Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mabango in Berlin

Dear fellow RICEsilient members Berta, Sara, Lorie, Rexie, Nikos and Samir,

it's been a while since we've said goodbye and my lovely time at IRRI is already far away. It's been such a pleasure growing rice with all of you - thanks so much for making me part of the team! We may have come out a close second in the challenge, but I know (and you know it, too) that we were the best team of all.

Three weeks ago I got a visit in my new home in Berlin from a very special someone (also a former intern at SSD) who brought me a big pack of the most fragrant Mabango rice. Today I used it for the first time to make some creamy fennel rice and it tasted absolutely masarap!

I hope all of you are doing well and the wet season will stop bothering you soon. Do you ever get to catch up over a cup of coffee in the Beanhub?

I'm sure we'll have a chance to meet again somewhere in the future. Until then - all the best from your teammate Lisa!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Get well soon!

Fungal Disease

Leaf Blast is a disease caused by a certain type of fungi. They can affect the rice plants at any growth stage. Lesions occur in the leaf, lesions refer to discolored areas for blast they are usually large spindle shaped with a gray center.

Lesion caused by Rice Blast.

Blast occurs in different parts of the plant, I remember the experts Dr. Sparks and Dr. Castilla mentioned neck blast and collar blast. They also visited our field and it was confirmed that we have leaf blast. They also advised to watch out for neck blast since it may affect the panicle formation of the plant.

Boron Toxicity
We are not sure if the picture below shows boron toxicity. Upon reading some materials symptoms include appearance of yellow discoloration of leaves that spread along the margins. Brown spots also appear on the leaves.  We only saw a few leaves with this condition and we assumed that it might be the effect of the newly applied fertilizer.
Not sure if this leaf exhibits boron toxicity.

Insect Pest- Stem borer

Stem borers are insects that feed on any stage of the rice crop. Drying of the central tiller during the vegetative stage is known as dead heart while stem borer damage druring the  flowering stage result into whiteheads. Whiteheads are either unfilled panicles or empty panicles.

Yes, our field was infested by stem borers. Here's the proof. :)

Oh hello! Mr. Stem borer!

Not sure if these are stem borer eggs. We found a few leaves with tiny eggs inside.

Echinochloa colona a type of weed was present on our field.

Even if all of these are present on our field, we will not fret.  I know we can handle this! We will just go with the flow. Applying more chemicals may aggravate the current situation so better leave it as it is. We know our crops are strong just like the people who planted them. Should  I cue the dramatic tune now? :)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Harvest time for Palay All Stars!

Harvest time!

At the start of the season

Field on harvest day

What a moment of pride and satisfaction!

We used the Kubota mini combine harvester. We started with SL8, the hopefully high yielding hybrid with a mixture of jasmin and japonica characteristics.

 SL8 panicles

Halfway through the field and the grain storage of the kubota had to be emptied..

Next came the 238 variety. This lot had to suffer submergence in the beginning of the season, but  after transplanting  plants from denser areas to the gaps, the plants recovered amazingly well.

All sacks are weighed at the Experiment Station.

Now we have to wait for it to be dried to 14% moisture content, before we can mill it and start cooking it!


Thanks to the Palay All Stars Team, Experiment Station, Training Center, expert sessions!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Snail Picking 101

Golden Apple Snails 

Snails are tiny little creatures that have a massive appetite for rice seedlings. Upon reading some articles they can finish a whole paddy overnight. If this is true then we should do something to prevent them from chomping on our field. We have no more seedlings that can be replanted for missing hills. :(

Preventive Measure # 1

Drain the field. Upon draining our field we saw large number of snails all over the paddy.

Semi- Drained field with Golden Apple Snail

Some Golden Apple Snails hide in burrows to prevent exposure to severe heat.

Preventive Measure # 2

We opted to use papaya leaves to attract them and divert their attention.

Placing papaya leaves at the edges of the field.

Papaya leaves scattered near the edges.
Papaya leaves all lined up.

Preventive Measure # 3

Do manual snail picking. However, only few appeared that day. Maybe they overheard we were coming to hunt them. :)

Snails devouring the papaya leaf.
A snail trapped on a papaya leaf.

Half bucket of picked snails.
Inseparable. Two snails still mating after being picked.

Preventive Measure # 4

We really wanted to stick to the principle of not spraying anything harmful on our field but there was no more choice.We opted for Bayluscide. First spraying was unsuccessful, it washed off because it rained the next day. Second attempt, still  unsuccessful  the solution was applied late in the afternoon, snails were hiding underneath the mud. Third attempt, we were contemplating if we should stop applying but the plants were just 8 days old there is still a week left for the snails to devour our seedlings. 

Ready for Molluscide application.

Friday, 7 March 2014


Eight days after transplanting, we decided to go to the field to see what’s going on.
We were surprised to see that most of our plants have turned yellow. Even our fellow survivors were worried. After exchange of e-mails, we later found out that our plants are experiencing transplanting shock.  Seedlings are recovering from being pulled out of the soil in the nursery. They will be fine in a few weeks and only the weak seedlings will die.  Okay this seems to be problem solved, so need to worry.


