DOST-PCAARRD Pushes for Smarter Agriculture through Project SARAI


Agriculture goes online. Sen. Cynthia Villar and DOST Sec. Mario Montejo browsed through SARAI's knowledge portal.


Smarter Agriculture – The project Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI) joined Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development’s (DOST-PCAARRD) SIPAG Fiesta Exhibit, held at DOST-PCAARRD Technology and Innovation Center (DPTIC), March 2-4, 2016.

DOST Seceretary Mario Montejo and Undersecretary Amy Guevara visited Project SARAI’s exhibit during the first and last day of the exhibit to view and comment on the project’s current outputs and efforts in pushing for smarter agriculture.

Project SARAI showcased five systems and technologies during the exhibit: cost-efficient soil moisture sensors and meters; Smarter Pest Identification Technology (SPId Tech); SARAI-Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS); automatic weather station (AWS) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); and SARAI Knowledge Portal. All these technologies contribute to refining a smarter agriculture sector, and smarter farming communities.

SARAI Systems and Technologies

1. Cost-efficient soil moisture sensors and meters

            These are fabricated soil moisture meters are installed in selected experimental sites for monitoring soil moisture content. Through proactive monitoring, farmers can easily decide when to increase the water level in their farms.

2. Smarter Pest Identification Technology (SPI Tech)

            It works like Facebook face recognition each time you want to tag a friend; only that, this time, we’ll be uploading pictures of pests. SPId Tech can identify rice and corn pests through images. Farmers and technicians can upload real-time pest infestation, and the application can identify the pest, and recommend immediate pest management control actions.

3. SARAI-Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS)

            SEAMS uses free and daily updated satellite images from US and Europe. These satellite images are used for near real-time monitoring of the actual area planted to rice and corn. Other uses of SEAMS include land use change, vulnerability assessment, identification of possible breeding grounds of major insect pests, and weather condition in areas without weather stations.

One output of SEAMS is the crop damage assessment in Nueva Ecija rice farms right after typhoon Lando. The assessment provided the Department of Agriculture Operations (DA Operations) clearer figures of the damages areas, and the areas that can still be replanted with rice.

4. Automatic Weather Station (AWS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

            Project SARAI has installed AWS in various SUCs nationwide to have a near real-time access to the different weather parameters in cropping areas. The UAV, installed with a multispectral camera, is used to fly over vegetation areas; and the team is refining how to better analyze the images. Possible analysis could include crop health, and spread of pest infestation.

5. SARAI Knowledge Portal

         This online knowledge portal houses all the outputs and systems of the program. One special feature of the SARAI knowledge portal ae the interactive maps where the visitors can easily see various information such as: crop suitability maps and vulnerability maps.

Project SARAI is a three-year research program funded by DOST-PCAARRD which aims to develop a crop forecasting and crop monitoring system for six priority crops – rice, corn, coconut, banana, coffee and cacao. Major outputs of the system include planting dates; site-specific nutrient, water, and pest management; crop suitability maps; agricultural monitoring system; SARAI knowledge portal; and capacity building workshops. (Heidi D. Mendoza)  

Dr. Espaldon Named 2016 UPLB Outstanding Researcher


Dr. Maria Victoria O. Espaldon awarded as the 2016 UPLB Outstanding Researcher


School of Environmental Science and Management Professor and former UPLB Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Maria Victoria O. Espaldon was named 2016 UPLB Outstanding Researcher for Social Sciences in the senior faculty category during the 107th UPLB Foundation Day Anniversary Celebration. The awarding ceremony was held last March 4, 2016 at the Makiling Ballroom of the Student Union Building, UPLB.

