In more than three years as PhilRice Executive Director, Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr. has stood with his conviction to swing rice R&D direction from the rice crop to the rice farmer.
“When you focus on the rice farmer, you begin to realize that the rice environment is not only about rice. There are many things you can do in the rice environment with the rice farmers so that you can extricate them from poverty,” Rasco said.
During the turnover ceremony of PhilRice leadership, 3 February, Rasco reiterated the need to start using the rice farming environment as the unit of productivity analysis instead of the rice plant.
Rasco retired from government service as he turned 65 on 2 February 2015.
DA Assistant Secretary for Field Operations and Director of the National Rice and Corn Programs Edilberto M. De Luna assumed post as PhilRice officer-in-charge effective 3 February. The search for the new executive director is ongoing.
Summing up his term, Rasco said “PhilRice is probably the easiest organization to manage. With the dedicated and professional manpower you have here, it can run on auto-pilot and not crash.”
Rasco urged PhilRice staff members to pursue “the change that we have trodden together” – to continue advocating for agriculture-based biosystems in the rice farm.
Rasco and research at PhilRice
Rasco dedicated almost 4 decades of his career to public service.
During his stint as executive director, Rasco envisioned to transform rural communities into more productive and sustainable agri-business enterprises. He has always believed in exploring the potentials of the rice lands to augment rice farming income.
He institutionalized five new R&D programs to address the current and future challenges in the rice sector. These are Coping with climate change, High-value products from rice and its environment, Farming without fossil energy, Intensified rice-based agri-bio systems, and FutureRice. Each is geared toward a self-sufficient, sustainable, and competitive rice economy.
To operationalize these programs, Rasco led the creation of various centers that would help develop appropriate technologies for rice-based ecosystem. The Applied Biology Center for the Rice Environment aims to increase outputs and reduce inputs in rice farming and rice-based enterprises through applied biology.
Rasco also supported research studies on other sources of energy such as bioethanol and hybrid energy (e.g. wind/solar, biomass/solar) to develop an energy system for rice-based agriculture that is renewable, decentralized, and diversified.
“To him, farming without fossil energy is the scientific description for what is commonly called but misunderstood organic agriculture,” said PhilRice Deputy Executive Director for Research Dr. Manuel Jose C. Regalado.
Recognizing seeds as a critical input, Rasco also established the Genetics Resources Division to facilitate seed transfer and germplasm exchange. The Seed Technology Division, on the other hand, was established to ensure high seed quality of the newly-released rice varieties through compact demonstration.
Rasco and Development at PhilRice
Rasco strengthened the promotion and adoption of research outputs through development programs. He conceptualized the Palayabangan 10-5 challenge to fast-track the search for technology that can increase production to 10t/ha at a cost of Php5/kg.
His term also birthed the National Year of Rice in 2013 to engage the public in the country’s bid for rice self-sufficiency.
As a follow through, Rasco advocated the Gusto Namin Milyonaryo Kayo campaign to push for rural transformation rather than mere technology transmission. He also supported youth engagement in agriculture through the Infomediary Campaign.
“PhilRice has three treasures [according to Rasco]: people, germplasm, and information. From these, rice R&D should eventually help rice-based farmers become rich,” Regalado said.
PhilRice also changed its organizational structure with the separation of research and development but with a continuum of functions. Rasco calls it RDDD or research, development, demonstration, and deployment.
“Research and development is done by our research arm while demonstration and deployment is done by the development group. We develop new technologies and create a show window of these technologies,” Rasco explained.
Rasco’s initiative to revamp the qualification and performance standards of PhilRice staff members led to a 700% increase in publication and various awards from 2011 to 2014.
He also redefined the mandate of the branch stations to serve as technology development centers or nuclei to facilitate technology deployment and services to surrounding communities.
Dr. Eduardo Jimmy P. Quilang, PhilRice deputy executive director for Development, described Rasco as a transformative, visionary, and innovative leader.
“He has been a very good mentor; although he does it subtly. You will just realize he has already taught you the ways to efficiently do your job,” Quilang said.
Pres. Benigno Aquino III appointed Rasco on secondment as the fourth Executive Director of PhilRice on 14 July 2011 in his concurrent capacity as professor in UP Mindanao.
