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Rice: A Promising Response to Food Security

While they say agriculture is growing modernized, small-scale Rice farmers on the other hand are also thinking of ways to improve production while doing away with the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. These farmers who used to be self-reliant are now being pressured to be dependent on external sources for farm inputs which force them to depend on modern agricultural knowledge while slowly neglecting their indigenous wisdom.

10 years ago, rice harvests in the Philippines yielded an average of 3.5 tons per hectare, whereas today we only harvest 3. This only showed that the efforts by the government to improve the living conditions and production of farmers (through the Green Revolution Program), was a total failure. The program encouraged farmers to intensify the use of imported chemical based fertilizers and pesticides which as it turned out damaged the environment and decreased the quality of farm products.

10 years have passed and still the country suffers from the scarcity of rice. In a recent announcement, the government is planning to import 700,000 metric tons (the most) of rice this year should production remain low. Rice as the food security crop not only in the Philippines but in the whole Asian Region, should be one of the government’s major concerns.

The Technical Assistance Center for the Development of Rural and Urban Poor-Sustainable Integrated Area Development (TACDRUP-SIAD) Program has integrated its Nature Farming Technology System (NFTS) with an age-old Asian technique of planting that was further enhanced in Madagascar. The technology was applied to modern rice inbreeds through the technique they now call S.R.I.

This technology only requires 7 to 10 kilos of rice seeds per hectare as compared with the existing planting practice that requires 60 to 80 kilos. These 7 to 10 kilos of rice seeds must be prepared in a seedbed area of 350 square meters to produce robust and vigorous seedlings. The seedlings should be planted after 8 to 10 days upon sowing and should be planted at 1 plant per hill, giving it the opportunity to produce more tillers and panicles. NFTS inputs, such as Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) and the use of fermented indigenous materials are to be applied from the start of the seed preparation until pre-harvesting.

In a trial conducted by TACDRUP in Brgy. Bangkal, Matanao, Davao del Sur, with the IR-74 variety, the NFTS technological integration resulted to a 7 ton per hectare harvest, breaking the previous 5 ton per hectare record with NFTS and traditional planting practices applied. Unlike the common 7-Tonner (IR-64) which is chemically laden, this new 7-Tonner by TACDRUP is absolutely chemical free and does not require high cost in production.

Unbelievably, only P1,412.00 (excluding labor) was spent for the 1 hectare farm area. This being treated with NFTS only means that it does not only give safety to the consumer but also to the environment as well. Through this breakthrough, farmers will have to think twice about using chemical based fertilizers and pesticides. TACDRUP is hoping that this technology should be enough to address the issue of food security in the country and empower our farmers to be globally competitive in the upcoming GATT era. - Dean I. Ortiz