by: Daryl Lou A. Battad


Rice, the Philippines’ main crop and staple, has abounding varietal diversity that can be traced from the country’s rich heritage. However, in a constantly changing and modernizing of agriculture, traditional varieties are often put on the sidelines, and worse, eventually forgotten. Still, being a nation where identity and culture are kept alive, preservation efforts are being made so that traditional crop varieties can survive and may be passed on from one generation to the next. This is exactly what the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 1 envisions through a project on the conservation of traditional rice varieties in the region.

Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), DA-RFO 1 – Ilocos Norte Research and Experiment Center (INREC) embarked on a project, “Collection, Characterization, and Seed Multiplication of Traditional Rice Varieties in Region 1.”

The project aims to collect, characterize, evaluate potential varieties, and mass produce to provide available and good quality seeds to stakeholders such as rice growers and scientists for use on future researches.

Studies showed that traditional rice varieties contain less fat versus hybrid rice, making them an excellent source of minerals and vitamins such as niacin, thiamine, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D. It is also known to possess high amounts of fiber and lesser sugar. Aside from these health benefits, traditional rice varieties carry exceptional characteristics like resistance to pests and diseases, high-yielding capability, and are genetically engineered to serve as building blocks for new varieties.

Project leader and INREC Center Chief Wilma Ibea said that the conservation and profiling of these traditional varieties reinforce genetic improvement leading to the development of new and better varieties.

Collection and characterization

Seventy-one traditional rice varieties were collected from different municipalities of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan. These collected varieties were then planted in the experimental farm at INREC, Batac, Ilocos Norte during wet seasons of cropping years from 2014-2017.

Growth cycle traits, vegetative properties and reproductive traits before and after harvest were the primary data gathered during characterization following the “Descriptors for Wild and Cultivated Rice” by Bioversity International, International Rice Research Institute; and The Africa Rice Center.

observed that all traditional rice varieties have the same population uniformity, life cycle, coleoptile anthocyanin coloration, lemma shape of apiculus, sterile lemma length and color, and spikelet fertility.

Traditional rice varieties were also perceived to be tall, has awn present on some varieties, and late maturing of up to 146 days.

However, out of the 71 varieties, only 53 were able to survive and categorized because some of them did not adapt locally, and some were prone to “rice blast” disease.

Isik pugot

Isik pugot is a traditional rice variety that came out to be the most promising variety. It produced the most number of productive tillers, produced the heaviest weight of 1000 seed grains at 36 grams, and the highest yield of 4.30 tons per hectare. According to Ibea, this variety can be recommended for use by farmers especially in rainfed and lowland areas.

Other promising varieties include Kamurus rice, Gal-ong, Makandaras, and Black rice. These were drought-tolerant and need a lesser amount of fertilizers, aside from their good eating qualities and nutritional content.

To date, there are nine farmers and 12 local government units (LGUs) who adopted and are continuously planting traditional rice varieties that came out of this project. Each farmer was provided with 40 kilograms of seeds while the LGUs were given 350 kilograms each. These seeds were being used as planting materials to continuously conserve these existing and promising traditional varieties that can be the region’s pride and heritage.