A Family Hooked to Hybrid Rice SL 8H
When one gets hooked to something, it becomes difficult to completely discard it. This could happen not only with dangerous drugs. Some people can get hooked to hybrid rice as if they are addicted to it, like a family in Tabacao, Talavera, Nueva Ecija who would plant nothing but SL Agritech hybrid rice varieties during the dry season.
The Serrano family has decided to devote all its farms of about 100 hectares (ha) to the production of SL 8H, the first hybrid rice variety of SL Agritech Corp. that was released by the National Seed Industry Council. One member of the family has even dared to plant 9 ha with SL 7, a new SL Agritech line.
At the helm of the Serrano family is Solita Serrano, better known in Tabacao as Nanay Soling. She prides herself of having raised 11 children who are still alive. Eight of her children are working in Italy and have invested all their savings in irrigated rice lands in Tabacao.
Although Nanay Soling is already 75 years old, she is still strong to manage more than 50 hectares (ha) of irrigated land, 17 ha of which belong to her. The rest are owned by two of her children who are working in Italy. She had been helping her husband, who died late last year manage their farm for 15 years.
She relates that whenever a land was offered for sale, she would buy it as long as she had money. They had only 5 ha before her children went to Italy, but soon after her children began to send money back home, they were able to buy more lands.
“All of these would not have been bought without me,” Nanay Soling said with a tone of pride as she points to the areas in Tabacao that are now owned by her children as we go around the rice farms in the barangay.
She said that her late husband planted 15 ha with SL 8H in the 2004-2005 dry season when SL 8H was first introduced in Tabacao. They harvested 140 to 150 cavans a hectare, which was higher than most inbred varieties. A cavan weighs 54 to 56 kilos depending on the size of the sack.
As they continued to get good yields from SL 8H during the dry season, unknowingly they got hooked to this hybrid rice variety. If possible, Nanay Soling would not want to plant any other variety during the dry season except SL 8H.
Last dry season, for instance, she made a reservation of 50 bags of SL 8H seeds at the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka Agricultural Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative in the barangay. She was hoping to get all of it since the co-op chairman. Ricardo “Carding” Buenaventura, is her son-in-law. However, she was able to get only 30 bags, which were enough for only 30 ha.
She got a little angry when she found out that the co-op, a dealer of SL 8H seeds, already ran out of supply. That’s expected as an initial reaction. On the other hand, she admitted that she was also to be blamed because she did not get all her order at one time. Since other farmers also wanted to plant the variety, she added, the co-op continued to give them the available seeds until SL Agritech Corp. could no longer make an additional delivery because of unforeseen increasing demand.
For Nanay Soling, a harvest of 160 cavans a hectare, which is her highest yield so far, is enough reason for her to continue planting SL 8H.
Nanay Soling’s son-in-law, Carding, is also an advocate and promoter of SL 8H in Tabacao. In the dry season of 2004-2005 (December to April) when SL 8H was first planted in commercial scale in this barangay, 50-year-old Carding already had the biggest area (8 ha) planted to SL 8H.
Earlier, a techno demo of 1 ha conducted in his farm convinced him and other members of the coop about the bright prospects from this hybrid rice variety, and they were right.
Carding harvested 1,440 cavans from the 8 ha or an average of 180 cavans/ha fresh from the thresher. Knowing from experience that hybrid rice could be attacked by bacterial leaf blight during the wet season, he only planted the variety in the succeeding dry seasons.
Encouraged by his initial success, he planted 8 ha again in the dry season of 2005-2006 with the new hybrid variety and harvested 1,470 cavans or an average of 184 cavans a hectare. Very much contented with his harvest, he increased the area planted to SL 8H to 10 ha in the dry season of 2006-2007 and harvested 1,950 cavans or 195 cavans a hectare.
Always daring as he has always been, Carding even ventured to plant SL 7 during the 2007 wet season. Carding could have been very happy with his harvest of 138 cavans a hectare if the crop did not lodge due to the heavy weight of the panicles. Even with that, he was still contented with the yield.
Judging from the cooked rice that was served to us for lunch, lodging somehow slightly affected the white color of the milled rice but its aroma and stickiness have remained the same.
Because of his high wet season yield, Carding thought that SL 7 might even perform better during the dry season. Thus, he planted 9 ha with this hybrid line last dry season, while 6 ha were devoted to SL 8H production. A cooperative weather proved him right with his decision to plant a large area with the still unreleased hybrid rice line for he harvested 1,549 cavans or 172 cavans a hectare. The 6 ha of SL 8H gave him 1,150 cavans or an average of 192 cavans a hectare.
Like what happened in the past after the SL 8H techno-demo, many of the farmers in Tabacao will be inspired again by Carding’s success to plant SL 7.
