Friday, June 5, 2015

Philippines: Rice Survivor Season 4 ends, top team reaps over 7 tons per hectare

The 4th Rice Survivor challenge wrapped up for the dry rice-cropping season with Rice4Titans, the winning team, harvesting 7.01 tons per hectare (in terms of yield per hectare). The other teams harvested between 5-6 tons per hectare.

The Rice Survivor is open to any staff member of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) who is up for the challenge of getting up from behind their desks and computers and going into the field, knee-deep in mud. A total of 28 participants—made up of national and international staff, consultants, and postdocs from the different units of IRRI—joined the 26-week challenge of lectures and field sessions, which started in November 2014 until 20 May 2015. The participants were divided into 5 teams: Risensors, RICEtastic 6, Keep Calm and Grow Rice, Rice4Titans, and Padiwackers. They gained firsthand experience in growing rice, from sowing to harvesting, including water, fertilizer, and weed management. They worked closely with IRRI scientists and researchers who served as resource persons and experts to guide the teams in meeting the same real-life challenges  that farmers face in the field.

“I was generally pleased with the individual participation in the sessions,” said Jason Beebout, a consultant at IRRI and coordinator of this season’s Rice Survivor challenge.  “This Survivor season had 2-hour training sessions stretching across half a year. There was an average of 14 participants per session across the season. With the various work and travel commitments of participants, it’s difficult to maintain momentum and attendance.”

Unlike previous seasons, where each team chose the rice variety they planted, all five teams planted one variety: the slightly aromatic, medium-duration Rc344. However, they were given free rein on the transplanting method to use, whether mechanical or manual.   It is interesting to note that the winning team used mechanical transplanting with seedling trays while the others used manual transplanting.

“The yield of the plots was good and the participants learned a number of things along the way that would have potentially increased plot yields,” Mr. Beebout pointed out. “There is now a new group of Rice Survivors at IRRI who have new appreciation for what it takes to produce rice; a greater understanding of the steps involved in the process, and a better knowledge of the challenges to increase rice productivity.”

With the close of the 2014-15 dry season, what’s next for the Rice Survivor challenge?
“Hopefully there will be a new group of participants ready to start Rice Survivor this November 2015,” Mr. Beebout said. “We are in the process of evaluating RS4 and reviewing participants' feedback. While several changes will be made to improve the participants’ experience, the training objectives, participant activities, and training sessions will be similar to this season.”

Here’s looking forward to Rice Survivor Season 5!

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