Most cited PhilRice scientist retires from gov’t service
Highly cited PhilRice scientist and crop physiologist Dr. Rolando T. Cruz ended his 19 years of government service at the Institute, January 23.
Cruz, who worked at the Agronomy, Soils, and Plant Physiology Division (ASPPD), was responsible for conducting systems analysis and simulation modelling for potential yield and nitrogen optimization in irrigated rice systems.
In addition, he spent several years developing practical field diagnostic tools for plant nutrient status and evaluating chemical and physical properties of soil-plant-water interactions.
To date, Cruz is the most cited PhilRice scientist with 1,221 citations both in local and international refereed journals.
“When you are cited in scientific literature, it means you are a recognized scientist both nationally and internationally. Dr. Cruz gave PhilRice a name, and it’s a great honor for our Institute,” said Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr., executive director.
He also led the development of the Palaycheck System for irrigated rice ecosystems to increase on-farm rice yields. PalayCheck is PhilRice’s banner program for favorable environments.
“PhilRice offers anyone the chance to be with the farmers,” said Cruz during a short program organized by the Institute. He cited the Institute as a “farmer-oriented” agency and thanked his colleagues and the staff he worked with in the development of new technologies for the farmers.
Cruz finished Bachelor of Science in Agronomy and Master of Science in Agronomy and Crop Physiology from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He obtained his PhD in Agronomy, Plant Physiology, and Soil-Plant-Water Relations from the Texas Agriculture and Mechanical (A&M) University.
He also spent 10 years at IRRI as a researcher and as a visiting research associate at the Michigan State University for a year. He was conferred Scientist I in the Scientific Career System in 2008. In 2010-2011, he was a visiting professor at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia.
Cruz was born in Dapitan, Manila and is based in Los Baños, Laguna. He will continue working for PhilRice as a consultant and mentor of young researchers.
Farmers inspire kids’ art
It was more than just a school project for grade 3 students of Adonai Integrated Montessori School in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.
For Edward Johanne Y. Quilang, Caleb John H. Bandonil, Ghenard V. Fernandez, John Cedric L. Labugnen, Erelle John S. Clamelo, and Wilfred Neal R. Bernardo, no one is too young to care for the Filipino rice farmers.
When Science teacher Aurora A. Ferrer assigned the students to make different kinds of landforms, the group, led by Quilang, envisioned a landform that would pay tribute to the farmers.
For 3 days, the kids made a recreational area, ricefield and put a helicopter, sports cars, and farm animals on a makeshift rectangular cardboard.
“This is how we want them to live when they are no longer poor,” said Bandonil, the group’s landscape designer.
Sharon C. Caballero, grade 3 class adviser, shared that the students are taught how to value the hard work of Filipino farmers in subjects such as Social Studies.
“They wonder why the farmers in our country are poor, and perhaps that’s the reason why they are more inspired to make a landform that depicts the life of a rich farmer,” she said.
Students Bernardo and Fernandez, both farmers’ children, are happy that they made an art work for their parents whom they hope to be as wealthy as the farmers in other countries.
Youth and agriculture
It is rare to meet youngsters nowadays to have such strong consciousness on agriculture. But what do we have for Adonai boys to help strengthen their interest?
Fortunately, PhilRice created programs and conducts various events to attract the youth to agriculture and raise their consciousness on rice farming.
The institute holds the Lakbay Palay for students. It is a half-day activity where students learn about new machines used in rice farming, new varieties, and information technology support including the PhilRice Text Center and PinoyRice . Young professionals of the Institute also engage the students in discussion to address common misconceptions on agriculture.
In partnership with the Bureau of Plant Industry, National Parks Development Committee, and the Asia Rice Foundation, a rice garden was also established at the Luneta Park in Manila to bring rice farming closer to urban youth. Soon, similar rice gardens will be put up in some major cities of the country.
In 2014, PhilRice re-launched the Rice Science Museum to promote education on rice through culture and arts. Currently, it houses old and modern farm implements, artworks, and interactives on rice structure, ecosystems, biodiversity, and crop management. On average, the museum welcomes 3,000-4,000 guests, mostly students, every month.
