PH first nipa bioethanol facility launched

Rice farming and coastal communities will soon benefit from the first nipa bioethanol production facility recently launched in Brgy. Cabaggan, Pampalona, Cagayan.

Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., executive director of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), said that the bioethanol project in Cagayan, a province in Northern Luzon with rich source of nipa extracts, may help supply local energy demand.

“Fossil resources have been dwindling since the 1970s. This project with the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) will increase farmers` competitiveness as nipa is a renewable energy that can fuel farm machinery and pump boats,” Rasco, a pioneer in nipa research, said.

In the Philippines, nipa is considered an important source of alternative fuel because it produces high amount of sap that can be converted to alcohol. Producing as much as 26,000  L of alcohol in a hectare per year, nipa is four more times more productive than sugarcane – today`s main source of alcohol, which can only generate  6,700 L.

The facility`s power, tested through a retrofitted water pump, produced 95-96% bioethanol during the launching`s ceremonial run. Engr. Nathaniel R. Mateo, MMSU project collaborator, said that 100 L of nipa sap can produce 7-9 L of bioethanol within 4.5 hours.

“We felt and observed in an international level the connection between energy and rice supply in 2007-2008 when increasing oil price escalated the price of rice to its peak. That event heightened the importance of developing a new energy system that is renewable, decentralized, and diversified,” Rasco said.

Rasco said that nipa is good source of bioethanol or water-free alcohol produced from the fermentation of sugar or converted starch, because it does not compete as food unlike other sources such as corn, cassava, sorghum, and sugarcane.

As the locals produce nipa lambanog or wine, project implementers are also improving their distilling facility to increase alcohol yield and efficiency.

With the improved facility, nipa wine with 60% alcohol content and 28% yield conversion rate was produced. Previously, nipa wine is produced with 40% alcohol at 22-24% yield conversion rate.

“We hope to have this facility in more places in the Philippines and make nipa a widely used fuel by farmers and fisherfolk,” Rasco said.

The bioethanol facility is co-implemented by the local government unit of Cagayan and MMSU`s Dr. Shirley Agrupis, lead of the nipa bioethanol project, and Dr. Fiorello Abenes, project consultant and US senior Fulbright fellow.

2014 Senadhira awardee is Filipino

The first ever Filipino and the first woman to receive the Asian-wide Senadhira Rice Research Award is a PhilRice breeder.

Thelma F. Padolina, a chemist-turned-breeder, who has been breeding for more than 30 years, will receive this award on Oct. 30 during the International Rice Congress in Bangkok, Thailand.

“When I was informed that I am chosen to receive the award, I was overwhelmed with joy. This award is important for me because my efforts as a breeder are recognized,” she said.

The International Rice Research Institue (IRRI) established this award in memory of Dr. Dharmawansa Senadhira, a Sri Lankan researcher who led IRRI’s flood-prone research program from 1996 to 1998. It is given to qualified scientists who have made outstanding contributions to rice research, especially for those involved in rice breeding and genetics, increasing tolerance for abiotic stresses, and improving micronutrient density.

Among many achievements, Padolina is a recipient of seven research-related awards, and a principal breeder of over 20 varieties.

Before the establishment of PhilRice, she co-developed varieties for irrigated lowland, cool elevated and other varieties for adverse conditions. She had major contributions in the development of BPI Ri10, BPI Ri12, PSB Rc6 and PSB Rc8 under the Maligaya Rice Research and Training Center and Bureau of Plant Industry from 1978 to 1985.

While working in PhilRice, she had the opportunity to work in the international research scene. She has networked with IRRI scientists on various activities (Phenotyping, TRRC, GRIsP-MET, RDA-GUVA), other international institutes, and foreign countries (Brunei, China).

“I am grateful for the support of PhilRice. I was trained to breed by international experts through the collaboration of PhilRice with them,” she said.

She further said that being a female breeder is a challenge because there are people who tend to prefer men over women, but she was able to surmount these challenges with the love and passion she has for her work.

