Hybrid rice production leaps to another level through the collaborative efforts of Bayer and the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office XII (DA-RFO XII). Six months ago, both parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement for the implementation of a pilot project to boost hybridization in the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, and Sultan Kudarat. Dubbed as Project 10k, the initiative aims to support the farmer-recipients of Bayer’s flagship hybrid Arize®Bigante Plus under the DA Rice Program. This translates to 10,000 hectares of rice farm planted with said hybrid.

Technology transfer

With hybrid technology, farmers can increase their yield by up to 20%. For this reason, hybridization is deemed as one of the solutions to help Filipino farmers run their business in this highly competitive rice market. In order to maximize the hybrid’s full potential, farmers need to be equipped with the right knowledge and farming techniques.

One of the pillars of Project 10k is training via Bayer Agricademy. Here, farmers learn about hybrid rice production including pest and disease management. “Most of the farmers are first-time hybrid users. As part of Bayer’s commitment to help hasten technology adoption, we bring this training platform to educate the farmers and impart our Much More Rice Package of Technology (POT)”, said Recher Ondap, Head of Seeds for Bayer CropScience.

(From left to right) Pablo Lucas Jr., Department of Agriculture Municipal Agricultural Technologist and rice coordinator; Randy Robles, farmer from Sultan Kudarat; and Marion Gil Llorente, POT technician.

Randy Robles, a farmer from Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat is a first-time hybrid user. He attended one of the Agricademy trainings held last June and found it extremely helpful. “I learned how to take care of my Arize®Bigante Plus crop through Agricademy. I can already see the difference versus my previous inbred. I know I will get a higher yield this time”, he said.

Riclem Sainz of General Santos expressed the same positive experience with Agricademy. While he is not a first-time user of Arize®Bigante Plus, he appreciated the learning opportunity, especially about the proper use of crop protection products. “It’s important to use the right chemicals with the proper timing to protect my crop. Other farmers say my field looks good”, shared Sainz. As of last month, a total of 23 Agricademy days have been conducted across the region.

Close supervision

Aside from training, Bayer and RFO XII support the farmers through technical field supervision. Bayer has deployed additional technicians to ensure that farmers are able to apply what they learn in their own fields. “The beauty of this partnership is that we have more manpower on the ground to focus on the needs of our farmers”, said Ray Embajador, Chief Field Operations Division RFO XII. According to him, it is important that the farmer-recipients are closely and continuously monitored to help them succeed in their farming enterprise. “The project is greatly accepted by stakeholders because our work doesn’t stop with just providing seeds, inputs, or technologies. The farmers feel we are right behind them every step of the way”, he added.

“I follow Bayer’s complete recommendation. The technicians visit me often and give advice on which pesticides I need to use”, shared Mario Almida, a farmer from Koronadal City, South Cotabato. He now uses full range of Bayer crop protection products because he feels these complement his Arize®hybrid. “I am thankful to the technicians for introducing these products to me”, he concluded.

Ritche Cabayao, a young farmer from Surallah, South Cotabato,uses Bayer’s AHA POT. AHA stands for Arize Hybrid Advantage – a set of agronomic recommendations suited for areas with sandy loam type soil. “This is the first season I am trying the AHA POT with the assistance of Bayer technicians”, said Cabayao. In the past, he is doing direct seeding, but this time, he tried transplanting his Bigante Plus seeds. Despite the shift from his normal practice, he remains confident and optimistic he will harvest more because of the guidance and support that he gets from Bayer and DA.

Securing harvests for a bountiful future

Hybridization holds a lot of promise to improve productivity and profitability of rice farmers. “Rice farming is our source of livelihood. We must increase our yield and income to be able to support our families”, said Wellie Sercia, of Alabel, Sarangani. Sercia is among the many farmers that rely on Arize hybrids to give him optimal yield. He is targeting to harvest 230 cavans out of his direct-seeded Bigante Plus rice field, which he says is quite possible given the current crop stand.

As the harvest season draws near, the pilot run of Project 10k in Mindanao is likewise almost completed. Both parties are looking forward to continue and further strengthen the collaboration for the benefit of the rice farmers in the region. The initiative is also being replicated in other regions. “We hope that DA will continue to push for hybridization especially now that palay prices are going down, and more than ever, we need to plant hybrid to improve our quality of living”, Sercia aptly relates.

This story was originally published in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2019 issue.