Three drought-resilient rice varieties will be tested in pilot farms by the Davao Region office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of the dry spell brought about by El Niño.
The pilot farms are in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces, according to Herna M. Palma, DA Region 11’s lead official on El Niño.
Ms. Palma said the rice varieties will be used in the next cropping season and evaluated based on survival rate and yield.
“There is a need to look into how large would the impact be on these varieties and whether the yield would be better,” Ms. Palma told BusinessWorld.
She further explained that some of the high-yield rice varieties “are very susceptible to heat”.
In Davao Oriental, considered the rice granary of the region, the provincial government is pushing to expand the area planted to rice following the opening last year of a new irrigation system in Cateel town.
The irrigation system was built under the World Bank’s Mindanao Rural Development Program.
DA-11 data show there are about 57,000 hectares planted to rice and the production rate increased last year from a year ago by 7% to 421,700 metric tons.
Ms. Palma said the agency is hoping that the adoption of the new varieties “will allow the region to sustain the yield.”
If the pilot farms prove successful, the new rice varieties will be adopted in other areas during the first cropping next year.
DA recently reported that the region has so far incurred about P60 million in crop damage over some 2,000 hectares of rice and corn farms.
Ms. Palma said the damage could have been bigger had not most of the farms been scheduled to harvest in March.
However, she continued, the threat to agricultural production remains with the country’s weather agency forecasting El Niño to continue until the middle of the year.
DA Regional Director Remelyn R. Recoter, meanwhile, said the agency has also prepared seeds for farms that will seek the help from the agency.
DA will “first conduct validation before the distribution of these seeds”, Ms. Recoter said.