Amid the diverse challenges presently confronting the sugar industry, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) explores harnessing the latest technology in helping farmers in their farm operations, during a presentation at the NFSP Social Hall in Bacolod City last Friday, July 3, 2020.
“I invited resource persons to speak before the presidents of NFSP-affiliated planters associations in Negros about the use of drones in fertilization and crop protection. Presidents of our more than 10 Negros-based planters association members attended. The use of drones in the application of foliar fertilizer and herbicides is a promising alternative in the face of manpower shortage in the farm,” disclosed NFSP President Enrique D. Rojas.
Rene Imperial of the DC Cruz group of companies demonstrated via a video presentation that drones can apply fertilizer and herbicides faster, more consistently and more economically than the traditional manual or mechanical spraying method.
“The traditional method uses 200 liters of water per hectare to mix with the fertilizer or herbicide. With our fertilizer and herbicide, only 30 liters of water are needed per hectare,” said Imperial.
He added that a drone carries a load of 10 liters liquid mixture per flight, and covers the one-hectare area in only three flights.
Including the pauses during the reloading of the mixture and, if necessary, change of drone batteries, the drone can finish spraying the mixture to one hectare in 15-20 minutes and can cover ten hectares in one day, according to Imperial.
Since the drone is global positioning system-guided and sensor-equipped, it will continue spraying at the exact location where it stopped after reloading the mixture or changing batteries, and it can spray the mixture at a uniform height, even if the farmland is sloping.
Imperial presented the results of field trials conducted at farms in La Carlota, Murcia, Sagay, Kabankalan and Binalbagan, which showed a modest increase in tonnage and sugar yield per hectare, and an almost 60percent return on the amount invested on the drone application of the foliar fertilizer.
Jaime G. Golez, NFSP vice president and president of the Silay-based Association of Productive Planters of Negros Occidental, acknowledged that the use of drones might be a viable alternative to the lack of manpower in the farm, and he suggested that a more detailed cost-benefit ratio might convince more farmers to utilize the technology.
“I suggest that you establish at least a one-hectare demo farm in every mill district so that sugar farmers can readily monitor and see the results,” added NFSP President Enrique D. Rojas.
“Despite this Covid-19 pandemic, our Federation will continue its advocacy to help our planter-members and defend their welfare. Recently, we supported Gov. Bong Lacson’s stand for the continued operation of the industry during the pandemic, we called on our country’s economic managers to help the sugar industry so that we can help expedite the country’s economic recovery, and we also facilitated a meeting with Land Bank officials to make it easier for farmers to avail of financial assistance. Rest assured that NFSP will always at the forefront in serving the industry and our planter-members,” Rojas further said. (PR)