“Our technological level might enable us to achieve sufficiency,
but we need to prepare for the next stage, which is competitiveness
and which is more difficult,” he said. “We need a new generation
of technology not necessarily here now, but which we need
to put together.”
One vehicle for that is the proposed Rice Academy at the
PhilRice complex in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.
“We want to encourage young farmers as their fathers near
retirement,” said Dr. Manuel C. Regalado, PhilRice Deputy
Executive Director for Research.
“And make rice farming more fun – and profitable,” said
Dr. Karen Barroga, Chief of Development Communication. “Physical
distance is no longer a barrier, there are many alternative
routes to get the technology to the farmer.”
The research and training academy will be off and running
in 2013 at a cost of P75 million for the first year. The
idea is to provide training on the full cycle of rice farming
under one roof, said Rasco, the country’s principal rice
scientist who is no stranger to academe.
A member of the National Academy of Science and Technology,
the country’s top advisory body on science and technology,
Rasco was director of the Institute of Plant Breeding at
the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) and professor
at UP Mindanao prior to his appointment to PhilRice.
He completed his Masters of Science in Agriculture at UPLB
in 1974 as a scholar of the Southeast Asian Regional Center
for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
He obtained his PhD in Plant Breeding from Cornell University
in the United States.
He was involved in various researches on vegetables, potato
and sweet potato breeding and agronomy; development of underutilized
crops; farming on slopes; genetically modified crops; and
the sustainability of modern agriculture.
Rasco said PhilRice is looking at three legs of technology
for rice farmers to stand on to be more competitive: one,
biology (including biotechnology and genetic engineering);
second, mechanization and automation; and third, Information
Information Technology, for example, will use satellite
imagery to map rice areas.
“Now it’s mostly guesswork, we don’t know exactly how many
hectares are planted to rice,” Rasco said. “If we know it,
we can predict potential harvests, predict loses when typhoons
strike. If we know it, we should not be hungry.”
The analytical tools are available, he said. Satellite
images may be used to expand the handheld Leaf Color Chart
now used by farmers to indicate a healthy rice plant in
small plots. Satellite imagery can enhance the plots into
hectares of ricefields into data that are analyzed to complement
the Leaf Color Chart on the ground.
Rasco said PhilRice is looking at expanding the use of
mobile telecommunication, including mobile phones, android
applications, social networking and multimedia to reach
not just farmers but even those remotely connected to farms,
such as Filipinos working abroad who have the interest and
the money to invest in rice growing to help their farming
“The basis in the future is knowledge, not just natural
resources, and producing more rice out of increasingly limited
land and water available,” he said. “There’s so much knowledge
out there on how to use land and water efficiently.”
In the past, Rasco said, the thrust was to have more rice
land cultivated and irrigated. “We are nearing the end of
that, there’s no more rice areas left to expand cultivation.
Today, we need to acquire, process and use information,
like knowing the rice hectarage by satellite,” he said.
The same technology can be used to monitor pest outbreaks
in the future.
Then there’s biology, like rethinking the future by thinking
green: breeding rice varieties that need low energy inputs;
tapping biological control in managing pests; and biological
fertilizers for supporting the nutritional needs of rice.
In 2010, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics report,
the national average spending on fuel and oil was P808 per
hectare. Other costs included fertilizers, pesticides, seeds,
labor and rents at an average P39,300; it is more expensive
in irrigated areas.
To cut energy costs, new varieties will require less fertilizers,
pesticides and water – without decreasing average yields.
To reduce energy-related inputs, new varieties would be
ready for harvest 100 days after sowing; current varieties
mature from 108 to 118 days, needing more energy to grow.
In automation, Rasco said PhilRice will mass produce simple
and affordable farm machineries. The target is to raise
mechanization from half a horsepower per hectare today to
at least 1.5 horsepower.
“There are lots of prototypes in the PhilRice laboratory
and we’ll mass produce them, complete with interchangeable
parts to make it cheaper much like the way we now assemble
Toyotas. We will industrialize rice farming. It’s that simple:
some machineries need only about 50 parts, including nuts
It will start “an entirely new industry,” he said. “It
will be one giant step forward in farming.”
A fabrication plant will open at PhilRice in a year’s time
at a cost of P75 million for the first year, about the same
cost as starting up the Rice Academy.
“It will be seed money that rolls over for the mass production
to be self-sustaining,” Rasco said. “It can be done with
the right management and technology.”
SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center UPLB Campus 4031, Los Baños, Laguna, PHILIPPINES
Telephone +6349 536 2290 ext. 406 / 169 / 135
Fax +6349 536 4105
SEARCA BIC is one of the biotechnology information nodes of the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications Global Knowledge
Center (ISAAA KC) and hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center
for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). It was officially
established in 2000 to address the needs of the region for a highly
credible, sound and factual biotechnology information center in the
Southeast Asian region accessible to various stakeholders.