The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), and IRRI conducted a rice straw baler demonstration at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija for the project “Development of Sustainable Rice Straw Management Practices and Technologies for Bioenergy, Food, and Feed in the Philippines”, or RiceStrawPH.
The RiceStrawPH project aims to develop and provide alternative uses of rice straw in order to add value to the rice byproduct, instead of farmers simply burning them. “We are looking for ways where Filipinos can enhance their livelihoods through innovative uses of rice straw, like mushroom growing and ruminant feed.” said Dr. Caesar Tado of PhilRice, one of the project leaders.
“In the Philippines, we have legislation that prohibits the burning of rice straw, and Nueva Ecija also has a local ordinance that discourages this practice. This helped the Philippines significantly decrease rice straw burning incidence from more than 90% in the early 2000s, to around 30% in 2017.” he added.
Funded by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research, about 30 participants from four farmer groups (Pinagbuklod Na Adhika Agriculture Cooperative and Bantug – Bakal Irrigators Association) participated in the demonstration.
“There are a lot of ways where rice straw can be optimally and profitably used,” Dr. Daniel Aquino, Study Leader and Center Director of PCC at CLSU said.
Dr. Aquino said that every 100kg of rice straw contains about 4.5 to 4.7kg of protein, which can help support the maintenance, growth, and milk production of ruminants, namely cattle, carabao, goat, and sheep. Rice straw’s feed value can also be improved by spraying and/or ensiling with urea and molasses solution. A mature cattle or buffalo can consume about 15-20kg of rice straw per day, which means that rice straw from a hectare of paddy rice can support its fodder requirement for about 200-250 days.
“At PCC, we feed rice straw to buffaloes as a source of dry matter, supplemented with concentrate, legumes, or other agricultural by-products to provide an adequate supply of nutrients for faster growth and higher milk production. Rice straw is already a part of the buffalo daily ration, and we are willing to buy baled straw from farmers so they don’t need to burn it.”
Dr. Aquino also shared that for mushroom growing, 1kg of rice straw used as growing medium can yield around 200g of oyster mushrooms. “Imagine how much mushrooms can be produced if a hectare of rice farm produces 4 tons of rice straw every harvest season.”
IRRI’s Senior Associate Scientist Carlito Balingbing gave a presentation on the different rice straw baler types and on baler safety measures. Engineer Balingbing and PhilRice Engineers Dr. Elmer Bautista and John Eric Abon also led the demonstration of the round and square balers. A survey and short discussion followed to gather feedback from participants about their preferred baler design.
“The next step is for us to develop a baler that is adaptable to the Philippines,” Engineer Bautista said. “By listening to the feedback of potential users, we can develop one that is suited to the country’s rice farming conditions.”
“I prefer the square type baler, but I hope it can be smaller so as to fit these narrow roads that we have,“ said farmer leader Francisco Ignacio, chairman of Pinagbuklod Na Adhika Agriculture Cooperative, a part of rice-based enterprise community RiceBis led by PhilRice.
“I want a high-quality machine, so I am willing to pay the price reported to us, rather than a cheaper price that will compromise the quality,“ said Gorgonia Ebzon, member of the same cooperative.
Mr. Rizal Corales, PhilRice expert on mushroom production from rice straw, lauded the farmers’ efforts to participate in the project and encouraged them to continue the cooperation and partnership, especially on mushroom production. “Without your support our project which aims to provide alternative livelihood in rice farming through proper mushroom production wouldn’t be successful,” he concluded.
A series of demonstrations in other rice growing regions in the Philippines will be conducted in the coming months as part of the RiceStrawPH project.