Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Govt pins hope on super rice

DHAKA: The government has imported five tones of seed of a high-yield rice variety in efforts to nearly triple rice production in the neglected Aus season. The country now reaps only 1.5 million tones of rice in the Aus season that has long been overshadowed by the rain-fed Aman and chemical fertilizer-driven Boro production. Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury told The Daily Star that she has high hopes on Nerica, a high-yield rice variety, imported from Uganda for utilizing the Aus season's potentials for a bumper harvest. "We will go for adaptive trials and produce 100 tones of seed out of the five tones, and popularize it among the growers to have significant gains in Aus output," said Matia. "I will not be surprised if we manage to reap up to four million tones of rice in the Aus season by sowing Nerica," she said. If the minister is right, Bangladesh can increase rice production by at least 2.5 million tones annually, which is more than double this year's import target. The good news comes at a time when people are struggling to cope with soaring rice prices in Bangladesh as well as many other nations in Asia. Rice prices that reached a record high during the global financial meltdown have never stabilized thereafter and popular coarse varieties in Bangladesh saw 30 to 35 percent rise in their prices in the last one year. Matia said only half a kilogram of Nerica seed was first brought to Bangladesh in 2009 and trials were done to see how it works in Bangladesh conditions. "We have imported five tones [of Nerica seed] recently. The most positive aspects of Nerica are that it is drought-tolerant and requires less water to grow. Besides, it has got no lodging or shattering problems and its grains have better protein values. It is a short-duration variety that grows in less than 100 days," explained the agriculture minister. Officials at Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation said they have started implementing the Nerica Seed Enhancement Project to distribute the seed among farmers. Agricultural Research and Development Centre of Brac, a non-governmental organisation, has been assessing the performance of short-duration rice varieties such as Nerica and a few Vietnamese varieties at its Gazipur farm. Matia said vertical growth in crop production remains within a limit unless new technology and scientific methods are applied to sustain the growth. "We are reaping more than three crops a year from our farmland putting strain on soil fertility. Moreover, repeated use of chemical fertilizers is making the soil acidic." She pointed out that there is a scope for "lateral expansion" of Aus production. "We must tap the potentials of Aus season by helping farmers grow more short-duration rice between the Boro and Aman seasons." The minister said it is a major challenge to feed a growing population while the country's farmland continues to shrink. She hoped the census next month after a decade will give a clear picture of the size of the population. In search of a high-yield rice variety suitable for the Sub-Saharan region, Africa Rice Centre, previously known as the West Africa Rice Development Association, developed Nerica in 1996 by crossing some of the best rice varieties in Africa and Asia. In recognition of this achievement, Dr Monty Jones, the man behind the Nerica breeding, was awarded the World Food Prize in 2004. Agriculture officials said the introduction of Nerica has increased rice production in Uganda and helped the landlocked East African country bring down its rice import.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Filipino Farmers Using Rice Technology

Hundreds of Bicol farmers are now equipped with the PalayCheck technology providing them an integrated rice management approach that aims to develop their capability to effectively manage their rice farms and improve their crop yield. Last week, 245 rice farmers from seven towns of the Bicol provinces of Camarines Sur and Albay graduated from the two-season Location Specific Technology Development (LSTD) on Palay Check training provided by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) The training was conducted in cooperation with the DA’s Bicol Experiment Station here with the local government units (LGUs) of the participating municipalities — Pamplona, Libmanan, Nabua, Calabanga and this capital town for Camarines Sur and Oas and Camalig for Albay. During the graduation rites, Diego Ramos, the PhilRice Los BaƱos branch manager urged the farmer-graduates to be vigilant in monitoring their farms and to religiously apply all the eight key palay checks they learned from the training. The checks that revolve on seed quality, land preparation, crop establishment, pest management, and harvest management are the following: Key check 1 Use certified seeds of a recommended variety. The