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Manayan Farm, Malalam, Ilagan

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Farm 04, Cadu, Ilagan

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Hilltop, Santo Tomas, Naguilian

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Spotlight

El Niño - La Niña and Rainfall or Lack Thereof

In early in 2014, there was much buzz of the coming of an El Niño (visit articles included here). It was supposed to be very strong, and this would mean severe drought in the Philippines. I visited the Philippines for six month (March to September 2014), in part to evaluate the potential impact of El Niño on our Kalikasan-Philippines projects. Indeed there were the expected signs that come with El Niño -- very high temperatures (some days as high as 40oC), the expected rains to start by May to July were quite short (lasting an hour or so) and only about six (6) such precipitations each month (May-July) even near end of the dry season.  By late July and thereafter, there should be more frequent and long-duration rainfall, but there were only a few and far in-between.

These concerns of an impending El Niño and its unknown duration, led us to delay the massive initiation of our full farm EcoCulture projects, since the farms were not ready yet to cope with long term drought.

What was surprising and inconsistent with an El Niño event was the number of tropical typhoons and depressions that developed in the Philippines in 2014, some causing significant damages to different regions of the country.  

The arrival of several typhoons was not what was expected during a strong El Niño, or so I thought based from the impressions gathered reliable articles about El Niño. This seeming anomaly motivated me to investigate further how El Niño or La Niña really impacts the Philippines.

This led to the question: Is there enough rainfall during the August-December season (the normal rainy season) even during the development of a strong El Niño?

Impact of El Niño/La Niña with Rainfall Intensity
Fig. 01. Impact of El Niño/La Niña with Rainfall Intensity.
 

Our initial findings indicate a correlation -- in general, lower precipitation during El Niño, and higher precipitation during La Niña. However, it appears that there are other climatic phenomena, e.g., typhoons, Intertropical Convergence Zone (IZC), etc., in the Pacific region that would impact the intensity(or scarcity) of rainfall, even during the development of a strong El Niño. 

The peaks and troughs in the rainfall patterns (blue bars and red trend lines), indicate a regular cycle of high volume of precipitation during the rainy season (peaks) and scarce rain during the dry season (troughs), for the region indicated in the figure. This observations raises the question:

How can ALL the excess rainwater during the rainy season be harvested, treated, and stored for use during the dry season -- for human consumption, farm production, livestock husbandry, and, aquaculture? 

Read more: El Niño - La Niña and Rainfall or Lack Thereof

Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) -- A Vetiver Supplement?

Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea)
Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) growing in a subdivision vacant lot in Ilagan, Isabela. (Photo copyright © CGC 2014) 

 At present, while we need large quantities of Vetiver grass for our project, we are able to purchase only a limited quantity because of its high cost (as much as PHP8.0/tiller from a major supplier). It will take several years before we can propagate enough Vetiver for our needs from our existing Vetiver stocks. To address the aforementioned issue, we are looking for available indigenous grass species that have some characteristics more similar to Vetiver, so that these grass species may be used to supplement our limited Vetiver stocks, until such time that we can propagate enough Vetiver.

From our preliminary observations, Tanglar grass colonies tend to grow in areas where water may collect during the rainy season.  Other grass species, like sikal, cogon, and other water loving plants grow also in the same location.  However, unlike sikal or cogon Tanglar grass colonies tend to be more localized, and has certain characteristics more similar to Vetiver.

Read more: Tanglar (Themeda arundinacea) -- A Vetiver Supplement?

Picky goats

Goats allowed to forage freely at the hilltop with several randomly growing grass species and cassava to choose. Like every animal given a choice, they select the softer and smoother  cover grass over the cassava. They declined to feed on the cut leaves of Vetiver.

Read more: Picky goats