In the light of the skyrocketing price of petroleum and fuel brought about by the recent implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law or Republic Act 10963, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has offered some technologies to help farmers maximize their income despite the incidence.
Dr. Arnold S. Juliano, head of the PhilRice Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division (REMD), has recommended the use of renewable energies for rice production. “Instead of using diesel or gasoline fuel, farmers can now opt for biomass or rice hull, which can be converted into gas using the Water Pump Gasifier,” Juliano emphasized.
Water Pump Gasifier is a type of rice hull gasifier engine-pump system (RHGEPS) that is compact, light-weight, mobile, and affordable for small farmers. Juliano said this technology is already in the final stage of pilot testing. A farmer in Mindoro, according to him, has used this Water-Pump Gasifier for one cropping season and saw the benefits for himself. He has able to reduce his irrigation cost from Php 15, 000 to Php 2, 000.
The researcher elaborated that the Water Pump Gasifier can continuously operate for two hours using only half sack or 17 kilograms of rice hull. “Fuel is only necessary for the start-up of the machine during its first 10 minutes of operation. This can give farmers 30-40% savings in their irrigation costs. This amount of savings can make up for the P4/litter average increase in the cost of fuel due to the implementation of TRAIN Law”, he added.
Moreover, Juliano said the gasifier is also environment-friendly, as it reduces the use of fossil fuels through biomass. “The rice hull used for gasifier, when carbonized, can still be used for seed bed and other applications, promoting zero-waste usage for farmers,” the researcher further discussed.
“We are working on extending the operation hours of the gasifier from 2 hours to 8 hours due to the requests of the farmers who used it for pilot testing, so that they can do more activities while the machine is operating.”
Aside from the gasifier, Juliano also emphasized the edge of using mechanical transplanter over the manual method. The machine enables farmers to plant their seedlings at a younger age (14-18 days), as compared to the usual 25-30 days using manual transplanting. Moreover, it ensures equal distance between seedlings. According to Juliano, precise distance between seedlings increases the chance of having thicker tillers, thus, resulting in higher yield.
“Using the mechanical transplanter, farmers can increase the usual target of 8 tons up to 10 tons during dry season, and the target of 5 tons to 7 tons during wet season. Considering this increase in yield owing to mechanized farming, there’s a big chance that farmers can also increase their income. The approximately additional 20 cavans increase in their yield could be translated into Php 15, 000 additional income per hectare,” Juliano estimated.
Juliano also added ways on how farmers can save water and minimize their production costs. One of which is by using the Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD). This technology allows farmers to use less water during irrigation. Another way to save water is by doing the land preparation two weeks after harvest. This will enable farmers to take advantage of the residual moisture of the soil, making it easier to manage.
Aside from mechanization, Juliano also highlighted that farmers and other consumers should shift to alternative sources of fuel aside from fossil energy. Alternative sources of fuel include biomass, the use of wind power, and the production of ethanol through cassava fermentation.
“With all these technologies and our joint efforts with the farmers, we can overcome all the challenges in rice production. It’s high time for farmers to adopt technologies that can offer them better yield and income,” Juliano concluded.