By Zac B. Sarian
Try this in your home garden where there is full sun. Grow rice in containers. It could be in rubberized containers or in the simple black plastic nursery bags. That’s what Dennis Miguel from Isabela did, which you could duplicate. You might be thrilled and follow what he subsequently did.
Dennis finished a nursing course but he opted to become a farmer. In 2015, he received a reading material that described in detail what the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was all about. He was then growing honeydew melons with a partner, which was profitable. In one season, he got a share of P500,000 from their melon crop.
But he was intrigued by the simplicity and apparent doability of the SRI technique. For a small start, he gathered seven graduating agriculture students from the Isabela State University Cauayan campus to help him implement his idea of growing rice the SRI way. He gave up his partnership in growing melons to pursue his dream of growing rice and hoping one day breaking the world record rice harvest of 20.2 tons per hectare achieved in 2011 in India.
They planted one 10-day-old rice seedling in every plastic bag measuring one foot tall and 10 inches in diameter filled with topsoil from the ricefield. At first, they had to water the plants four times a day because the soil dried up very easily. So they decided to dig holes in the ground where they installed the rice plants in plastic bags. They just had to flood the ground once in a while to maintain moisture in the potted rice plants.
The principle in SRI is that the rice seedlings should be carefully taken care of, especially in the very young stage. The roots should not be broken while transplanting. There should be ample space between plants so there is room for extensive root and canopy growth.
And what did Dennis and his team of agriculture students find? If given the right fertilizers and growing conditions, the good rice variety will attain its potential yield. They only drenched the plants (30 pots in all) four times with complete fertilizer (14-14-14) dissolved in water. They also sprayed them with Supravim, a plant growth accelerator that induced production of long and extensive roots needed for fast uptake of nutrients from the soil. It also induced heavy tillering.
To the surprise of Dennis and his team, the single seedling produced 185 tillers that produced full-sized panicles. One pot produced 700 grams of palay! That encouraged them to partner with Eric Pungan who owned a rainfed field. They planted the farm following the SRI protocol last January 3.
The rest is history. Last April 20, the crop was harvested with the crop cut in three places done by the representatives of PhilRice and the Department of Agriculture in Region 2. They harvested the equivalent of 200 cavans per hectare in a field that used to give the owners an average of 50 cavans per hectare.
Dennis said they spent about P50,000 per hectare in growing their SRI crop. And the value of the palay if sold at the current price has been computed at P171,950. That means a profit of P121,950 per hectare, really a very good return on investment.
Many farmers with small farm lots should be able to do what Dennis and his team did. In fact, Dennis confessed that it was his first time to grow rice. He just relied on the reading material on SRI, the internet, and the help of technicians and experienced farmers. He also acknowledges the full support of the farm owner, Eric Pungan. And of course the students from ISU Cauayan campus, among them Benedict Guzman, Karlo Dizon, Marcial Turqueza, Giovanny Pita, Rodney Pascua, Erylle Abad, and Juanito Lanuza Jr.