Agricultural research


    SEN. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, has chastised officials of the Department of Agriculture for allocating a huge part of the department’s National Corn Program into research.

    In her usual acerbic way, Sen. Villar said, “Parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research? Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin nyo ba ‘yung research?” (It seems like all your budget goes to research. You are so crazy about research. What will you do with those research?)

    The senator’s criticism was centered on the National Corn Program’s proposed allocation of P150 million for corn research next year.

    Villar was close to nitpicking when she mentioned that with budgets of P260 million for calamity assistance and P150 million for research, that would amount to P410 million already. The way she sounded, it looked like the DA was asking too much.

    The lady senator further downplayed the role of research in agriculture, saying if she were a farmer, she would prefer to be given free seeds and machineries instead of other things.

    While the corn program’s national coordinator assured that they are giving assistance to farmers in the form of seeds and fertilizers, he should have explained the value of aggie research. Without agricultural research, he should have said, Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping would not have actually succeeded in feeding millions, a dream former DA secretary Manny Pinol could only write as a goal in his book.

    Yuan, 87, the Father of Hybrid Rice, is a hero of sorts in China and throughout the world by developing – through research – more than 40 varieties of rice that grow well in various environments, actually preventing famine in many places.

    He developed the first hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s. Hybrid rice has since been grown in dozens of countries, providing yields like 10,606 kilos per hectare in 1997, which was unheard of in those years.

    Yuan recently set a new world record when his super hybrid rice yielded 17 tons per hectare. According to Yuan, if 50 percent of the rice paddies in the world were covered by rice hybrids, rice production could be increased by another 150 million tons which can feed 400 to 500 million more people.

    Yuan Longping, one of the few awardees during China’s 70th anniversary celebration recently, can make Villar retract her bias against agricultural research.