Cloud seeding, solar-powered irrigation eyed to ease El Niño

AGRICULTURE officials in the Northern Mindanao region are considering cloud seeding and installation of solar-powered irrigation as response to helping the farmers mitigate the mild El Niño phenomenon that is affecting their crops for about a month now.

Provincial agriculturist Jose Apollo Pacamalan, however, said they would explore first if there are sources of water underground and other bodies of water to irrigate the crops, though they are also considering cloud-seeding procedure to save rice, corn, vegetables, high value crops and other agricultural products.

"Costly but strategic so we will explore and consider cloud-seeding procedure," he said, adding that cloud seeding can be recommended if there are crops that were not yet harvested on a large scale proportion.

Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds that causes rainfall. This can be made to come together and form ice crystals by seeding the atmosphere with chemicals such as silver iodide or dry ice.

They work to promote rainfall by inducing nucleation – what little water is in the air condenses around the newly introduced particles and crystallizes to form ice.

Pacamalan said they are still monitoring the damage while determining the hectares of commodity that needs to be saved. In the press conference organized by the Department of Agriculture in Northern Mindanao on Tuesday, he said that so far, they have recorded six hectares of farmland being damaged.


Meanwhile, DA Northern Mindanao Regional Director Carlene Collado said that since last year, the agency has provided pumps and engines to provinces and cities that would help augment the needs of farmers in time when dry season comes, however she said that the construction of solar-powered irrigation projects can be considered a long term solution for drought.

"Tomorrow (March 13) in Bukidnon, (there will be a) meeting with provincial agricultural officers to get to know the extent of the damage (caused by El Nino)," she said.

Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Emano said that he will leave the call to the DA which has the expertise.

"For me anything that will help the farmers, I will support it. If needed we will support cloud seeding but cost-estimate for fuel versus direct distribution to the farmers," he said, implying that the operational cost of cloud seeding will be more useful if the money to be spent will be directly given to the affected farmers in the province instead.

In addition, the governor has assured the affected farmers that the Capitol will extend help and assistance, either food or financial assistance, to cope with the production loss brought by the dry spell.

The dry condition has already destroyed around P30 million worth of agricultural crops such as corn, rice in the province as of March 11. The Provincial Government is bracing that the damage will increase in the coming weeks.

Effect in utilities

In Cagayan de Oro City, councilor Teodulfo Lao Jr., chairperson of the committee on public utilities, met with the utilties sector and other city departments to prepare for contingency measures.

He invited the Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco), Misamis Oriental Electric Cooperative (Moresco) 2, Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD), City Engineer's Office, City Social Welfare and Development Office, to discuss on the measures to be undertaken in preparation of the dry season.

"A contingency plan must be ahead of the crisis so that the people will not be gravely affected and crisis management will be in place," he said.

Lao said he is particularly worried about the possibility of a decline in water supply.

"We want to make sure that there are measures in place, especially we source our water from the surface, we don't want more water interruptions to happen especially that it’s the dry season," Lao said.

City Agriculture Office overseer Rocky Calingin said they are currently evaluating and assessing possible crop damages in the hinterland barangays.

Calingin said they are also directing barangays to make a report on the damages.

"We want to know the status in the barangay level, (and) we directed them to make a report so the city can consolidate all of it," he added.


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