Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rice Survivor 3: Outlasting the hot, dry season

By Ina Camille Quizon 

The third season of the experiential learning course Rice Survivor ended on May 22 revealing interesting rice yields from farm plots managed by participating IRRI staff.  Five teams competed for the highest profit and yield as they learn the whole rice production process. This season’s teams were Team Agila, [B]IRRI-ani, Masigasig, Palay All Stars, and Ricesilient.

All teams did more than survive the dry season as each were able produce at least 6 t/ha of rice. Palay All Stars bagged the first place with 8.27 t/ha harvest using the hybrid SL8 variety, and 7.7 t/ha harvest from NSIC Rc238. Members of the team were the only ones who did not use any pesticides in their field.

Rice Survivor aims to provide IRRI employees (NRS, IRS, post-docs, and scholars) with hands-on experience in rice production and increase their appreciation for rice farming and the farmers. It also promotes team dynamics, inter-OU collaboration, and sportsmanship. Members of the team are a combination of rice breeders, plant pathologists, entomologists, chemists, molecular biologists, communication specialists, and administrative staff. They plan and decide on all crop management activities such as the varieties to use, fertilizer application, and control of pests and diseases. The participants also prepare the crop calendars, yield estimates, and budget inventories.

The best Rice Survivor team was judged based on yield and profit. Awards were also given to outstanding individuals in the following categories: Best Blogger, Best Breeder, Best in Knowledge Sharing, Most Obsessive Record Keeper, Most Invested Survivor, Best Rice Girls, Best Paparazzi, and Highest Attendance.

More than the awards, this season’s survivors found the firsthand experience they have gained as most fulfilling.
 “Since we are from different fields of rice science, we each contribute something different to our team,” says Angela Minas of Team Palay All Stars.  “But, of course, our own knowledge is not enough. We also need practical advice and guides to help us in rice production. For this, we turn to people from the Experiment Station, farm workers, and other work colleagues. The Rice Knowledge Bank is also a source of information.”

According to Reianne Quilloy of Team [B]IRRI-ani, the experience was “surprisingly fun because, one, this is not part of requirement for me to pass a course. Two, you take in the fear and uncertainties of a rice farmer. If you're not a farmer, you now have more empathy for them. And three, you are able to capture significant knowledge on the field.”

Janelle Jung of Team Masigasig added, “being able to take part in the rice farming cycle from seed to plate really gave me a better understanding of the complexities of rice production that we are trying to improve to achieve higher yields most efficiently and sustainably”.

Rice Survivor was started in 2012 by IRRI’s Training Center under the creative leadership of Katie Nelson and Nicola Wunderlich. For the 2015 dry season  Jason Beebout and Bryce Blackman will take over the facilitation 
of the experiential learning course .

“Katie and Nicola have developed a course that is hands-on, flexible, and fun,” said Jason when asked about the future of Rice Survivor. “Let’s continue providing IRRI personnel the opportunity to learn the process of rice production while getting mud between their toes.” 

The Training Center is now preparing Rice Survivor Season 4 for and will select the next batch of participants in October. 
Manpower and equipment for land preparation, seed establishment, irrigation, and other production operations are provided by the Experiment Station.  Expenses for fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds are also subsidized by the Institute. For the next season, IRRI Human Resources has also agreed to cover the cost of the course’s registration fees and transportation.

Read narratives on Rice Survivor stories and experiences in the rice field at

Team Ricesilient received the Breeder Award for successfully 
growing Glen Gregorio's new rice breed NSIC 2013 Rc344 (Mabango)

Members of the winning team Palay All Stars with TC Head, Noel Magor

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