By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

PARCHED. Farmer Eduardo Rossel, 62, walks on a dried-up rice field in Sitio Maname, Naic, Cavite on May 3, 2023. The Department of Agriculture on Thursday (Jan. 25, 2024) said PHP717,500 worth of agricultural losses due to El Niño phenomenon have been recorded during the start of planting season, particularly in Zamboanga del Norte. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday said PHP717,500 worth of agricultural losses due to El Niño phenomenon have been recorded during the start of planting season, particularly in Zamboanga del Norte.

In its first El Niño advisory, the DA-Disaster Risk Reduction Management Operations Center (DRRM) said the damage and losses were incurred at vegetative stages of rice affecting 22 farmers and 22.25 hectares of rice areas, based on the initial assessment of the Zamboanga Peninsula regional field office.

Apart from the weather condition and actual ground situation monitoring, the DA-DRRM disseminates advisories and agro-meteorological information regularly via municipal and city agriculturists and report officers through Facebook or Messenger.

A strong and mature El Niño is ongoing and is expected to continue through January-February 2024, the DA said.

Hence, the agency validates the vulnerable areas and identifies interventions for farmers who will be affected.

Majority of global climate models suggest that El Niño will likely persist until the March-April-May 2024 season with a transition to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral in the April-May-June 2024 season.

ENSO-neutral refers to the periods when neither El Niño nor La Niña is happening. They often coincide with the transition between El Niño and La Niña.

Accordingly, the DA consolidates and analyzes data such as planting and harvesting, source and status of irrigation systems and provides information to farmers on proper crop management during El Niño, including adjusting planting schedules and optimizing fertilizer use.

As for cloud seeding operations, the DA conducts joint area assessment before their commencement.

It also promotes drought-resistant crop varieties that are better adapted to the anticipated weather conditions during El Niño. (PNA)