NEGROS Occidental will be the first province in the Philippines to introduce an innovation in rice farming by investing on provincial government-funded seed production program focusing only on up to three rice varieties.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in his Facebook post Sunday, November 4 said he and Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. agreed for the implementation of the program called "Balik Binhi" during his recent visit in the province recently.
Under the program, the Provincial Government will develop a 50-hectare area to produce seeds of three inbred varieties developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) such as RC 222, RC 160, and RC 216.
“In its recent board of trustees meeting, the PhilRice approved the program and has committed technical support to the Negros Occidental initiative,” Piñol said.
"Seeds produced from the provincial seed farm will be distributed to the farmers for free according to the governor," Piñol said, adding that recipient-farmers will, in turn, be required to "return" two bags of seeds.
“The seeds will be used by the Provincial Government for distribution to another batch of farmer-recipients. The same scheme applies,” Piñol added.
The three PhilRice varieties were selected for propagation in the province because of their adaptability.
Based on PhilRice's advisory, RC 216, also known as Tubigan 17, when transplanted has a maximum yield of 9.7 tons per hectare with a maturity of 112 days after sowing (DAS).
The variety is moderately resistant to brown planthoppers and green leafhoppers.
RC 160 has a maximum yield of 8.2 tons per hectare if direct-wet-seeded and matures in 107 DAS.
It has an intermediate reaction to blast, bacterial leaf blight and green leafhoppers, and is resistant to stem borer. This variety is also known for its good eating quality because of its low amylose content.
The other variety, meanwhile, RC 222 or Tubigan 18, has a maximum yield of 10 tons per hectare and matures in 114 DAS.
It is moderately resistant to brown planthoppers, green leafhoppers, and stem borers, the advisory further stated.
Moreover, the Agriculture chief pointed out that multiple-variety farming system, or the use of more than three varieties, has proven to be a bane of the country's rice industry.
“Farm management, including the handling of diseases, has largely been a problem,” Piñol said.
Piñol said that multiple-variety farming system also poses a problem to post-harvest operations where farmers who own small landholdings refuse to dry their “palay” (unhusked rice) in mechanical dryers with huge capacity because they have different varieties.
“Milling is also a problem because different varieties have different grain sizes and formation,” Piñol said.
"Lessons learned from Vietnam showed that the country focused on at least two major varieties which were all high-yielding and early maturing," he added.
Negros Occidental's three-in-one rice industry program is positioned to serve as a blueprint for other provinces in the future.
According to Marañon, the program will start this coming planting season with the support of the PhilRice.