Currently, Dr. Espaldon is the program leader of the projects “Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI)” and the “Monitoring and Detection of Ecosystem Change for Enhanced Resilience and Adaptation (MODECERA)”. The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquaculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) funds both projects.
A UP Scientist I and former Dean of SESAM, Dr. Espaldon has a total of 58 publications, she is author and co-author of several articles in ISI and refereed journals, as well as books and monographs. One of her co-authored books entitled “Changing Philippine Climate: Impacts on Agriculture and Natural Resources”, received the 2015 Outstanding Book Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).
Dr. Espaldon is also the chair of the UPLB Interdisciplinary Program on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. She is also part of the development of the Environmental Codes of Laguna and Batangas provinces, and Tanauan City.    

New Project to Document and Evaluate Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiatives of Laguna, Sorsogon, Cagayan, and Benguet

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Mt. Bulusan is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines (photo courtesy of Irosin, Sorsogon MDRRMC)


The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) of UPLB is all set for a new Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR) project called “Documentation and Evaluation of Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness and Response Projects in Four Provinces: Cagayan, Benguet, Laguna, Sorsogon”.

The DPR project has been funded by the UN World Food Programme (UN WFP) and is a second wave of the previous documentation and evaluation project with an expansion to include 11 municipalities under the WFP’s DPR programme-Phase II, namely: Rizal of Laguna, Casiguran, Irosin, Juban, Santa Magdalena of Sorsogon, Atok, Kapangan, Kibungan, Tublay of Benguet province, and Sta. Teresita, Ballesteros of Cagayan.

The team of experts from SESAM, led by Mr. Thaddeus Lawas, made courtesy calls with the first two provinces in February, 2016 and had initial findings on the risks and DPR projects from each town. The locals of Sorsogon are facing threats from volcanic hazards since the province is the home of one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines.  Surrounding the Bulusan Volcano are the barangays of Irosin, Casiguran, and Juban- located in a permanent danger zone, which requires constant education and information on preparedness and response measures for locals for future volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, typhoons, floods, and landslides were common risks faced by the four towns of Sorsogon and Rizal, Laguna.

The two provinces conducted several DPR activities such as establishment of disaster operation center, emergency response team, capacity building trainings, needs assessment, contingency plans, and IEC campaigns.

Specifically in Irosin, they established Climate Resiliency Field Schools, a non-formal education for farmers. The school has trained hundreds of farmers and provided farm weather advisories to help them decide on the crop variety and planting season in response to the changing climate. Casiguran also showed the gender awareness approach to disaster management by training women as “Banig” sleep mat weavers, which can lead to strengthening existing capacities of women and maximizing local resources. As a sub-project for solid waste management, the municipality of Rizal, Laguna has developed a Material Recovery Facility in Barangays Talaga and Antipolo, as a way to address river clogging and pollution.  

One of the project’s main goals is to identify the best disaster risk reduction practices of each town based on the different DPR initiatives done by the LGUs. The team is also working to document and evaluate the levels of preparedness and resiliency. The results of the documentation will be put into a documentary video and a package of IEC materials such as radio plugs, stickers, interactive CD, and mobile app.

This seven-month long project is contributing to the UN-WFP and the Philippine Government 's nationwide advocacy to build local capacities and resilience to disasters (Minji Na).

