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Rice variety eyed vs climate change

A climate-resilient rice seed is being propagated in South Central Mindanao to address the need to reduce water requirements in growing rice.

The regional office of the Department of Agriculture in the region has partnered with the SeedWorks Philippines Inc. in establishing a 60-hectare demonstration farm for the propagation of Tatag Hybrid (TH) 82 hybrid rice variety which is expected to help farmers reduce their farm inputs, particularly water requirements.

The regional office, headed by Engr. Milagros Casis, has established the demonstration farm in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat to test the productivity of the variety, which uses the Climate Smart Agriculture Technology through dry-seeding, in its pursuit of helping farmers earn more from their rice farms.

The seed is a product of an extensive research of Seedworks, a homegrown company which is among the few crop science companies that are members of the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) Hybrid Rice Development Consortium. Many of the companies are multinational.

Remus S. Morandante, SeedWorks vice president for Sales and Public Affairs, explained that dry-seeding is rice farming technology that uses dry land preparation to improve productivity of rice fields that are located in tail-end of irrigation supplies as well those that rely main on rains and the upland areas.
In rice farming, in-bred rice varieties about half of their water requirements during land preparation.

Morandante said that with dry-seeding, these farms which are only planted once a year, can be planted twice a year with the use of Climate Smart Agriculture technology.

“The challenge before was the absence of appropriate rice varieties that could withstand the pressure of dry culture,” said Morandante, adding that with the TH82, the farm requires about 30 kilograms of seeds a hectare.

One of the first few users of the variety, Rene Guevarra of San Agustin, Digos City, Davao del Sur testified that the rice variety has allowed him to harvest about 11 metric tons a hectare. The average rice production rate is about four metric tons a hectare.

Another farmer, Baltazar Funa of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, also confirmed the resistance of the variety to dry spell over in-bred varieties.

“Dry-seeding is not actually new,” said Morandante, explaining that the Philippine government has promoted the technology in 1997 as way of preparing mitigating the impact of the El Nino phenomenon the following year to “save and conserve irrigation and rainfall water.”

The country is among the advocates of the technology, together with Australia and the US.

The early implementation of the technology was in the 1980s in the farms in Eastern Visayas, through the Kasaganaan saTigang na Lupa. In Bulacan, the similar project was named “Aerobic Rice Production”.

“A few months ago, many rice experts and even some farmers were laughing at us, saying that dry-seeding was not possible,” he said. “Now it is as clear as the sun rises in the East that Tatag Hybrid TH82 is the only variety for dry-seeding and rainfed areas. With minimal fertilization and chemical spraying, TATAG HYBRID TH82 stood by its purpose… matatag (sturdy) hybrid!”

The propagation will help farmers mitigate the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law as this will help them increase production and become more globally competitive, he added, as the country is expected to face a huge entry of imported rice.

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