EXTREMELY hot weather has continued to batter the island of Mindanao, especially in the western areas, including Soccsksargen and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Rain has also been reportedly absent since February, causing severe drought and threatening the agricultural produce of the area.

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) has started its cloud seeding operations in Soccsksargen as the region is already alarmingly dry.

The cloud seeding operation is part of the measures initiated by the DA to mitigate the effects of dry spell or El Niño in the region.

Leolito Siase, DA-BSWM area coordinator for Soccsksargen, said cloud seeding sorties were initially conducted on March 5, 6 and 10 on some parts of Sultan Kudarat, Maitum in Sarangani, as well as in T'boli, South Cotabato relying on local build-up of clouds in these areas.

"It is one of the mitigation plans of DA to help save the remaining standing crops in the region from the continuing onslaught of the long dry spell caused by the El Niño phenomenon," Siase said.

The four provinces of Soccsksargen -- South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Sarangani -- have formally forwarded its request letter for cloud seeding operations in their areas.

However, Siase noted that they were not able to conduct cloud seeding on some areas because there were few cumulonimbus clouds or seedable clouds for the past few weeks. They also monitored that the temperature has reached 36 Celsius in Buayan in General Santos City.

Cumulonimbus is a type of cloud that is tall, dense, and involved in thunderstorms and other intense weather. Cumulonimbus clouds usually form from cumulus coop at a much lower height, thus making them, like cumulus clouds, grow vertically instead of horizontally, thus giving the cumulonimbus its mushroom shape. They are conducive for cloud seeding.

Each cloud seeding trip, called sortie, lasts for one and a half hours. Eleven bags of salt are used per sortie. Each bag contains 25 kilos of salt.

The best time for cloud seeding is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The operation costs P22,400 per hour, including the salt and the rental fee of the Sesna-206 aircraft.

DA is asking for feedbacks from farmers and local government units if rain is noticed during the operation, Siase explained.

He also advised the end-users to call or contact the DA if they have spotted any seedable clouds in their area so the department could immediately report to the pilot and to the cloud seeding officer. (CPM/With DA report)