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Author: Marites C. Batac, SRS-II, Information and Education Promotion Unit

(City of San Fernando, Pampanga) In collaboration with two state universities, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Region 3 has provided funds for the development and adoption of smart agricultural technologies intended to increase local onion production.

Onion is usually grown after rice in dry season when there is no sufficient water for another rice crop. It is an important economic crop but due to its highly perishable nature, it is also plagued  with both production and post-production problems. It is prone to pest infestation, like the armyworm, locally known as harabas  which was first reported in 2016 and ravaged over 1,000 hectares of land and led to a countrywide onion shortage and consequently higher prices. Onion production also depends largely on stable climate conditions. Farmers have to deal with the ever present threat of destroyed harvest due to numerous  typhoons that visit our country every year.

Solutions to these and other concerns related to unpredictable  farmers’ production practices will be  addressed by this  project which will be undertaken by the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) Gabaldon campus and the Center for Sustainable Mechanized Agriculture for Research and Technology (SMART)  at the Tarlac Agricultural University (TAU) based in Camiling, Tarlac. Arnold V. Damaso of NEUST and Dr. Amy Lizbeth J. Rico of TAU are the project leaders respectively.

Both will test the applicability and effectivity of so-called smart agricultural technologies to achieve the project’s goals.

One of these is the development and adoption of a multi-layer recirculating hydroponics indoor farming system for sustainable onion production that will be designed to provide the optimum amount of water for best productivity.

 It will also test the  feasibility and profitability of producing onions indoors or in net houses.  This technology reduces exposure to extreme weather conditions such as torrential rains and droughts. It will provide both the optimum use of water and reduce the effect of insect pests which usually damage and destroy the plants. A variation of the  vertical farming system, this makes it possible for year-round crop production as it protects the crops from adverse weather conditions.

More importantly, these projects will look into the benefits of incorporating  automation into the production cycle for efficient crop management and to  reduce labor cost.

Dr. Julius Caesar V. Sicat, Regional Director of DOST 3 said that, ‘The current (or is it recurrent?)  shortage of onion supply in our local markets and the resulting soaring prices of this highly important commodity which recently reached P600.00 /kg points to the need of finding science-based solutions that would provide relief to our farmers and ultimately the consumers. And the way to mitigate this is with the application of smart technologies. Technologies that are science-based. Because science works!’