Corn farmers as well as those growing other crops usually hire tractor owners to plow their farms. That has long been a practice for farm owners in Isabela which is the country’s biggest corn producer. Up to this day, it is practical for many farmers to have their farms cultivated by machine because it is a very fast way of preparing the land and is also cheaper than plowing with animal power.
However, there is something very wrong in this system. This was observed by the late Benito M. Domingo as early as more than 20 years ago. When we interviewed him in May 1998, he said that the average corn yield in the Philippines was a low 2.2 tons per hectare. One reason why the yield was so low, he said, stemmed from poor land preparation.
He pointed out that most corn farmers in Cagayan Valley had their farms prepared by custom plowing. This used a tractor with harrow-plow which cultivated just about three inches of the topsoil. This had been going on for years, according to Domingo, and the result is compacted farm land. Under such conditions, even the high-yielding varieties will not produce their full potential.
Domingo had proven that with proper tillage, he was able to produce 8 tons of corn per hectare which was comparable to the average yield in the United States. What he did was to buy powerful tractors equipped with chisel for deep tillage. The equipment tilled the soil at least eight inches deep, thus breaking the hardpan. With deep tillage, the corn roots could penetrate much deeper, thus the crop can make use of the nutrients deposited deep in the soil. With more extensive roots, the corn crop is also less susceptible to drought.
Other innovations that Domingo adopted to increase corn yield was to introduce mechanical planters that placed the seed as well as the fertilizer at the right depths. He also acquired the right equipment to apply at planting time the pesticides for the early protection of corn plants from pests as well as weeds.
Now you see, the next time you engage a tractor owner to cultivate your farm, better tell him to use an equipment that can do deep tillage.