Monsanto Introduces Contour Farming in Gov't Corn Program

Article excerpt

Byline: Melody M. Aguiba

Monsanto, world's pioneer in modern biotechnology, is introducing an old conservation practice, "contour farming," on corn expansion areas targetted by government at 75,000 hectares of hilly grasslands.

Advanced in technology yet conscious of current environmental protection needs, Monsanto has already started adopting a farm conservation practice in areas where it supplies genetically modified (GM) Bacillus thuringiensis (borer-resistant Bt corn) and Roundup Ready (herbicide-resistant) corn.

In Sara, Iloilo, conservation tillage (zero tillage or no plowing) is being practiced by farmers which controls erosion on this upland.

But to complement this ecology-friendly technique, it is interspersing contour farming on all corn areas where there is conservation tillage.

Dr. Victor V. Alpuerto, Monsanto commercial acceptance director, said the company is aligning its conservation farming techniques with the corn expansion program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on 75,000 hectares for 2008.

DA's expansion program is after hilly lands that are mere idle grasslands. Without proper conservation farming, these lands can have erosion problems which threaten land productivity and farming sustainability.

Contour farming is the planting of crops across mountainous slopes instead of up and down the slope.

This way, topsoil is kept on sloping fields, rainwater flow is controlled, water soaks into the soil and is conserved, irrigation is improved, labor need is reduced, and harvest becomes easier.

Monsanto will work with the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) on this technique as ICRAF has successfully demonstrated productivity and environmental harmony of conservation farming through its pilot sites in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

Alpuerto explaints that in contour farming, a strip of natural vegetation of half-a-meter in between plots is be retained as part of the environmental conservation system. This strip takes up space that should otherwise increase production.

However, the tradeoff from the loss of this productive area, he said, is a long-term gain of a sustainable high yield from the land owing to retention of the soil and its nutrients.

"If you don't have contour farming, the land becomes unproductive after a short period of time. …