By Zac B. Sarian
BEAUTIFUL FRUITING RICE IN PLASTIC CONTAINERS – These rice plants grown by Dennis Miguel and his student assistants look very impressive with their beautiful stand, heavy with developing grains. Each plant with more than a hundred tillers started with just one tiny seedling. The SRI protocol can help boost rice productivity in the country, even in rainfed, unirrigated farms for as long as there is source of water to keep the soil moist whenever it is necessary.
JUST ONE SMALL SEEDLING PER PLASTIC BAG – A student who is a member of the SRI production team of Dennis Miguel demonstrates how to plant one seedling in each plastic bag. This is what they did when they first experimented in planting a single seedling in one container. In time, the small plant will produce a lot of tillers that will produce full-sized panicles.
ONE BAGGED RICE PLANT UPCLOSE – Photo shows a close up of a heavily fruiting rice grown in a plastic bag following the protocol in the System for Rice Intensification (SRI) developed by experts of Cornell University in the United States and now used in countries in Africa and elsewhere.
BURIED IN THE GROUND – To keep the moisture of the soil in the plastic bags easier to maintain, the members of Dennis Miguel’s team dug holes in the ground where the bags were installed. Then water from a hose is directed to the ground to keep soil moist.
PANICLES FROM ONE POTTED RICE – Photo shows the panicles harvested from one hill grown in a black plastic bag. One hill gave an average of 700 grams of palay. The grains are fully filled.
SPRAYING WITH SUPRAVIM – The bagged rice plants were sprayed with Supravim four times during the production cycle of the rice plants grown in black plastic bags. Supravim is considered an organic plant growth promoter from the United States and distributed in the Philippines by Anthony Cortes who is also helping the production team of Dennis Miguel. This growth promotant induces the rice plants to produce massive roots that take up nutrients in the soil. It also promotes heavy tillering so that more panicles are produced.
Would you believe that one tiny rice seedling with just two leaves at planting time can yield 700 grams of grains? That’s what Dennis Miguel has proven when he planted rice in black plastic nursery bags following the “System of Rice Intensification” or SRI developed by experts of Cornell University.
Dennis, 35, of Isabela is a bachelor who studied nursing but who became a farmer by choice. First, he partnered with a landowner in growing melons in Cauayan, Isabela. Although growing melons was very profitable (he had a share of P500,000 in one season), he gave that up because he wanted to master the art of producing rice the SRI way and dreaming of one day breaking the world record rice harvest of 20.2 tons per hectare achieved in India by Sumant Kumar.
His obsession to break the world record rice harvest started after he got hold of a manual on SRI which had complete, simple instructions on how to grow rice the SRI way. He encouraged seven graduating students from the Isabela State University-Cauayan Campus to assist him in the project. The first experiment of growing SRI rice was done while still with his partner in melon planting. It only involved the planting of 30 plants in black plastic nursery bags.
Under the SRI protocol, one should plant only very healthy seedlings of a good variety. The seedling is transplanted very carefully so that no roots are damaged when uprooting and transplanting. The seedlings are only 10 to 12 days old and with two leaves. Only one seedling is planted per container.
Adequate moisture should be maintained in the soil that is supporting the plants. And the plants should be fertilized adequately with the right formulation. The growing medium that Dennis and his partners used in growing their rice plants was ordinary soil taken from the topsoil of a rice field.
For fertilizer, they drenched the potted rice plants with complete fertilizer (14-14-14) that was dissolved in water. They did that four times during the production cycle so it was not really expensive. They also sprayed the plants with Supravim four times during the growing period. Supravim is a plant growth promotant that enhances massive production of long roots which take up nutrients from the soil fast, resulting in fast growth. Supravim also promotes production of many tillers (as many as 185 tillers per plant compared to the 10 to 15 tillers of most rice plants of ordinary farmers.)
All the tillers in their initial planting produced full-sized panicles resulting in high yield.
At first, the young plants in containers were just placed on the ground. However, the soil dried up within a short period so that they had to water them four times a day. To make maintenance of moisture in the soil easier, they dug holes in the ground where they installed the rice plants in plastic bags. Then they just supplied the needed water with a hose from the shallow tubewell.
To the pleasant surprise of Dennis and his helpers, the rice plants grown the SRI way really looked great. They were very robust and produced fully filled grains. That prompted Dennis to look for a farm owner that they could collaborate with in pursuing their dream of breaking the world record in rice harvest.
The fellow who was also so interested in the project is Eric Pungan of Santiago City. Eric owned a 1.5-hectare rainfed farm which Dennis and his team used to plant Bigante hybrid rice. The rest is now history. The rice plants were harvested last April 20. Although, they failed to break the world record, they have proven that with SRI, high yield can be achieved. In fact, they harvested 200 cavans of palay from one hectare which used to produce only 50 cavans in the last three years.