MUÑOZ, NUEVA ECIJA — The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) is hoping its 10-row onion mechanical seeder (10-ROMS) prototype will make farm operations more efficient and cost-effective.

“Onion farmers are faced with high seed and labor cost and the 10-ROMS seeks to address these problems,” PHilMech Science Research Specialist Domingo R. Miranda said in an interview at PHilMech’s demonstration area in Science City of Muñoz.

The 10-ROMS, which rides on a two-wheel tractor and requires one person to operate, is capable of discharging seeds at a predetermined rate, opening the furrow to the required depth into which the seed is placed, and dragging loose soil into the furrow to cover the seed after placement.

Farmers usually plant onion through direct seeding or transplanting, which are labor-intensive and more costly.

Mr. Miranda also explained that transplanted onions take four months to harvest, which increases the risk of exposure to pest and diseases. He said this was the experience of farmers who tried to plant onion in Bukidnon and General Santos City.

“The 10-ROMS does not only plant onions more efficiently but compared to the transplant method, it allows the onions to mature at a rate of 10-14 days, faster so the exposure to rain, pest and diseases is reduced,” he said.

Manual direct seeding, on the other hand, is capital-intensive as it utilizes more onion seed at 20-25 cans per hectare, and this method has been observed to be less productive compared to the methods practiced in other countries.

“PHilMech’s onion mechanical seeder expedites farm operations and effectively increases farm productivity through efficient seed distribution (at 11 cans per hectare) and maximize plant density per unit area,” Mr. Miranda said.

Farmers in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, one of the country’s major producers of onion, have complained of high labor costs using the transplant method. They have also tried the direct seeding method using two-row equipment, which requires three operators, one to guide the machine and two to pull it across the field.

Mr. Miranda said onion farmers usually contend with labor shortages during the peak season for planting.

“Compared to the broadcasting (manual) method of direct seeding, the use of 10-ROMS can generate additional income of P60,839 per hectare due to the increased yield and reduction in cost of seed,” he added.

The cost of putting together the 10-ROMS prototype was P70,000, Mr. Miranda said, but they are counting on mass production to bring the price down. — Carmencita A. Carillo