Stronger rice va­ri­eties to help farm­ers cope with cli­mate change

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORY! - BY IAN OCAMPO FLORA Sun.Star Staff Re­porter

Ev­ery year, rice farm­ers in Cen­tral Lu­zon, the coun­try’s rice gra­nary re­gion, ex­pe­ri­ence heavy dam­age to their crops and with ty­phoons get­ting stronger each year, the dam­age to rice and other agri­cul­tural crops have also reached un­be­liev­able num­bers.

In 2015 alone, Typhoon Lando dam­aged at least P5 bil­lion worth of crops in Cen­tral Lu­zon. The De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA) data showed that some P4.8 bil­lion of the dam­age was on the re­gion’s rice crops and just be­fore 2015 ended some P438 mil­lion was recorded as dam­age to rice crops due to the flood­ing brought by Typhoon Nona. In 2016, Typhoon Nina dam­aged some P4 bil­lion of agri­cul­tural crops in the whole re­gion with Nueva Ecija, the num­ber one rice-pro­duc­ing prov­ince in the coun­try, be­ing the hard­est hit.

But what makes these fig­ures more alarm­ing is the fact that Cen­tral Lu­zon ac­counts for 14 to 15 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal rice pro­duc­tion. In the first crop­ping sea­son of 2015, Cen­tral Lu­zon’s share is 67.31 per­cent or 355,682 mt and 19.85 per­cent over all con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional pro­duc­tion. But all these are threat­ened by the con­tin­u­ing neg­a­tive ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Ac­cord­ing to the Philip­pine Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (PhilRice), the Philip­pines ranks third among the most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries set to ex­pe­ri­ence weather-re­lated extreme events. And each year, ad­verse weather con­di­tions have been ob­served not just in Cen­tral Lu­zon but all over the coun­try pos­ing fur­ther chal­lenge to farm­ers to try tech­nolo­gies to adapt to, as well as fight, the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

In 2015, the DA, PhilRice and the In­ter­na­tional Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (IRRI) an­nounced that they are work­ing on va­ri­eties that can with­stand ad­verse con­di­tions as well as pests and diseases. The project aims to re­duce the 12 years of breed­ing work for the de­vel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion and com­mer­cial dis­tri­bu­tion of such seeds.

In­cluded in the project are 766 en­tries for multi-lo­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment test­ing (MET) and these in­cluded 206 PhilRice-bred lines, 488 IRRI lines and 72 GSR lines to ad­dress the need for seeds in fre­quently flooded rice fields and rice fields that reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence lack of ir­ri­ga­tion and dry con­di­tions.

Ris­ing ocean and sea lev­els are also among the con­se­quences of cli­mate change ren­der­ing fresh­wa­ter ir­ri­ga­tion dif­fi­cult be­cause of salt wa­ter in­tru­sion into the ground wa­ter sources of coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

To ad­dress this, the IRRI had suc­cess­fully re­leased nine salt-tol­er­ant va­ri­eties in coun­try to ad­dress con­cerns on ad­verse soil con­di­tions and help re­claim lands lost to salt­wa­ter in­tru­sion and re­vive rice farm­ing in coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

Two of these salt-tol­er­ant rice va­ri­eties are Sali­nas 1 and Sali­nas 9 and these rice types can sur­vive in saline-prone soil with salt lev­els of at least 0.3 per­cent.

Also, two va­ri­eties have been iden­ti­fied by PhilRice “as cli­mate change-re­silient rice va­ri­eties with su­pe­rior per­for­mance in ir­ri­gated low­land ecosys­tems.” These were iden­ti­fied as NSIC Rc308 (Tu­bi­gan 26) and NSIC Rc358 (Tu­bi­gan 30) which are both 2013 PhilRice-bred va­ri­eties.

“Un­der fa­vor­able ir­ri­gated low­land ecosys­tems, NSIC Rc308 has a max­i­mum av­er­age yield of 10.9 t/ha and ma­tures in 11 days if trans­planted. When di­rect-seeded, it ma­tures in 105 days and has a max­i­mum yield of 8.0 t/ha. Un­der the same farm­ing con­di­tion, NSIC Rc358 can also at­tain a max­i­mum av­er­age yield of 5.4 t/ha to 9.1 t/ha if trans­planted,” the DA said in a state­ment.

NSIC Rc308, for one, was seen to demon­strate re­silience against pests like stem­borer, brown plant­hop­per, and bac­te­rial leaf light.

How­ever, de­spite these va­ri­eties, farm­ers would still need to have ac­cess to such seeds on a more reg­u­lar level.

Seventy-five-year-old Hipolito Mangili­man said that while their lo­cal co­op­er­a­tive in Santa Rita town has ac­cess to stronger seed va­ri­eties, sup­ply is not enough to main­tain the de­mand of lo­cal farm­ers es­pe­cially dur­ing the af­ter­math of a calamity.

There is also the grow­ing need to get farm­ers ac­quainted with chang­ing weather con­di­tions to level up their prepa­ra­tions.

“The dry sea­sons are get­ting hot­ter and we also need seeds that are able to with­stand such con­di­tions,” Mangili­man said.

In fact, the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank, in 2013, said

ITY OF SAN FER­NANDO-- The un­prece­dented ef­fects of cli­mate change have be­come hur­dles in the reg­u­lar farm cy­cles of our farm­ers as un­prece­dented amounts of rain­fall and se­vere dry weather con­di­tions seem to be­come the norms rather than the ex­cep­tions.

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