DA engages farmers in testing elite rice varieties

By Cielito M. Reganit

MANILA, Feb. 19 (PNA) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is now conducting a National Cooperative Testing to engage farmers in field testing and evaluation of elite rice lines through multi-environment trials (MET) in order to accelerate adoption of next generation (next-gen) varieties of rice to boost the country’s self-sufficiency bid.

Thelma Padolina, senior consultant of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), said that next-gen rice varieties had been released as early as 2011 but its adoption had been very low.

She said that some of these varieties are for saline, rain-fed, and irrigated lowland and have potential yield ranging from six tons per hectare, even in adverse condition, to 12 tons per hectare (t/ha.).

“They have good eating quality and are resistant to pests and diseases such as stem borer, green leaf hopper, brown leaf hopper, bacterial leaf blight, sheath blight, and blast,” Padolina said.

NSIC Rc324 (Salinas 10), NSIC Rc346 (Sahod Ulan 11), NSIC Rc308 (Tubigan 26), NSIC Rc298 (Tubigan 23), and NSIC Rc318H (Mestiso 48) are early-maturing that can be harvested from 104 to 114 days.

NSIC Rc342SR (Mabango 4) is an aromatic special purpose rice with a potential yield of 7 t/ha.

Maturing in 114 days, it is resistant to blast, bacterial leaf blight, sheath blight, stem borer, and green leaf hopper.

“Traditionally, elite lines are evaluated in one location only. When assessing varieties in just one location, the performance of the variety could not be fairly generalized,” Padolina said.

“Some released varieties may be good at one location but perform poorly in other sites. MET will try to bridge this gap in testing rice lines,” she said.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), these rice varieties are bred to help address the world’s most pressing food security challenges and are developed with desirable traits, such as high yielding ability, disease resistance, flood, drought, heat, or salinity tolerance.

Rogelio Cabunagan, IRRI senior associate scientist, said that in boosting the country’s rice production, it is important that farmers will adopt and plant recommended high-yielding next-gen varieties.

“The process of acceleration must start in the evaluation site. In the participatory varietal selection [PVS], farmers are given right to choose their preferred varieties,” he said.

PVS is an approach used in choosing new rice varieties that engages and offers rice farmers the chance to observe and choose varietal traits that are appropriate in their location.

In this case, farmers partner with rice breeders in identifying desired traits.

Cabunagan said that through PVS, a particular variety is scrutinized from vegetative to ripening stage with farmers using their own indigenous knowledge and experience.

He added that the performance of next-gen varieties will likewise be evaluated based on a specific location for farmers to assess and choose which varieties they would like to plant.

“There are varieties that are high-performing in Luzon but may not be performing well in the Visayas or in Mindanao,” he said.

“Also, some farmers want the grain stems to be visible, others want it to be hidden in the flag leaf because of the presence of many birds in their areas,” he noted.

“Aside from high yield, desirable traits are tolerant to specific pests and diseases common in a certain location, ability of the variety to grow and flourish in distinct conditions, and market demand for aroma, texture, or grain length,” Cabunagan said.

Meanwhile, DA Region XI Director Remelyn Recoter said she is optimistic that the intensified demonstration on next-gen rice varieties will enhance the performance of the rice subsector in the region.

Several next-gen demo farms are now being established in Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte.

“Volume of production of rice in the region has increased from 421,692 metric tons (MT) in 2013 to 452,267 MT in 2014 with a growth rate 7.25 percent. With the use of certified and high-yielding seeds, we hope that we can further improve the performance of rice production in the region,” Recoter said. (PNA)