Written by Charisma Love B Gado
Farmers in the Ilocos region are assured of the effectiveness of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as these are being adopted by extension workers in their own backyards.
“I first tried a kilo of VAM (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae) in the tomatoes planted in my backyard garden before I facilitated the Farmers Field School (FFS) on IPM in our town,” Clemente Viernes, extension worker in Vintar, Ilocos Norte said. VAM is a good alternative to commercial fertilizers for vegetables, upland rice, and corn that could reduce fertilizer use up to 80 percent and provides plant resistance to diseases.
Viernes, who participated in a season-long training on IPM technologies in 2009, said he found the application of VAM during the seedling stage effective. He claimed that his yield was good in spite of his one-time watering of the plant. Even in harsh condition, he said that his plants did not experience bacterial wilt and yellow leaf curl.
With his initial success, he applied VAM in his remote, near the mountains, 3,000 m2 backyard vegetable garden planted with tomatoes, eggplants, and bitter gourd.
In Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, a town that exports garlic to Taiwan, farmers use VAM because of its noticeable effect in an eggplant cultivated by extensionist Herminia Castillo, who claimed that the plant have been bearing 20 fruits for a year now. Eggplant without VAM, she said, usually bear five to seven fruits.
Three hours away from Pasuquin, extension workers in Ilocos Sur are also promoting the potentials of VAM and Trichoderma sp. or simply tricho, a beneficial fungus that serves as a biological control agent for soil-borne plant pathogens, based on their experience.
Mario Cabinte of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur underwent a four-month training but was hesitant at first to disseminate the technologies because of the farmers’ “to- see-is-to-believe” attitude.
“Manang Hermie (Herminia Rapusas, project lead) encouraged me to facilitate FFS here. If she didn’t call, I wouldn’t be able to establish the sites alone,” he recalled.
Mario started the FFS in Brgy. Ambulugan, the town’s largest area in onion production, two years ago. After the initial adoption of farmers in Brgy. Ambulugan, he established another site in Brgy. Parparia, where farmers tried VAM and tricho on off-season tomatoes. Together, they observed that their yield was not heavily infested with pests and diseases that could easily be brought by strong typhoons.
“In my own backyard garden, I observed that tomato seedlings applied with tricho have 99 percent survival rate. The quality is also good as the National Food Corporation based in this region brought our farmers’ produce,” he said.
The farmers are very convinced with the advantages of using VAM and tricho that one of them tried tricho in grapes and bitter gourd. Mario observed that the farmers’ produce did not have black rot and the bitter gourds were longer.
Although farmers in his area are receptive in adopting the technologies, Mario said a laboratory on the production of VAM and tricho may be necessary for them to sustain the practices.
“It would be more convenient for farmers to produce these organic inputs if we have our own supply of isolate and root starter inoculant. We’re contented with Manang Hermie delivering these materials but it would be more accessible if we would know how to produce these too,” Mario said.
However, not all farmers are enthusiastic in producing the organic inputs. Remy Inovejas, extension worker in Sinait, Ilocos Sur, admitted that some farmers trained in FFS-IPM have difficulty producing their own supply because they perceived its production as demanding and time-consuming.
“To encourage the farmers, I have to show them that making these environment-friendly and safe fertilizers is not as taxing as they think; and that it could be juggled with other work. I make tricho every Saturday, and it only takes half of my day. I wait for about three weeks then distribute it to the farmers for free. I also produce VAM twice a year,” she said.
Remy, an advocate of organic farming and have facilitated eight FFS-IPM, said she incorporated the production of VAM and tricho in other FFS as she wants to reach more farmers cultivating vegetables that could be safely consumed.
In teaching FFS, Remy have crossed rivers and reached foot of many mountains. She did not mind the walking, so long that the technologies she introduces are heard and practiced. But words are not enough. She knew that words should be practiced to make a more powerful voice.