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Smarter Agriculture

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 06:14 AM    Views : 431by:Agricultural Resources Management Research Division, DOST-PCAARRD

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

With all the undesirable climate change effects in agriculture, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (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 initiatives under the Smarter Agriculture is the "Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI)" program, which is led by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), with Dr. Ma. Victoria O. Espaldon Dr. Ma. Victoria O. Espaldon Dr. Ma. Victoria O. Espaldon Professor, School of Environmental Science and Management, UPLB , Professor of the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), serving as the Program Leader.

The three-year program, which started in 2013, has five component projects. Its main objective is to provide a decision support system (e.g. crop advisories, forecasts, and management) 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. As of 2015, the program has already produced outputs that can be grouped into five categories: technologies, systems, data products, and networks or linkages.

SARAI has developed 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.

The Project SARAI team with Climate Field School trainees at Dumangas, Iloilo City (Photo from the Project SARAI Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/projectsarai/)

Another technology developed is a 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.

The program has also produced the Water Management Decision Support System (WAISS), SARAI Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS), and Maize Nutrient Expert.

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, 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.

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

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 (AWS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to provide real-time weather data.

SARAI, as a Smarter Agriculture system, is envisioned to become a research hub, attracting researchers and institutions in contributing to the improvement of existing modules or in the development of new ones.

S & T Trivia

" Dr. Antonio Mateo made the double-flaring tool (DFT) for plumbing installation for airtight sealing of joints. He was awarded the WIPO Gold Medal in Geneva, Switzerland in 1994. His company AMECOS also markets the fire blanket, a Filipino innovation that saves lives and properties in case of fire. "

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