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Posted: Wednesday 2 March, 2022 at 3:18 PM

Participatory research, the basis for a more sustainable rice in Chile

By: (IICA), Press Release

    In the Ñuble region, located a little over 400 km south of Santiago, the southernmost rice in the world, in the hands of researchers, extensionists and producers, continues to seek sustainable solutions to adapt to climate change and markets, a of the keys: participatory research groups.

     

    Chillán, Chile, 1 March 2022 (IICA) – In the region of Ñuble, just over 400 kilometers south of the Chilean capital, Santiago, researchers, extensionists and producers are looking for sustainable solutions to adapt to climate change and meet market demands. One of the key aspects for this has been participatory research groups working on the southernmost rice in the world.

     

    Over a decade ago, Nelso Badilla started to produce rice with traditional sowing methods, with puddling and pre-germinated crops. But a few years later, with the region facing a historic drought, he switched to the minimum tillage system and dry sowing.

     

    At present, he is continuing to adapt to this system, although he has had to tackle additional problems of labor shortages and increased input prices.

     

    But Nelso is not alone in his work, as he is part of the participatory research group (PRG) in which he has joined innovative rice farmers focusing on more sustainable processes, in a project funded by the Regional Government of Ñuble called “Climate-Smart Rice.”

     

    Of the 57 hectares that he has sown with rice, he has allocated 2,500 square meters to establish a practice plot where he can try new varieties and a practice that saves up to 50% water, called SRI (System of Rice Intensification), an intensive crop system that makes it possible to do intensive dry sowing.

     

    On his land, with some twenty rice farmers, he regularly participates in training in genetics, mechanization and monitoring for plant development, as these plants are in their reproductive process during the southern summer.

     

    The methodology is coordinated by the Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) of Chile and the delegation of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in the country, as part of a project of the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation (FIA).

     

    First, groups are formed and measuring quadrants are established, with the purpose of counting plants for each point, counting clusters and using the app Canopeo to assess the percentage of coverage in the soil. Then the groups discuss irrigation and temperature, discuss data and measurements, estimate test costs and apportion daily expenses to adjust and anticipate results.

     

    Nelso described how “the importance of this project with the NARI, IICA and those of us farmers who are returning to these tests for the third time is that we can have a variety of rice that matures earlier and uses less water, and what we want to achieve in the future is having rice in 120 days instead of 150 days; this would considerably relieve the extensive water use that we have today, and tackle climate change.”

     

    “The plants are now forming spikes and we hope they will grow to give us 100% grains; if that happened we’d be very happy to have rice that does require much water and is only irrigated, we’d be satisfied with that,” he added hopefully.

     

    Karla Cordero, a researcher for Chile's NARI at the Rice Genetic Improvement Program, said that they can observe differences between the sapphire variety, which is the most sown in Chile, and an advanced line of rice which is the first export variety. “We have seen that it ripens a little earlier, so this system would be a very good alternative to save water, save agrochemical inputs and produce rice as sustainably as possible.”

     

    She added, “In this project out strategy is the reduction of water in rice growing. Rice is one of the crops with the highest water footprint, and to do this we are collaborating with IICA. Working with these participatory innovation groups has proven very important, especially because of the experience of our international partner, IICA, as they have extension experience and know how to make this process not only one of research and innovation, but also one in which farmers participate permanently and actively.”

     

    For Cordero, it is of great importance that the transfer and development of this new research should not only be done in the experimental fields of research institutes and universities, “but directly on the farms, facilitating and expediting the research and the adoption process of these innovations.”

     

    Fernando Barrera, specialist in Rural Extension at IICA, has directed and implemented participatory processes in Chile and other countries of the Americas. “The contribution to the search for solutions that farmers and extensionists make is very relevant for shortening the development process and for the dissemination of the solutions created by these groups,” he said.

     

    Mr. Barrera went on to say that “on this occasion the assessment of the plant health was a pleasant surprise, particularly the development of the advanced genetic life of heavy export grains, which has performed well under the SRI methodology.”

     


     

     

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