Monday, September 6, 2010

Philippine rice farmers get tech-savvy

Seed Daily via Agence France-Presse: The mobile phone may soon replace the centuries-old straw hat as the Filipino rice farmer's must-have accessory. Already responsible for helping to topple a government in the Southeast Asian archipelago, mobile phone text messaging could now help launch a neat little agricultural revolution.

"Precision agriculture could become available to small-scale farmers at their fingertips within a few minutes," says Roland Buresh of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The institute develops new rice varieties and crop management techniques aimed at reducing poverty and ensuring that rice production is sustainable, has minimal environmental impact and can cope with climate change.

The non-profit organisation, which has its headquarters at Los Banos near the Philiipines capital Manila, now hopes to harness the country's mobile-phone mania to bring cutting edge techniques to an ancient system.

The Philippines has been called the texting capital of the world, with some 70 million mobile phone users sending up to 300 million messages a day. … From this month, IRRI scientists led by Buresh plan to use text messaging to send precise management advice and fertilizer recommendations to local farmers by Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

All the farmer has to do is dial a number on his mobile phone, toll free. An automated voice message will then ask him a series of questions to which he should respond by pressing a number on the phone keypad. Once he has answered all the questions he will receive a text message with recommendations on the amounts, sources and timings of fertilizer applications for his specific rice paddy. The automated voice recording is available in English and Filipino and asks questions about the season, size of field, harvesting times and water supply…

Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines, shot by Agricmarketing, Wikimedia Commons

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