Celebrating three years of research work to re-energize the Philippines’ agriculture sector

 Poster Press

April 28, 9AM, NCAS Auditorium – This day is about agriculture advancing and going proactive, digital, mobile, and near real-time. It is about celebrating the many opportunities to re-energize our agriculture sector.

In November 2013, the University of the Philippines Los Baños, together with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology, launched the three-year research program Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (Project SARAI).

This 2017, Project SARAI will celebrate its research outputs ranging from a farm-specific integrated crop management advisory protocol to mobile pest identification applications:

                      1. Planting dates

Suggests dates to farmers when it is best to plant based on historical weather data.


2. MAIZE Nutrient Expert

An application that asks for farm-specific information, and provides farm-specific fertilizer rates and other management protocols. It also provides a comparison between the profit from doing the current farmer’s practice, and the suggested new practices.


3. Cost-efficient soil moisture sensors

Soil moisture sensors provide farmers and agricultural technicians with the soil moisture content that can be indicative of the need to water the planted areas to reduce crop stress. These SARAI-fabricated cost-efficient soil moisture sensors are available at only P2,500 to P3,000, as compared with commercially available sensors that cost around P20,000 to P30,000.


4. Pest risk maps for rice and corn

In response to El Niño and La Niña forecasts, the project produced region-specific pest risk maps for rice and corn. These maps serve as early warning protocols for projected affected farm areas.


5.SARAI Knowledge portal (www.sarai.ph)

The online portal integrates all the outputs, and makes it available online for the different interested users. The portal also makes the maps and other applications very interactive, so that the user can choose to manipulate the visuals of the maps depending on their needs.


6 .Crop suitability maps for rice, corn, coconut, banana, coffee, and cacao

These maps provide general data on the suitability index of the six different crops. These suitability index can be used for planning purposes, and other ground-verification activities.


7. SARAI-Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS)

SEAMS uses free satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Union (EU) to actively monitor crop production areas. Its outputs include regular crop production areas, typhoon damage assessment in terms of crops lost and flooded areas.


8. Daily weather SMS

Project SARAI installed 22 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) nationwide, and developed a system to monitor the weather data, and send a daily SMS to subscribers every 6 in the morning.


9. Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for monitoring

The UAV, or more commonly known as drones, are also used for agricultural monitoring purposes. The images can provide farm-specific crop status and the spread of pest infestations.


10. National Training Needs Assessment (TNA) of farmers

Project SARAI anchored its training and learning design on the TNA results, which showed that farmers still prefer face-to-face trainings. Results also showed that farmers prefer getting agricultural information from peers, and other mainstream media such as radio and television.

Project SARAI will also launch the National Program for Integrated Crop Monitoring and Forecasting System (ICMF). The ICMF, a UPLB-based program, is the proposed sustainability platform of Project SARAI, where all of its outputs and extension activities will be housed and continued.

Celebrate with us and be part of the growing community for a more proactive agriculture sector.

Advancing environmental management in the Philippines through Natural Capital Accounting

NCA Conf1

SESAM faculty, staff, and students during the 2-day NCA Conference

A contingent of faculty, staff and students from the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) actively participated in the first natural capital accounting (NCA) conference in the Philippines last 30-31 March 2017 in Marco Polo Hotel, Ortigas. With a theme “Accounting nature, capitalizing partnerships for the future,” the conference organized by the National Economic and Development (NEDA) in collaboration with the World Bank (WB) aimed to draw larger awareness on the importance of micro-macro-economic accounting in decision-making processes.

Countries’ economic performance has primarily been measured in terms of its gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP, however, only measures the value of finished product in a given time and it fails to take account broader forms of provided by the natural capital that have impact on long-term income and growth. Through the Global Partnership Program on Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES GPP), the NEDA and World Bank aims to operationalize sustainable development by integrating natural resources in development planning through national capital accounting as based on the United Nation’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting of 2012 (UN-SEEA 2012), which measures the physical and monetary values of stocks and flows of natural assets and services. Natural capital accounts provide detailed statistics to determine the relationship of the environment and the economy and, hence, guide the formulation of management strategy that maximizes the contribution of natural resources to economic growth and to operationalize a sound decision-making process to achieve inclusive growth. World Bank-Philippines country director Mara Warwick elaborated during the conference that a country’s economic well-being should not be measured by economic output alone but also by the health and sustainability of its ecosystems.

