By Zac B. Sarian

In these times of high cost of production, our technologists and entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ways to cut expenses. And in the case of rice production, one of the ways being explored is the adoption of direct seeding and dry seeding.

Direct seeding is the old practice of “sabog tanim,” which is done by broadcasting pre-germinated seeds in the properly prepared field – thoroughly plowed and harrowed. Dry seeding is practiced in areas where there is little irrigation or is non-existent. It differs from direct seeding in that the seeds are not pregerminated.

The good news is that a hybrid rice variety has been found to be highly suitable for direct seeding and dry seeding. This is the Tatag Hybrid TH82 which was successfully tested for dry seeding on 200 hectares and on 2,000 hectares for direct seeding. The demo plantings were done in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat under the auspices of DA Regional Field Office headed by Engr. Milagros Casis. The private sector that has been collaborating with the government agency is SeedWorks Philippines headed by Carlos Saplala. The company provided the TH82 seeds, as well as technical guidance.

The successful trial plantings in big scale using a hybrid variety is very significant. Now, government agriculturists can promote hybrid rice planting by the direct and dry seeding methods. Because TH82 is a hybrid, it has a higher yield potential than the inbred varieties which were and are still used in direct seeding in different parts of the country. TH82 is said to have an extensive root system so that it can take up nutrients from the soil efficiently, thus saving fertilizers for the farmer. Because of its hybrid vigor, it is more resistant to biotic as well as abiotic stresses like water scarcity, strong winds, and others.

Moreover, aside from the higher yield potential of direct and dry-seeded hybrid rice, the techniques are super fast in doing the job and in cutting costs. For instance, one hectare could be direct-seeded by just one person in one day at a cost of P1,500. On the other hand, the cost of pulling and planting the seedlings in one hectare in Sultan Kudarat and other provinces of the region amounts to about P12,000. Planting one hectare in one day can involve 20 planters.

Mechanized direct seeding

There are exciting developments in connection with direct seeding of rice. Eugene Gabriel of Agri Components based in Isabela said they are taking a good look at using drones for the direct seeding of rice. He said that a drone can direct-seed one hectare in 20 to 30 minutes using 20 kilos of seeds. Owners of big farms are taking a good look at drones for direct seeding, said Gabriel.

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

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2019 issue.