Some plants are missing.  I didn’t quite hear that. Could you say it again please?


We thought that they might be submerged on the water. We drained the field a little bit and still our plants are nowhere to be seen. We tried to convince ourselves that the missing hills were caused by the mishaps of the mechanical transplanter. Totally draining the field revealed the culprit.

Snails, these tiny crawling creatures are the primary suspects for the loss of our plants.  They almost chomped on every rice leaf near the corners of our field. Due to their number and let’s not forget their enormous appetite for seedlings, some portions of our field have gone bald. 

The field was really in a bad shape. We better do something before it’s too late.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Miscalculation mayhem: A note on math and farming

Transplanting day
With members coming from different fields of expertise, we call our team Palay All Stars. Sounds like a powerhouse, eh? However, we had an early tumble at the first hurdle in rice planting: calculating the right amount of seed!

As new rice farmers, it is not in our tacit knowledge to easily give an estimate of how many kilos of seeds we need to sow, what sowing density to follow, and (blame the US and SI metric systems) how big our field is when converted from square meters to hectares (plus decimals and what other fraction—totally, not my language).


It is not of pure genius why our rice field was planted on 30 x 30 cm spacing, with one - three plants per hill.

Sure, wider spacing is good for plant nutrition by reducing overcrowding and competition; it also meant we sowed fewer seeds which lessened our costs. But there’s a backstory to that—

We first realized that something was wrong on transplanting day, when we were basically told by the ES team that we did not have enough seedling trays to plant our field with the mechanical transplanter! According to ES, for the size of survivor fields, they usually prepare 25 trays for sowing. We only had 20—ten each for SL8 and 238.

Wider plant spacing
Needless to say, we were stressed after our first 15 min in the field. How are we going to get five more miracle trays? Do we actually need them? Team RICEsilient who planted on the same day were also short of trays, but they had more than 20 already.

For a good 30 min, we were discussing and trying to re-compute. (This extended to email exchanges until our realization a couple or more of weeks afterwards.)

We concluded, “We should be fine”.

After some helpful advice from the ES team, we decided to plant with wider spacing and lesser plants per hill.

We remained curious though. Our former selves believed our computation for seeding rate and sowing density was smooth. However, we made our calculations just before the Christmas break when we were preoccupied with travel plans and trying to get other work finished before the long break.

We were pretty sure we only need 2 kg of seeds for the whole field. To have some extra, we prepared 4 kg (luckily, this was our saving grace!).  We are still not exactly sure of what went wrong with our calculations, but here is one possible scenario: 
  • Our field’s size is 1500 sq m
  • That means it’s 0.15 ha
  • That’s about 1/15 of a hectare
  • For easier computation, let’s use 1/15
  • That’s 0.07 ha
  • Forget about the previous conversions to not confuse
  • 4 kg for 0.07 ha should be more than enough
If you spotted the error, good! We’re on the same boat (now). Otherwise, think again.
Let’s go back to bullet #2, that’s the conversion we want, which equals 1/7th ha.

Despite the miscalculations— our precautionary act has become beneficial in terms of crop management. The space allowed us to create canals to allow quick drainage for snail control, weed the field using push weeders quite easily; and in the days to come, this should allow our plants to grow bigger and with more tillers.


Mechanical transplanting
“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them”, says the John Maxwell.

Because of some re-computation for fertilizer application, we figured what was wrong. Of course we still want to make profit (higher rice yield) despite the simple math confusion ;)

With relief, the now wiser Palay All Stars, outlines some points to remember for future Rice Survivors:
  • Make sure you get all the data for computation correctly.
  • Do not rush through calculations related to field inputs
  • Check, and double check.
  • Then double check computations with ES.
  • One hectare requires 18-25 kg of seeds if mechanically transplanting,  to transplant a Survivor field, you need about 4 kg (not 2 kg). Sow a few more kilos in case you need to replant; safe number would be 6 kg.
  • If still confused, ask.
However, you may have noticed that there is still one more mathematical issue that needs resolving: The recommended seed rate for mechanical transplanting as mentioned above is 18-25 kg. We sowed 4 kg of seed for 0.15 ha which multiplied by 7 actually equals 28 kg seed per ha, which is more than the recommended rate. But, we still did not have enough trays for one field, let alone enough for spare!

This may be because the recommended rates for mechanical transplanting are incorrect or the seed tray sowing densities were too high, resulting in not enough trays for one field? We are still not clear on this, but it seems that high seed sowing densities are required for mechanical transplanting to allow the machine to pick up enough seedlings on each round. Thus, requiring more seed!

All in all, what we have learnt is that computations are essential in rice production. It will determine how much you’ll spend and invest for your field—consequently; proper allocation of resources (not too much, not too little) can make farming more profitable.

Hopefully, this lucky mistake will turn out well for our rice plants :)