The Philippines’ Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia also emphasized that NEDA is now developing indicators under the NCA approach for the proper valuation of the country’s natural resources. The Philippines joined the World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) in 2010. Outcomes of policy analyses and recommendations from WAVES, particularly related to Laguna Lake and Southern Palawan including mangroves and minerals, help the government in the formulation of appropriate strategies and programs. NEDA has been working with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to fully develop and make the NCA system operational.

Dr. Decibel Eslava, the Dean of SESAM, and Dr. Rico Ancog, assistant professor of SESAM who also served as a consultant in one of the components of Phil-WAVES, both served as session reactors. Several SESAM alumni and current graduate students gave oral and poster papers covering the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems using several economic valuation approaches in support to NCA. Indeed, with the past and on-going researches covering from resources and environmental assessments, impacts quantification of alternatives, to economic valuation, SESAM is in a very strategic position to provide analyses relevant to the natural capital accounting initiative of the country (J. Razo, M.C. Corales, E. Mandia).

SESAM joins EcoHealth learning visit in Thailand


From left: Mr. Roni De Castro; Dr. Rico Ancog; Dr. Eduardo Lapuz Jr.; Dr. Edwin C. Villar; Dr. Aurelie Binot; Dr. Flavie Goutard; Dr. Milagros Mananggit; Mrs. Corazon Ignacio; Dr. Augusto Baluyut Jr.

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) helped facilitate the learning visit of a Philippine delegation to Thailand last 27-31 March 2017. The team is composed of officials from DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), the Department of Agriculture Regional Office III, and the Provincial Veterinary Office of Pampanga, who are members of an ACIAR-PCAARRD project, “Improving the production and competitiveness of Australian and Philippine pig production through better health and disease control.”  The event was designed to learn first-hand best practices and knowledge on smallholder swine operations implemented using EcoHealth. As an interdisciplinary approach, EcoHealth considers the linkages between ecosystems, society and health of animals and humans, and presupposes that human survival depends on health and diverse ecosystems.

Though relatively new, Eco-Health approach has been tested by a number of countries in Southeast Asia through various programs and initiatives. Noteworthy is the case of GREASE (http://www.grease-network.org), a regional network that listed SESAM-UPLB as an Associate Member since 2012. Organized by CIRAD, GREASE support research activities for a better management of emerging epidemic risks in Southeast Asia. It is an active network that responds to the challenge of emerging transboundary animal infections and zoonotic diseases by producing theoretical and operational approaches in the framework of the “One Health” approach. Specifically, members of the visiting team were able to differentiate the aspects and characteristics of EH and OH approaches thru the lectures delivered by Dr. Aurelie Binot and Dr. Flavie Goutard who were the coordinators for GREASE network.

The visit also included a tour at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Kasetsart University Bangkhen and Kamphaeng Saen Campuses and of Khon Kaen University with its state-of-the-art facilities. The team witnessed as well a small pig farm holder who practices integrated farming wherein fish, sugarcane and other crops are complementary grown aside from the backyard pigs. 

The visit in Khon Kaen, Thailand also included a discussion on the success of the Lawa Lake Model using the EcoHealth/OneHealth approach presented by Prof. Banchob Sripa of Khon Kaen University. This highlighted the liver-fluke disease problem that the residents around the Lawa Lake, Chi Kok Kor Village had acquired by eating raw fish, which was solved through the implementation of EcoHealth approach combined with elaborate information, education, and communication (IEC) solutions. 

With this EcoHealth learning visit, the Philippine team has established networks and contacts with specialists and practitioners of EcoHealth approach in Thailand for future knowledge exchange, collaboration and cooperation (Ryan Real and Glenn Oca).

Empowering Filipino Farmers Using the SARAI Training Toolkit for Rice and Corn

SARAI Participants

Participants interviewing a farmer scientist about his management practices for corn.

Based from the Training Needs Assessment (TNA) conducted by SARAI Project 4 (Capacity- and Knowledge-Building component) during the initial year of project implementation, it shows that the government, through trainings, ranks the most preferred lead in information dissemination by the farmers. With this, SARAI Project 4 developed a Training Toolkit for Rice and Corn with the help of SARAI experts. This toolkit serves as a guide for agricultural extension workers in capacitating the farmers with SARAI-generated knowledge and other essential information regarding agriculture.

Last March 9 to 10, 2017, SARAI Project 4 deployed the Training Toolkit for RICE in Occidental Mindoro. With the title “SARAI Training for RICE Toolkit”, the team introduced the toolkits and the different technologies and systems that were developed by SARAI for the past three years. This event was attended by the Assistant Provincial Agriculture Officer, Municipal Agricultural Officers (MAOs), and Agricultural Technicians (ATs) of Occidental Mindoro.


