report from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

“Assessment and monitoring continue, but there seems to be very minimal field damage,” SRA Administrator Pablo Azcona said.

Following the Kanlaon Volcano eruption on June 3, the SRA Disaster Committee met on June 4, where Azcona approved the allocation of P2.5 million from the Corporate Social Responsibility funds.

These funds were used to provide assistance to farmers and SRA employees, including N95 masks, drinking water, noodles, biscuits, and other necessities.

The SRA also set up evacuation plans for the La Granja Agricultural Research and Extension Center (LGAREC) Research Station, which is close to Kanlaon.

LGAREC will also serve as a shelter for farmers if needed.

Azcona said that on June 4, the SRA dispatched research teams to conduct soil and leaf sampling in ash-affected areas and assess potential damage to sugarcane fields.

Results showed that soil pH dropped from 6.48 the week before to 5.0 (acidic) on June 4, and ash on leaves had a pH of 4.14 (acidic).

“Good thing it is raining in the area and there is no visible ash on the fields,” he noted.

Azcona pointed out that while rivers and creeks already have lahar flow, there has been no crop damage so far.

Farmers are continuing to replant El Niño-damaged sugarcane, and it’s business as usual for them.

Ambient air tests conducted on June 4 showed an increase in total suspended particulate (TSP) levels from 14 to 36-38 micrograms per normal cubic meter (µg/m³), and PM10 particulate matter levels ranged from 33-34µg/m³.

These tests were conducted in Bacolod City, with further testing planned for areas closer to Kanlaon.

Soil and leaf samples taken on June 5 and 6 from 23 farm locations around Kanlaon showed an improvement in soil pH from 5.0 on June 4 to about 5.8 to 5.9 on June 6. Leaf ash pH improved from 4.14 to an average of 4.7.

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