12 November 2021 - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), through the Water-efficient and risk-mitigation technologies for enhancing rice production in irrigated and rainfed environments (WateRice) project with the support of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) - Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), conducted a virtual webinar on laser land leveling and mechanical transplanting on Zoom.
Increasing rice production efficiency is one of the main goals of the WateRice project, which aims to improve farmers' well-being by increasing their incomes through sustainably intensified rice production systems that are responsive to climate change impacts, are equipped with appropriate technologies, and that produce high quality rice for the market.
Geared towards providing stakeholders a better appreciation of these technologies and their role in increasing production efficiency, the webinar gathered over 300 attendees from different parts of the Philippines and other countries.
Senator Cynthia Villar, Chairperson, Philippine Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform shared a message appreciating this initiative and encouraging all stakeholders to continue efforts in making farming technologies accessible to smallholder farmers.
“These kinds of webinars which highlight innovative technologies, which are not only applicable in the rice industry, but also to the agricultural industry in general, are very important. These pieces of information also assist us legislators towards our insight to include in our bills these newly introduced technologies for the benefit of our farmers,” she said.
Laser land leveling and mechanical transplanting
Since its introduction in 1997, laser land leveling (LLL) has helped farmers improve their rice production. LLL is a precision technology on field leveling introduced by IRRI in collaboration with Trimble (then Spectra Precision) to stabilize rice production and improve efficiency in field operations.
Meanwhile, mechanical transplanting is a practice that has also helped boost rice production. Filipino farmers usually transplant by hand, but this approach entails lots of challenges such as high labor input, higher weed pressure, low yields, leading to lower income for farmers.
Mechanical transplanters now allow farmers to work efficiently because the machine does the hard work of transplanting seedlings spaced from 24 to 30 cm apart. The results are lower production costs, improved water management, greater harvest reliability, and increased yields.
Dr. Madonna Casimero, co-leader, WateRice, welcomed the participants of the webinar and shared the importance of promotion and information exchange in deploying these technologies and scaling their use. Ms. Mary Ann Burac, Researcher, IRRI, provided a brief overview of the WateRice project and its key milestones since 2016, including understanding and bridging farmer knowledge gaps in mechanized farming and production efficiency.
Engr. Joseph Sandro, Assistant Scientist, IRRI discussed the specifics of laser land leveling technology, its history, a step-by-step application, and the benefits it brings to farmers. He explained that laser land leveling helps increase rice yield by 15% per hectare which translates to increased income.
Engr. Virsuz Galdonez of the Philippine Rice Research Institute shared how mechanical rice transplanting can advance rice production practices. He discussed the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical transplanting and presented a sample cost analysis which also showed that the benefits outweigh the costs involved.
It was also emphasized during the webinar that farmers should be provided with knowledge about advanced rice technologies and how these can maximize output. This will help farmers gain higher income from rice production.
Testimonials from the ground
To highlight the tangible benefits of LLL and mechanized transplanting, the webinar featured several testimonials from multiple stakeholders. Mr. Jonas del Rosario and Mr. Davis Antiporda, service providers, shared their learnings on mechanical transplanting and land leveling respectively and how farmers can be effectively trained and capacitated.
Engr. Flerida Demamay, technician and extension agent, WESVIARC, gave a short report on her experience with working with farmers and some immediate observations on the opportunities and challenges in deploying LLL and mechanized transplanting.
Farmer Mr. Romel Alday of Bantug Bakal IA discussed his experiences with the technologies, citing how his livelihoods have changed for the better since they adopted mechanical transplanting and LLL practices, respectively.
Dr. Elmer Bautista, PhilRice, gave a message on the way forward for mechanized technologies in the Philippines. He encouraged the participants to start developing a culture of partnership and technology sharing through rice research and development and provided additional background on the policy environment for strengthening local manufacturers.
Representatives from DA-BAR, DA-BAFE, and DA-PhilMech gave messages of support to the project in the promotion of the two technologies showcased in the event. . Mr. Wilson Viloria, representative from DA-BAR congratulated the team for organizing the event. “These two technologies have been around and being used in other countries, so we believe that it's high time for us to intensify the promotion, information dissemination and training which we are doing now” he said.
Director Arioder Rico of DA- BAFE highlighted their activities in the fast tracking of promotion, training and dissemination of LLL technology down local government level. He also mentioned that LLL is a major component of the farm clustering program (F2C2) of DA.
Dr. Romy Martinez, who represents DA-PhilMech, elaborated on the importance of collaboration in promoting technologies.
Finally, Dr. Manuel Jose Regalado, project leader, WateRice project, PhilRice gave a closing message. He acknowledged all participants of the webinar and encouraged them to continue collaboration towards shared rice production goals.
To watch a replay of the webinar, visit: https://fb.watch/9iS23MJWgT/.