Philippine scientists are set to investigate an unusual agricultural phenomenon in Bukidnon province, where a hybrid rice variety has shown remarkable resilience to drought conditions. The development could have significant implications for rice cultivation in the face of climate change.

A team from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), led by Dr. Sailila Abdula, will visit the BUKTAMACO Upland Rice Demo Farm in Malaybalay next week. Their focus: a field of Tatag TH82 rice that survived a three-month drought before producing grain-filled panicles after recent rains.

Key Points:

  • The Tatag TH82 variety, registered as RC350H, was developed by US Agriseeds and distributed by Seedworks Philippines.
  • Planted on February 8, the crop endured severe drought conditions that stunted its growth.
  • Following rainfall in early May, the plants revived and are now flowering, albeit with a significant delay in maturity.

Franklin Aguda of Seedworks Philippines reported that the plants have reached 75 cm in height, with an average of 21 tillers and panicles carrying approximately 310 grains each. The expected harvest has been pushed to early August, extending the maturity period from the typical 110 days to about 180 days.

“This could be the first recorded case of a Hybrid Rice Variety which hibernated for three months because of the drought and came back to life when the rains fell,” said Manny Piñol, former Agriculture Secretary, who will join the research team’s visit.

The incident has caught the attention of agricultural experts as a potential breakthrough in developing drought-resilient rice varieties. As climate change continues to pose challenges to global food security, such adaptable crops could play a crucial role in maintaining rice production in vulnerable regions.

PhilRice scientists aim to identify the factors contributing to this unexpected resilience, which could inform future breeding programs and agricultural strategies.

The study comes at a critical time, as the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations grapple with the impacts of El Niño-induced droughts on their agricultural sectors. If the findings prove replicable, it could mark a significant step forward in climate-adaptive rice cultivation.