Just before the recent announcement of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the arrival of El Niño, the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program has already delivered almost 2 million bags of certified seeds that included early-maturing varieties across the country.

Experts at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said early-maturing varieties are recommended during El Niño as these can be harvested before the drought intensifies so farmers can avoid its effects.

“Early-maturing varieties have better probability of ‘escaping’ the drought that the El Niño may cause at the last quarter of the year,” Dr. Flordeliza H. Bordey, director of the RCEF Program Management Office at PhilRice, said.

Farmers received NSIC Rc 480, which has a maturity period of 107 days and yields an average range of 3.2-4.4t/ha in the rainfed ecosystem. NSIC Rc 480 has an intermediate reaction to stemborer, blast, and green and brown plant hopper.

Certified seeds of NSIC Rc 27, a variety that work well in upland areas where the main water source is rain, were also delivered. With 2.7-4.3t/ha yield in upland condition, NSIC Rc 27 also matures in 107 days and has moderate resistance against white stem borer and intermediate reaction to bacterial leaf blight and sheath blight.

Farmers registered in the Registry System for the Basic Sectors in Agriculture will also receive other varieties with similar maturity characteristics including NSIC Rc 222, Rc 436, and Rc 440.

The use of early-maturing varieties is one of the key adaptation mechanisms recommended by the PhilRice El Niño task force.

The task force also encourages farmers to adopt water-saving technologies, crop diversification, and off-farm practices like crop insurance.

“El Niño is not new, but it seems to be occurring more often. Let’s help our stakeholders identify and choose adaptation strategies that are better suited to their local context,” said Engr. Elmer Alosnos, task force member.

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