ALFONSO LISTA, Ifugao – The Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture–Cordillera (DA-CAR) and the municipal governments of Alfonso Lista conducted a farmers’ field day on Sustainable Land Resources Management Approach (SLRMA). The field day was held on October 26-27, 2022 at Sitio Bataan Rock, Pinto, Alfonso Lista, Ifugao to demonstrate, showcase and raise awareness among farmers about the project’s impact in cultivating sloping areas.
The SLRMA is a research and development initiative being implemented by the BSWM under the DA’s National Corn Program, in partnership with the DA regional field offices and local governments. The project focuses on upland and hilly areas where corn and cassava are grown to create and advance a science-based strategy that will maximize the potential for agro-environmental development of upland and hilly lands, particularly lands affected by continuous corn production. The SLRMA is an approach to properly manage sloping areas, especially degraded areas.
The SLRMA is being implemented with the use of Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT). The SALT is a package of technology of soil conservation and food production, integrating differing soil conservation measures in just one setting. Basically, SALT is a method of growing field and permanent crops in 3-5 m wide bands between contoured rows of nitrogen-fixing trees.
Contouring is the practice of tilling and planting on sloped land along lines of consistent elevation in order to conserve rainwater and to prevent the sloped land from soil erosion. One of the techniques used for contouring is the use of A-frame, which the coop demonstrated during the field visit.
The techno-demo farm is managed by Bataan Rock Integrated Farmers Organization (BRIFO) through Sonny Laggaw Nawalig, the organization’s president. The demo farm is one of the six demo sites that was established during its pilot launch in 2019, in which a 20-hectare land was set up. But with the realization of the farmer-members of BRIFO of its benefits, the land expanded to more than 60 hectares when they volunteered their own fields to be used for the expansion.
SLRMA Focal Person Joseph B. Rojales said that one of the project’s main goals is to prepare the farming communities residing in the sloping areas to be sufficient and resilient from calamities that will affect their crop production. A 5-year development scheme was adopted to ensure the success of the project. This will give support to expansion areas from the second year until project maturity.
In his testimonial message, Nawalig expressed his gratitude for the project, adding that he saw the huge difference between his farm practice and production before they became an SLRMA beneficiary, “I used to plant crops upward and downward. When typhoons hit, the crops were damaged. I was glad that our land served as a demo area on how to properly plant crops on sloping areas through contour farming. I learned the area better,” he expressed as he testified to the success of the project.
He shared that when the SLRMA was introduced to them, they were hesitant to join the project as contouring will reduce their land planted by 20% because of the contour lines. Before the project, they were harvesting at least 3.5 MT/ha of yellow corn alone. But during the implementation, they are now harvesting more than 5 MT/ha of yellow corn, banana and other fruit trees planted in the hedgerows, “The project impacted us a lot. The yield of our production is much higher compared to when we were only planting corn. The fruit trees we planted added to the total yield of the land, and made our profit higher,” he shared, adding their income is continuous as they are harvesting fruits every two weeks while waiting for the corn to be harvested.
He added that obviously soil erosion is now being addressed due to the established hedgerows which were planted with various fruit trees, pineapple, bananas and brush dams along the gullies, no burning of corn stubbles, weeds and leaves, and planting of corn following the contour.
DA-CAR Regional Executive Director Cameron P. Odsey, while praising the positive result of the SLRMA, reiterated the importance of watersheds in the region, as the Cordillera is the main water source of northern and central Luzon, “Water is the most important resource in agriculture. If our watersheds will not be maintained, then how can agriculture survive? That is why this approach will also balance and sustain the soil without hurting the watersheds,” he said. Odsey also suggested integrating livestock in the next phase of the SLRMA project to maximize the use of corn by making silage or animal feeds.
The techno-demo site is currently being considered as a learning site and agri-tourism site. During the field day, the farm was endorsed to Agricultural Training Institute–Cordillera OIC Center Chief Charlie C. Sagudan.
A seminar on soybean production was also conducted to further capacitate the corn farmers. The project will include the production of soybean. Dalipog is eyeing for Alfonso Lista to become the soybean center of Ifugao as he saw the potential of soybean production in the municipality.
Rojales campaigned for crop rotation practices to rest the soil from planting corn. This will also reduce the use of fertilizer, as corn consumes more amount of nitrogen to properly mature. Aside from fruit trees, soybean is recommended to be included in crop rotation because soybeans consume potassium more than nitrogen. It also gets its nitrogen from the air, which will then be channeled to the soil. He also discouraged the practice of burning the soil after harvest as it burns the nitrogen and kills microbes living on top of the soil. These are essential to the growth of the crop.
This was echoed by Regional Corn Coordinator Gerardo P. Banawa as he emphasized the importance of the symbiotic relationship between crops and nitrogen-fixing bacteria that lives in the root nodules of crops since this will benefit legumes and crops.
To date, the SLRMA project is on its third year of operation.