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Farmers urged to shift to climate change-ready rice varieties

/ 05:38 AM December 02, 2017

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has developed 14 climate change-ready varieties of rice that could help farmers withstand extreme weather conditions in the country, according to a multiawarded scientist.

Roel Suralta, who heads the Crop Biotechnology Center of the Department of Agriculture, said these varieties were also 35 percent more productive than today’s high-yielding varieties.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) puts the average at between 3 to 4 tons per hectare.

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“Biotechnology helps improve rice yield. Through biotechnology, varieties are developed in five to seven years. Conventional breeding takes 10 to 12 years,” Suralta said.

“Promoting these varieties is one of the things that we can do to help the farmers,” he added.

Earlier this month, La Niña watch has been declared by the Agricultural Market Information System, which is marked by heavier-than-usual rainfall.

With the climate and the weather swinging from one extreme to another, the agency is advising farmers to go for high-technology seeds, especially those that are flood-resistant.

PhilRice’s varieties include the Submarino 1, which can survive after submergence in flood water for two weeks. Other varieties are Tubigan 7, the country’s first product of marker-aided selection; and Tubigan 3, which is the agency’s first variety developed through anther culture.

These varieties can withstand drought, flash flood and salinity, according to PhilRice.

Data from the PSA showed that the crop subsector of agriculture had always been dependent of weather conditions. Despite the use of hybrid seeds, rice output is often affected by typhoons, especially during the third quarter.

For this year’s Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines ranked fifth in the most vulnerable countries to climate change, just below Honduras, Myanmar, Haiti and Nicaragua.

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It reported that from 1996 to 2005, the country suffered $2761-million loss from 11,000 weather events during the given period.

“The Philippines is recurrently affected by catastrophes and continuously rank among the most affected countries both in the long term index and in the index for the respective year for the last six years,” it said.—KARL R. OCAMPO

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