Sunday, 6 April 2008

High-yielding rice varieties pushed to raise production

By MELODY M. AGUIBA
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20080406121165.html

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) is pushing for the use of rainfed-land-suitable high-yielding, disease-resistant rice varieties that can significantly contribute to the country’s effort to reduce rice import-dependence.

"The country must be able to increase productivity tremendously if it wants to achieve a semblance of food security and end the dependence on imported rice," said Philrice Director Leocadio S. Sebastian in a statement.

Two bacterial leaf blight (BLB) resistant varieties are being pushed for a more massive commercial propagation by Philrice, the Tubigan 7 and Tubigan 11.

With resistance to BLB, a disease manifested by leaf wilting, Tubigan 7 can escape damage (which can reach to 40-50 percent of harvest) and retain yield of five to six metric tons per hectare which is already a high yield for inbred rice varieties.

Rice authorities believe that the use of these high yielding varieties has become imperative in the country’s aim to cut rice import which can reach to 2.7 to three million MT this year, according to estimates.

Tubigan 7 is a recommended variety specially in light of the present rainy season planting.

Biotechnology advocates have been pushing for the use of new rice varieties since this is now an important factor in raising the country’s rice production with limited land much of which is also now being converted to other crops like corn that requires less water.

Philrice noted that compared to world’s biggest rice producers-exporters—Thailand which has 9.9 million hectares of rice fields and Vietnam which has 7.5 million hectares of rice land— the Philippines only has 1.9 million hectares of rainfed rice farms.

"In 2004, the Philippines only harvested from 4.12 million hectares of land while Vietnam profited from 9.82 million hectares of land that grew rice."

Farmers should take advantage of the fact that government has been able to develop better inbred varieties faster through more advanced biotechnology techniques like molecular marker-assisted breeding.

"While the development of conventional rice takes between eight and 10 years, genetically enhanced varieties using the tools of biotechnology would take only five years to develop. While the initial cost of cultivating biotech rice is higher, the long-term benefit is positive since the gross income of individual farmers would rise by at least 26 percent," Sebastian said.

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