By Alfredo P. Hernandez

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 1) - RD Tuna Canners is developing an irrigated six-hectare pilot rice farm at Kananam village in Madang to find out if the crop could be commercially grown in the area.

Supervising Filipino agriculturist Eddie Tejano said if successful, the area would be expanded to 80-100 hectares, providing another source of high-quality but cheap rice for the province and also future farm jobs to villagers. 

The farm is located on a 860-hectare property in Kananam owned by RD Tuna.

A team of Kananam villagers is working closely with another Filipino rice expert, Joseph Duco, to prepare the land for planting with high-yield rice varieties developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.

IRRI is an international research organization that has been developing new high-yielding rice varieties for propagation in developing countries.

Known as IR64, this variety yields from nine tons to 10 tons per hectare on irrigated land and can be cropped three times a year depending on the availability of irrigation. It is harvested 100 days after sowing and has 65 per cent rice grain recoverability.

The seed variety has been successful in an experimental farm at the Pacific Adventist University (PAU) at 14 Mile carried out by Mr Tejano.

Mr Tejano said he expects the seeds to perform better at Kananam where salt levels in the soil are lower than that at the PAU pilot farm. 

The seeds would be sown into the paddies through "direct seeding", which simply means spread-throwing the seeds on the irrigated paddies.

This sowing method requires about 80kg of seeds per hectare compared to the transplanting method, which only needs half this amount of seeds.

"The direct seeding method is easier than the traditional method of transplanting young rice shoots from the seedbed to the paddy," he said, adding that efficient irrigation is required to ensure high yields.

The pilot farm, to cost K6,000 per hectare to prepare and maintain until harvest, will use water from the nearby Maiwara river. However, the cost is halved on second and succeeding crops.

Since IR-64 has a 65 per cent recovery, the farm is projected to gross K14,900 from the 10,000kg of grain harvest per hectare. 

A kilo of milled rice would cost K2.30, which is far below the prevailing retail market.

The harvest from the pilot farm would be supplied to RD Tuna workers' canteens at subsidized cost. Landowners under the business spin off scheme of the company are operating two canteens

Hopefully, projected harvest from the expanded farm would be sold in the local market, Mr Tejano said.

October 1, 2003

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