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North Cotabato farmers are now practicing synchronous planting after they tried a water-saving technology promoted by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the country’s lead agency in rice science and development.

Engr. Flora Mae D. Respicio, principal engineer of M’lang/Malasila River Irrigation Systems (MLARIS), said controlled irrigation, a practical technique on saving irrigation water without decreasing yield, enabled farmers to share water supply with rice tillers owning farms in downstream.

In controlled irrigation, observation wells are used to monitor the status of water to help farmers determine the appropriate amount of water and timing of irrigation. Meanwhile, synchronous planting within one month is recommended to avoid the overlapping occurrence of pests and diseases.

“We used to implement 3-4-days irrigation interval but it caused conflicts among farmers because the water supply only reaches the mid-streams resulting in late planting or no planting in downstream. From this schedule, we shifted to 7-days irrigation interval,” she said in a field day recently conducted by PhilRice station based in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Respicio said LIDANAMA Irrigators` Association members initially had apprehensions following the new schedule as they are used to seeing their fields immersed with water.

“Through controlled irrigation, farmers are confident that nothing will happen to their rice plants after seven days of no water release. Now, the 1,660 ha of LIDANAMA Irrigators` Association were planted synchronously based on 2012 dry season cropping calendar,” she said.

About 175 rice farmers in the seven irrigators’ association covered by MLARIS had adopted controlled irrigation. With its adoption, Respicio said the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Region 12 will form core trainers who will implement the technology in a wider scale.

Philippines` Irrigated Rice Research Consortium Country Outreach Program funds the project in collaboration with PhilRice and NIA.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute