"Bringing back the grains"
By Charisma Love Gado
PhilRice Magazine


Francia Tolentino-Azuela of Calabanga, Camarines Sur still recalls her disappointment when she and her husband failed to buy in cash their dream farm equipment to welcome the new year. To facilitate easier farming, they had planned to cash out for a land master - a machine used for land preparation, from their expected income for the wet season. However, rice tungro disease hit their farm; losing their grains.

Like Francia, farmer-participants of the Location Specific Technology Development (LSTD) project in Calabanga and Libmanan mustered their hopes to forget their helplessness watching their fields turn yellow, wilt, and then die. The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics confirmed tungro attacks in the rice-producing towns of Calabanga, Pili, San Jose, and Tigaon in October last year that affected 531.38 ha and an estimated yield loss of 30 to 100 percent.


Persecuted by Tungro

Tungro, which means degenerated growth, causes stunted rice plants and less tillers. Owing to the uncontrolled occurrence of tungro disease, Francia only harvested 46 cav/ha. She had expected 130 cav/ha.

Meanwhile, Romeo Capal, a farmer of 20 years in Brgy. Bonot-Sta. Rosa, Calabanga, harvested 22 cav in his 0.5 farm, where normally he gets 60 cav/ha. Roland Bautista, 26 of Brgy. Inalahan, Libmanan had a more depressing experience. The land he tills for his father - a barangay captain, was totally devastated, leaving them nothing. However, the 200 m2 he allotted for one of the varieties showcased in the LSTD rice variety trial yielded 32 kg. Ricardo Cabucungan, 55, also shares similar experience. His 200 m2 allocation for a variety in the LSTD trial gained 25 kg.


Optimism from LSTD

It was raining as the farmers in Calabanga and Libmanan fallow and prepared their lands. With the rains came their promise of applying the knowledge they received from Francis Anthony Malabanan and Sheryl Cosa, rice self-sufficiency officers in the area. Described as patient, sensitive to their needs, and hardworking, the rice self-sufficiency officers promote, monitor, and evaluate technologies suited for specific areas.

With the LSTD project, farmers can "see with their own eyes" and experience the technologies, which they think are best for their rice farms. The attack of tungro and their helplessness in fighting the disease brought about the commitment of some 20 farmers in Brgy. Sogod, Calabanga practice synchronous planting. Synchronous planting, or planting of the same crop in an area at same time in a cropping season, breaks the cycle of the disease. This practice starves the carrier of the disease; preventing its multiplication.

"Kahit na ginagawa ko ang alam kung nakabubuti sa aking palayan, kung hindi naman gumagaya ang nasa aking paligid, hindi pa rin maganda ang aking magiging ani dahil kailangan ang kooperasyon para labanan ang tungro (My effort would be useless if my farm-neighbors wouldn't cooperate)," Roland said.

For Romeo, Roland, and Ricardo, the tungro attack could be considered a blessing in disguise as they discovered a new resistant variety.

"Wala akong inani pero 'yung sa tinanim kong NSIC Rc 152, may nakuha akong 25 kg sa 200 m2 (I harvested nothing from the variety I planted but with NSIC Rc 152 [one of the varieties on trial], I got 25 kg from the 200 m2," Ricardo said.

In another farm, Roland said that he harvested 10 cav in their 2. 5 ha. Their average yield is 80 cav/ha. "Siguro nga ang pinakanatutunan ko sa nangyaring ito sa aming bukid ay ang pamimili ng tamang variety (What I learned most in this tungro attack is choosing the right variety)," he said.

Meanwhile, veteran farmer Romeo said farmers have all their ups and downs, and that every struggle teaches them how to recover successfully.

"Hindi lang tungro ang umaatake sa amin. Bacterial leaf blight din at kuhol. Pero ok lang dahil may natutunan kami. Nitong huli, na-tungro lahat ng mga palay pero 'yung ang tanim ay PSB Rc18, may naani kahit konti (We're also attacked by bacterial leaf blight and golden apple snail. But that's okay for we learned things. During the tungro outbreak, all farms were affected except those fields planted with PSB Rc18)," he narrated. With this, Romeo intends to plant PSB Rc18 for the 2010 dry season.

As a barangay official, Francia urged his co-farmers and their wives to participate in LSTD project so that someday, farmers would have savings which they could use for emergencies. With LSTD, she believes that farmers in Camarines Sur would have a better life as the technologies they would adopt and localize will hopefully bring back the grains that tungro stole from them.

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