A semi-organic fertilization technique called “crop stand management” has raised the wet season yield of hybrid rice crops in Iloilo, with a dozen farmers reaping harvests of more than 10 metric tons per hectare, according to provincial agriculture officials.
Using the fertilization technique with SL-8H hybrid seeds, twelve farmers had wet season harvests that averaged 10.71 metric tons (MT) per hectare.
The harvest was extraordinarily high for the wet season, when farmers do not usually expect to reap much from hybrid rice because of the highly infesting bacterial leaf blight (BLB) on rainy days, provincial officials said.
The average rice yield for the Philippines overall is slightly less than four MT per hectare.
Crop stand management is a system of applying fertilizers, particularly nitrogen-based urea, only when the crop needs it—when it has yellowish leaves, for example.
“It’s the first time for many farmers in Iloilo to plant hybrid in the wet season,” said Iloilo agricultural officer Geron E. Magbanua. “And impressively, there are farmers who harvested 10 tons (per hectare) as shown by the contest (Palayabangan introduced by the Philippine Rice Research Institute).”
Aside from reducing farmers’ costs and raising their net income to the P100,000 level per hectare, crop stand management is also good for the environment. The soil’s nutrients are regenerated, and the water table and water surfaces do not get exposed to excessive chemical fertilizer, Magbanua said.
Despite the severe El Niño drought phenomenon in the first half of 2016, Iloilo has managed to produce a rice surplus as more farmers opted to plant the SL-8H hybrid rice, boosting the province’s average yield to 4.09 MT per hectare.
This is an overall increase of 0.86 MT per hectare compared with the 2015 average of 3.23 per hectare (based on Philippine Statistics Authority data) for the entire province, according to Iloilo Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Elias V. Sandig Jr.
Two seasons’ worth in one harvest
Sandig said farmers were encouraged to try the hybrid after two farmers last year recorded incredible yields of more than 14 MT per hectare.
“In 2015, Marilyn Duco of Patlad, Dumangas obtained an average yield equivalent to 14.51 MT per hectare (from SL-8H hybrid seeds) at 14 percent moisture content (at the ideal drier state),” said Sandig.
“Iloilo farmer Teresita S. Setiar of Leganes reaped the highest yield equivalent 17.921 MT per hectare. She used organic fertilizers with reduced artificial fertilizer,” Sandig added.
The advantage of hybrid rice for Iloilo farmers is that it can effectively double their harvest, providing nearly two seasons’ worth of yield in a single planting.
“Some areas are just rainfed, so farmers don’t plant during the dry season. But with their high yield—double from hybrid rice, it’s as good as they would have planted two times a year,” said SL-8H producer SL Agritech Corp. Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.
One Ilonggo farmer, Ramon Dagohoy Jr., got 13.95 MT per hectare from his irrigated, transplanted SL-8H.
“From his 2.2 hectare area, he got a total of 615 cavans at 47 kilos per bag summing up to 279 bags (13.95 MT) per hectare,” said Magbanua.
From his rainfed 6,000 square meter farm, Andres Corras Jr. had a wet season harvest equivalent to an average of 9.68 MT per hectare.
Allan Tabefranca got a yield of 8.5 MT per hectare from 8,000 square meters. He is in an irrigated area and even used direct seeding, which means he had lesser cost compared with transplanted seeds.
“Our campaign is that using the same technology of rice planting, you just change the seed, but your expense is the same. The seed is subsidized, so they get a higher income. Because of this, they have been convinced to go into hybrid,” said Iloilo Provincial Agriculturist Ildefonso T. Toledo.
And while most farmers planted SL-8H, they are now also trying other varieties that had been developed to be more resistant to diseases such as BLB—SL-12H and SL-18H.
Despite these increases in yield, Iloilo’s rice production is expected to reach only 700,000 MT for 2016 due to the impact of El Niño during the first semester of the year.
According to PSA data, Iloilo produced 877,076 MT of rice in 2015 with an average yield of 3.23 MT per hectare.
Iloilo ranks fifth in rice production in the Philippines, after Nueva Ecija (1,580,620 MT), Isabela (1,256,390 MT), Pangasinan (1,081,157 MT) and Cagayan (884,334 MT).
Based on population and milled rice production, Iloilo’s rice sufficiency is a surplus at 141 percent of its food requirements, the provincial agriculture office said.
The province has 110,000 rice farmers and a total of 135,964 hectares of ricelands consisting of 48,860 hectares of irrigated ricelands, 85,779 hectares of rainfed ricelands, and 1,325 uplands devoted to rice. About 10,000 hectares are planted with hybrid rice, the provincial agriculture office said.