By Julio P. Yap Jr.

Following the devastation of agricultural lands by the El Niño phenomenon in the country, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is now alerting farmers to prepare for the onset of the rainy season by using appropriate varieties and technologies in rice farming.

Farmers are urged to plant rice varieties which stand at most 100 centimeters, and with strong stems that can withstand wind speeds reaching between 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.

Dr. Norvie Manigbas, head of PhilRice’s Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division, is urging farmers to plant rice varieties which stand, at most, 100 centimeters, and with strong stems that can withstand wind speeds between 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.

Suggested Preparations

1. Planting the appropriate varieties: Manigbas pointed out that rainfed areas are also prone to flooding, which will eventually submerge the crops. “The varieties suited for [these conditions] are PSB Rc18 (Ala), which can withstand 5 to 7 days of complete submergence; NSIC Rc194 (Submarino 1), which can survive, grow, and develop even after 10 to 14 days of complete submergence; and PSB Rc68 (Sacobia), a submergence-tolerant and…drought-resistant variety.

These varieties have the following maximum yield: 8.1 tons per hectare (t/ha) (RC18); 3.5 t/ha (Rc194); 4.4 t/ha (Rc68); 6.1 t/ha (Rc14); and 10 t/ha (Rc222). “These are the maximum yields that the farmers can get under stressed conditions,” Manigbas said, adding that these varieties can also recover when submerged during the vegetative stage.

2. Care with fertilizer application: PhilRice also emphasized the reduction of fertilizer application rates. Manigbas reminded farmers that while fertilizers are beneficial to plants, in high amounts, they may cause lodging. “Fertilizers cannot be maximized [during the rainy season], as there is a limited amount of sunlight…Depending on soil analysis results and recommended nutrient requirement rates, it is better to reduce fertilizer application rates by 20 to 30 percent in [the] wet season,” he explained.

3. Use of synchronous planting: Manigbas encouraged farmers to practice synchronous planting in their communities under rainfed conditions, as it reduces incidence of pests and diseases in a specific area, thus minimizing yield loss. Dry land preparation is also encouraged so that farmers can do direct-seeding when the rain comes. With this technique, the seeds will start to germinate within 5 days.

Manigbas explained that under irrigated lowland conditions, land preparation should be done at the onset of heavy rains so that fields are well-soaked in water. Levees and dikes should be repaired to avoid water loss. Farmers can use the wet bed or “dapog” method for seed establishment depending on field conditions. PhilRice also suggests proper drainage to avoid flooding, use of machines during land preparation, harvesting, threshing, and drying to save time and labor.

“Time is vital during the wet season, especially during harvest. As the rain usually comes in the afternoon, we suggest the use of [a] combine harvester to hasten harvesting operations. If it is unavailable, farmers can use [a] reaper and collect the [straw] for threshing.”

4. Use technologies for yield loss prevention: Manigbas emphasized the importance of finishing field operations in the shortest possible time to prevent yield loss. PhilRice also recommends drying of palay in flatbed dryers and on nylon nets or canvas for easier turnover when the rain comes. “The general rule is to harvest and thresh the crop within a short period of time and dry the seeds to the desired moisture content – usually 14 percent.”

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July 2016 issue.