Boost­ing up­land rice pro­duc­tion through sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS -

Given lim­ited arable low­land, some of the coun­try’s up­land ar­eas are be­ing cul­ti­vated for rice pro­duc­tion. It is es­ti­mated that up­land rice oc­cu­pies close to 100,000 hectares with an aver­age yield of 1.95 tons/ha.

Up­land ar­eas are rain­fall de­pen­dent and are gen­er­ally prone to drought be­cause there is no field ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wa­ter in the sys­tem. These ar­eas are ex­posed to ad­verse fac­tors such as wa­ter stress, hot and dry cli­matic con­di­tions, and poor aer­o­bic soils that have ex­cesses of toxic el­e­ments, such as alu­minum or man­ganese, or de­fi­cien­cies of vi­tal el­e­ments such as iron and phos­pho­rus.

The de­fi­ciency of phos­pho­rus (P) for in­stance, lim­its rice pro­duc­tiv­ity and is mainly vis­i­ble in drought en­vi­ron­ments be­cause the mo­bil­ity of P de­creases sharply as the soil dries.

To ad­dress the de­fi­ciency of phos­pho­rus in up­land ar­eas, a re­search project on “Ge­netic Im­prove­ment for Up­land Rice through marker-as­sisted se­lec­tion for Tol­er­ance to Phos­pho­rus De­fi­ciency” was un­der­taken by the the Philip­pine Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (PhilRice).

The project aimed to de­velop P-tol­er­ant lines or va­ri­eties un­der an up­land con­di­tion that will pro­duce higher yield than the cur­rent level of roughly 2 t/ha to at least 4 t/ ha grain yield.

Vic­to­ria Lap­i­tan, su­per­vis­ing sci­ence re­search spe­cial­ist of PhilRice Los Baños, said the ap­pli­ca­tion of phos­pho­rus fer­til­izer and ir­ri­ga­tion en­hance­ments could be used to lessen the ef­fect of low P avail­abil­ity and mit­i­gate drought stress.

How­ever, the lack of lo­cally avail­able P sources and the high cost of im­port­ing and trans­port­ing fer­til­iz­ers pre­vent many re­source-poor rice farm­ers from ap­ply­ing P.

The de­vel­op­ment of phos­pho­rus up­take rice cul­ti­vars may be an at­trac­tive and cost ef­fec­tive ap­proach to in­creas­ing rice yields where P de­fi­ciency is the ma­jor con­straint.

Pup1 is a ma­jor quan­ti­ta­tive trait lo­cus (QTL) which con­fers tol­er­ance of P de­fi­ciency in the soil.

Lap­i­tan’s team has adopted the MAS method and the dou­ble hap­loid (DH) tech­nique to fast track the de­vel­op­ment of rice va­ri­eties for an up­land con­di­tion.

The re­searchers in­di­cated that the use of MAS is ad­van­ta­geous in se­lect­ing for com­plex traits, pyra­mid­ing of mul­ti­ple genes and in back­cross­ing, while in the DH ap­proach, the sys­tem im­proves breed­ing ef­fi­ciency by re­duc­ing the amount of time to de­velop elite lines.

The de­vel­op­ment of rice cul­ti­vars with en­hanced P use ef­fi­ciency cou­pled with higher P ac­qui­si­tion ef­fi­ciency is an at­trac­tive and cost-ef­fec­tive strat­egy for a sus­tain­able P man­age­ment in up­land farm­ing.

Care­ful char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and eval­u­a­tion of these breed­ing lines in terms of their yield and agro-mor­pho­log­i­cal per­for­mance will be con­tin­ued in or­der to de­velop P-tol­er­ant lines or rice va­ri­eties suit­able for an up­land con­di­tion.

Ac­crod­ing to the re­search team, the com­bi­na­tion of the MAS and DH tech­niques can be a pow­er­ful tool in the breed­ing pro­gram for up­land rice and can be a faster way for suc­cess with much more cer­tainty.

The rice ge­netic im­prove­ment project was funded un­der the Asian Food and Agri­cul­ture Co­op­er­a­tion Ini­tia­tive (AFACI) which is be­ing co­or­di­nated by the Bu­reau of Agri­cul­tural Re­search (BAR).

AFACI is an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal and mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion body es­tab­lished through a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed among the mem­ber-coun­tries on Nov. 3, 2009 in Korea.

It in­volves in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion for the de­vel­op­ment of sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and food tech­nol­ogy to help economies deal with the changes in the agri­cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment.

Lap­i­tan re­ceived the “Most Out­stand­ing Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor” and “Out­stand­ing Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor” awards in 2015 and 2016 for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project un­der the AFACI rice pro­gram.

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