Written by Maritha C Manubay
Upland farming in the uplands of Cagayan can be made sustainable through intercropping in place of the current practice of rice monoculture, according to the PhilRice Isabela Station.
“There is a need to balance both environment protection and economic development,” said Helen R. Pasicolan, PhilRice Isabela Development Coordinator.
With the growing demand for food, some upland farmers now resort to intensive farming methods that are more suited for the lowlands. These intensive farming practices include the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
In Cagayan, particularly, most upland farmers still practice intensive farming in their rice monoculture.
“If upland farmers continue to practice intensive farming, it can reduce land productivity which will lead to lower yield,” said Pasicolan.
In an isolated mountainous area of Cabatacan West, Lasam, Cagayan, the Agta tribe also rely on upland farming for their food needs, but their rice monoculture practice has resulted in no improvement in productivity. The tribe has 85 households.
Alejandro Fernandez, an Agta representative, realized the need for them to change their rice monoculture practice.
Intercropping as future of upland farming?
A PhilRice study, Enhancing Profitability and Productivity of Upland Rice Areas through Crop Diversification, can provide answers to the challenge of sustainable farming at the uplands.
Pasicolan, also the leader of the study, said that with crop diversity or intercropping, upland farming productivity can increase. This will also help improve the income of upland farmers.
“Studies have proven that intercropping will enhance soil quality, combat pest infestation, and reduce the use of chemical inputs,” said Pasicolan.
In the study’s field day, three intercropping systems were showcased: rice-bush sitao; rice-corn; and rice-mungbean.
“The productivity and profitability of those three intercropping systems will be compared to rice monoculture,” said Jay-ar B. Tapec, PhilRice researcher.
Tapec added that the most suitable intercropping system in Cagayan uplands will be promoted to upland farmers.
Through the study, said Pasicolan, upland farmers can hope for better yields that will eventually lead to a better life for them.