According to sources, it has been reported that the International Rice Research Institute, called on rice farmers to try drought-tolerant varieties as the El Niño weather phenomenon continued to threaten farmers’ livelihood and the country’s food security. It has been observed by the Laguna-based institute that the climatic phenomenon was expected to cause much lower rainfall in the first half of this year throughout Southeast Asia, which included the major rice-growing countries like the Philippines. Further, a statement was issued by the IRRI climate change expert Mr Reiner Wassmann that El Niño conditions will worsen livelihoods and may also lead to insufficient food supply for vulnerable farm households.
Furthermore, in this regard, Mr Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General for communication and partnerships, narrated that the IRRI scientists had developed and released rice varieties that could produce up to 1.2 tons more per hectare than the varieties that performed poorly under drought conditions. It has also been noted that it is only the poor farmers who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, as told by Mr Tolentino. It is due to this reason; the IRRI has been working hard to develop climate change-ready rice varieties that can withstand extreme climatic conditions such as droughts, floods, heat and cold, and soil problems such as high salt and iron content.
In addition, it was also revealed that in the Philippines, the drought-tolerant rice varieties available to farmers in rain-fed lowland farms included those called Rio Grande, Sacobia, and 12 varieties of Sahod Ulan .As for upland farms, similarly resilient varieties are the Pasig, Apo and Katihan 1. It is therefore, we have provided PhilRice (Philippine Rice Research Institute) with the foundation germplasm for climate change-ready rice, as narrated by Mr Tolentino. Moreover, the PhilRice is also multiplying these seeds for distribution to farmers who need them the most.