Wednesday, August 7, 2013

PhilRice advancing research on organic farming

As the country sees the prospect of achieving 103-percent rice self-sufficiency for the first semester of this year, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the country’s lead in rice science and development, is strengthening its researches on organic rice farming to help sustain the country’s rice production in the coming years.

The rice self-sufficiency projection was stated in a memorandum to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala by Assistant Secretary Dante S. Delima and recently presented to Manila-based reporters.

With its new advocacy, Clean, green, practical, and smart farming for competitiveness, sustainability, and resiliency (Clean GPS for CSR), PhilRice continues to develop and evaluate new and farmers’ practices that will optimize organic rice farming.

“Organic farming is not only about applying manure and rice-straw in the field. There’s science in it. It is our aim to make farmers and extension workers understand the science of organic farming to avoid misinterpretations,” Ed Libetario, branch manager of PhilRice in Negros Occidental, said. PhilRice converted this station to be its center for organic rice farming last year.

To help farmers get the most from organic farming, PhilRice assesses the efficiency of organic matters on rice varieties, identifies the effectiveness of commercially-available compost inoculants and effects of organic rice cultures on grain yield and soil, and determines the occurrence and distribution of pest in organic rice ecosystems.

Studies on managing insect pests through microbial control agents and traditional plants are also PhilRice priorities in its research on organic rice farming.

Furthermore, PhilRice, which was recently cited for meeting at least 90 percent of its targets in 2012, conducts a long-term study on the use of organic fertilizers. Started in 2003, the study found that in last year’s dry season, plots treated with chicken manure produced the highest yield at about 7 t/ha.

However, the yield is not significantly different from rice plots applied with fresh rice straw, rice straw with effective microorganism base inoculants, and wild sunflower. The lowest yield, about 5 t/ha, was harvested from plots applied with commercial organic fertilizers.

With the high yield potential of rice varieties, which demands higher nutrient inputs, PhilRice researchers are identifying whether pure organic-based nutrient application will be enough to gain the highest yield that can be harvested from rice varieties.

Libetario said that understanding the relationship among the varieties, soils, and farm conditions are crucial for better organic rice production.

“When farmers do organic rice farming, they must not only look in the nutrients to be applied, but the entire farm ecosystem. It’s not enough that farmers know the quantity of organic fertilizers to be applied, but also how to manage these contents to lessen the toxicity they emit to the environment.  Remember that manure contains methane, (which is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide),” he explained.

Libetario added that through researches, “clean, green, practical, and smart” organic rice farm practices will soon be developed and promoted to the farmers by PhilRice.

While the research on organic rice farming is ongoing, PhilRice advocates the balanced use of organic and inorganic nutrients, not only to cut costs but to make rice farming more sustainable.

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