As we mentioned earlier, eight of the 11 children of Nanay Soling left the Philippines to work in Italy. They saved – and continued to save – much of their income and send it back home to Nanay Soling for the purchase of irrigated lands.
Of the eight Serrano siblings, Remedios (now Mrs. Pedines) has already come back for good after 15 years of working as a domestic helper, in Italy. Nanay Soling bought 9 ha for her during that time and she bought an additional 6 when she returned. The daughter of Remedios, who is now also in Italy, has also bought 2 ha to begin with.
Remedios, a 58-year-old midwifery graduate, recalls that it was difficult for her to leave the youngest of her three children who was then only seven months old but she had no other recourse for she was unemployed. She came back for a short visit only after four years. It would have been extremely impossible for her to acquire 15 ha of irrigated rice lands if she did not leave, as the buying price in 1992 was already P250,000 a hectare.
She said she started to plant SL 8H in 2005-2006 dry season, the second year of commercialization in Tabacao. It was all because she saw the impressive performance of the variety in the fields of Tabacao farmers. Thus, she planted 2 ha to this variety and harvested 280 cavans, which was not really bad for a beginner.
The area planted to SL 8H in the following year increased a little and because she was satisfied with the yield, she increased it again to 8 ha during the last dry season. Her yield then reached about 160 cavans a hectare.
Like Remedios, her sister-in-law Yolanda Serrano, has decided to stay for good in 2005 to manage the 18 ha that she and her husband, Roniel, have acquired through the years. Meanwhile, Roniel is still working in Italy.
Initially, they acquired 1.5 ha in 1992 for P375,000. Thirteen years later in 2005, their farm area had already ballooned to 18 ha when the buying price for irrigated land in Tabacao was already P450,000 to P500,000 a hectare. Savings from the couple’s salaries and the income from the farm were put together for the purchase of more lands. Today, they already have 19 ha.
Yoly said the lands were first mortgaged to them. Thereafter, owners asked for additional amount every now and then until they could no longer pay back the money, forcing them to sell the lands.
Like Remedios, Yoly started to plant SL 8H in 9 ha in 2005-2006 dry season and harvested 157 to 165 cavans a hectare. She said the yield of the inbred varieties Angelica and PSB Rc82 (110 cavans a hectare) was very much lower.
“I was amazed with the yield of SL 8H because of its great difference from the inbred varieties,” Yoly said. “With our income from the farm, I no longer have a good reason to go back to Italy.”
Thus, she planted the whole 18 ha with SL 8H in the 2006-2007 dry season. With her very good yield of more than 3,000 cavans, her warehouse was filled to the brim. Her average yield was close to 170 cavans a hectare. And she had to look for possible places where she could store the rest of her harvest until these were finally sold.
Like the co-op, the Serrano family does not also sell its harvest immediately after threshing since it has its own solar dryer. A whole hectare was cemented so that all of them would be able to dry grains without delay except during the wet season when they have to use the mechanical dryers of the co-op.
In the last dry season, 19 ha were already devoted to SL 8H. “For me, a yield of 160 cavans a hectare is already acceptable since my income would be high already,” Yoly said.
Two of the Serrano siblings, Ely Rafael and Miriam Sobornedo, have their lands managed by two of Carding’s children, Allan and Michael, respectively. Ely is the seventh among the Serrano siblings, while Miriam is the eighth.
At 24, Allan, a commerce graduate, is already producing a net income of less than P2 million from the 18 ha of his Tita Ely who is working in Milan, Italy.
He started to manage 6 ha of the farm in 2003-2004 dry season, which he devoted to Angelica and PSB Rc82. He harvested 120 cavans a hectare and yet he was already happy with it, given his knowledge of the new rice technology at that time. He was fresh from college and not formally trained in agriculture.
The area under his care increased to 8 ha in the next dry season and then to 15.5 ha in the 2005-2006 dry season when he devoted 9 ha to SL 8H. Having learned much of the new rice technology already, he harvested 170 to 180 cavans a hectare.
Now more confident on Allan’s capability of managing her farm, Ely placed all her 18 ha under his care during the 2006-2007 dry season. Allan planted nothing but SL 8H, and got yields ranging from 175 to 204 cavans a hectare.
During the last dry season, he harvested 2,840 cavans from 18 ha or an average of 158 cavans a hectare, which would be 150,040 kilos if the sacks weigh 56 kilos each. His average yield somehow decreased a little but if the harvest is sold at P 17 a kilo, the gross income would be P2.55 million. Even assuming that the production cost was P900,000, the net income would still be a staggering P1.65 million. This could buy again another 3 ha or rice farm.
We were not able to interview Michael, but Allan said his older brother harvested more than 2,000 cavans from less than 14 ha.
With the income that the Serranos are earning, it can be concluded that SL 8H and SL 7 can turn ordinary folks like the Serranos into millionaires.