Philippines – An 81 hectare rice field in Klaten, Central Java was under threat of crop failure because crops were submerged in flood for more than three days. The loss was estimated at two billion rupiah or around $ 200,000 as an aftermath of flooding as reported by Solopos.com.
Extreme floods are one of the impacts of climate change. As an agricultural country, Indonesia should prepare to face the impact of climate change especially on food security. One solution is to ensure food security of farmers planting rice seeds that are resistants to flooding, salinity, toxicity, and drought due to climate change.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Los Banos, Philippines has been developing rice varieties that are tolerant to the effects of climate change. These varieties are called climate smart rice. According to Drs. Adelbagi Ismail, Project Leader for Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) rice varieties that are tolerant to climate change must meet several criteria such as high yields, good grain? quality, short maturity, and resistance to what?. One of the varieties which has been developed is tolerant to flooding. This variety is resistantto soaking in flood waters for 10 days to 2 weeks. The rice yields about 5 to 7 tons per hectare under normal, non-flooding conditions, and 3 to 5 tons per hectare when submerged based on flood condition. The submergence tolerant variety has been grown by farmers in various countries such Swarna Sub1 in India, Samba Mahsuri in Bangladesh, IR-64 Sub1 in Philippines and Ciherang Sub1 in Indonesia. Sub1 refers to the gene that controls for flood tolerance, derived from an Indian rice variety. The gene reduces the sensitivity of rice plants to ethylene. Ethylene is a plant hormone that encourages plant growth and fruiting.
Based on IRRI’s data, farmers in Bangladesh and India lose up to four million tons of rice per year because of floods, which is enough to feed 30 million people. In 2006, the Philippines lost rice worth $65 million to floods. That is why a flood-resistant rice variety is needed to help farmers, prevent losses, and ensure food security. “Changing (rice) variety is changing life” said Ismail.
This new variety is easy for farmers (to plant? To harvest?) because the new variety is similar to current varieties, which means that farmers simply need to plant rice using the same techniques and fertilizer. Dr. Glenn Gregorio, senior scientist from IRRI’s Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) division explained that practical planting is important to farmers because people are difficult to change. Dr. Gregorio likened this to using a smart phone, where you can add applications without changing the hardware. “ Thus, Indonesian farmers could plant flood tolerant rice varieties: the Ciherang-sub1 variety is as easy as planting the usual Ciherang variety, with the same treatment and equipment.
IRRI continues to develop varieties that are tolerant of submersion in floods of up to 3 weeks. In addition, the scientists also research varieties that can withstand high flood and high salt conditions, which the scientists call a 2-in-1.
Climate smart rice is expected to meet food security and help poor farmers who have to deal with climate change. “Rice is an entry point to reduce poverty” said Gregorio.