By Vina Medenilla
As per the Department of Agriculture (DA), Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a set of guidelines to ensure safety and quality in fruit and vegetable production. A webinar series hosted by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Central Luzon talks about these Good Agricultural Practices, particularly for corn farming.
Jayvee Carillo, partnerships & accreditation services section chief of ATI Central Luzon, shared about the standards, certification requirements, and ways on how local farmers can produce safer corn yields through GAP.
All about Good Agricultural Practices
While showing two identical photos of corn on-screen, Carillo asked, “How do you know which set of corn is safe, organic, and has a good quality?” Many viewers were puzzled about the difference between the photos. One viewer replied in Tagalog, “The corns in the photos are just the same.” The point here is that, in knowing which fruit or vegetable is safer to consume, the basis does not only depend on the appearance, but on the methods behind the production and handling of produce before they reach the market.
Standards from planting to handling corn after harvest are set by the government in order to know if a farm is qualified for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. To be GAP-accredited, one must protect and ensure these four factors: environment, workers’ health and welfare, produce quality, and food safety. GAP is a certification that farmers can obtain, given that they comply with the requirements. At the same time, consumers can also identify the products that are safe for consumption through the GAP logo adhered to each piece of produce.
Carillo assures local farmers that it isn’t hard to qualify for GAP and all they need is to practice the minimum requirements provided.
GAP in corn farming
Next to rice, corn is another staple food in the Philippines that is widely raised and consumed, particularly in many parts of Visayas and Mindanao. With this, it is important to grow corn that is safe and healthy for the producers, consumers, and the environment.
Through GAP, it prevents microbial, chemical, and physical hazards that might occur in producing and processing agricultural commodities like corn. These hazards must be eluded to be able to pass the standards.
Here are four things that farmers must prepare and consider to be GAP-certified:
Farm location and environment
In the PhilGAP program, inspectors visit farms to check their land history. This is to avoid any chemical and microbial hazards that might have occurred from the previous land uses. For instance, a farm may not be suitable to corn farming if it has been formerly used as a landfill, dumpsite, or a cemetery. These are prohibited due to the microbial and chemical risks that may come from the soil. Before applying for GAP, farmers must know the history of their lot.
Structure and facility maintenance
When it comes to farm establishments, you will need to have a warehouse for the corn harvests, a storage area for farm supplies and materials such as fertilizers and pesticides, and a protection shed if you have farm machinery. Carillo clarifies that if you do not store produce on-site and you directly sell them after harvest, then you won’t need a warehouse.
Each building must have enough distance from each other and from the production area itself to prevent contamination. Through separate facilities, farmers will be able to manage the farm hazards better.
The storage room for harmful chemicals and equipment must be locked when not in use. By doing this, you are preventing little ones from playing with dangerous farm supplies and materials.
Facilities don’t have to be gigantic; you can be resourceful by reusing old items like a refrigerator to store pesticides. Prevent any pests like rats on the farm to protect the harvested corn.
For maintenance, regularly check sewage and drainage systems. Remove wastes and weeds in waterways to prevent blockage. It is also recommended to have labels in every plot for crop management.
The use of fertilizer
Fertilizers are categorized into two: inorganic or organic. These can be utilized to provide nutrients to the plant. If you’re buying fertilizers, make sure to keep the receipts as it is also part of GAP requirements that will be the proof of your purchase. The proper use of fertilizer is also important. For example, urea fertilizer must be dissolved in potable or clean water and not the water from canal or irrigation for sanitary purposes.
“If you would apply organic fertilizer, it must be well-decomposed or well-fermented,” said Carillo. Improper use of animal manure is one hazard that must be prevented on the farm, too.
GAP does not ban the use of pesticides, given that the right application to your crops is observed. Follow the instructions printed on the packaging of each product and do not change the suggested amount of dosage.
When buying, make sure to buy the Food and Administration (FDA)-approved pesticides, too. In accordance with GAP, farmers must choose pesticides that are least toxic and that it must be applied only when necessary for the sake of the environment, consumers, and corn producers.
Pre-harvest interval (PHI) or the days that the pesticide must be applied before harvest should be strictly followed. Look at each pesticide’s packaging to know their PHI. For a safer and effective application, you must identify pests correctly to determine which pesticide is needed. Apply the pesticide properly and wear personal protective clothing to avoid inhaling its mists. Long sleeves, face masks, gloves, boots, are strongly recommended. It is also discouraged to spray pesticides on windy days.
Lastly, smoking and eating during farm operations must not be practiced to avoid poisoning. After the application, take a bath and separate the worn clothes away from another laundry.
As per Carillo, once the pesticides have been used, bottles can be returned to the stores where you purchased them. Burying them can also be an option rather than placing them anywhere else on the farm as these are harmful and are not suitable for reuse.
Aside from these four vital elements, you must also prepare the necessary documents like an accomplished application form, organizational profile, farm map, and certificate of training on GAP.
To watch the webinar, click here.
To know more about the requirements on GAP certification, visit the Department of Agriculture or contact your region’s agriculture office.
This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s March to April 2021 issue.