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Monday, June 14, 2021
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Pena: Climate change impacts Philippine rice production

Essue

ACCORDING to a USAid factsheet, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures and extreme rainfall. This is due to its high exposure to natural hazards (typhoons, landslides, floods, and droughts), dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources and vast coastlines where all major cities and the majority of the population reside.

The Philippines lies in the world’s most typhoon-prone region, averaging 19–20 typhoons each year, of which 7–9 make landfall. Sea levels in the Philippines are rising faster than the global average, increasing the hazard posed by storm surges and threatening permanent inundation of low-lying areas. Typhoons are also becoming stronger. We have seen in the past years destructive super typhoons like Yolanda, Pepeng and Ondoy.

Worst, Climate Change will also impact our food production, specifically rice, our staple food. In addition to damage by typhoons, the production of staple crops, such as rice and corn, will be affected by a changing climate. Rice and corn yields will likely decline by 10 percent for every 1°C increase over 30°C. Droughts are also linked to increased pest infestations, especially during El Niño years.

This projection was confirmed by an actual research done by the North Carolina University. A study of the relationship between temperature and yields of various rice varieties, based on 50 years of weather and rice-yield data from farms in the Philippines, suggests that warming temperatures negatively affect rice yields. The study found that warming adversely affected crop yields even for those varieties best suited to the heat.

The study examined rice yields and atmospheric conditions from 1966 to 2016 in Central Luzon, the major rice-growing region of the Philippines. The researchers were able to utilize farm-level data of rice yields and area weather conditions in four-to-five-year increments over the 50-year period, a rare collection of data that allowed the researchers to painstakingly examine the relationship between rice yield and temperature in actual farm environments.

The study examined three general rice varieties planted during those 50 years: traditional rice varieties; "early modern varieties" planted after the onset of the Green Revolution, which were bred for higher yields; and "recent modern varieties" bred for particular characteristics, like heat or pest resistance, for example.

Plant-breeding institutions can learn from this study, and pursue further research on heat resistant rice varieties. Here in the Philippines we have two rice research institutions like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Laguna and our own Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) in Nueva Ecija.

Our policy makers and lawmakers can also use this study as a guide for funding research to further improve the high temperature tolerance of rice varieties available to farmers. This should be part of our Climate Change mitigation strategy.


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