INDIGENOUS people (IP) living in Sarangani have tapped the assistance of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to protect their traditional rice varieties (TRVs).

Because Sarangani is one of the areas that are most vulnerable to drought, preserving the seeds is important in breeding new climate-change ready seeds for the area.

B’laan, Tagakaolo, T’boli, Manobo, Ubo, and Kalagan tribes live in the upland areas of Sarangani where most of the TVRs are planted.

Starting this year, the locals and the Genetic Resources team of PhilRice will start to collect, conserve, survey, and document the varieties under a project titled “Conservation of Sarangani Traditional Rice Germplasm (SaTRice).”

The team will also evaluate the grain quality, level of resistance to pest and diseases, and level of tolerance to drought or submergence stress.

The TRVs have a good resistance to pests and drought.

TRVs also produce good yield even without fertilizer and pesticide intervention.

It can be noted that Sarangani has no record whatsoever of germplasm collection at the PhilRice Genebank.

Germplasm are genetic materials used for breeding new rice varieties.

Results from identifying and testing the TRVs will be used to recommend the best variety suited in the province.

The high quality TRVs will be stored at the PhilRice Genebank, which houses more than 5,000 Philippine TRVs and more than 16,000 germplasm collections.

Based on the study conducted by Mindanao State University-GenSan, 107 TRVs with unique traits were identified in the area.

Comprehensive data on morphological and molecular profiles of TRVs are expected to be gathered, specifically those that pertain to size, shape, and structure of seed components.

Farmers, mostly IPs, can also utilize these data in adding value/price to their varieties if they decided to commercialize it.

Other than conservation and characterization, the project also aims to establish and strengthen community-based seed banks for IP communities.

In a related development about the precious grain, PhilRice is also developing an Android application from a four-stripped “ruler” called Leaf Color Chart (LCC), which is used in assessing nitrogen status of the rice plant.

The handy diagnostic tool, which identifies the nutrient deficiency through colors ranging from yellow green to dark green, helps farmers save one to two sacks of nitrogen for every hectare.

Nitrogen is an essential rice plant nutrient for growth and improves grain yield and quality.

A mobile app is now in the pipeline, whichis expected to generate nitrogen recommendations from the digital images of rice leaves taken directly from the field.

Through a smartphone’s camera, nitrogen levels of rice plants can be measured from a digital photo of its leaves, which is strongly correlated with actual leaf nitrogen concentrations.

The app measures the intensity of green color based on the captured leaf images and converts this into values correlated with the amount of nitrogen in the leaf.

The app is more accurate than the LCC because the assessment of the leaf color will no longer be based on the perception of users, which may vary from person to person. (jaypeeyap@ymail.com/PN)

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