By Zac B. Sarian

The talk of the town in Region 12 in Mindanao is the successful direct seeding of hybrid rice during the wet season and dry seeding of 200 hectares and direct seeding of 2,000 hectares in the wet season.

By the way, the dry seeding differs from the usual direct seeding or “sabog tanim” usually practiced by farmers. Under dry seeding, the seeds are not pregerminated and is usually practiced where irrigation is limited or non-existent. On the other hand, in direct seeding, the seeds are usually pregeerminated before they are broadcasted in the field.

The demo farms using Tatag Hybrid TH82 from SeedWorks Philippines were undertaken by the Regional Field Office 12 of the Department of Agriculture in an effort to increase productivity of farms that are traditionally direct-seeded with the use of inbred varieties in the region. The region is popularly referred to as SOCCSKARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos).

Earlier, there were attempts to plant hybrid rice by direct seeding but were not successful, according to Precilla B. Baldonado, Community Service Office focal person from Purok Bannawag, Brgy. Palumbe, Lambayong.

With the very successful result of the direct-seeding demos, the DA officials in the region as well as the executives of SeedWorks Philippines headed by Carlos Saplala are very excited because the technique could mean a lot of savings for rice farmers, especially when adopted in the 90,000 hectares that are traditionally direct seeded with inbred varieties in the wet season and the 60,000 hectares dry-seeded.

Why are the agriculture officials excited? Because direct seeding could significantly reduce the cost of planting rice. Less labor cost is incurred compared with the planting if transplanted rice. In direct, as well as in dry seeding of one hectare, the job is finished in one day and it costs only about P1,500 per hectare in SOCCSKSARGEN. On the other hand, the cost of pulling and transplanting the seedlings in one hectare, finished in one day, is P12,000 per hectare.

At the same time, the use of hybrid rice will result in higher yields and bigger profits for the rice farmers. Even the 190,000 hectares traditionally devoted to transplanted rice in the region could possibly be converted to direct seeding.

The successful direct seeding and dry seeding trials of hybrid rice in Region 12 has a lot of significance. If it can be adopted in the rice growing areas in Luzon and Visayas, the planting of suitable rice varieties like TH82, rice production in the country would be boosted tremendously. Much bigger areas could be planted to hybrid rice at a reduced cost because seedling production for transplanting would be eliminated.

The SeedWorks Mindanao Team headed by Frank Aguda convinced the agriculture officials in the region to try Tatag Hybrid TH82 for the wet season direct seeding and dry seeding in the summer months. Aguda was confident that TH82 would be able to perform well in both  seasons because of its hybrid vigor and a robust root system that enables the plants to take up nutrients more efficiently and are also more resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses.

Mechanized direct seeding

There are exciting developments in connection with direct seeding of rice. Eugene Gabriel of Agri Component said they are taking a good look at using drones for direct seeding of rice. He said that as per their data from the manufacturer, a drone can direct-seed one hectare in 20 to 30 minutes using 20 kilos of seed. Owners of big farms are taking a good look at drone direct seeding, said Gabriel.

There are now direct seeding machines that were recently introduced from Korea, China, and other sources. The beauty about direct seeding with machine is that the hills and the rows are uniformly spaced. Weeding and other operations could be more convenient and less expensive.