It’s only fairly recently that affordable and accurate diagnostic tools have become widely available to Filipino rice farmers. Previously, farmers who suspected a crop problem would have to send plant and soil samples to laboratories or use diagnostic techniques that required observation through human senses. Either of these methods tends to take more time than the farmer has to address the problems, especially if the issue is already so advanced as to be directly observable.
Thanks to innovations by scientists and engineers at the Philippine Rice Research Institute and other agricultural research institutions, the cost, speed, accuracy, and availability of these vital tests have improved significantly in recent years. Below are some reasons local rice farmers may want to invest in diagnostic tools.
1.) Improves Efficiency
In rice cultivation, inputs such as fertilizer, water, and pest control agents have to be added in optimal amounts to keep the cost of production down. Once the optimal amount is exceeded, the crop may not necessarily gain a higher yield. When it comes to inputs like fertilizers, the overuse of such might even lead to a lower yield, as the overuse of these could attract destructive insects or induce lodging, both of which can reduce the quantity and quality of palay.
Diagnostic tools such as soil nutrition and leaf color testing kits can prevent these issues from becoming a problem. Farmers can use these and other diagnostic tools to determine the correct inputs needed at each crop phase. Fortunately, the average soil test price Philippines farmers have had to deal with has dramatically decreased over the years, and test kits are now readily available from relevant government institutions. For a modest investment in tests, farmers can produce much more without having to spend more on other inputs such as fertilizer and labor.
2.) Simplifies Solutions
It can be difficult to solve a problem if you don’t know exactly what is going on. Traditional farming methods often involve the use of folk knowledge, direct observation, or the process of elimination.
While these still have plenty of utility in the correct contexts, they can be inaccurate, which leads to wasted time and avoidable crop losses. For one thing, many problems such as plant diseases are not immediately detectable in their early stages without some kind of diagnostic kit. Addressing these issues when problems become obvious rather than in the early stages can be expensive and potentially fatal to an entire crop.
The use of diagnostic tools can help farmers easily detect any potential problems with their soil or crops even before they become directly observable. By doing periodic testing, there’s a better chance of fixing any problems that arise. This prevents issues from spreading further, potentially becoming impossible to fix.
3.) Reduces Risks
Related to the previous point, periodic testing can greatly reduce the risk of excessive crop damage or failure. Being able to accurately gauge soil and plant health will ensure a good yield and help prevent issues that come with excessive growth like weak stalks, lodging, and pest invasions. As such, testing is not only a way to increase rice yields but is also a way to protect what yields one gets.
4.) Improves Profitability
Of course, if a crop costs less to produce, has a good yield, and is of good quality, the farm can enjoy better profits. The better efficiency that could be had by judiciously using diagnostic tools can go a long way towards helping improve the profitability of the farm. And because testing also allows farmers to use the minimum possible inputs for maximum yield, the soil tends to stay healthier, which means rice farming can be more sustainable but also more consistently profitable in the long term.
5.) Helps Ingrain a Scientific Mindset
Filipino rice farmers traditionally relied on superstitions to ensure a bountiful harvest. But while the old practices no longer hold the same sway as they used to, it doesn’t necessarily mean that farming today is exactly that much more scientific.
Even though local rice farmers today use modern rice varieties, fertilizers, equipment, and pesticides the use of these inputs is often not determined by science, but other factors such as perception, educational level, and even peer pressure. Without proper diagnostic tools, the use of modern inputs is not much better than superstition.
Using the appropriate rice farming testing kits regularly can help nudge local rice cultivation towards a more scientific direction. When farmers have access to testing kits and technical know-how, they will be able to better see for themselves the benefits of optimizing different inputs. This, in turn, may lead to better yields and better profits as well as less environmental degradation.
Diagnostics for Scientific and Profitable Rice Cultivation
Investing in diagnostic tools lowers production costs, helps solve common crop problems quickly, reduces financial risks, and helps farms become more profitable. What’s more, they are foundational to a more purposeful and sustainable way of farming that our country will need to ensure food security in the coming years.