Padolina challenged other researchers to always have passion for their work, have the heart to learn continuously, and work with other experts and learn from them. Moreover, she encouraged breeders to pass their knowledge to others.

“Skills are earned through experience. Through time, you gradually learn and have an eye to decide which is better,” Padolina said.

Upland farmers urged to form groups

More than 100,000 upland rice farmers are encouraged to organize into groups and register their associations for them to easily access government programs.

Ruben B. Miranda, national coordinator of the Upland Rice Development Program (URDP) said that a formally organized group is indispensable in fostering progressive rice farming communities.

“It`s easier for agricultural workers to reach organized and registered groups because systems are in place. Well-placed systems also facilitate easy access on government programs and services,” Miranda said during the Upland Palayamanan Farmer Field School (FFS) Graduation Day in Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT) in Bulacan, Oct. 21.

Last year, the participants of the upland Palayamanan FFS in DRT had organized themselves and registered their group as Kalawakan Upland Farmers` Association to the Department of Labor and Employment.

Responding to the need raised by the Kalawakan Upland Farmers` Association regarding the availability of vegetable seeds to be planted during the dry season, DA-Regional Field Office 3 (DA-RFO 3) looks into the possibility of putting up a nursery for vegetables in the Upland Palayamanan FFS site. The establishment of nursery for vegetables prevents seedling stress as the farmers need not to transport the seedlings from DA-RFO 3 to their fields for almost an hour in a rough road.

DRT Mayor Rolando Flores, on the other hand, expressed his support to the program as he believes that there`s money in farming particularly in integrating rice with vegetables and livestock. Recently, the Philippine Rice Research Institute thru its “Gusto Namin Milyonaryo” campaign is engaging millionaire-farmers to share their farming experiences to rice tillers across the country.

The 3-ha upland Palayamanan FFS site of the Kalawakan farmers is used for seed production and features participatory varietal trial of modern and traditional upland rice varieties and participatory technology development demonstration of seeding rates and planting distance.

The FFS site is also planted with vegetables such as eggplants, string beans, cassava, and lemongrass and flowers to manage pest or harmful organisms.

South Korean agency helps farmers earn millions

The Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) through the Rural Development Administration is helping farmers earn millions by partnering with farmers’ cooperatives.

“This is our way of helping the cooperatives and its members become millionaires,” Dr. Norvie Manigbas, project leader said.

The Sinibaan Farmers Association in Dingle, Ilo-Ilo and the Bohol Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative in Pilar, Bohol received registered seeds (RS) during the town’s recent Farmers’ Field Day.

“After farmer-recipients planted the seeds and harvested, they are expected to return the same amount of seeds to their respective cooperatives in the form of money,” Manigbas said.

In Iloilo, farmers are expected to produce 300 sacks (48kg/sack) of high quality seeds. From this start up, Manigbas said that the cooperative will have at least P 1.5M at the end of the three-year KOPIA project in the area.

“Assuming that a cavan is equivalent to P1,000, the cooperative will receive P300,000 from the farmer members after harvest. This is the seed money that will go to the cooperative for their use,” Manigbas said.

The distributed RS in Ilo-ilo came from a 2-hectare field in Hamungaya, Jaro, Iloilo where foundation seeds were grown, with the aid of the DA-Western Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (DA-WESVIARC).

In Bohol, a 5-hectare field in Ubay was used to produce seeds to farmer members of the cooperative in partnership with the Bohol Provincial Agriculture Office and Office of the Provincial Governor.

“The money may be loaned by the Cooperative’s farmer members to buy their farm inputs. The Cooperative can purchase big machines for the farmers to use modern technologies,” Manigbas said.

Aside from RS, the cooperatives also received walk-type transplanters and soil analyzers.

Members of these cooperatives are also trained to use new technologies on rice farming developed by PhilRice.

