As part of the National Rice Awareness Month activities, farmers of Nasugbu, Batangas participated in a Farm Walk in Sitio Manggahan, Barangay Putat, Nasugbu, Batangas, where the first-ever direct- seeded Malusog rice variety was planted by farmer, Gerardo Cabasis, in his 1.9 hectare palay farm.
Cabasis lost his entire wet season crop before July 10 to storms, strong winds and smog. He then appealed for help to the Department of Agriculture National Rice Program.
Director Emerson Yago for rice clustering of the Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) asked the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Nueva Ecija and Los Banos to provide him with 80 kilos of Malusog Rice seeds and technical assistance while the DA gave him eight sacks of complete and other fertilizers through its fertilizer vouchers program for rice farmers to help him recover from his heavy losses.
After thoroughly preparing his farm two times before August 9 he then directly seeded the Malusog seeds into his farm and initially applied four sacks of fertilizers and two weeks later another four sacks, or just a total of 8 sacks.
Malusog rice is enriched with betacarotine which when absorbed by the body becomes Vitamin A, that could address the acute Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among schoolchildren 5 years and below and pregnant and lactating women.
Cabasis tended his farm religiously against weeds, insects or pests which he surprisingly found was not a major problem with Malusog rice and that this variety can grow properly and well in Nasugbu. He explained that subsequent heavy rains, strong winds and smog from Taal volcano after August did negligible damage to his standing crop as the Malusog seed is sturdy and resilient.
He expects to harvest this third week of November or only in 95 days, as against what PhilRice said would take 108 days. He said he expects to harvest 5 tons per hectare or more.
He encouraged farmers of Nasugbu, members of an irrigators association that he headed for eight years to keep an open mind about Malusog rice, which he said he already successfully tested in his rice field.
At the open forum that followed the Farm Walk, farmers asked questions about the market and prices but PhilRice officials said they are not yet selling pending their seed certification by appropriate agencies. PhilRice, however, will buy all Cabasis’ produce at prevailing market price.
But a potential niche market are government agencies involved in feeding programs like the Departments of Education and Social Welfare and Development and local government units.. PhilRice said it would explore possible collaborations with these national and local agencies.
Malusog rice can potentially be part of the MRIDP program of the DA, which would be implemented during the dry or wet season crop in 2024, explained Director Yago.
Yago also enjoined farmers to register with the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) so they can join a cluster, where government would channel all inputs support (seeds, fertilizers, biofertilizer and soil inoculants), credit, extension and other assistance directly. (RDLC)