The Department of Agriculture (DA) said its technicians and engineers from recently received training on a land-leveling technology, which is seen to save water and improve rice yield.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said the training focused on the use of the laser-guided land-leveling system, a climate-smart farming technology that can reduce water use and boost rice productivity.
“The training consisted of lectures, intensive hands-on activities and field exercises on conducting topographic field surveys and operating a laser-guided land-leveling system,” the IRRI said.
Shynette Clide Peralta, an agriculturist and focal person of the DA Region 11’s mechanization program, said the training will ensure the proper transfer of the technology to the farmers.
“In Davao farmers level their fields manually using a board. I thought the practice was good enough. However, in 2013 the DA purchased several laser-leveling units, which I was not very confident to use. This training has helped me become confident in using the technology. We can now transfer the proper use of this technology in the five provinces of our region,” Peralta said.
The laser-leveling training course was organized by the IRRI Postharvest and Mechanization Unit and the Rice Science Academy, with support from the project, closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint.
According to the IRRI, land leveling is important, as unleveled rice fields tend to use three times more water than needed. It also reduces rice yield by 5 to 10 percent due to uneven maturing of plants and increase in weed population.
“A flat surface ensures water reaches every part of the field and reduces waste from water-logging and run-off. Laser leveling is much more effective and faster at ensuring a flat, even surface than traditional land leveling,” the IRRI said.
Martin Gummert, senior scientist at IRRI’s Postharvest Development Unit, said the institute has been using laser-guided land leveling since the 1990s.
“I am quite happy that the Philippines is now interested in laser-leveling technology. In India many poor farmers are benefiting from the technology. Laser leveling is a cost-saving technology, which offers a lot of benefits compared with traditional land leveling,” Gummert said.
Citing a recent study on the impact of laser-guided land leveling in rice-wheat systems in Haryana and Punjab states of Northern India, the IRRI said an additional annual production of 699,000 metric tons (MT) of rice and 987,000 MT of wheat, valued at $385 million per year, can be achieved if half of the area planted to the rice-wheat rotation was laser-leveled.
“The study concluded that farmers can earn around an additional $145 per hectare annually from water and energy savings,” the IRRI added.
The study was conducted by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Borlaug Institute for South Asia, and Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.
However, Gummert said acquiring the laser-leveling technology is just the first step.
“If you have any influence in purchasing, buy the right equipment from a good supplier with adequate after-sale service. We have seen many cases where laser-leveling equipment was not used because no after sales services or training were provided,” he said.