Durable rice varieties that can withstand drought conditions and carry better nutritional values for an expanding population have been developed through breeding, biotechnology and selection.
Director Alicia Ilaga of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office said that submergence, flood, drought and saline-tolerant rice varieties can already be used and their production should be increased.
Among the developers of the said rice varieties are the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), UC-Davis, Nagoya University, University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).
For his part, PhilRice's Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso said rice is such a crucial food item for the country since 86 percent of the entire population depends on it and it accounts for 35 percent of consumers' daily caloric intake.
A plant breeder and biotechnologist, Dr. Alfonso stressed such varieties would redound to increased income for 2.4 million rice farmers with an average of six household members. A farmer tills an average of 1.14 hectares.
PhilRice is supported by IRRI, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, JAAS of China, Rockefeller Foundation and a host of local funding agencies.
The major aspects of the research and development efforts in rice are increased yield, resistance to pests, better physical and milling qualities, abiotic stress tolerance and good quality for consumption.
Alfonso stressed these varieties must likewise be acceptable to farmers, millers and consumers, must show stability of traits, adaptable to all weather conditions and must grow quicker.
Other considerations are the number of productive litters, increased number of grains per panicle, grain weight, weed competitiveness, resistance to lodging, adaptability to crop establishment and management practices and genetic diversity.
The target growing environment is important in setting the breeding objectives, he noted, and this covers irrigated lowlands, areas for transplanting, direct-seeded irrigated lowland, wet-seeded, dry-seeded and even flood-prone areas.
Alfonso said that the varieties must also grow in rainfed upland areas, cool elevated land, saline-prone zones and other types of soils.
PhilRice develops new varieties from existing strains and combine various traits in a single variety.
In the process of developing the best variety, PhilRice scientists will work on various combinations and permutations, testing the strains as to output, ease and timeliness in production and adaptability to both climatic and agronomic conditions. (biolife news service)