By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
The Philippine government is now working on enhancing a locally manufactured machinery in order to increase the country’s output for onions.
In a statement, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech), an attached agency to the Department of Agriculture (DA), said it is now upgrading its highly successful Multi-Row Onion Mechanical Seeder (MROS) and testing its usage in planting other vegetables.
Attached to a common hand tractor and could be operated by a single person, MROS was developed by PhilMech to help farmers improve their productivity through direct seeding method.
Through its use, a shorter maturity period is attained for onions, while transplanting stress was also eliminated. Also, labor requirement in transplanting onion seedlings is reduced.
Right now, all MROS only have 10 rows and farmers suggested PhilMech to modify it up to 12 rows to maximize the yield and increase planting density.
PhilMech said that based on the result of pilot testing in Pangasinan, Tarlac and Occidental Mindoro, the 12-row MROS has a planting capacity of 0.31 hectare per hour planting capacity and mean field efficiency of 68.17 percent, which is higher than the minimum Philippine Agricultural Engineering Standard (PAES) requirement of 60 percent for mechanical seeder.
Historically, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the country’s onion output has been low hence the need to mechanize the production and promote use of new technology.
In January, the DA has ordered the importation of 35,000 MT of red onions as prices spiked to more than ₱200 per kilogram amid lower output.
Local onion production can supply only up to 70 percent of the country’s total requirements, but former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said this volume is already sufficient for household needs.
This is why in April last year, he resolved to allow the exportation of the high-value crop to Indonesia as part of efforts to address its falling prices.
For this year, the DA is targeting to produce 90 percent of the country’s total onion requirements.
From October to December last year, the country’s production of native onion was recorded at 9.43 thousand metric tons (MT), 1.1 percent higher than its 2018 same quarter level of 9.32 thousand MT, according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
During the period, the bulk of production came from Ilocos Region with production of 9.41 thousand metric tons or 99.8 percent of the total native onion production.
Meanwhile, PhilMech also wants to see if MROS with 10 rows can likewise be used to increase yield in pechay, mustard radish and upland kangkong.
Based on its initial evaluation, MROS can plant vegetables in a 1,000-square meter area for 18 to 19 minutes, the agency said.