Today’s health crisis teaches us to act as one so we can heal as one. That is, when we are called to follow certain protocols, everyone must follow. One’s disobedience can put others’ lives into risk. The same goes for controlling pests in rice farming. A farming community’s planting calendar must be in sync, or else, farmers may experience unwanted field infestation.
Crop protection experts at Philippine Rice Research Institute of the Department of Agriculutre (DA-PhilRice) recommend the practice of synchronous planting after a rest period as an effective pest management strategy.
“If farmers in an area plant synchronously, crops can be harvested almost simultaneously. Insect pests cannot thrive or multiply there because there is no source of food or habitat for them to stay,” Genaro Rillon, crop protection expert at PhilRice, explained.
He also emphasized that a month-long fallow period goes hand-in-hand with synchronous planting. This is not only to let the soil rest, but also to break the average life cycle of insect pests, that is usually at 30 days, and at the same time, to destroy disease hosts before the next cropping season begins.
“When you allow the field to rest, you starve the insect pests and the source of disease inoculum will be eliminated. The remaining rice straw and other organic materials will also decompose, and will eventually become an additional fertilizer,” Rillon noted.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jennifer T. Niones added that synchronous planting also reduces the attack of viruses, which include tungro, dwarf, grassy stunt, and ragged stunt.
At Iba, Zambales, Francisco Parallag and his farmer-neighbors learned this lesson the hard way.
They have been battling with stem borer, rice bug, rice blast, and brown planthopper for a long time. Their immediate response was to spray insecticide at the sight of insect pests roaming around their rice plants.
Parallag would experience this when he plants later than most of the farmers in their area.
“I’ve learned that planting later than my neighbors is not beneficial. I have a hard time controlling the pests. The damage was bigger while my harvest and income became lesser,” the 63-year-old farmer shared.
After joining the PhilRice-led farmer field school in 2018, Parallag and his fellow learners realized the importance of fallow period plus synchronous planting.
They now allow their fields to rest for 30 days after their harvest. They believe that while insect pests and diseases are controlled through this, their soil also regenerates.
They also follow the recommendation to plant within 14 days before or 14 days after the regular planting schedule in their irrigation service area.
By following the agreed planting schedule, Francisco and his fellow farmers began seeing the gradual turnaround in their fields.
“We no longer spray insecticides because the insect pests were thinly scattered in different areas. The damage was minimal,” he described.
Francisco himself was amazed at how their obedience and unity helped him control pests effectively, while saving on production cost. What more, his usual harvest of 90 sacks increased to 138 sacks in no time!
These Zambales farmers showed that acting as one was their key to overcoming their long-standing pest crisis in the field.
Francisco is firm to continue this new learning in crop establishment, which forms part of the PalayCheck, a dynamic rice crop management system showcasing the key technologies and management practices in rice production, presented as Key Checks. Fallow period and synchronous planting are packaged as Key Check 3.
For more information on the PalayCheck System, read here.