Monday, April 4, 2016

DA-PhilRice and IRRI offer drought-tolerant rice varieties to farmers

LOS BAÑOS, PhilippinesThe Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have been working together to breed and disseminate seeds of drought-tolerant rice varieties that can better survive the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.

“It is the poor farmers who suffer the most from the effects of climate change,” said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI’s deputy director general for communication and partnerships. “This is why IRRI has been working hard to develop climate change-ready rice varieties that can withstand extreme climatic conditions such as droughts, floods, heat, cold, and soil problems such as high salt and iron content.”

Rice farmers who are currently struggling with the effects of El Niño are particularly interested in drought-tolerant rice varieties. The ongoing El Niño is expected to cause much lower rainfall in the first half of 2016 throughout South and Southeast Asia, which includes the major rice-growing countries.

“El Niño conditions will worsen livelihoods and may also lead to insufficient food supply for vulnerable farm households,” said Dr. Reiner Wassmann, climate change expert at IRRI.

Scientists at IRRI have developed and released drought-tolerant varieties—those that can produce up to 1.2 tons more per hectare than varieties that perform poorly under drought conditions—in several countries, including Sahbhagi dhan in India and the Sookha dhan varieties in Nepal.

In the Philippines, the drought-tolerant rice varieties available to farmers in rainfed lowland farms include Rio Grande, Sacobia, and 12 varieties of Sahod Ulan. Drought-tolerant rice varieties for upland farms include Pasig, Apo, and Katihan 1.

“We have provided PhilRice with the foundation germplasm for climate change-ready rice,” Tolentino said. “DA-PhilRice is multiplying these seeds for distribution to farmers who need them the most.”

In addition to climate change-ready rice varieties, IRRI has also developed water-saving technologies such as alternate wetting and drying (AWD). AWD is regarded as one of the more important rice cultivation methods that can dramatically save freshwater irrigation.

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