Mechanizing farm operations is the best way to solve the lack of skilled farm workers during the peak of transplanting and harvesting season.
In Region 2, mechanized rice farming has resulted in lower production cost due to savings in labor. This was reported by Engineer Generoso M. Oli, Chief of the Field Operations Division of the Department of Agriculture- Regional Field Office 02 (DA-RFO-2) Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.
Oli’s mechanized rice farming project was one of the entries at the recently held National Symposium on Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (NSAARRD) organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) at PCAARRD in Los Baños, Laguna.
It showcased and promoted mechanized seeds and seedling preparation, crop establishment, and harvesting to farmers’ organizations. The technologies reduced production cost and man-day labor, and addressed the problem of labor scarcity in the region during peak season.
In a report presented to PCAARRD, Oli and his team introduced rice production using mechanized crop establishment machinery such as mechanical transplanter and direct seeder suitable for medium-elevated irrigated conditions in Region 02.
They set up five demonstration sites in 2017 during the wet season: In Fugu, Ballestero, Cagayan; Baculud, Amulung, Cagayan; Nuesa, Roxas, Isabela; La Paz, Cabanatuan, Isabela; and Dadap, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
For each of the five sites, three demonstration plots, each with an area of half a hectare, were allocated for the use of mechanical direct seeder, mechanical transplanter, and conventional method of crop establishment.
Results were positive. Compared with the conventional manual transplanting, the labor requirement in all five project sites were reduced by up to 84% using the mechanical direct seeder, and by up to 50% using the mechanical transplanter.
The number of farm workers needed using mechanical direct seeder were between 5 and 15 for the mechanical transplanter, at 8 hours of work per day, significantly lower compared to conventional farming’s manpower requirement of between 26 and 32 persons.
The project attained the recommended plant population for both direct mechanical seeder and transplanter because of the precise distance of plants between rows and hills.
Oli reported that, moreover, the use of mechanical direct seeder resulted in rice yields ranging from 5.18 to 7.97 tons per hectare (t/ha). Three of the five demo sites gave yields higher than the conventional farming.
On the other hand, the use of mechanical transplanter resulted in rice yields ranging from 5.99 to 8.20 t/ha due to higher plant population, productive tillers, and filled grains. Four demo sites gave values that were a bit higher or comparable with the yields from conventional farming.
With the mechanical direct seeder, the lowest total production cost was recorded in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya at P32,880 per hectare. Net income was highest in Nuesa, Roxas, Isabela at P101,025 per hectare and highest returns on investment of 238%.
With the mechanical transplanter, the lowest total production cost per hectare of P41,288 was recorded in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, also with the highest net income of P103,892 and highest returns on investment of 249%.
During the technology demonstration and promotion, 245 individuals had been trained in the preparation of seeds, soil media, and seedling trays, while 337 farmers participated in field days during crop establishment using the mechanical direct seeder; 255 during mechanical transplanting; and 276 during harvesting.
To expand benefits to other farmers, Oli recommended further technology demonstrations in rice model farm cluster areas per municipality and by deploying farm service providers who will rent out machinery and other custom services to farmers in the locality (DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services).