Los Baños, Philippines – Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters to find viable interventions to climate-related challenges facing rice farmers in her province.
“In the last four years, extreme drought has hit the province causing significant production losses,” Gov. Marcos said during her visit.
Ilocos Norte, in the northern part of Luzon, has a total of 66,000 hectares of upland and irrigated rice areas contributing to the province’s high rice sufficiency index of 286 percent. In fact, the province is one of the top 12 rice achievers in the country. Last year, however, drought affected more than a thousand hectares of rice fields prompting the province’s agricultural office to extend a total of PHP 19 million to support the struggling sector.
“Region 1, which includes Ilocos Norte, has been getting shorter but more intense rains that come much later than expected,” Ricardo Orge of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) explained. “In terms of absolute volume, rainfall has decreased by 30%.”
To address this concern, Gov. Marcos has earmarked funds for science-based agricultural interventions and solutions.
IRRI scientists presented water management technologies like alternate wetting and drying (AWD), the aerobic system of rice production, farm mechanization tools for drought-prone rainfed lowlands, and varieties like Sahod-ulan, Salinas, and Super Green Rice (GSR) that can withstand environmental stresses, such as drought and salinity. Also discussed were Rice Crop Manager, a free, online advisory service for farmers and the Next-Generation project, focused on developing more climate change-ready rice varieties more resistant to pests and disease.
Yoichi Kato, an IRRI agronomist who specializes in rainfed lowland rice ecosystems, demonstrated a mechanized planting implement. Dr. Kato also recommended increasing the province’s weather forecast capability, providing more demonstration fields, and promoting seed production and dissemination. Enhancing the information network, which should include millers and traders, was also a recommended solution to help farmers cope with problems related to climate change.
“There’s always a package of things that can be done and budget has to be put where it will matter,” Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI’s deputy director general for communication and partnerships. “We hope to ensure that we’re able to put options on the table and you can make choices.”
In addition to these technologies, PhilRice submitted an El Niño action plan to the Department of Agriculture that provides information on suggested varieties, timing of planting, water management and diversified farming, according Dr. Orge. PhilRice has been a long-time partner of IRRI in most of its research activities in the country.
Moving forward, the organizations represented agreed to work together to enhance the ability of Ilocos Norte’s rice production system to better cope with drought stress. PhilRice will provide training on dry seeding and advice on setting up water harvesting stations; under the DA-IRRI rice research and development collaboration under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program, the province will be given seeds tolerant to environmental stresses, which the regional DA office will distribute to drought-prone areas; and IRRI will provide training opportunities in its short courses as well as the blueprint for production of a mechanized seed driller.
“Water is the problem”, said Gov. Marcos. “My visit here has been a real eye-opener. I’m glad to be back at IRRI after a very long time.”
Learn more about IRRI (www.irri.org) or follow us on the social media and networks (all links down the right column).