Traditional rice varieties preserved in Ilocos Region
(The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The abounding diversity of rice, Philippines’ main crop and staple, can be traced back to the country’s rich heritage.

However, in a constantly changing world, traditional varieties are often put on the sidelines, and worse, forgotten.

But, being a nation where identity and culture are kept alive, preservation efforts are being made so that the traditional crop varieties can survive and may be passed on from one generation to the next.

This is exactly what the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 1 envisions through a project aimed at providing good quality seeds to rice growers and scientists.

Studies showed that traditional rice varieties contain less fat versus hybrid rice, making them an excellent source of minerals and vitamins such as niacin, thiamine, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D. They are also known to possess high amounts of fiber and lesser sugar.

 Aside from these health benefits, traditional rice varieties carry exceptional characteristics like resistance to pests and diseases, high-yielding capability, and are genetically engineered to serve as building blocks for new varieties.

Project leader and INREC Center chief Wilma Ibea said the conservation and profiling of traditional varieties reinforce genetic improvement, leading to the development of new and better varieties.

Over 70 traditional rice varieties were collected from different municipalities of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan and planted in the experimental farm at INREC, Batac, Ilocos Norte during wet seasons of cropping years  2014-2017.

Growth cycle traits, vegetative properties and reproductive traits before and after harvest were the primary data gathered during characterization.

It was observed that all traditional rice varieties have the same population uniformity, life cycle, color and spikelet fertility.

However, out of the 71 varieties, only 53 were able to survive because some of them did not adapt locally and some were prone to “rice blast” disease.

Isik pugot, a traditional rice variety came out to be the most promising variety, having produced the most number of tillers.  It also  produced the heaviest weight of 1,000 seed grains at 36 grams, and the highest yield of 4.3 tons per hectare.

Ibea said  this variety could be used by farmers in rainfed and lowland areas.

Other promising varieties include Kamurus rice, Gal-ong, Makandaras, and Black rice. These are drought-tolerant and need a lesser amount of fertilizers.

To date, there are nine farmers and 12 local government units (LGUs) who are continuously planting traditional rice varieties.

Each farmer was provided with 40 kilograms of seeds while the LGUs were given 350 kilos each.

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