SESAM joins mining symposium

Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, UP Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Symposium's organizing committee
The Rushurgent Working Group (RWG) of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines-Diliman organized the symposium entitled “2016 Hunt for Ore Deposits: Emerging Trends” last January 25-26, 2016 at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City. The School of Environmental Science and Management of UPLB was one of its collaborating institutions, along with the USAID-STRIDE as the funding agency for the UP Diliman Project, and APEX Mining Co., Inc. represented by its Chairman, Dr. Walter W. Brown and Executive Vice President for Exploration, Dr. Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., for the two-day event that brought together international and local experts who presented their researches on the various aspects of mineralized districts of the Philippines.
Geoscientists from the academe, industry and government sectors presented developments, cutting-edge techniques and new schools of thought in the exploration of various ore deposits. In addition, environmental and social science researchers likewise discussed social, environmental and disaster risk management concerns as they relate to various stages of mine development and operations. 
More than 35 scientific papers were presented as plenary talks and poster presentations during the two-day meeting. Engineers and geologists from different mining corporations presented updates on their mineral resource exploration activities, including concerns with quality control measures and other issues that influence a mine’s outputs. 
This symposium was also a tribute to one of the pillars of Philippine Geology, Dr. Rudy Obial, an expert in the field of economic geology and in the exploration of various ore deposits. Dr. Obial was a key figure in the formulation of the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code and the Competent Person Accreditation System for Geology. Both regulatory systems have been crucial contributions in setting the practices of the minerals industry in the Philippines to be at par with those of international standards. Dr. Obial also contributed to human resource development in the earth sciences through his unselfish sharing of time, knowledge and resources in mentoring students and young professionals in the field. 
The Philippines is rich in mineral deposits, due to its geographical location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. “Our country ranks fifth in the world in terms of mineral deposits,” said Atty. Wilfredo Moncano, Director, Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) Region XI, who delivered a keynote address.  
Aside from the abundance in mineral deposits, the country should also take pride in the quality of its human resources that is truly world class in their skills, experience and innate ability to understand complex systems. In his keynote address, Dr. Walter Brown emphasised that Filipino geologists and engineers are one of the best in the industry. “You should be very proud, Filipinos are truly world-class,” said Dr. Brown. 
Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (Research) of the UP System was the Chair of the symposium’s organizing committee. She encouraged students and young professionals to take advantage of the event as it is a good opportunity to link up with and seek new knowledge from the experts in the mining industry.
Around 200 geologists, mining practitioners, policy makers, students, researchers, faculty members and representatives from different government institutions attended the symposium.

SESAM is now CHED Center of Excellence in Environmental Science

The School of Environment Science and Management (SESAM)- University of the Philippines Los Banos has been recognized as a Center of Excellence (COE) in environmental science by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) through their Memorandum Order (CMO) no. 38, together with other 47 academic disciplines that was released last December 23, 2015.

SESAM is included in the new list of institutions of COEs and CODs (budding candidates for COEs in the future) from different fields that were covered by the CMO: Agriculture Education, Business and Management, Criminology, as well as Engineering Education, Health Professions Education, Humanities, Information Technology Education, Science and Mathematics, Social Sciences, and Communication.

Being a COE, SESAM is regarded as an institution “which continuously demonstrate excellent performance in the areas of instruction, research and publication, extension and linkages and institutional qualifications.” The selection of the departments to be distinguished in the list of COEs and CODs only happens every two years, meaning this status will be effective from January 1, 2016 up until December 31, 2018.

Having signed the said CMO herself, CHED chairman Patricia Licuanan said, “The new COEs and CODs will be given research funds from project proposals geared toward the development or improvement of the programs, particularly cutting-edge technology in different disciplines,” referring to the Section 8 (f) of RA 7722, otherwise known as the Higher Education Act of 1994, wherein it aspires for the sustainability/development of the excellence of higher education institutions (HEIs) through government support.

Dr. Deceibel F. Eslava, Dean of SESAM urged the faculty and REPS of SESAM to have more outputs in publication, research and graduates, as CHED will review the COE status of the school after three years.

            The other institutions that were also rewarded by this designation in UPLB are the College of Agriculture (CA), College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Institute of Computer Science (ICS), the Institute of Statistics (IS), and College of Development Communication (CDC). (Matthew Delminguez and Thaddeus Lawas)

ENS 299 Class Holds Seminar on DRRM and the Changing Environment

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(From left) Dr. Veronica P. Migo, Mr. Elvis S. Cruz and Dr. Teofredo T. Esguerra were invited by ENS 299 class to discuss DRRM.

ENS 299, or the Graduate Seminar Class held a seminar entitled "Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) and the Changing Environment" at the Rola Multipurpose Room, College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), UPLB Last 28 October 2015. The seminar is a culminating activity of the class handled by Dr. Mark Dondi M. Arboleda, Assistant Professor at the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).