“We chose to partner with established cooperatives because they are efficient in managing the dissemination of seeds to their members and members have commitments and responsibilities to their cooperative,” Manigbas said.

He further said that the project works by partnering with established cooperatives through the New Community Movement or Rural Transformation principles which are diligence, self-help, and cooperation.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cho Yang-Hee, KOPIA secretary-general, explained that the project will help support PhilRice’s Rural Transformation Movement.

“We hope that this project will bring rural transformation in the Philippines. I also hope that this project will benchmark the new village movement of Korea as we call the Saemaul Undong Movement. Korean government, especially the KOPIA, will be your strong partner in developing and implementing joint projects on agricultural technology.”

Dr. Jeong Taek Lee, KOPIA Center director in the Philippines, said the project intends to help farmers in the Philippines to achieve a better life in partnership with PhilRice.

KOPIA Center is stationed at PhilRice Central Experiment Station in Nueva Ecija.

Rice research to use drone tech

A multi-functional flying device called Drone is being considered as potential monitoring instrument that will help researchers gather accurate data and conduct studies efficiently.

Roger Barroga, lead of Future Rice Program in the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), said that a training program on drone technology will be conducted following its recent introduction to the savants early this month.

To be implemented with the University of Southern Mindanao next year, the training program will highlight flight tutorials and application of the drone`s features.

The technology features a high definition camera, flight stabilizer, and GPS (Global Positioning System) that allows users to program its flight path. It can fly for 8-10 min and can travel up to a maximum distance of 2 km.

Barroga said that the technology can be maximized for research activities such as data collection, tracking growth patterns, and pests and nutrient management.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dindo Tabanao, head of PhilRice Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division, said that in a wider scale, drone can be used to inspect damages during calamities, monitor rice fields during crop establishment, and assess real time conditions in areas to be possibly hit by El Niño.

Researchers also said that the device can help reduce cost in multi-location monitoring and trials.

“We will further explore the technology`s features so researchers could spend their time efficiently,” Tabanao added.

The drone is available in the country and is sold for at least P25,000.

Suppliers tap as info sources

Research and training agencies in the country are banking on the potential of agricultural input suppliers in Region III as intermediaries or partners in disseminating rice information and technologies.

In an activity, more than 100 seed sellers, farm machine dealers, and representatives from credit companies toured around Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to be updated on farm practices, technologies, and trends. PhilRice, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) sponsored the recent entrepreneurs` first organized tour on rice farming.

“This group has been doing extension work in their own ways, but we have not harnessed their strategic presence in the field. With only about 2,300 full-time government rice extension workers and more than two million farmers, we really need to explore, engage, and equip more rice extension intermediaries so that our farmers would benefit from the findings of research,” Dr. Karen Eloisa Barroga, activity lead said.

To engage the agri input providers, the activity highlighted the growing need to help the farmers amidst looming threats of greater trade liberalization and urbanization and declining number of farmers and agricultural extension workers in the country.

They were briefed on online tools such Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank, Minus-One Element Technique App, Text Center, Rice Knowledge Bank, and Rice Crop Manager.

Weed Identification Tool, Rice Doctor, E-extension, and Farmers` Contact Center were also presented and tried by the group.

In turn, the entrepreneurs pledged in a commitment ceremony that they will do more for the farmers.

Abundio Quililan, president and CEO of the New Rural Bank of San Leonardo, Inc., said that they will share the text center numbers to their 50,000 farmer-clients and invite resource speakers from PhilRice, ATI, and IRRI to their rice training programs.

The activity is part of the project on Improving Technology Promotion and Delivery through Capability Enhancement of Next-Gen Rice Extension Professionals and Other Intermediaries (IPaD). IPaD is a project under the DA-National Rice Program and funded by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research.

Charisma Love B. Gado
Senior Science Research Specialist
Development Communication Division
Philippine Rice Research Institute (www.philrice.gov.ph)
Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, PHILIPPINES
(044) 4560258 loc 512 (telefax)
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