PH can be rice self-sufficient thru hybrid seeds, farm mechanization

The country’s rice industry faces a bright future, and in the next two to three years it could be self-sufficient and ably compete with its Asian counterparts.

This is the sentiment of more than 3,000 farmers, private seed producers and government officials who attended the 3rd national rice technology forum from September 27 to 29, 2016, in Polangui, Albay.

The key is planting quality inbred and hybrid rice varieties, adopting the recommended package of technologies and farm mechanization — which was successfully demonstrated to thousands of Bicol farmers at a contiguous, commercial-scale 20-hectare technology demonstration farm in Barangay Balangibang, Polangi, Albay.

To date, it is the largest techno-demo area planted to various wet season hybrid and inbred rice varieties, said Recher Ondap, president of the Rice Productivity Advocacy, Inc. (Rice Board).

The farmer-cooperators, led by farmer-technician Edgar Pesebre, are expected to harvest at least eight metric tons per hectare (mt/ha), double than the country’s national average yield of only 3.9 mt/ha, said Dr. Santiago Obien, former executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhiRice) and Rice Board member.

The three-day event is a joint undertaking of the Rice Board, the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol Region, DA national rice program, municipal government of Polangui and provincial government of Albay.

The rice board member companies are Bayer, Dupont, Pioneer SL Agritech, Bioseed, Seedworks, Syngenta, PhilRice, PhilSCAT, Prasad Seeds, US Agriseeds, and Longpin Seeds, Inc., said Dr. Frisco Malabanan of SL Agritech and Rice Board member.

The 20-hectare techno-demo farm in Polangui is different from the previous ones, at the rice seedlings were planted during the wet season, and Barangay Balangibang is a flood-prone, said Dr. Obien, who also serves as DA national rice program senior technical adviser.

“In fact, the 20-hectare area was flooded during the booting stage, on August 20-23, 2016, and the inbred and hybrid rice varieties recovered quickly,” Obien said.

“Also, the farmers themselves planted and took care of the rice plants, following the prescribed technologies for each variety, with the guidance of respective private seed company and DA experts. In spite of the harsh weather condition, the crop stand is good to excellent, an indication of the resilience of the planted inbred and hybrid varieties,” he noted.

The first rice techno-forum was held in Digos City and Hagonoy, Davao del Sur on March 18 to 20, 2015, while the second was held in Barangay Dapitan, Pototan, Iloilo, on March 16 to 18, 2016, said Obien.

For her part, DA Bicol region OIC-Director Elena de los Santos said “while the Bicol has achieved rice self-sufficiency at 115.75 per cent over the past four years, we cannot afford to be complacent because we are faced with more challenges like climate change and rapidly increasing population.”

“The driving force of this private-public partnership is our shared vision to increase rice production in our region through traditional as well as modern or science and technology-based approaches with the active participation of our farmers,” De los Santos added.

She said the 20-hectare techno demo farm in Balangibang, Polagui, is the most effective way to show farmers how to translate modern rice seeds and package of technology into tangible benefits.

For his part, Rice Board president Ondap said “we must work together to help empower our farmers to become more competitive. In June 2017, the biggest challenge for us would be the lifting of the quantitative restrictions on rice, when imports from Thailand, Vietnam and other countries would have zero tariff.”

“Let us prepare and soften the impact of this eventuality by increasing rice production through hybrid rice technology,” he urged farmers.

-Published in Manila Bulletin.  See article link here.