By Zac B. Sarian
The usual talk about rice these days centers on hybrid rice. This is because the perception is that hybrids are high yielding while the ordinary inbred or open-pollinated varieties (OPV) are very low yielding.
That’s not surprising because there are reports of some hybrid rice farmers who are getting as high as 200 cavans per hectare (ha). On the other hand, many OPVs may be giving only 70 to 80 cavans/ha.
The truth, however, is that the certified yields of the hybrids are much lower than 200 cavans/ha. SL-8, one of the popular hybrids, has a certified yield of 5.9 tons per hectare during the dry season and 5.8 tons in the wet season. That’s equivalent to 118 cavans during the dry season and 116 cavans in the wet season. Bigante, another popular hybrid in the market, on the other hand, has a certified yield of 5.6 tons per hectare during both wet and dry seasons.
Many farmers may not know it but there are two inbred varieties developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute that produce yields comparable to those of hybrids.
One is NSIC Rc222, which has a certified yield of 6.8 tons per hectare during the wet season and 5.8 tons during the dry season. Another inbred is NSIC 216 with a certified yield of 6.4 tons per hectare during the wet season and 4.9 tons during the dry season. Both are certified by the National Seed Industry Council.
A private agricultural researcher, Alfonso G. Puyat, urges that farmers, especially those who cannot afford the high cost of hybrid seeds, might as well plant the improved OPVs for a number of good reasons. One reason is that the seeds of inbreds cost only P30 per kilo compared to P300 per kilo for the hybrid seeds.
There is another big advantage for farmers who plant the high-yielding inbred varieties. They no longer have to buy new seeds for planting because they can set aside what they need from their own harvest. That is something they cannot do if they plant the hybrid variety. They have to buy new seeds all the time.
By the way, Puyat, who has done a lot of research on rice in his private capacity, says that if all our rice farms could be made to yield 100 cavans per hectare, the production could be enough to feed the present population of the country. And a cheaper way to achieve that is to plant the improved inbred varieties.
The seed producers can produce enough certified seeds of inbred rice for planting. One hectare could yield five tons of inbred seeds. On the other hand, one hectare could only produce one ton of hybrid seeds because it is much more difficult to produce the seeds of hybrid rice. Last year, the eight hybrid seed companies produced only 94,000 18-kg bags enough to plant 95,000 hectares. Hybrid seeds had to be imported to meet the requirements of the farmers.
Now you see, it’s high time our farmers took a good look at the high-yielding inbred rice varieties.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2016 issue.