The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is anticipating another drop in the productivity of corn in the country for the second quarter of 2019.
According to the update released by the government agency last July 15, corn production from April to June 2019 may decline to 1.15 million metric tons or by 1.5% from the 1.17 million metric tons estimated for April. Compared with corn production this time last year which stood at 1.28 million metric tons, this year’s corn production is also lower by 10.2%. The area used to harvest corn is also anticipated decrease from 392.36 thousand hectares in 2018 to 374.84 thousand hectares this year.
One of the biggest contributors in the decline of various crops is climate change, as farmers struggle to cope with increases in temperature, stronger rainfall and changing weather patterns.
A study by Arnold R. Salvacion published by the International Journal of Sciences in 2015 revealed that corn is the second most important cereal crop in the Philippines, but is also among the field crops that will be directly hit by the climate change phenomena. The situation now leaves corn farmers in different regions coping with the unpredictable weather extremes. Just last April 2019, corn fields in the eastern and southern region were reported to have dried up due to the El Niño phenomenon that hit the country earlier this year.
In response, the Department of Agriculture is urging corn farmers to resort to varieties that are more resilient against adverse weather conditions.
More climate change resistant varieties would be those that are resilient against lodging, easy to de-husk and have shorter maturity so they can be harvested early, resulting in higher yield. Recommended varieties are also resistant to Diplodia ear rot and other foliar diseases. They can perform in both dry and wet weather, in low to high elevation, in normal to medium plant populations and even in poor soil conditions. Resilient varieties also have good husk cover, short plant height and low ear placement. Among such varieties available in the market now are the NK306 BtGT which is ideal for the high elevation (500 meters Above Sea Level) Mindanao planting environment and the NK6410 BtGT for the Luzon, Visayas and low elevation Mindanao planting environments. Both NK306 BtGT and NK6410 BtGT have class A heavy grains, are easy to harvest, and are produced by Syngenta, a leading global agricultural company which equips farmers with the knowledge and the products they need to overcome the various challenges faced by the agricultural industry.
Rosemarie Domingo, a corn farmer in Bukidnon, attests that by making use of these resilient corn varieties, she was able to greatly increase her crop yield and her income, resulting to savings with enough set aside for the next harvest season. A farmer and financier in Misamis Oriental, Ysmael Marcelo Alugar, also claims that by using better varieties, he was able to increase his production and his capital, allowing him to help fellow farmers in the area.
Climate change and its effects, first, on individual corn farmers and their families and, second, on the agricultural industry as a whole, poses a great threat to the national food security. By making use of agricultural innovations and learning more about them, farmers can increase their productivity, grow their income and strengthen their position against climate change.