Heat-resistant rice seeds ready for commercial distribution
After a decade of development and research, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has finally gotten the go-ahead to commercially distribute the country’s first high temperature-tolerant rice seed.
Named NSIC Rc 600 and 602, these new rice variants have the capacity to withstand temperatures exceeding 33 degrees Celsius—or the point when palay crops become susceptible to sterility that results in lower yields.
Doctors Norvie Manigbas and Nenita Desamero—lead breeders of 600 and 602—said these variants were products of 10 years of breeding in response to the rising temperatures that threaten to minimize local production of rice.
According to Manigbas, the projected temperature in most parts of the country over the next 25 years would be higher than 35 degrees Celsius. In the next 50 years, it may even reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.
“When temperatures hit 35 degrees Celsius and above, the fertility of rice plant starts to decrease, thus the need to develop high temperature-tolerant rice varieties,” he said.
“If you have 100 grains that are exposed to high temperature during the reproductive stage, it is likely that the yield would be cut by as much as 50 percent. Imagine the effect if you are a farmer aiming to produce a cavan of rice or more,” he added.
While the varieties have yet to be tested in El Niño conditions, Manigbas said in a phone interview that one of NSIC Rc 600’s parent seeds was a heat-tolerant variant from Africa, which increases its chance to become a drought-resistant crop as well.
The new seed variants were already distributed to select farmers in Nueva Ecija, Camarines Sur and Cagayan. The first harvest using the heat-tolerant seeds is expected between March and April of next year.
For now, farmers who are interested to try the NSIC Rc 600 and 602 variants may go to PhilRice’s office in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. It is expected to be available in the markets by next year at a price that can range between P38 and P45 a kilo.
Following this new technological development, Manigbas said PhilRice breeders would continue to collaborate with other rice stakeholders in the country to develop multiple stress-tolerant rice variants.
To date, the institute has already bred 96 inbred and hybrid rice varieties since 1992, including flood-resistant ones.
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