Written by Maritha Manubay
The breathtaking site of the Ifugao highlands seems to exude hope for the country to attain rice self-sufficiency.
Despite the promise of its vast terraces, highland farmers are constrained by cultural orientation of planting traditional rice varieties and practicing old-fashioned cultural management. Thus, the choice between varieties that yields high but with low price or yields more but with high price remains a struggle.
Aiming at determining and showcasing the best performing varieties in the highlands, PhilRice Isabela conducted a Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) in Asipulo, Ifugao on May 3.
Sixty-four farmer-participants selected rice varieties adaptable to the cool elevated area (800 m. above sea level) of Brgy. Amduntog. Two studies were conducted in the 0.3 ha-farm of farmer-cooperator Fernando Cabiggat.
In the first study led by Nancy Gawat of PhilRice Isabela titled, Adaptation Trial of Different Rice Varieties in Cool Elevated Areas in CAR, farmers identified PR27955-5B-6-2-90-7 as the line/variety appropriate to the area owing to its good plant attributes.
Meanwhile, result of the second study, National Cooperative Testing (NCT) Project of Different Selections under Cool Elevated Ecosystem by plant breeder Thelma Padolina, revealed that PR27955-5B-6-2-90-7 is the most suitable variety in the area.
“The conduct of PVS exposes farmers to the rigors of pre-development and selection of rice varieties,” Gawat said. She added that the activity is a good opportunity for the farmers to choose the variety appropriate to their local farming conditions.
PhilRice Isabela Branch Manager Democrito Rebong II recognized the challenge of breaking into traditional farming practices. “In cultural management, for example, highland farmers have preconceived idea that fertilizers destroy rice; while in reality, given the right application, fertilizers can actually boost yield,” Rebong said.
Meanwhile, Frederick Caclini, agricultural technologist of Hinyon, Ifugao, challenged the highland farmers to be open-minded to new rice varieties and farming practices introduced to them.
“If highland farmers will be able to choose the right variety of rice, then their yield will increase. Thus, an increase in yield will help augment the need for rice,” Rebong said.