Despite negligible damages recently caused by frost in the country’s vegetable bowl, the Department of Agriculture (DA), through its Regional Field Office in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), has proactively readied measures to address the problem in case it will worsen.

According to reports submitted to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, the occurrence of frosting on vegetables last December 29 and 30 [2014] was not alarming compared to 2013-records.

“In fact, no occurrence has been reported since January 1, 2015,” the agri chief said. 

Known locally as andap, frosting involves the development of moisture into ice crystals on plants. When not immediately watered, affected crops would wilt and die as the sun melts the deposited ice.

DA-CAR Executive Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina said that although the recent frosting cases were not critical, DA has remained watchful as PAG-ASA forecasted drops in temperature from the third week of January to first week of February.

“This means that frosting will likely be experienced, especially with the clear skies,” Sta. Catalina said.

With directives from Secretary Alcala, DA-CAR has implemented short- and long-term measures to address the perennial problem in the region.

Among the short-term measures are the provision of frost-tolerant seed varieties, and plastic drums, pipes, hoses, power sprayers and water pumps that are used to sprinkle the plants in the morning—a method used to prevent the wilting of leaves due to frost.

DA has also provided UV-treated plastic sheets for rain shelters and some greenhouses where farmers could cultivate plants under harsh weather conditions.

To provide long-term solutions, farmers have been educated on the appropriate schedule of planting and harvesting to avoid periods when frosting is likely to occur. A small water impounding facility was constructed and water tanks were provided as ready sources of water to flush off frost from the leaves.

Around 1,500 farmers belonging to farmer organizations have already benefited from previous interventions.

“Government interventions such as irrigation and protective production facilities have helped the farmers adapt to the phenomenon and reduced the direct impact of frost. The provision of frost-tolerant seed varieties has also aided the farmers to replant their farm and recover their losses,” Alcala said.

To effectively monitor the frost, DA-CAR closely coordinates with farmer leaders, farmer organizations and cooperatives, barangay officials and local government units (LGUs). Automatic weather stations installed in strategic areas particularly in Paoay, Atok and Loo, Buguias, according to her, have provided readily available report on temperature drops and other data needed. Joint field monitoring by DA-CAR and LGU staff in affected areas are likewise done.

The regional field office has also identified the vulnerable vegetable-producing areas where monitoring and assistance efforts are focused, namely, the Municipalities of Atok, Kibungan, Buguias and Mankayan in Benguet; and the Municipality of Bauko in Mountain Province.

Vegetable from CAR accounts for nearly three-fourths of Metro Manila’s supply of semi-temperate vegetables, such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beans and bokchoy (petsay).

Secretary Alcala assures the public that the supply of vegetables from the Cordilleras will be stable. He added that in case the situation worsens, DA will work to prepare alternative sources of upland vegetables like Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino. (Jan P. Dacumos, DA-AFID)