THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is providing the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) solar-powered irrigation system to address its water supply woes.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who visited the PhilRice station based in Barangay Cansilayan in Murcia, Negros Occidental last weekend, said he was dismayed upon learning that the average yield in at least 90-hectare experiment area is only five metric tons per hectare.

Piñol said in his Facebook post that the yield they were getting is embarrassing to the DA, which is now targeting a national average yield of six metric tons per hectare.

“Officials of PhilRice-Negros Occidental said they have a problem with water supply and they could hardly plant twice a year,” he added.

Piñol said the solar-powered irrigation system for the PhilRice station in Murcia will be constructed this year.

Before his visit to the PhilRice station in Murcia, Piñol went to the Rice Processing Complex at Barangay Tabunan in Bago City.

After the briefing at PhilRice-Negros Occidental, Piñol visited a 2.5-hectare impounding dam being constructed to supply the farm with water from a nearby river.

He said the plan is to use a diesel-powered engine to pump water from the river.

The problem is that the operation of the pump would be very expensive and it could not fill the huge reservoir, the staff told Piñol.

“Right there and then, I instructed DA Region 6 Director Remelyn Recoter to source available funds so that a solar-powered irrigation could be established in the area,” he said.

Launched by President Rodrigo Duterte in Mlang, North Cotabato last year, the solar-powered irrigation system is now being introduced all over the country.

It is cost efficient and effective since it does not use expensive fossil fuel, Piñol said.

“Hopefully, next year, with the improved irrigation services, the PhilRice-Negros Occidental will become the center of excellence in rice farming that it should be,” the DA chief added. (EPN)