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Editorial: New rice variety boosts goal of self-sufficiency.

The Philippines suffers considerable losses in its rice production every time a typhoon brings rains that flood the nation's rice fields. Many times in the past, expected rice harvests have had to be reduced because of weather disturbances, especially in Northern Luzon at this time of the year.

A revolution in rice technology has now been announced by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that may make rice flood losses a thing of the past. During the 4th International Rice Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand, Dr. Robert Zeigler, director general of IRRI, announced what he called "the second Green Revolution."

It began, he said, when an Indian farmer planted a new variety of rice that contained a gene - Submergence1 - that allows it to tolerate flood. His farm was submerged for 17 days but he went on to harvest 4.5 tons per hectare, the global average. Since then, Dr. Zeigler said, Submergence1 varieties of rice have spread in eastern India and other regions where flooding is a perennial problem.

The first Green Revolution began in 1963 when IRRI developed the IR8 rice variety which raised rice production from 1.5 tons per hectare to four tons per hectre. IRRI was established by the Philippine government in Los Banos, Laguna, in 1962, with the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. The IR8 variety made the Philippines a rice exporter. Around the world, it saved millions from starvation.

In 1971, several other rice research centers were established all over the world,with the support of the World Bank. The continuing research in IRRI centers has now resulted in the new rice variety which survives the worst floods - a perennial problem in the Philippines. In another 15 years, Dr. Zeigler predicted, more robust C4 and nitrogen-fixing rice varieties will be developed that will further increase rice harvests for a third Green Revolution.

The new Submergence1 rice variety will help the Philippines achieve rice self-sufficiency. At the start of the Aquino administration, Secretary of Agriculture Proceso Alcala had set the goal of 100 percent rice self-sufficiency. It has already reached the 96 percent level, he said, and it is only the time constraint, typhoons, and other unforeseen circumstances that have so far kept the country from its goal.

The good news from the IRRI - of a new rice variety that can survive the floods in our country - will help the Philippines finally reach its goal of rice self sufficiency.


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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 5, 2014
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