Negros sugarcane crop yields could fall due to Kanlaon ash

THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said that the ash ejected during the Kanlaon Volcano eruption could affect sugarcane yields on Negros Island due to increase in the acidity of the soil.

“With the current results after the ash fall, if this is not washed out by rains, we will need soil rejuvenation in affected sugar lands to bring it back to the ideal state, and that is a long term (project),” SRA Administrator Pablo Luis S. Azcona said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tests in the area around the volcano yielded pH readings of 4.14 for the cane leaves and 5.06 for the soil. A pH reading of below 7 indicates acidity.

The reading of 6.48 pH last week, before the Monday eruption, “should have been ideal,” he said.

Citing a report, the SRA said that the more immediate impact of volcanic ash is physical damage to the leaves, reducing their capacity for photosynthesis, as well as disruption of the chemical makeup of the soil, which can all lead to reduced yields.

“It is too early to tell whether the volcanic ash will cause so much damage on crops as it has been raining on the affected places and so hopefully the acidity will be diluted,” Mr. Azcona said.

The SRA added that long-term effects on crops could include nutrient imbalance in the soil, compaction, erosion and chemical leaching.

“About 23,000 hectares in four sugar mill districts may have been affected by the volcanic eruption,” it said.

The SRA’s research and development arm had recommended the use of cover crops, irrigation by washing off plants and soil, and applying lime or organic matter to neutralize soil pH if ash fall continues.

The SRA had sampled cane fields in La Castellana, Moises Padilla, Pontevedra and La Carlota City, all in Negros Occidental. — Adrian H. Halili