Harvest more rice with ratooning
by Junelyn S.de la Rosa
Farmers can harvest more rice and gain more income by ratooning or double harvest- an indigenous practice in rice farming that induces the formation of shoots or ratoons from the mother crop after the previous growth has been cut back.
Scientists from the Philippine Rice Institute (PhilRice) at the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija found that ratooning resulted to higher gross returns at P36,550.00 per hectare. This is higher by P19,585.00 than that of the farmers’ practice. The higher gross returns were attributed to higher yield and lower production cost. The experiment was conducted in a rainfed ricefield during the 2002 wet season.
The scientists also reported that hybrid rice (Magilas) was superior in terms of yield than other rice varieties- Mestizo, PSB Rc14 and PSB Rc12. Magilas yielded 13 tons per hectare followed by Mestizo at 10.3 tons per hectare to PSB Rc14 10.5 tons per hectare and PSB Rc12 at 9.2 tons per hectare.
What is ratooning?
Ratooning is a method of propagation that uses shoots (ratoons) of the mother crop as the planting material for the next planting season. Ratooning is a characteristic of rice and other members of the grass family (Graminae). When cut and exposed to the appropriate environment, the mother crop develops new sprouts with characteristics almost equal to its original form and capacities. The technology is widely used in the production of sugarcane, bananas and pineapples.
In January this year , the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) urged rice farmers in Region 3 to practice ratooning in their irrigated ricelands to get a better harvest. It is now being promoted by the DAR to contribute to the national goal of sufficiency in rice especially in its agrarian reform communities (ARCs).
The ratoon experiment
Conducted in a demonstration farm at PhilRice Batac during the 2002 wet season, the experiment used four rice varieties (2 inbreds and 2 hybrids). There were three cutting heights (5,10,20 cm) for each variety.
Two days before harvesting the main crop, fertilizer was applied at a rate of 47kg Nitrogen per hectare and then ten days after harvesting, the ratoon crops were top-dressed with 46 kg N per hectare.
To control leaffolders, the ratoon crops were sprayed twice with insecticides. Also, the plots were strictly maintained under rainfed condition with the stored water (in canals around the plots) maintained at 3-5 cm depth.
Benefits of ratooning
First, ratoooning maximizes crop residues and controls soil erosion by keeping the soil covered. However, it is important that the field is fairly clean of weeds and has a good plant density before deciding to ratoon. If there are too many weeds, ratooning is not a wise option since the weeds grow a lot faster than regrowth from the rice stubble.
Next, farmers can harvest more rice and thus earn more income if they ratoon. Scientists said that farmers can harvest twice – sometimes thrice – using the mother crop without using new seeds.
The ratooned crop matures in only about 70 to 75 days and requires lesser inputs such as time, labor, and cost for land preparation, seedbed preparation, pulling of seedlings, transplanting, water and weeding. Thus, farmers can save more if they ratoon.
To be successful in ratooning, farmers should practice a good water management system. Ratoon crops thrive well if there is abundant water supply. The scientists recommend that farmers store excess rainwater in canals within the field to ensure enough water supply for their crops.
Finally, an effective integrated pest management system is a must since ratoon crops compete with more weeds and pests.
Source: “Increased hybrid rice production in rainfed ecosystem through ratooning (Double Harvest)” 2003 by Samuel Liboon, Reynaldo Castro, John de Leon and Edilberto Redoña of PhilRice Batac, Ilocos Norte and PhilRice Central Experiment Station Maligaya Science City of Muñoz Nueva Ecija