Tuesday, July 2, 2019

IRRI leads the first roundtable discussion on laser-assisted land leveling in the Philippines

IRRI and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) increases the profitability and sustainability of rice production by utilizing appropriate mechanization as enshrined in the country’s rice roadmap. 

With this, IRRI, the DA, with other rice industry stakeholders in the Philippines convened to share progress, discuss issues, and craft strategies in promoting laser leveling technologies.

Jon Hellin, leader of Sustainable Impact Platform, said that  “Laser Land Leveling was developed in the late 1990s and is a nice example of a technology development leading to considerable field operations efficiency, and towards environmental and financial sustainability. One of the reasons for this roundtable is to discuss how to scale the laser land leveling technology, share experiences from different agroecologies, farmer typologies, different methods, and approaches to scaling.” He also emphasized the importance of partnerships that will help accelerate the access to technologies.

Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, IRRI Partnership Consultant, gave a brief overview of the collaborative work of IRRI,  DA, and the private sector, specifically the WateRice project which included laser land leveling technology in their technical work package.

A meaningful exchange of lessons and learning were shared by practitioners of laser land leveling in the country. Gregory Mapa, Vice President of Green Heights Agricultural Corp., showed video documentation of laser land leveling operations in their farm in Negros Occidental. He gave credit to IRRI particularly to Joseph Rickman and Martin Gummert who shared the design of the drag bucket and specifications of the laser system in 2000.  “We achieved more uniform crop growth, reduced water use and herbicide application in our fields,” Mapa said. “But the maximum efficiency of the technology was realized when we expanded our paddy fields and operated combine harvesters due to less field undulations,” he added.

Engr. Cristy Polido, Executive Director of the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering, emphasized the importance of integrating an  R & D component in the technology adoption. As a response, ideas hinged on the interest of country partners, IRRI’s team led by Nguyen Van Hung developed a draft  proposal tentatively titled  “Catalyzing LLL for improving rice-based land, productivity and sustainability.”

The workshop resulted in a strong consensus that laser leveling is very important for agriculture in the Philippines. It also figured out the technical gaps, challenges, and the needs that could be sorted out by a collaboration between country partners and IRRI. The participants of the roundtable meeting also agreed to continue sharing updates and activities through a social media platform that will be developed soon.

Forty-two participants from various government agencies, equipment distribution agencies, and farmers joined the discussion organized by IRRI’s Mechanization and Postharvest Cluster.

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