TWO hundred eighty-six farmers in Negros Occidental finished the Hybrid Rice Production and Rice Crop Manager Course through the School On-The-Air Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA).

Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino, who led the graduation rites at Bacolod Pavillon Hotel Thursday, January 18, said this is the first agriculture on-air radio program intended specifically for hybrid rice production.

Masculino said student-farmers passed the four-month course which equipped them with knowledge and skills in hybrid rice production.

“The class is being conducted through a once a week radio program. Student-farmers are being monitored and given examination,” he said, adding that “it will significantly contribute to increasing the province’s rice production.”

After graduating from the program, farmers are expected to start planting hybrid rice during the first cropping season in May.

Aside from the learnings they gained, OPA will further help farmers through provision of hybrid seeds.

The province currently has 1,000 bags of hybrid seeds stored at Negros First Rice Processing Center at Barangay Tabunan in Bago City and available for distribution.

In hybrid rice production, a farmer needs 15 kilograms for every one-hectare farm.

Masculino reiterated that in hybrid production, the yield is 30 percent higher compared to using “ordinary” seeds.

OPA records showed there are only about 4,000 hectares planted to hybrid rice in the province.

Masculino said the number is actually fluctuating because some farmers are discouraged to continue after having “bad” experience specifically lower harvest due to lack of supervision.

“Increasing the farm areas using hybrid seeds would really help us improve our overall rice production,” he said, adding that of the 286 graduates about 90 percent already signified to plant hybrid rice.

The DA Region 6 has allotted P240,000 to fund another two batches of student-farmers from the province starting next month.

Interested farmers will just have to enroll in their respective City and Municipal Agriculturist Offices.

“To ensure sustainability, the farmers will also be given close mentoring services by agriculturists,” Masculino said.

During the graduation rites, the farmers also received P315,000 worth of farm tools, including sprayers, spades, hoes and bolos.