Master farmer, U Hla Tun, goes back to school.
With more than 30 years of rice-farming experience under his belt, there’s not much U Hla Tun hasn’t heard or read before. In between harvest and seeding, he spends his days pouring over the farming journals and books scattered in piles throughout the house where he lives with his wife and younger sister.
But five years ago, there was an outbreak of yellow stem borer in his village near Shwebo in central Myanmar which decimated his 11-acres of paddy. In a cruel coincidence, the hungry yellow moth had struck when U Hla Tun was in the hospital.
“When I returned home, there was barely anything left,” he recalls.
In a panic, he applied heavy amounts of chemical pesticides to his crops in an attempt to save them. But it was already too late. That year’s harvest was his lowest ever — a measly 30 baskets per acre, less than half his normal yield of 80.
The hit from the bad harvest was compounded by the fact that he’d also wasted K60,000 (approximately USD 40) per acre on chemicals and U Hla Tun wondered if there was a cheaper way to protect his crops.
His answer came one rainy afternoon years later when our Farm Advisory Service staff provided a demonstration to farmers in his village. At first, the FAS agronomists discussed the rice seed selection method and U Hla Tun was not impressed. Unlike the other farmers in his village, he’d read about this method before.
But then the agronomists started talking about a cheap, organic pesticide made with garlic and chili. They had other techniques he’d never heard of too, such as reducing the water level in his fields before applying fertilizer so it could be absorbed more effectively by the soil.
Armed with these techniques, that harvest U Hla Tun increased his yield from 80 to 90 baskets per acre. He was so impressed with the results that he began attending every FAS meeting he could and even volunteered to be the FAS key farmer in his village, a role which he takes very seriously.
As the key farmer, U Hla Tun is the first in his village to try FAS’s new techniques. Next season he plans to try our new soil testing service on his crops.
“Just like people don’t get medical treatment before their symptoms are diagnosed, farmers need to test their soil before they farm,” he said.
U Hla Tun now spends a lot of time spreading his farming knowledge to other farmers, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s been tough trying to convince other farmers to start using organic pesticides, he says.
“But I know as soon as they see the results, they will come around.”