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BFAR offers polyculture among fish farmers vs rising cost of rice, commodities

PHILIPPINES - The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Cagayan Valley are introducing polyculture to its fish farming sector in a bid to help fish farmers double their income.

The move comes amid rising costs for rice and other commodities and a real concern of food shortages in the Philippines.

In an emailed report to PIA, BFAR boasted some of its fish farmers who have recently benefited from the polyculture technology.

It said Marlo Pagulayan of Brgy. Cabasan in Panablanca, Cagayan recently 374 kilos of tilapia, 42 kilos ulang (giant freshwater prawn) and minor quantity of carp from his 810 square meter fishpond project which he started with an initial stock of 4,050 pieces for three is to two (3:2) stocking ratio.

The innovation, based on polyculture technology enables farmers to double their net income as compared to pure tilapia farming.

"I was able to increase my income by 13,000 pesos with same effort and production area, and with lesser overall expense," BFAR quoted Pagulayan who spent P16,500.00 for his production cost and earning a net income of P27,000.00 after harvest.

BFAR said production cost for pure tilapia production at a similar area is estimated at P26,100.00 and net income is P14,000.00.

Pagulayan was able to cut on cost by feeding the ulang with 55% indigenous diet such as vegetables and snail (kuhol).

Science to Benefit Productivity

According to Hermogenes Tambalque, BFAR extension division chief, polyculture is the scientific process of raising two or more non-competing species in a common production area.

By 'non-competing' means that fish should not predate against each other and not compete directly on food.

"As for our project at Peñablanca, a lead time of one month was allocated for the ulang in order to avoid predation by the tilapia. The stocks did not compete with each other given their different feeding habits. By nature tilapia are surface feeders while the ulang acted as pond cleaner being bottom feeder," Tambalque explained.

Other feasible stock combinations are tilapia – carp – ulang, tilapia – carp – hito, tilapia – seaweed – mudcrab and many others.

Polyculture is the same as 'inter-cropping' in agriculture, BFAR RO2 Regional Director Jovita Ayson said. "Polyculture is already a mature technology that has not caught on due to our farmers' innate fear of change."

"Our project has proven feasibility and profitability of the technology in actual field practice. We are confident that other farmers have learned and will adopt this technology in their own projects," Ayson added.