The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) initiated and funded programs and projects addressing the negative effects of climate change in the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources sectors through the utilization of modern tools and techniques or Smarter Agriculture.

One of these is the “Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI)” program, led by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Its main objective is to provide a decision support system – through crop advisories, forecasts, management, and the like - in dealing with climate change effect in the agricultural sector using advances in S&T. The program will help farmers and decision makers come up with sound and science-based judgments under certain situations.

“In response to the challenge, the government, as stewards of the nation’s S&T agenda, have continuously strengthened our S&T ecosystem, through funding support for R&D programs and facilities, enhanced S&T policies, and capacity building,” said DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo. “We shifted our focus from traditional academic and technical research to S&T in response to the need of society to benefit Aling Maria and Mang Juan.”

One of these S&T advances is Smarter Pest Identification Technology (SPId Tech), a mobile application that can identify agricultural pests in the field using image scanning. After identification, a pest advisory and management will be recommended to the user.

Another technology developed is the Cost-efficient Soil Moisture Monitoring System for Soil Water Deficit. Arduino-based moisture meters and gypsum blocks were fabricated using locally available materials for measuring and monitoring soil moisture in the different experimental sites throughout the country.

An unmanned aerial vehicle helps in taking images of the farm (Photo from UPLB)

Water Management Decision Support System (WAISS) is a model developed for estimating soil moisture deficit in annual crops like rice and corn that can provide an early warning for crop water stress.

On the other hand, SARAI Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System or SEAMS is a system that can monitor on near-real time basis, the actual area planted to a crop and its condition based on free and daily updated satellite images available.

Lastly, Maize Nutrient Expert is a system that provides a comprehensive farm analysis – from specific NPK applications to a comparison of the profit of farmers’ practice and the recommended practice – to determine proper site-specific fertilization level in any corn farm in the country.

Crop suitability maps for rice, corn, banana, coconut, coffee, and cacao were also produced by the program. These maps that serve as decision support tools at a scale usable by farmers and local government units show three categories of crop production suitability – high, moderate, and marginal.

To aid in the statistical modelling for the crop forecasts and advisories, the program uses Automatic Weather Stations and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to provide real-time weather data.

Smarter Agriculture technologies are among those being featured in PCAARRD’s ongoing SIPAG FIESTA from March 2-4 at the PCAARRD headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna.

An automatic weather station installed and used by SARAI (Photo from UPLB)

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