SRA equips planters with automatic weather station
THE solar-powered type of Automatic Weather Station installed at Pensumil.
By Jason B. Neola PILI, Camarines Sur --- Sugarcane plantations in Camarines Sur are expected to yield more harvests in the following cropping seasons after the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) equipped the sugar planters with automatic weather station (AWS) that provides real-time forecasts. SRA Mill District Officer Salvador Ocampo said the installation of the facility is in line with the mandate of Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) that directs SRA to set up AWS in every mill district in the country. A mill district is a province that has a thriving sugar industry. The P300,000-worth solar-powered Automatic Weather Station which was provided in a form of grant to Pensumil Mill District Development Committee Foundation, Inc. has the capability to gather weather data such as air temperature, humidity levels, duration of sunlight, rainfall, and precipitations. By being well-informed about the current weather conditions the planters could determine the necessary actions to be taken to better protect their crops. Rains and moist soil are adverse to sugarcane because they retard the plant’s growth and germination. Ocampo said the AWS will send weather data to the Sugar Regulatory Administration in Diliman, Quezon City, which, in turn, will read and interpret the transmitted information before it sends them to the mill district based at the Pensumil plant, here, via GPRS. The AWS, which has 20-watt power output, possesses the capability to collect 24/7 weather data per minute and can send them via GPRS to central server with 15-minute intervals. Originally, sugar planters were using as basis the data being made available by PAG-ASA every 6 months in determining the weather if it is conducive to planting crops or not at certain period of the year. Engr. Raul Carreras, chairman of the Pensumil Mill District Development Committee Foundation, Inc., said his office has a standing request for 4 more AWS which, if granted, will be installed in the Partido area that will cover sugarcane plantation in the towns of Sagñay, Ocampo, and Tigaon. Another one is to be set up in the 3rd district of the province to cover the areas of Naga, Calabanga, and Bombon. Sugarcane plantation in the entire province has a total land area of 4,025 hectares which produces an average yield of 48 tons per hectare per cropping season. With various government interventions including the installations of AWS and the application of certain approaches that could help to accelerate the germination of the plants, the planters can hit their target of 60-65 tons per hectare. “As of now, with this [newly-installed] AWS, we can expect an initial increase in crop production by 50-55 tons/hectare from the traditional 48 tons per hectare,” says Ocampo. Pensumil sugar has more than 99% crystallization which means the product is of good quality which is better that those being produced in Bacolod and in any other mill districts in the country. Aside from the organizations of sugar planters, the corn and rice farmers in the area along with the residents have welcomed the support from the SRA as they also stand to benefit from the services of the weather station. The facility was put up at the mill area of Pensumil here upon the permission of Atty. William T. Enrile, the mill area’s president/CEO, and General Manager Senen Goleta, who assisted in the setting up of AWS base. One of the significant features of the AWS is the tipping bucket rain gauge from which the character of the rain such as light, medium, or heavy may be easily obtained. Rainfall character is decided by the total amount of rain that has fallen in a set period and by counting the number of ‘clicks’ in a 10-minute period the observer can decide the character of the rain. The tipping bucket rain gauge consists of funnel that collects and channels the precipitation into a small seesaw-like container. After a pre-set amount of precipitation falls, the lever tips, dumping the collected water and sending an electrical signal. The rain gauge consists of a plastic collector balanced over a pivot. When it tips, it actuates a switch which is then electronically recorded or transmitted to a remote collection station.