Farmer Orlando B. Cruz, 58, from Guiguinto, Bulacan, harvested 9.6t/ha and earned PhP84,800 by planting NSIC Rc 436 he received from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) – Seed Program of the Department of Agriculture – Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). His farm also served as one of the PalaySikatan technology demonstration sites of the municipality.
As the program continuously educates rice farmers on modern technologies, Mang Orlando seized this opportunity to enhance his farming knowledge, which will help him increase his yield and income.
“Who would have thought that my harvest could reach 9.6t? I, too, am surprised. Indeed, everything is possible as long as you are hardworking and open to challenges in farming,” Mang Orlando said.
The RCEF – Seed Program through its technology demonstration project known as PalaySikatan continues to showcase the benefits of using recommended rice varieties and modern farm technologies in select areas in the country.
“We want farmers to experience the technologies and practices that we introduced. Because they do it themselves, they can witness and prove its efficiency. We are here to provide technical assistance throughout the rice growth stages,” RCEF – Seed Program Field Operations and Monitoring Head Rizal Corales said.
Currently in its third year, PalaySikatan features modern inbred rice varieties coupled with integrated crop management practices and technologies in the major rice farm operations including crop establishment, pest and nutrient management, and harvest operations.
Among the nationally recommended rice varieties being promoted include NSIC Rc 222, Rc 216, and Rc 402 for the 2021 wet season to 2023 dry season. Location-specific varieties are also being cultivated in the techno-demo site.
“The seeds we are promoting are already pre-identified based on its adaptability in the area. National recommended varieties are those suited anywhere in the country and anytime of the year,” Corales explained.
The program also strongly recommends the adoption of seeding rate for inbred rice, which is 40kg/ha when transplanted or 60-80kg/ha when direct-seeded.
PalaySikatan farmer-cooperators are also encouraged to use nutrient diagnostic tools like the Minus-one Element Technique (MOET), a simple and practical diagnostic tool in assessing soil nutrient limitations in actual field conditions. It analyzes the main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, including the trace elements: copper, zinc, and sulfur, and provides more accurate fertilizer recommendations by determining the right element, amount, and time of application.
Farm machines like seeders, spreaders, and transplanters for crop establishment and combine harvester for harvesting are also showcased in PalaySikatan.
Farmers in direct-seeded areas try the seed spreader, precision seeder, and drum seeder while farmers in transplanted areas use the mechanical transplanters for planting. These machines enable farmers to follow the recommended seeding rate and reduce work time and labor.
Compared with the conventional harvesting, which can take at least one week per hectare, the combine harvester, which performs harvesting, threshing, and bagging operations, can help farmers harvest 4-5ha per day.
During the 2021 wet season, farmers like Mang Orlando who served as cooperators of the techno demo have decreased their average production cost by at least PhP3. From PhP12.01/kg, it was reduced to PhP8.75/kg.
According to Guiguinto Technician Roslyn Joan Benedictos, PalaySikatan is an effective way to help farmers become more open to modern technologies and machinery they can employ to improve their farming practices.
For Mang Orlando, welcoming new technologies is part of his smart game plan now so he can lower his production expenses and increase his profit.
“May we continue participating in activities like PalaySikatan so we can acquire new knowledge,” he said.
According to Corales, field days are conducted to showcase the crop stand in the PalaySikatan demo sites at the end of the cropping season. Farmers from nearby communities visit the sites and evaluate the varieties. They also discuss with the cooperators the technologies they practiced in the demo.
DA-PhilRice partners with the provincial and municipal agricultural offices to identify the techno-demo sites. They work closely from technical briefings to harvesting, as well as from logistics to facilitating field days and field walks.
Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Agricultural Training Institute, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Development Bank of the Philippines, and LandBank are also RCEF co-implementers.
The RCEF-Seed Program is a component of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, which allots P10 billion funds every year for the rice farmers from the rice tariff earnings of the country. The program is a six-year government initiative to help farmers improve their competitiveness. The local government units and lawmakers assist in its implementation.