Ten years ago, FFTC began a project to help farmers produce crops from their paddy fields during the off season. More diverse cropping patterns lower the risk which comes from depending on a single commodity. Farmers are able to respond more efficiently to market forces, selecting high-value crops for which there is good market demand.
Another important point is that intensive monoculture of rice does not seem to be sustainable in the long term. On research stations and in other areas where rice has been cultivated intensively for twenty or thirty years, a slow decline in fertilizer efficiency has been observed. This means that current yields can only be maintained by higher levels of inputs. The best solution seems to be a more diversified cropping system, in which the production of rice alternates with that of other crops.
The project began in March 1990 with a series of field trials and workshops where scientists and farmers discussed the technology of off-season production and its returns. Early results showed that farmers felt that the main constraints were economic rather than technical. In particular, they worried about marketing prospects, price fluctuations, and the price and availability of seed. Accordingly, the project was expanded in 1992, and the field trials covered a wider range of crops. There were two on-station trials, one at the University of the Philippines at Los BaÃ±os (UPLB) and the other at Central Luzon State University (CLSU). There were also on-farm trials on six farms at San Ildefonso, Bulacan, and in MuÃ±oz, Nueva Ecija.
In 1994, a workshop was held washeld to assess the results of the 1992-1993 trials, and the feasibility of extending this integrated technology to farmers elsewhere in the Philippines and in other Asian countries.
In considering the costs and returns, it is important tp consider profits from the total cropping system throughout the year. Profits to farmers are more important than the yields. If yields from a particular crop are good but prices are low, it is a waste of effort for farmers to grow it.
Marketing prospects should be the prime consideration in crop selection. The suitability of the crop to local climatic and soil conditions is probably the second most important factor. The third is perhaps resource mobilization - the extent to which the crop makes efficient use of available human and other resources.
A survey was carried out of the reactions of local farmers to the new technology. the results showed that farmers may have a different perspective from researchers in evaluating a new technology. For example, sweet potato gave high yields in the field trials, but farmers had found that this crop is highly vulnerable to weevil attack during storage. According to a Bulacan farmer, tubers attacked by weevils are not acceptable even to livestock!
Farmers tended to define "high-income" crops as those which only a few other farmers are planting! Extension and research staff tend to view the success of a project in terms of the number of farmers adopting the technology. However, local farmers are very aware that if a large number of them are growing a limited range of crops at the same time, the marketing outlook may be poor.
Corn was favored by farmers in San Ildefonso for a number of benefits which might not be apparent to the researcher. Corn is easy to plant. It is a good food for both humans and livestock. The ears can be sold at any stage, whether young or mature. Harvested corn is easy to convert to cash, and can be stored for a fairly long period. Peanut also can be stored for some time, so farmers can delay marketing until there is a good price.
Success in projects of this kind depend on a sound choice of farmer cooperators. In this project, all farmer cooperators had small farm reservoirs. The fact that these are amongst the first farmers in the area to own a small farm reservoir indicates that they are in a different category than ordinary farmers.
One development worker has referred to the "magnetic attraction" between researchers and progressive farmers, so that the same farmers are often repeatedly selected to take part in pilot projects. Integration of crops in rice farming areas might not have the same impact on all categories of farmers, and might well have least impact on the poorest.
Water deficiency during the dry season is a major constraint to successful crop production. The on-farm trials were integrated with a second project supported by the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Nueva Ecija, which is promoting the construction of small farm reservoirs. These reservoirs can be used for fish production as well as to irrigate crops during the dry season. In general, the reservoir occupies around 10% of the area it will irrigate.
Water stress in a monsson climate during the dry season may have a serious effect on crop yield. It is important in on-farm trials of new dry-season crops to study the effect of water deficit on crop growth and yield, since this is important when farmers are scheduling available but limited water supplies, and setting priorities for their water allocation. Field trials should cover, not only the maximum yield when full water requirements are met, but also the effect of limited water on yield. If water resources are limited, farmers need to know what kinds of crop can use these most effectively and economically. For example, does corn or peanut need the most water? Which is more tolerant to water stress?
