Nueva Ecija Farmers Bullish on PalayCheck
Rice farmers in the, Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija who went through a PalayCheck Field School training during the 2008 wet season are optimistic that higher yields are still to come if they attain all the key checks of the newly introduced integrated rice production system.
After one season of participating in the PalayCheck Field School, Renato Gascon, Noli Domingo, and Bayani Laurencio concluded that all the eight key checks must be attained to produce the highest possible yield. They based their conclusion on the performance of the crops that were used as common learning fields during their training.
According to PhilRice scientists, PalayCheck is a dynamic crop management system that presents the best key technology and management practices as key checks. It is an integrated crop management system, which recognizes that rice growing is a production system consisting of a range of interdependent factors that are interrelated in their impact on the growth, yield, grain quality, and sustainability of the environment.
The objective behind PalayCheck is to develop technology recommendations for yield improvement and transfer it to farmers as a holistic and integrated package and not by components such as integrated nutrient management or integrated pest management.
It covers the principal areas of crop management such as seed quality, land preparation, crop establishment, nutrient management, water management, pest management, and harvest management. It also requires farmers to practice synchronous planting after a fallow period – the time after the harvest when there are no plants in the fields – of one month to avoid overlapping incidence of insect pest and disease populations.
In the PalayCheck system, farmers learn through discussion groups to sustain improvement in productivity, profitability, and environment safety. PhilRice scientists assert that PalayCheck is simply “learning, checking, and sharing for best farming practice.” The learning process takes place before, during, and after each planting season. During group discussions, farmers compare their actual performance and management with the expected yield, quality, and environmental outcomes as indicated by the achieved key checks.
Farmers meet frequently before, during, and after the cropping season -for three purposes: 1) review their management practices, pest incidence, growth and yield results, and weather conditions; 2) discuss reasons for achieving or not achieving the key checks based on their knowledge, plan and experience; 3) plan for the next activities.
Rene, 48, is convinced that if the eight key checks have been attained, chances are great that one will get a good harvest. “However, even if you missed [just] one check, your chances for a good harvest become lesser,” he added.
Rene was proud to say that all the eight key checks were attained in his 1-hectare irrigated ricefield. That is expected, of course, since it was the learning field where the field school participants initially practiced applying the technology recommendations included in each key check.
Thus, his PSB Rc 18 crop during the 2008 wet season yielded 5,200 kilos per hectare. The grains were already dry with 14 percent moisture content. Rene said this yield was a lot higher than his previous harvests in the wet season.
He recalled that during the 2008 dry season, land preparation was done in a hurry in.one week right after the wet season harvest to catch up with the availability of water in the communal irrigation system. He direct seeded 3-4 bags of seeds per hectare. This amount is much more than the recommendation, but he thought the excess seeds were needed to compensate for possible damage by birds and the golden apple snail.
He did not apply any basal fertilizer. Instead, he applied 2 bags of urea (450-0) and 5 bags of complete (14-14-14) at 20 days after sowing. He was also spraying lots of insecticides, but it was eventually reduced through the years. In his 2008 dry season crop, for instance, he used one-half quart of an insecticide, yet this was still too much for the beneficial organisms.
All of his old practices, however, have changed with the PalayCheck system.
Noli, 26, finished a computer technician course but he prefers to be a farmer for his income from farming is much higher than his salary. He has been farming for five years already starting after he got married.
Unlike Rene, Noli used 1 hectare of his 3-hectare farm as a personal PalayCheck learning field in Barangay Franza. However, he was not able to attain three key checks because he had already transplanted when the PalayCheck Field School started.
He planted the variety NSIC Rc128, which he bought from the City Agriculture Office. However, it is not recommended for the wet season because it is susceptible to diseases. Land preparation was also done in a hurry and, hence, the field had high and low spots after final leveling. Likewise, he applied 9 bags of complete fertilizer and 1 bag of urea at 14 days after transplanting. He learned later from the PalayCheck Field School that fertilizer application must be done in split so that there would be sufficient nutrients at early panicle initiation to flowering.
In the dry season before the PalayCheck Field School, Noli also planted a variety that is not recommended-Super 82, a PSB Rc82 selection. Farmers claim that Super 82 or Super Inggo is not affected by the “bakanae” disease. He bought it from a seed grower in Barangay Maligaya, Munoz without the blue tag, which indicates that it is a certified seed.
His PalayCheck crop was also attacked by rice blast at- about booting stage, forcing him to spray a fungicide once. From his PalayCheck crop, he harvested 6,160 kilograms fresh from the thresher, which was not much higher than his harvest in the previous dry season – 5,600 kg/ha.
One important lesson that Noli learned from the PalayCheck system is complete leveling of the ricefield before transplanting. Low spots must not be present to avoid the presence of golden apple snails that would damage the newly transplanted seedlings. He also learned that three harrowing must be done in weekly interval to fully decompose the rice straw and weeds.
He said it is important to refer to the PalayCheck manual from time to time so that no recommended practice would be missed. He hopes to attain all the eight key checks to obtain higher harvests.
For Bayani, the PalayCheck Field School made him realize that he does not need to spray insecticides unless extremely necessary. He found in his fields that without insecticide application, there was a proliferation of beneficial insects like spiders and lady beetle. Although there was sporadic occurrence of stemborer, he said, the rice plants were not heavily damaged and so there was no cause for alarm.
In the past, he was spraying at least I liter of insecticide per hectare. He suspected that the chemical spray killed the beneficial organisms, thereby allowing the insect pests to multiply rapidly.
And like Rene and Noli; Bayani emphasizes that the eight key checks must be attained to be assured of high yields. From 1.2 hectares of PSB Rc82 during the field school, he harvested 6,562.5 kg/ha fresh from the thresher. He expected to harvest more than 8,000 kg/ha, but he was not able to harvest on time because his crop was planted much earlier than the neighboring fields and so it also matured earlier. Also, his field was at the middle of the ricefields and a thresher could not be brought there. So the grains became over-ripe, resulting in shattering.
He wanted to use a drum seeder to direct-seed his 2009 dry season crop, but the machine that was used for demonstration did not function well.
Bayani believes that the PalayCheck system brings a lot of advantages, especially on the proper use of fertilizers and insecticides as well as on water management. And above all, Rene, Noli, and Bayani are convinced that the PalayCheck system could very well be one sure way of attaining rice self-sufficiency.
By Dr. Sosimo Ma. Pablic and Hannah HM M. Biag