NO CAN DO: Small farmers in rainfed areas can’t depend on rice alone!

Rice in a rainfed upland area. The low yield can’t support the needs of the small farmer’s family.

FARMERS don’t survive by rice alone, most especially the small farmers of the lowlands and uplands. They usually have one rice crop per year, and with their small landholdings, they really can’t support themselves simply on rice.

OTHER CROPS NEEDED – They should be able to grow other crops so they could have added income throughout the year. The trouble is that in most cases the soil is too dry for any traditional crop to grow after the rice is harvested. So the farm just remains idle and so does the farmer.

NOT HOPELESS – These poor rice farmers are not entirely hopeless, however. Researchers of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños have in the past several years been studying various cropping patterns that could help the small rice farmers become productive even during traditionally dry months.

CROPS AFTER HARVEST – At the Agri-Kapihan one Saturday, Primitivo “Tom” Tengco, a research assistant at IRRI, presented practical ways of growing food and forage crops after the wet season rice is harvested. Among the food crops that could be planted right after harvesting rice are mungo, peanut, cowpea, kadios, and batao. They don’t only produce fruits or pods for human consumption. Their stems are also good for feeding farm animals.

DESMANTHUS FROM INDIA – Tengco also disclosed promising forage crops that are hardy even for dry areas. One is the donkey bean from India which is scientifically known as Desmanthus virgatus. One other alias is Hedge Lucerne. This is a bush that produces a lot of small leaves similar to ipil-ipil. It can be grown as a monocrop after rice or could be intercropped with some other economic plants such as corn, beans and others.

VERY NUTRITIOUS – Like the ipil-ipil, Desmanthus is very nutritious for livestock. The leaves and stems contain 18 to 23 percent protein, and they could also be made into powder to produce a leaf meal for mixing with commercial animal feeds. It is even better than ipil-ipil because it does not contain mimosine which is harmful to pigs and other animals if given in large doses.

ANIMAL FEED – Desmanthus will flourish throughout the hot summer months and can thus provide valuable feed for the farmers’ animals. When the rainy season comes, the last cutting could be spread over the field to serve as green manure. Experiments by IRRI researchers show that the green manure could take the place of costly chemical fertilizers.

PIGEON PEA – The kadios or pigeon pea is also an excellent crop to grow after rice, according to the IRRI experts. This will thrive even during the very dry months and will produce nutritious seeds for use as vegetable. The seeds could also be ground and used as ingredient in mixing commercial animal feeds, like what Justino Gonzales of Pinaud, San Ildefonso, Bulacan has been doing.

KADIOS WILL REGROW – The leafy branches of the kadios could also be harvested and fed to the animals, according to Tengco. The plant will regrow and produce new pods. There are a number of kadios varieties but the best in IRRI experiments is known as OPL72.

BATANGAS PRACTICE – Tengco also cited a practice of Batangas farmers that should be imitated by farmers in other parts of the country. This is the intercropping of batao in corn farms. When the corn plants are starting to bear fruit, they plant batao between the corn. When the corn ears are harvested, the stalks are just left behind standing. The stalks serve as the trellis for the batao to cling on.

The batao produces delicious pods that are used as vegetable when young. The leaves can also be fed to the animals.
MANY OTHERS – There are many other plants that can be grown by farmers during the dry months. Farms need not be idle during summer, concluded Tom Tengc

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