Upbeat on Organinc Rice Seed Production

An accidental farmer is pioneering in the production of organic rice seed for planting. He is Manuel Bagatsing who has long been in IT services business but who has turned over the business operation to a son and is now enjoying running his 14-hectare organic farm in Brgy. Calamias, Lipa City.

Bagatsing’s Kahariam Organic Farm is one of the biggest commercial producers of vermicast using horse manure as the main component in producing organic fertilizer. It is one of the few organic farms in the country certified by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP).

Bagatsing is really upbeat in the production of certified organic rice seed for sale to farmers who would like to produce organic rice. He believes that farmers could make a lot of profit by producing organic rice because there is a growing demand for this special rice which commands a high price in the market.

Last June, Bagatsing harvested five tons of organic rice seed for planting which he sells at Php60 per kilo. He will have more stocks soon because there are standing crops of different ages on five hectares. He is currently producing the Rc160 variety from foundation seeds obtained from the Philippine Rice Research Institute. This variety has excellent eating quality and is a favorite of consumers, according to Bagatsing.

Bagatsing was encouraged to go into organic rice seed production because his initial plantings produced 127 cavans per hectare using only vermicast as his fertilizer. He explains that even if the farmer will only produce 100 cavans of palay from one hectare, he will already make a very good profit margin.

When milled, the 100 cavans of palay will produce at least 50 cavans of milled rice which can be sold at the very conservative price of Php40 per kilo. That would already gross the farmer Php100,000 per hectare. And according to Bagatsing, the cost of production is only about Php50,000. That’s a net of Php50,000 per hectare in four months.

Actually, Bagatsing produces organic rice much cheaper than Php50,000 per hectare because he produces the organic fertilizer that he uses in his farm. That is why he is thinking of leasing a farm where he can grow organic rice on a fairly large scale for the commercial market. He believes that he could make a lot of money from such an operation.

His men have trained on rice seed production at PhilRice and Bagatsing says they have enough tools in producing high yields of organic rice. At the Kahariam farm, Bagatsing has invested in irrigation facilities. He has two deep well pumps, and he also draws water from a river which has to be filtered to make sure it is free of pathogens. He has also constructed a 2,000-square meter reservoir for impounding rain water. The water from the different sources is brought to the rice paddies through a network of pipes.

To make wise use of water, only optimum amount is applied. During the first week after planting, the water is maintained at 3 cm deep, increased to 5 cm on the second week. The field is not submerged all the time. Sometimes, water is maintained at a desirable level below the soil surface. A so-called “observation well” is installed in the field. This is a foot long 4-inch PVC pipe, 10 inches of which is dug into the ground and two inches protruding above the surface. With this, the available water underground can be seen. If the water is way below the reach of the roots, water is supplied to the field.

Proper Land preparation is very important. The field is plowed and harrowed two times using a power tiller. The field has to be very level. During the last harrowing, 750 kilos of vermicast is incorporated in the soil per hectare. The same amount is applied 46 days later. Aside from the vermicast applied in the soil, the rice plants are also sprayed with vermi tea every week up to booting stage.

The rice plants are closely monitored. Every week, insect infestation, if any, is checked. Bagatsing’s workers are trained in identifying the harmful as well as the beneficial insects. If harmful pests are observed such as leafhoppers, biopesticide is sprayed. Biopesticide consists of extracts from plants like makabuhay, kakawate and hot pepper.

The fields are also kept weed-free by a mechanical weeder because it is a no-no to use chemical herbicide. That is why the seedlings have to be planted in straight rows to make mechanical weeding convenient.

The growth rate and tillering development are also closely monitored. If they see some plants that are yellowing, these are immediately sprayed with vermi tea.

Bagatsing has a practical way of checking the yield per hectare. They get the weight of the grains per square meter. If one square meter, for instance, gives 600 grams (0.6 kg), then the yield is 6 tons per hectare.

After harvest, they analyze the yields of different paddies. Some usually have higher yields. They analyze what could be the reasons for the lower yields in some paddies. In one instance, they observed that the plowing was too shallow. Maybe, there was not enough water in the paddy during the critical period, etc.

At the edge of some paddies, there are enclosures of free-range chickens. They intend to let the birds loose in the field after harvest to feed on the shattered grains as well as the insects. The chickens will not only provide meat for sale but will also help control insect pests.

Bagatsing has also started a flock of layers. He envisions an organic farm that will not only produce organic fertilizer but also organic rice, vegetables, fruits, meat and eggs.

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