Cloud seeding to bring rains to El Niño-hit areas

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As part of efforts to mitigate effects of the El Niño phenomenon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has directed all regional offices to leave no seedable cloud unseeded in order to bring the much-needed rains in drought-affected areas nationwide.

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“We will seed all [of the]seedable clouds, we will waste no opportunity,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said on Monday.

Cloud seeding is weather modification method where chemical “nuclei” such as silver iodide or calcium chloride are introduced in the atmosphere to induce condensation and, eventually, precipitation. Moisture collects around these “nuclei” and fall as rain upon reaching a certain saturation level.

As early as April 2014, Alcala said the DA already started preparing for impacts of El Niño on the country’s agricultural sector.

According to Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) Director Silvino Tejada, since last year, the department has conducted cloud-seeding operations in strategic locations nationwide.

In addition, it has set up water management and conservation measures through its BSWM and regional field offices to ensure that scarce irrigation water supply will be efficiently used and maximized.

Tejada said the DA has also released drought-tolerant rice varieties in threatened rice-producing areas.

For long-term adaptation measures, the department has improved the country’s small-scale irrigation systems to make these more resilient to effects of extreme weather and climatic conditions, as well as other calamities, not only El Niño. It has also promoted climate- and disaster-smart farming and fishery technologies to cushion the agro-fishery sector against the effects of calamities.

While the DA and other government agencies have put in place programs to address the challenges of El Niño, Aclala said adapting to the effects of this extreme climatic condition, considered to be the worst in 65 years, is a shared responsibility among Filipinos.

The DA chief dispelled fears that crops cannot be grown during El Niño, citing Mung bean (Vigna radiate) as an alternative crop, among others, which actually requires warm climate during its growing period.

He said cloud seeding is only one of the many interventions used by the DA to combat the effects of El Niño.

Though this technology is beneficial to many agricultural lands, this may not be required or suitable in some areas.

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