By Danny O. Calleja
PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 26 (PNA) - A mechanical paddy weeder that is useful in making rice farming easier, more productive and more economical has been invented by two full-time Bicolano farmers from Ocampo, Camarines Sur.
The farmer-inventors are Carlito Aquino and Gil Pentrante who put their talents and skills together to come up with the machine that has earned praises and appreciations during its exhibition at the 1st National Congress on Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) in Manila last week.
Aquino, a former Philippine Army soldier who shifted to farming after his retirement from military service, is a community volunteer deputized by the Department of Agriculture (DA) under its Magsasaka Siyentista (farmer scientist) program and a leader of a local farmers' organization.
As a volunteer farmer-scientist, Aquino plays vital roles in serving as researcher and agricultural extension agent who showcases and promotes in his town both indigenous and science and technology-based agriculture, forestry and natural resources technologies based on his own farming experience.
Pentrante, who was once a machinist, on the other hand, is a deputized Local Farmer Technician (LFT) or a para-extension worker trained as among the partners and active players in the development and promotion of modern rice production and post-production technologies in the locality.
Abelardo Bragas, the regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here, on Wednesday said the mechanical weeder developed by the duo has been tested to save on work-time for farmers and reduce labor cost by almost half compared to the manual practice.
It also aerates the soil while turning weeds back into the soil to decompose into fertilizer, thus, contributes to the over-all rice production efficiency of the farm, according to Bragas.
He described the machine as a four-row weeder designed for the prescribed rice-planting distance of 25×25 under the System of Rice Intensification or SRI scheme.
The design, Bragas said, is similar to the cono weeder with an engine, curved handle and four cage wheels or rotator and four balancers in front and two at the back.
The prototype weeder developed by Aquino and Pentrante is powered by a 50 cubic centimeter engine salvaged from a discarded motorcycle which consumes one liter of gasoline per hour.
The motor is mounted on top of the unit that can churn the weeds in a hectare of paddy within eight hours.
Bragas said the operation of the machine requires a team of three men– one operator and two assistants to help in the hauling or lifting of the machine as its makes a turn at the end of each rice row.
Certainly, this newly-developed mechanical farm implement is more economical as it only requires a total amount of around P1,260 in expenses per hectare which is nearly 50 percent less compared to manual weeding that needs P2,500 for the labor of 10 persons to cover a hectare in one day, Bragas said.
The two farmer-inventors spent some P30,000 for the fabrication of the prototype machine with the larger bulk of the amount going to the purchase of the second-hand motorcycle engine, he said.
Himself an agricultural engineer, the DA regional chief said he is helping Aquino and Pentrante improve the invention by way of using a single-piston power motor to make it handy and lighter at the same time as well as reduce its fabrication cost.
I am personally proud of these two Bicolano farmer-inventors for their initiative and innovations. I promised them support to further refine the invention and have it patented in their name, Bragas said.
DA, he said, encourages farmers innovations and participation in the development of farm equipment and machinery and technologies to make them more appropriate to local conditions and for farmers to have the ownership for these innovations or inventions.
Bragas said he is also committed to have a palay shed-cum-workshop constructed at the farm of Aquino where he and Penetrante can further work on and polish their invention.
He also asked Luz Marcelino, the regional chief of the DA research division, to help the inventors in complying with the requirements in securing the patent for the invention.
Bragas said he has also directed the engineering division to extend the necessary technical assistance and the information division to help in the packaging and documentation of the invention. (PNA)