Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Ormoc is most ‘hybridized,’ most ‘ratoonized’

Felix N. Codilla III
Business Mirror

ORMOC CITY—National program coordinator Dr. Frisco Malabanan of Ginintuang Masaganang Ani congratulated the local government unit (LGU) of this city for being the first to promote hybrid rice ratooning in the country at the first Ratoon Project Harvest Festival in Labrador here, where he was guest of honor.

Ratooning allows farmers to harvest as much as 20 percent more palay (high-yielding varieties) in one cropping that translates into additional income. It is widely practiced in China where farmers have to maximize the planting season because they won’t be able to farm during winter.

Regional executive director Leo Cañeda hailed Ormoc as a pacesetter by leading the way in implementing the programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 8 starting with the hybrid rice commercialization program. The city does it again, he said, with the first local government-backed ratooning project in the Philippines.

Ratooning isn’t new. It was practiced since 1927 in the Philippines and other countries. The technology is also applied to sugarcane. With ratooning the farmer leaves new shoots to grow after harvesting the main crop. The remaining stubbles from the first crop have dormant buds that develop new sprouts.

The method is almost cost-free, requiring only a bag of urea/nitrogen fertilizer per hectare and minimum irrigation. Because of the short duration by which the extra crop grows, the risks of pests, diseases and bad weather are minimized. In short, farmers are able to harvest twice in just one cropping.

Farmers who have adopted this method harvest 20 cavans extra per hectare of inbred rice. The yield is higher when applied to the hybrid variety.

Farmer beneficiary (FB) Agustin Marte Jr. of barangay San Isidro was able to produce 32 cavans more on top of his 160-cavan main harvest.

As of 2006, this city has 5,600 hectares of rice land, but it wasn’t considered a major rice producer as sugarcane was its dominant crop. The lands planted to rice represents only 21 percent of the total agriculture area. Rice farming began to look up in 2004 when Mayor Eric Codilla introduced the hybrid variety through the Rice Production Enhancement Program (RPEP).

Farmers who joined the program increased their yield from 90 to 140 cavans per hectare. From a 300-hectare pilot area, there are now 3,300 hectares planted to hybrid rice, propelling Ormoc to rice granary status by producing an average 5.7 metric tons (MT) compared to the region’s 3.7 MT.

DA is now replicating Ormoc’s model to other parts of the region like Biliran and Southern Leyte provinces. In Samar Island where rice farming is difficult to introduce, there has been an increasing trend in the past three years with 150 hectares planted to hybrid rice in each of the three provinces.

Now, Ormoc takes hybrid-rice farming to a new level with its ratoon program. The DA and LGU forged a memorandum of agreement for the establishment of techno-demo farms in Ormoc in five years to 2013. The program is piloted in 17 adjoining barangays covering 500 hectares and 274 FBs.

The area of coverage will double next year. The total project cost is P8.35 million with the LGU shouldering P6.72 million for fertilizers and P166,000 for other support services. This prompted Cañeda to brand Ormoc as the most “hybridized” in the region and the most “ratoonized” in the Philippines.

Once ratooning is perfected, FBs are expected to harvest up to 40 cavans more per hectare. At P725 per cavan, a farmer can have a gross income of P29,000. Given a production cost of P7,170, a farmer can earn an additional net income of P21,830 on top of what he has earned from the main crop within a particular cropping.

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