Embracing modernization in rice farming was never hard for the members of TCP3 Lagare MultiPurpose Cooperative, Inc. (TCP3 MPCI). They willingly unlearned their old farming practices and welcomed technologies that brought them better yields and savings.

Trained under the Technical Cooperation Project 3 (TCP3) of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and PhilRice, this farmers’ group based in Brgy. Lagare, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija in 2008 garnered a 1-ton yield increase per hectare, two years after adopting new farm technologies, from 3.5t to 4.5t/ha during WS and from 5.0t to 6.8t/ha during DS.

Unending use of quality seeds

TCP3 farmer-trainee Crisostomo Subido believes that the use of quality seeds had helped his yield grow.

He learned that 40kg of certified inbred seeds are enough for a hectare. Upon following the recommendation, he now saves up to P4,500/ha in seeds alone.

On-farm studies have confirmed that quality seeds can increase yield by 10% or more compared with farmers’ seeds. Quality seeds have higher seedling vigor and pest resistance.

“I can attest that 40kg of certified seeds are enough to cover a hectare at 1-3 seedlings per hill. I hope my fellow farmers use such seeds to benefit from high germination rate and purity,” Subido wished.

The 60-year-old coop member also cautioned that it is best for farmers to buy certified seeds with the BPI-NSQCS blue tag to protect themselves from malpractices of illegitimate seed growers. The tag documents the names of the seed grower and inspector, rice variety, and season harvested.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Dela Rosa, 62, took pride in his greatest success with hybrid rice SL-8H that gave him 13t/ha, well beyond the average 10t/ha.

“I have full confidence in hybrid rice because it produces more tillers, panicles, and grains,” Dela Rosa posted. He said he was guided by the PalayCheck System, a seed-to-harvest integrated crop management approach for rice.

Slashing fertilizer use

A handful of farmers could “underfertilize” or “overfertilize” their rice plants with nitrogen (N). According to the book, “Comparative Efficiency of Rice Farming in Asia and the Philippines”, farmers in Nueva Ecija usually apply an average of 102kg N/ha during DS. Dela Rosa had been doing the same until he stumbled upon the Leaf Color Chart (LCC), a four-stripped plastic “ruler” used in assessing the nitrogen status of rice plants, during the TCP3 training. They were told the LCC can save up to P2,000/ha in precise nitrogen fertilizer use.

“Since then, I always check the greenness of my crop’s leaves before applying urea (46-0-0) especially during WS. That is, to avoid excessive application and prevent pests and disease infestation,” he explained. Never deviating from the recommendation from LCC always turned out good for him.

Dela Rosa used to harvest 5t/ha, not bad. With the technologies introduced to them in the training, he can now produce 8t/ha during DS from any inbred variety.

“It did save me money. As I follow the LCC recommendation, I found that I need not spend more on fertilizer when it is not needed,” he affirmed.

Cutting on cost

TCP3 MPCI members Subido, Dela Rosa, and 130 more now enjoy the ease of rice production, thanks to mechanization. The 11-year-old cooperative has even acquired two combine harvesters, one fourwheeled tractor, three hand tractors, one transplanter, and a small truck.

The coop rents out machines to members at fees comparable to other service providers. Collected fees are used to repair and maintain the equipment.

Subido giggled as he reminisced how their members looked relaxed in front of their farms after every season because they have the combine harvester and its operator to do the cutting and threshing in just a matter of hours.

“We see a huge difference in cost and time using this pro-farmer machine. For every 100 sacks done, we only pay 9 sacks in mechanical harvesting, which is much lower than the 20 sacks that we have to pay if we do manual harvesting and threshing,” Dela Rosa compared.

Today, the coop is looking for more opportunities to acquire flatbed dryers, knowing their usefulness during the rainy season.

Aiming for sustainability

Established in 2008, TCP3 MPCI has 32 pioneering members who were privileged to acquire knowledge and skills from the PhilRice-JICA training. Technologies were imbibed among members and eventually shared to new coop recruits. During several meetings, problems in the field were usually raised by new members and addressed by trained officials.

In 2014, 30 new members were trained on rice production courtesy of the Cabanatuan City Agriculture Office (CAO). Subido, one of the coop officials, said they aim to conduct basic rice production training for new members in 2020 through the CAO to have the high yields sustained.

Also, their members who were trained by PhilRice, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) to become machine operators eventually echoed their knowledge and skills to five other members to maximize the use of two harvesters during the peak season.

TCP3 MPCI still hopes that majority of the farming population will have the opportunity to experience the convenience of modern technologies through various non-formal education pathways, like training. Good thing, the government has already intensified its efforts to capacitate rice farmers through its training programs financed by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. PHilMech, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are joining forces in educating more than 100,000 farmers nationwide.

And now that the Philippine rice market has been liberalized, our farmers have to step-up their rice production techniques and adopt mechanized farming, like what Subido and Dela Rosa, and the members of TCP3 MPCI are doing.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute