‘Crop painting’ makes farming cool, sexy

No, aliens or any mysterious forces have not been visiting the rice fields of Nueva Ecija. And those are not mind-boggling patterns impressed on the crops.

But yes, these may be “Signs” (to borrow a title from Hollywood movie about crop circles) that portend well for the Philippine agriculture sector.


What people, both locals and visitors alike, have been flocking to in the past two weeks—at the main experiment station of Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz—is a newfound art taking root in Philippine soil, that is paddy art which turns the rice field into a canvas.

The entire staff of PhilRice’s 30-strong genetic resources division “planted and painted” the faces of “AlDub” stars Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza into a 1,600-square-meter plot using two rice varieties.


“We used the modern or inbred rice variety NSIC Rc360 which is the usual green color and also a traditional or heirloom purple rice (the entire plant, including stalks and leaves, is purple) variety to provide the contrast and make the image,” PhilRice deputy executive director Roger F. Barroga tells Agri Matters.

Barroga says that since viewing was opened to the public on March 15, more than 2,000 people have come to view the paddy art.

Barroga learned about paddy art in April last year during a study tour in Taiwan. It is also being done in South Korea but the art started in Japan, in Inakadate village of the Aomori prefecture—the northern tip of the main and largest island of Honshu.

Inakadate took up rice paddy art in 1993 as part of efforts to revitalize the village, which has a population of about 8,000 and where rice farming has been a tradition for the past 2,000 years.

This year, the latest artwork in Inakadate depicts the droids of “Star Wars” as well as a reproduction of the poster for the 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind.”

In past artworks, the Inakadate villagers have reproduced Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa,” Marilyn Monroe in the famous billowing white dress from “The Seven Year Itch,” “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Jacques-Louis David, traditional Japanese artworks depicting samurai and ocean waves, and Japanese TV characters Ultraman and Naruto.

In the Philippines, PhilRice started doing paddy art with a portrait of Jose Rizal in last year’s wet-season cropping.


“We used the same two rice varieties,” Barroga says. “Our ICT specialist Nehemiah Caballong designed the artwork in the computer using programs that include Photoshop. Plotting the design is like doing cross stitching.”

In a publicity statement, Caballong describes art technique as using the anamorphosis principle, involving a distorted image that will only appear normal when viewed from a certain angle.

“It is the same principle used in 3D street and room art,” Caballong says. “We adjusted the image to the vantage point of the viewing area. Then, we processed it into grids to determine where to plant the rice varieties on a certain coordinate in the field.”

Barroga says the public’s response was “overwhelming.” Many locals come early in the day, some still in their pajamas, carrying babies and enjoying the morning sun. But visitors arrive all throughout the day, taking the opportunity to view the paddy art while there is still light.

“And with our kayaking facility nearby, the viewing turns into a full-blown excursion,” Barroga says. “We’ve overheard a visitor exclaiming that, because of the paddy art, the farm turned into a park.”

“Novo Ecijanos feel very proud of the rice field painting, especially with out-of-towners including TV crews coming over to check it out,” Barroga adds. “And overall, people have found a new appreciation of rice farming in particular and agriculture in general.”

He says the creation of the rice paddy art fits well with PhilRice’s efforts to raise the awareness of young people—the so-called “millennials”—on rice farming and agriculture.

The novelty of paddy art rides well with PhilRice’s various programs like Infomediary Campaign, which mobilizes young people to serve as information providers in the rice-farming communities. The campaign operates in 108 high schools nationwide in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

There is also PhilRices’ Rice Boot Camp, a training program that helps enhance the capacity of fresh graduates in agriculture and related sciences on the latest rice production technologies.

Further, the institute also has an initiative for the out-of-school youth through the AgRiDOCs or Agricultural Development Officers of the Community. This seven week-long training equips OSYs with both technical knowledge and a positive mindset toward farming and agriculture.

“Now, youngsters feel excitement about farming,” Barroga says. “Farming in their eye used to be something that involves hardship and getting dirty, something to be avoided. Now they think farming is cool.”

The current rice paddy art—called “AlDub rice”—is available for viewing until April 3. Barroga explains that, with the rice plants bearing fruit over the next few weeks, the green variety would grow over and practically cover up the purple variety. This means that the AlDub faces would no longer be visible.

“We plan to keep this up in future cropping cycles and the next one will be planted in July,” Barroga says. “We will experiment with other colors like red. For now, we are deciding what image would come alive next in the paddy.”

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TAGS: Agriculture, crop painting, farming, Nueva Ecija, Philippines
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