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2-Plants: More 'Bt' corn farms in Pampanga, Cotabato (Philippines)

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  More 'Bt' corn farms in Pampanga, Cotabato
SOURCE: Searca-Biotechnology Information Centre, Philippines, by El Bill
        R. Madrigal
DATE:   30 Aug 2004

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More 'Bt' corn farms in Pampanga, Cotabato

Whenever farmers find a crop that offers a good income and is more
comfortable to work on than their existing crop, they would not take so
much time to decide on whether or not they are going to adopt the new
crop. There are greater chances that they would switch to the new crop to
make their lives a little bit more comfortable.

Such is the case in three towns of Pampanga, particularly in Lubao,
Arayat and Mexico. Traditionally, almost all farmers in these towns have
been producing rice and sugar cane. Others are into banana, mango and
eggplant farming. With fellow farmers in Pampanga making more profit from
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn, more and more farmers in these towns
are going into Bt corn production in order to cut cost of production,
increase yield and to reduce the use of chemical sprays.

Bt corn, a bio-engineered or genetically modified crop, is resistant to
the Asian corn borer, which can cause severe yield losses.

One of the farmers is Carlos "Caloy" G. Guevarra, who operates a 10-
hectare corn production area in barangay Anao, Mexico, Pampanga.

Using a Pioneer hybrid 30Y73 with YieldGard Corn Borer Protection during
the dry season, he was able to harvest an average yield of a record-high
10.25 metric tons (mt)/hectare, equivalent to 153 cavans.

Guevarra said, "At a price of P7.50 a kilo corn grain, my gross income
reached around P76,000, giving me a net income of more than P50,000 a

Guevarra likes to use the new technology even if he does not usually
encounter corn borer problems in his farm because he claims that farmers
can never really predict when the insect pest will significantly damage
the corn fields. He likened the corn borer to a "natural calamity" or

Jay Narciso of Arayat, Pampanga, considers himself as adventurous and
decisive. Narciso has spent almost half of his life working abroad. He
has worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a staff in the service of the
Saudi Arabian Interior Minister. After seven years, he moved to
Switzerland and stayed in Europe for six years, after which he decided to
return to his native Pampanga.

Being a son of farmers, Narciso decided to invest his earnings on corn
farming. He started purchasing two tractors and ventured into modern
farming practices, initially by planting conventional hybrid seeds.

"With these regular hybrids, I would yield an average of seven tons/
hectare, which to regular standards is above average," Narciso said.

Eventually, he decided to upgrade into Bt corn and planted five hectares
of YieldGard 818. With the new technology, his yield increased from 9 mt/
hectare to 10 mt/ hectare, which improved his income by about 30 percent.

Farming is not new to another former overseas Filipino worker, Jesus
Gavino, 52, from the hometown of President Arroyo in Santiago, Lubao,
Pampanga. In his youth, he used to help his father in the farm during
summer.Gavino spent 16 years as a heavy-lift driver in Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia. Then, he decided to come home and venture into farming.
Initially, with conventional hybrids, he would average 5 mt/hectare.
Switching to YieldGard 818 gave him a yield record from 9 mt/hectare to
10 mt/ hectare.

These farmers agreed that using modern technologies in corn farming,
current farm yield and income levels could still be improved.

In South Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Isabela, a revolutionary backyard-
farming venture has been changing the lives of farmers and farming
communities since they ventured in Bt corn and hybrid corn farming.

Farmers who used to get about an average of 6.5 mt to 7 mt of corn from a
one-hectare farm may now be able to harvest 10 mt or even more.

Such is the case of Carmelito "Lito" G. Dinopol, from barangay Topland,
Koronadal, South Cotabato, who has been planting conventional hybrid corn
for the last two years, starting only with 5 hectares.

Mang Lito used to apply insecticides to protect his fields from insect
pests. But, unfortunately, during the rainy season, the sprayed chemicals
are being washed off easily, thus, significantly decreasing yield, he

From a field tour of Bt corn demonstration farm, Mang Lito was able to
see for himself the added value of having corn plants with built-in
protection against corn borer. Trying the new technology has improved his
yield and having been encouraged by the good market price of corn, he is
now helping fellow farmers in his community avail themselves of the Bt
corn technology.

From Wao, Lanao del Sur, Francisco Piagola used to plant his four-hectare
farm with open-pollinated corn varieties that yielded only 1.5 mt/
hectare. A simple switch to corn hybrids in the '90s dramatically
increased his yield to 4 mt/hectare to 6 mt/hectare. As he adopts the
latest corn hybrid introduced in the market, such as the NK hybrid of
Syngenta, his yield level reached 8 mt/hectare to 9 mt/hectare.

The prospect of good farm income enticed Manong Francisco to quit his 8
a.m. to 5 p.m. job to become a full-time corn farmer, thereby nurturing
the farm with good farm management practices.

"I was able to send my children to school and acquired several pieces of
property," he added.

In Reina Mercedes, Isabela, in Northern Luzon, Peviano Soriano, a former
seaman who shifted his career to farming, likes to try and compare new
kinds of corn hybrids (like those produced by Cargil Asian, Pioneer,
Cornworld, Syngenta) in his farm. With fertilizer application, the corn
hybrids yield from 6 mt/hectare to 8.5 mt/hectare. The experience has
been helping Soriano select which variety is most suited to his farm.

These farmers believe that with the help of modern corn farming
technologies, such as improved seeds or planting materials, fertilization
and other recom- mended cultural practices, yields of crops, such as
corn, can be tremendously improved. They all received plaques of
appreciation from the Department of Agriculture and the CropLife
Philippines Inc. for successfully using modern farming technologies that
contribute to the attainment of the objectives of the National Corn Program.


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