seed of a recommended variety is certified by the National Seed Quality Control Service as shown by a blue tag attached to the sack. Foundation and registered seeds from accredited seed growers are also acceptable. Key check 2 No high and low soil spots after final leveling. The field should have no visible mound of soil above the water surface (two cm- three cm deep) after the final leveling. Key check 3 Practice synchronous planting after a fallow period. At least 75 percent of the fields serviced by a lateral canal of the irrigation service have been plowed before sowing the seeds. After a fallow period of 30 days, the field should have been planted within seven days before and seven days after majority of the irrigation service area has been planted. Key check 4 Sufficient number of healthy seedlings. For transplanted rice, the seed rate is 20 kilogram (kg) per (/) hectare (ha), 40 kg/ha for inbred and 15 kg/ha-20 kg/ha for hybrid. Replant missing hills within seven days after transplanting (DAT) and assess the health status of seedlings at 10 DAT. There should be at least 25 hills per sq m. In every parcel, randomly select 10 hills each and find out if each hill has at least one healthy seedling. For direct wet-seeded rice, the plant density at 15 days after seeding (DAS) for a rate of 40 kg of seeds/ha should be at least 150 plants per sq m. For a seed rate of 80 kg/ha. The plant density should be at least 300 plants per sq m. Key check 5 Sufficient nutrients at early panicle initiation (EPI) to flowering. If the leaf color chart reading at EPI is below four for transplanted rice or below three for direct wet seeded rice, apply 1.5 bags urea/ha in the dry season or one bag urea/ha in the wet season. At flowering, transplanted rice should have at least 300 plants/sq m, while direct wet-seeded rice should have at least 350 plants/sq m. Key check 6 Avoid excessive water or drought stress that could affect the growth and yield of the crop. There should be no symptoms of stress due to excessive water at vegetative stage like reduced tillering and leaf area. Excessive water means water depth greater than 5 cm for 7 days or more. At vegetative stage, there should also be no symptoms of drought like leaf rolling, leaf tip drying, and reduced leaf area, height and tiller number. From panicle initiation to grain filling, there should be no symptoms of stress due to drought like leaf rolling, leaf tip drying, reduced panicle exertion, and many unfilled grains. Key check 7 No significant yield loss due to pests. There should be no significant yield loss due to insect pests, diseases, weeds, rats, snails, and birds. Significant pest damage occurs when one or more pests cause damage on the crop. It will do well for farmers to familiarize themselves in identifying the insect pests and diseases of rice as well as how damage should be assessed. Key check 8 Cut and thresh the crop at the right time. Harvest the crop when one-fifth or 20 percent of the grains at the base of the panicle are in hard dough stage. Press a grain from the base of the panicle between the thumb and forefinger to assess hard dough stage. Most of the grains in the panicle will be golden yellow. Thresh the palay 1-2 days after harvest. Palay Check is a technology developed by the PhilRice and being adopted by the DA for its agricultural program anchored on the “Agri-Pinoy” framework which promotes the principles of sustainable agriculture, natural resource-based management, food security and local development, according to DAR regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao. He said the farmers’ role in achieving food sufficiency is very vital hence; part of the Agri-Pinoy program is to train farmers especially on producing their own seed or seed banking. Dayao also revealed that the DA regional office here will establish a seed storage facility in Bicol to ensure seed supply at any time. The initial batch of 245 Bicol rice farmers who completed the technology training became part of the 500,000 farmers nationwide being targeted by the PhilRice to be provided with this technical assistance that would help improve their farm practices and rice yield, he added. The PhilRice introduced the technology in 2008 and to reach the targeted half a million farmers throughout the country, the Institute trained 8,000 agricultural extension workers that now serve as its technology transfer arm assigned in 48 low-yielding provinces in the country. These areas include the four Bicol provinces in its mainland—Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon. Given that more and more farmers have been getting interested with the Palay Check System on learning that the yields of those who have adopted it have increased, Ramos said “we are now on the double training an increasing number of farmers. Research results of PhilRice specialists show that the more key checks farmers attain the higher their yields become.”