DA goes full blast with hybrid rice
BUOYED by greater acceptance of agricultural biotechnology, the Department of Agriculture said it is going full blast with the planting of hybrid rice to over 300,000 hectares of irrigated areas in the country starting November this year.
Frisco M. Malabanan, director of the Ginintuang Masaganing Ani (GMA, golden bumper harvest) rice program, said the planting of hybrid varieties such as PSB Rc72H (Mestizo), NSIC Rc114H (Mestizo 2), and NSIC Rc116H (Mestizo 3) would offset the 5.1 percent drop in palay (unmilled rice) output in the first half of the year.
The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported that palay production fell to 5.38 million metric tons (MT) in the first six months from 5.7 million MT as the El Niño weather disturbance cut palay hectarge in Cagayan Valley, Western Visayas, Socsksargen, Bicol and Central Visayas.
El Niño hit hardest in the second quarter when palay output dwindled by 10.3 percent following an 11.6 percent reduction in area harvested. The National Statistics Office (NSO) said that as a result of the weather phenomenon, some 760,000 jobs in the agricultural sector were lost in July.
In its forecast, the BAS said palay output would pick up by 2.5 percent in the second half, bringing the fully year production to 13.17 million MT, down from last year’s 13.27 million MT.
Malabanan said planting hybrid rice would push production by as much as 30 percent in identified areas. “That can compensate for production loss and can create additional jobs,” he told the Business Times.
He said that by the end of October this year, some 75,000 hectares would have been planted by hybrid rice varieties, including those procured from private companies. Aside from the Mestizo lines, other hybrid varieties include SL-8H or Doña Maria of SL Agritech Corp., Bigante of Bayer Crop Science, Magilas 500 of Monsanto Philippines and Rizalina 28 of High Rice.
In essence, the latest Philippine hybrid rice is a product of a cross polination between a Philippine-grown variety and the hybrid rice from China, thereby earning the name mestizo.
The three mestizo varieties comprise the second generation hybrid rice. The Philrice developed PSB Rc26H or Magat as the first generation hybrid rice variant. At present, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is developing in its green house the so-called “golden rice”, a genetically modified variety.
Under the original plan, the agriculture department would identify 125,000 hectares of rice farms for the planting of hybrid rice in the dry season (November 2003 to April 2004) and another 175,000 hectares during the next wet season (May 2004 to October 2004).
However, Malabanan said that the DA wants the target expanded to compensate for the poor harvest in the first half of 2003. While the country has enough hybrid seedlings to plant the targetted 300,000 hectares, it would run out of seedling supply once the hectarage is increased from the target.
Malabanan and DA Undersecretary Edmund J. Sana went on a three-day trip to China last week to explore the possibility of getting additional seedlings from that rice self-sufficient country of 1.3 billion people. In May, Chinese delegates offered to produce for the Philippines the seedlings of the Mestizo varieties.
“They said that if we need assistance, they can do that for us,” Malabanan quoted Chinese agriculture officials as saying.
Malabanan said the agreement for hybrid seedlings supply will be formalized soon. He did not give a date. However, he said DA Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. would be flying to and from China regularly.
A field test of the mestizo variety at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) compound in Nueva Ecija produced 12 MT of good quality and pest-resistant palay per hectare. This translated to about 240 50-kilogram cavans of palay per hectare, much higher than the present national average yield of only 65 cavans per hectare.
At the actual field, a farmer in Occidental Mindoro harvested 10.6 MT or 210 cavans of mestizo grains per hectare.
Data from PhilRice showed that in 2002, the 2.5 million Filipino farmers produced only 13.27 million MT of palay from 4.046 million hectares. This translated to only 3.28 MT of palay produced from every hectare per harvest season.
The country had to import at least 600,000 MT of rice last year in order to fill the demand.
Malabanan said that the country can become self-sufficient and even export rice, if the 1.4 million hectares of irrigated lands would only be planted with hybrid varieties.
“If we can plant them with hybrid rice, we can be more than self-sufficient,” he said.
Under the GMA program, the Philippines is seen to become self-sufficient in rice by 2004.