A rice variety that grows best when submerged has emerged as
the best option for Luzon farmers whose fields are regularly
flooded due to typhoons or heavy rains.
With global heating instigating unpredictably long periods
of dry and wet months, the rice strain, dubbed as “snorkel”
rice, offers the best defense for flooding, like what tropical
storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng brought to the entire Luzon area.
Developed by scientists working at the Nagoya University of
Japan, the variety grows “snorkels” when submerged
and grows up to an incredible 25 cm a day.
Thus, the rice plant does not only tolerate submergence but
even grows better when swamped with water.
A recent paper in the journal Nature written by Laurentius
Voesenek stressed that scientists were pleasantly surprised
to find out that the “snorkels” grown provide the
entire plant with the nutrients and minerals that would otherwise
Voesenek said “snorkel” genes in flood-tolerant
rice were discovered by Japanese scientists who then introduced
the genes to sensitive high-yielding varieties.
“Snorkels” grow as hollow tubes from parts of the
plant known as internodes, which protect them from getting swamped
with water. In a sense, internodes provide the armor for the
With the country expected to lose more than 500,000 metric
tons (MT) of rice due to Ondoy and a fraction more due to Pepeng,
the Department of Agriculture (DA) will have little alternative
but to experiment on “snorkel” rice.
DA officials confide that research on the same type of rice
has been going on at the Philippine Rice Research Institute
(PhilRice), which is also doing work on saline-tolerant, drought-tolerant
and submergence-tolerant rice varieties, including several traditional
Filipino scientists may actually use biotechnology processes
to introduce the same gene in traditional indigenous rice varieties
to achieve the same effect and Nagoya University may provide
generous assistance for the same purpose.