The Adonai boys hope that their dreams for the Filipino farmers will not remain in vain. It might take them a lifetime, but the artwork is their first step.
Science City of Muñoz recognizes PhilRice scientists
Three PhilRice scientists were recognized by the local government of the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija for “giving pride and honor to the city and for their contribution in scientific research.”
The Institute’s executive director Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., Ms. Thelma F. Padolina, and Dr. Riza A. Ramos received plaques of recognition during the Teachers and Employees’ Night, January 9.
Ramos was recognized for receiving the 2014 UPLB Distinguished Alumna Award and Padolina for the Asian-wide Senadhira Rice Research Award given by the International Rice Research Institute.
Padolina is the first Filipino and the first woman Senadhira awardee.
Meanwhile, UPLB recognized Ramos’s contribution in enhancing the micronutrient content (folate, iron and zinc) of Philippine rice, which created significant impact on the complementary and sustainable solution to the micronutrient-deficiency problem in the country. She has numerous publications in the said area in refereed international journals.
The UK-educated scientist is currently the chief of PhilRice’s Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division. Her current research involvement is on nutritional quality assessment important for Philippine rice, factors influencing food intake and nutritional status of rice-based farm households, and quality assessment of iron and zinc rice lines.
Focused and significant accomplishments on rice breeding thereby contributing significantly to improving Filipino farmers’ lives earned Padolina the Senadhira Rice Research Award.
“PhilRice is known for its world-class efforts in rice science. The staff complementing the mission of PhilRice is one of the most important building blocks to sustain the excellent status of the Institute,” said Padolina.
Padolina, who just recently retired, served the Institute for 26 years. She chaired the Rice Technical Working Group (RTWG) from 1993 to 1995 and has been the National Cooperative Test Coordinator from 1998 to present. The RTWG implements the NCT and is a technical working group of the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) mandated under the Seed Industry Development Act of 1992 (RA 7308) to nominate new and improved rice varieties for cultivation.
“We are proud of the individual accomplishments of our staff members who have earned their awards through persistent dedication and hard work. For PhilRice to preserve its tradition of excellence, it must continue to improve,” said Rasco who received the Leadership Award.
The City recognized 17 outstanding individuals from different agencies.
The Science City of Muñoz is home to various research and educational institutions such as the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech), and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).
PhilRice Agusan is best branch station again
PhilRice Agusan received the top prize in the 2014 Best Station contest – an annual internal competition organized by the Institute to elevate and improve the modalities in promoting new technologies in rice production. It also aims to highlight the best-fit practices of the stations in rice R&D.
Agusan was also recognized for successfully and creatively executing the Intensified Rice-Based Agri-bio Systems (IRBAS) program in support of PhilRice’s major advocacy, the Rural Transformation Movement (RTM).
RTM aims to help reduce poverty by promoting diversified farming and agri-business ventures. Nucleus estates will be put up to give farmers access to support services including training, inputs, custom services, technologies, product development and packaging, and marketing.
“I thank the PhilRice management for organizing this contest and all my colleagues for keeping our station beautiful,” said Abner T. Montecalvo, station manager.
PhilRice Midsayap and Batac placed 2nd and 3rd, and were cited for creating a strategic research direction and for continually improving their internal systems and processes in accordance with Integrated Management Systems standards. PhilRice has three ISO certifications.
The following awards were also given: Most Improved Field Day to Los Baños; Most Interactive Field Day to Negros; and Most Innovative External Linkage to Bicol.
The judges traveled across the country to evaluate each station based on the following: IRBAS (Rural Transformation Campaign Execution); level of mechanization; organization of field day; varietal demo; client satisfaction; innovations; internal processes and financial reports; housekeeping and safety; state of infrastructure; income generation; and station management.
The judges were Dr. Rex Navarro, former director for communications of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT); Dr. Genaro San Valentin and Thelma Padolina, PhilRice consultants; Charlene Tan, founder of Good Food Community; and Donald Mateo, from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech).
PhilRice Agusan had earlier received the Best Field Day (2011) and Best Station awards (2013).