Crop diversification in lowland rice areas is an important research topic, not only in the Philippines, but also in the rest of Asia. In Vietnam, crop diversification in paddy fields has become particularly important since the 1980s, when the country achieved self-sufficiency in rice production. In Vietnam, the two main rice growing areas are the Red River Delta in the north, and the Mekong Delta in the south. The Red River Delta has a high population density. Farm size is small, and farm incomes are generally low. Since most farms have access to irrigation water, two rice crops can be grown each year. Many farmers have shown an interest in increasing their cropping index, and have tried crops such as soybean and white potato. The main problems are the difficulty of integrating such crops with the main crop, rice, and the lack of varieties with a good yield which are suitable for the winter cropping season and have good disease resistance. Pest and insect damage is another major problem.
Pest and diseases are also a serious constraint in Korea, where most off-season crops are grown in plastic houses in lowland paddy fields during autumn, winter and early spring. Most of the houses are heated, and the warm, moist atmosphere promotes the development of fungus diseases such as fusarium wilt, downy mildew and powdery mildew. The most common crops are melon, cucumber, strawberry, Chinese cabbage and red pepper. Large amounts of chemical fertilizer are applied, and there is also a serious problem of loss of soil productivity as potassium and other salts build up in the soil. Crop rotation might have been expected to reduce disease incidence, but in fact, rice sheath and rice blast were found to be more severe in plots where rice was grown in rotation than in those where repeated crops of rice alone were produced. This was thought to be the result of the increased soil nitrogen content.
Taiwan's farming has traditionally been characterized by a high multiple cropping index, which in 1964 reached its peak of 189.7. Rapid industrialization has meant a labor shortage and rising labor costs, and the multiple cropping index declined to 124.5 by 1992. Maize is a major rotation crop in paddy fields. Originally planted in winter, it is now usually planted in spring, and there has been a major breeding program to develop varieties which have an appropriate maturity date, are resistant to pests, diseases and lodging, and have high yields. Great attention has also been paid to germplasm collection and storage. Breeders are now looking for hybrids which have better pest and disease resistance, give better performance with less fertilizer, and are tolerant to drought and suitable for mechanized farming.
Government policy and support can have a considerable effect on whether crop diversification is successful or not. In Malaysia, intensive rice cultivation areas have been designated "granary areas". Government policies for these areas are designed to increase rice production from its present level of around 2.5 mt/ha to at least 4.5 mt/ha. Maximization of rice production rather than diversification is the priority in these areas. For their rice production, farmers are provided with free chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They also benefit from a price support program for rice. Given this generous level of rice subsidies, farmers in granary areas have little incentive or need to grow any other crop, and in fact are discouraged from doing so. Diversification is feasible only in non-granary areas, but in these areas annual crops such as mungbean tend to give less profit than converting paddy fields to perennial cash crops such as oil palm or cocoa.
INTEGRATING UPLAND CROP PRODUCTION IN LOWLAND RICE AREAS
Date: January 31 - February 6, 1994
No. Participating Countries: 8 (Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of China, Thailand, Vietnam)
No. Papers: 9
No. Participants: Workshop: 30 plus observers
Field Demonstration: 420
Co-sponsors: College of Agriculture, University of the Philippinesat Los BaÃ±os
Central Luzon State University,
Nueva Ecija Provincial Agricultural Office, Dept. of Agriculture, Bulacan. Philippines
1. Evaluation on the report of integrating crop production in lowland rice areas in the Philippines
- J. Sri Adiningsih Soejitno
2. Cropping systems and nutrient balance
- Takeo Koyama
3. Evaluation of the results of the field trials on integrating crop production in lowland rice areas in Philippines: Focussing on irrigation
- Jesda Kaewkulaya
4. Integrating crop production and some disease problems in lowland rice areas in Korea
- Chang Kyu Kim and Choong Hoe Kim
5. Multi-cropping and crop diversification in lowland rice areas in the red river delta of Vietnam
- Cong Thuat Nguyen and Ha Minh Trung
6. Breeding strategies for improving maize production under different cropping systems in Taiwan
- Hung-Shung Lu
7. Integrating upland crops production in lowland rice areas: research management aspect
- William D. Dar and Rolando V. Labios
8. Integrating crop production in the lowland rice areas in the Philippines: review of the on farm trial component
- Concepcion E. Magboo
9. Integrating crop production in lowland rice areas in the Philippines: a social scientist's view
- Blanda R. Sumayao
Figure 1 Mixed Cropping of Corn and Indigo
Figure 2 Sugarcane Grown with Corn