Organic Heirloom Rice Cultivation
Ms. Rowena Gonnay, 41 years old, graduated with BS Agribusiness and Management degree at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, is a farmer-leader of the Kalinga Rice Terraces Farmers’ Cooperative (KRFTC) and an active member of Unoy-Pasil Terraces Association (UPTA). Being a practicing farmer genuinely concerned with conserving heirloom rice farming, she conscientiously performs her work as Farm Superintendent II in her hometown of Pasil. Ms. Gonnay as an organic farmer since 1990 became a National and Regional Awardee as the Best Organic Rice Producer in Kalinga and the 2014 National Organic Agriculture Achievers Award – (NOAAA) Agricultural Extension Worker awardee.
Rice planting in Pasil, Kalinga is generally organic. Ms. Gonnay maintains and organically grows many traditional heirloom rice varieties in her farm. With the incursion of conventional rice farming technologies, Ms. Gonnay believes that the heirloom rice varieties must be conserved and protected. She is continuously developing her organic farm, and she learned new techniques to increase her knowledge that she disseminates to her village. She serves as inspiration to other farmers in the area who are in transition back to organic farming. Through her efforts their cooperative is currently exporting organic rice to Montana, USA and Italy.
Ms. Gonnay’s farm is planted with rice and vegetables. Since the farm has a hilly terrain, rice is planted in terraces while vegetables are planted in the alleys and borders of the rice plots. The rice fields are at least 300 m2 to 2,000 m2. The common rice varieties planted are Unoy and Ogak. Unoy is the generic term for medium-grained rice variety, which is not aromatic, red or white in color, and with good eating quality. Some of these varieties are ulikan, chong-ak, alig, napoy, and chekot. The rice variety they export is red rice called chong-ak, which is aromatic and medium-sized grain. Ogak on the other hand, is a rice variety commonly planted during wet season.
Selection of varieties to be planted is based on the farmer’s preferences. Some of the selection criteria being used are long panicles, resistance to drought, good eating quality (soft and aromatic), and high tillering capacity (ex. more than 10 tillers per hill). Rice is planted twice a year. The first cropping is from July to August, which is harvested from November to December. The second cropping is from December to January and harvesting is from May to June. Crops planted in higher elevation generally have longer maturity period (6 months) while in lower elevations it takes only 4-5 months before crops can be harvested. The mean rice harvest during dry season (3.5 per hectare) is higher than during wet season (2.9 tons per hectare). Mean grain yield in the area is 3.5 to 4 tons per hectare.
Vegetables are planted for home consumption. Crops planted are squash (Cucurbita sp.), string beans (Vigna unguiculata), white beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), and mungbean (Vigna radiata). The area allotted for vegetables and fruit trees is approximately more than 100 square meters. To rest and maintain the natural productivity of the soil, Ms. Gonnay practices pailongon or allowing the soil to rest or fallow for 2-3 years.
Good quality seeds are selected for better harvest. Ms. Gonnay has two methods of rice seedling preparation. In the first method, the panicles are sown directly in the rice paddy. In the second method, rice seeds are soaked in water with Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) for 24 hours. According to her, this practice results to the production of more vigorous seedlings. The seeds are germinated in a piece of cloth and incubated by keeping it covered by sack to build some heat. This is important in the high elevation mountainous village of Pasil.
The cultured IMO is diluted with water and sprayed to the seedbed. During the first cropping in July to August with warmer days, seedlings are grown to 25 days old before transplanting. However, in the colder months of the second cropping in December to January, seedlings are grown up to 30 days old before transplanting. Weeding is done during booting to flowering stage. Spraying of fermented liquid organic fertilizers is done before dough stage to flowering. Ms. Gonnay encountered problems on low seed germination and zinc (Zn) deficiency.
Wild sunflower, rice hull, IMO, rice straw, cogon (Imperata cylindrica) and kakawate (Gliricidia sepium) are incorporated in the soil during land preparation. Azolla as source of nitrogen is added 14 days after transplanting, while eggshells as source of calcium is incorporated 45-50 days after transplanting. She uses vermicompost produced using sunflower, banana trunks, shredded weeds, and pig manure as substrates. She sprays fermented plant juices (FPJ) weekly starting at 14 DAT at 480 mL (32 tbsp) per 16 Li of water. She has limited production of FPJ because of the availability of sugar and molasses. When sprayer is not available, she applies FPJ through an improvised drip irrigation system.
Common pests observed in her farm are rats, stem borer, rice bug, birds, earthworms, and snails. Rats are managed by using traps with coconut as baits. Snails are controlled by hand picking or by luring the snails to feed on papaya and gabi leaves. The leaves with snails are removed and crushed to ferment to become liquid plant supplements.
The animals being raised in the farm are carabaos, native chickens, and native pigs. The native pigs are fed with leftover rice, rice bran, and sweet potato. Animal manures are used for vermicomposting.
Ms. Gonnay’s passion is to share her organic agriculture knowledge and technologies with the other farmers in her town and in nearby communities. Hence, she intends to learn more about organic agriculture, so she can be more effective in conducting training courses and seminars to interested farmers. She intends to find a solution to the zinc deficiency of her farm, She will also continue developing her organic farm so she can show that organic agriculture really works.