SARAI Participant

A Participant taking a photo of a disease of rice during the field work activity in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.

This training was followed by the “SARAI Training for CORN Toolkit” last March 23 to 24, 2017 in Camputhaw, Cebu City in partnership with the Cebu Technological University (CTU). Faculty and researchers of CTU, a representative from Provincial Agricultural Office and MAOs, and ATs from selected corn producing municipalities in Cebu, attended this event. The event started with the welcome remarks from the CTU President, Rosein Ancheta, Jr.

The purpose of the two activities is to train the MAOs and ATs with the use of the toolkits, which are helpful for the farmers. It also aimed to transfer the skills and knowledge on the use of new technologies that may increase the production of rice and corn farmers. The following SARAI developed technologies and systems were also presented through an exhibit:

  • Automatic Weather Station (AWS)
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) / Drone
  • SARAI Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS)
  • SARAI Knowledge Portal

The UAV was also used to take aerial shots of rice and corn fields in Occidental Mindoro and Cebu on the second day of the training. Participants were very excited to use the technologies presented and in fact, they requested another training for the use of SEAMS. They also asked for an estimated amount of the AWS and UAV, as they want their respective LGUs to have these kinds of efficient and innovative technologies for early warning system and monitoring.

“Makakatulong ang SARAI para ma-enhance talaga yung crop productivity ng ating mga farmers kasi nasa SARAI na lahat ng kailangan namin and in the long run, it can help address the food security issue ng ating bansa,” said Ms. Sunshine Sagun, Municipal Agriculturist of Mamburao.

Project SARAI or the Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines is a project funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) with UPLB as the implementing agency. –RM Areglado

LEAP Project to be featured in NCRP Scientific Conference

leap 2 x 6

The LEAP Project will be featured in the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) Scientific Conference and 84th General Membership Assembly on March 22, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City, Manila.

French Scientist Discussed Cave Aerology

dr peyraube lecture

Prof. Nicolay Peyraube of the University of Bordeaux, France, discussed cave aerology.

Caves have been favorite tourist attractions all over the world. It promotes culture and history, as well as it is good place to spelunk or conduct nature treks. Caves are also research hotbeds. Aside from geologic findings, many species of flora and fauna are still waiting to be discovered in different caves all over the world.

One important research in caves, which is lesser known, is cave aerology. This was discussed in a seminar last March 14, 2017 at SESAM Lecture Hall, UP Los Baños by a visiting French Scientist, Dr. Nicolas Peyraube of University of Bordeaux, Talence, France. Students from different environmental science classes attended the seminar.

Dr. Peyraube said caves are underground confined environments, which can be found in limestones, or in volcanic stones (lava tubes) or in ice. He said there are different applications of cave aerology, which can be very beneficial to humans. These are cave painting conservation, mushroom culture, wine storage, data storage and even protection of cave visitors.

Dr. Peyraube said he studied two caves in France, which includes the popular tourist site, the Lascaux Cave. Already 17,000 years BP, with a length of 200 m long and 6 to 20 m deep, Lascaux Cave include the historic “Hall of Bulls” paintings. The other cave he studied, a newly discovered one, is the Cussac Cave. It is the site of his pilot study on cave aerology. Cussac Cave is 1.5 km long, with a depth of 20 to 70 m. It is older than the Lascaux Cave, which is 25,000 years BP.

Cave aerology studies the carbon dioxide (CO2) dynamics in caves. CO2 is important for painted cave conservation. It controls the aggressiveness of water on the walls and participates in the calcite deposition on the walls. “The Cussac Cave study is funded by the French government, they wanted to make sure that the study will help in the preservation of paintings, so we will not have any tourism problems in the future” Dr. Peyraube said.

Cave aerology also studies the ventilation inside caves. Cold air trap, an important factor in cave ventilation during warm season, shows that warm air does not get in, since cold air stays inside the cave. On the other hand, during cold season, warm air stays inside.

Cussac Cave has a stable temperature of 13O Celcius, while CO2 variable from 0.3 to 3%. Dr. Peyraube discovered that Cussac Cave has seasonal and daily patterns of CO2 and air ventilation. On the global carbon cycle, Dr. Peyraube said caves are sources of CO2.

“This study might also appeal to Filipino scientists since you have many caves here…  tourism is important, but if not managed properly, it can be destructive to the caves”, Dr. Peyraube said. For starters, Dr. Peyraube advised students to try and find out if caves in the Philippines have good ventilation or if there is a presence of “cold air trap”, which can initially be done by manual measurements in the absence of sophisticated equipment.