Kalinga farmers prefer inbred to hybrid rice

TABUK CITY, Kalinga — Despite government intervention to promote hybrid rice in the country, most Kalinga farmers plant inbred rice varieties, aside from the traditional rice they now export to the USA.

Without mentioning figures, a rice farmer here said most prefer to plant the inbred rice because of the high volume of inputs and attention required by the hybrid seed varieties.

“A hectare of hybrid rice requires at least eight cavans of fertilizers while the inbred needs only six for the same land area,” our informant who opted for anonymity said.

A bag of fertilizer costs P1,800 to P1,900, according to agriculture technical officials. Hybrid seeds range from P3,500 to P4,000 per 20-kilo bag, while inbreds costs only around P1,200 or even lesser. Traditional rice growers, however, maintain their own seed banks.

Grace, in her 30’s, a farmer from Pasil town, said she tried planting hybrid rice varieties but reverted to inbreds after she lost a fortune when a typhoon did not spare her rice paddies. She said, hybrid rice stalks tend to bend at the slightest wind, unlike the inbreds and the traditional rice that proved to be sturdier.

“Diay apitek a 150 cavans ket nagbalin a 20 laeng kalpasan a nabagyo daytoy,” (I expected 150 cavans but only got 20 after a typhoon hit the crops) Grace said. She said the hybrids are so sensitive to climatic changes, unlike the inbreds.

Tabuk City now boasts of being the hybrid capital of the Cordillera, but its farmers find woes with the newest seed technology.

Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Juliana B. Aclam said there are farmers who have tested the hybrid but plant inbred rice.  She confirmed reports that Kalinga farmers prefer the inbred to hybrid rice.

Top-down planning

“Kasla baby a maaywanan dagiti hybrid,” (Hybrids are like babies that need care) Gerry Bulaat, secretary-general of the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) told Nordis in a separate interview.

Bulaat said the government did not consider the local situation in its planning resulting in wrong priorities.

Jessie Fernandez, Philrice supervising science specialist, based in Isabela said inbred rice yields an average of 120 cavans per hectare, while the hybrids could bring out 150 per hectare.

Both Philrice and private seed companies produce hybrid seeds.  Inbred rice was first introduced in the 70’s by the Masagana 99 program of then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Philrice first developed these seeds to produce hybrid. Later, private companies followed suit, according to Fernandez.

DA Sec. Arthur Yap, in press release, stressed that while DA recognizes the potentials of hybrids at increasing farmers’ income, it also emphasizes on the extensive use of certified high-yielding varieties or inbreds, which are responsive to irrigated, rain-fed and upland rice ecosystems; unique or sub-optimal rice environs; specific seasons and climatic conditions; and commercial markets.

Cost of seed, production

Farmers, however, could not produce their own seeds because of decreasing production.  This is reportedly due to degeneration of the seed variety, that farmers have to buy seeds.

“Pinadas mi nga inmula manen diay bin-i ket saan a bumagas a kas idi damo daytoy nga imula, uray isu met laeng ti ikabil nga abono,” (We tried replanting the seeds and found out these do not yield as much as when these are first planted, even if we applied the same amount of fertilizers) said Ricardo Sad-ang, 52, of Tinglayan town.

Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera’s (Apit Tako) Fernando Bagyan once said in an earlier interview, these are terminator seeds. These could not produce their own seeds for later propagation, thus, compelling farmers to procure their planting materials from seed-producing companies like Syngenta, Monsanto, Asian Hybrid, Bio-seed and the like.

Sad-ang has been planting his two-hectare rice land to hybrid varieties. He said he had tried different types of hybrid seed varieties, but still get only around 90 cavans per hectare.

Philrice has reportedly produced Mestizo varieties M1, M3 and M7.  Private seed companies produce other hybrid varieties.

According to Aclam, many inbred varieties are cultivated in Kalinga. “Farmers have asserted for the certified inbred seeds. Their experience have taught them,” she told Nordis.

Unoy remains a favorite

Meanwhile, the traditional unoy is still being cultivated in most Kalinga towns.  Aclam said only the lower Tabuk barangays and the town of Rizal do not produce unoy rice.

Upper Tabuk, Tanudan, Balbalan, Upper Pinukpuk. Pasil and Tinglayan produce unoy.

Unoy rice varieties prefer the upland conditions, according to Aclam, noting that the taste and yield differ when these are planted in the lowland farms.

A negligible portion of unoy is now being exported to Montana, USA.

According to Apit Tako Spokesperson Virgie Dammay, unoy is now being produced in commercial quantities, with the provincial government trying too hard to meet the export quota for organically produced rice.

“This export program led farmers to devote more rice lands to the production of unoy. Even traditional vegetable swidden farms are now being planted to unoy,” said Mila Lingbawan of Innabuyog-Gabriela. She said, unoy was originally a paddy rice.

With more and more farmers encouraged to produce unoy for commercial purposes, TMK fears environmental degradation.

“It commands a higher price, farmers tend to produce it for sale amid food shortage and hunger,” said Bulaat.

Rice took center stage here Wednesday as the agriculture department gathered more than a thousand rice farmers, seed producers, local government officials and agriculture employees.

The rice info caravan featured a one-day stakeholders’ forum at the city gym.

Neither Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nor Yap came to the dismay of the contingent. The duo was invited as main guests.

The forum focused on Arroyo’s center piece agriculture program FIELDS as government agencies focused on improving its organic fertilizer program; restoring irrigation systems, extension services; loans; dryers and post-harvest facilities;  and production and promotion of hybrid seeds. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

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