GOOD HARVEST. George T. Pasion Jr., 47, of Barangay San Marcos, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte proudly shows the 285.6 cavans or 14.3 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) of rice he harvested this last cropping season (April 2021). Pasion said support from the government should be accompanied with hard work and good character. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – When 47-year-old George T. Pasion Jr. of Barangay San Marcos in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte decided to follow his father's footsteps in farming, he knew he would need to adapt to change in many aspects of rice farming. From planting to harvesting, Pasion was prepared to embrace every struggle that would come and challenge his methods.

“Alagaan pag tinanim, hindi pabayaan (Take care what you planted, don’t neglect them),” these are Pasion’s words, describing his methods for the past 25 years being a farmer. With three children and a supporting wife, Pasion managed to have year-round cropping.

Armed with dedication to his work, Pasion and his father were among the first farmers in Ilocos to use hybrid rice and, to be precise, using the SL-8H developed by SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC).

Given the weather condition in Ilocos Region with the highest temperature from March to June, it became the perfect opportunity for Pasion to plant the variety as it is resilient even during dry season.

This is the beginning of Pasion’s journey in making SL-8H variety his top and only choice of palay (unmilled rice) during dry season.

He and his father’s breakthrough of harvesting more than 200 cavans per hectare since 2003 prompted him to continue on planting this variety in his paddy fields. Summing it up, a total of three hectares were planted purely with SL-8H variety.

“Sumubok ako ng ibang hybrids, pero hindi kasing ganda ng ani sa SL-8H (I tried using other hybrid varieties, but the quality is not good as SL-8H),” Pasion said as he proudly reported the 285.6 cavans or 14.3 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) of rice he harvested this last cropping season (April 2021).

The SL-8H (NSIC Rc-132H) seeds were given to him, along with the many farmers in Ilocos Region by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Office 1, under the government’s Rice Resiliency Program.

He also noted that the SL-8H grains are noticeable to be whole, not cracked or granulated if compared to the other hybrid varieties. This quality of grain is the key why using SL-8H is profitable to farmers and being a “devotee” is unquestionable.

Pasion, who is also the president of the Barangay San Marcos Farmers’ Association, became the “apple of the eye” of many farmers who were inspired by his loyalty to SL-8H. With his regular harvest of more than 200 cavans per hectare of palay during dry season, his friends and kabarangay were easily swoon over to use SLAC’s flagship—SL-8H, as almost everyone in his barangay is now “Ka-SL-8H.”

In fact, he has many experiences of using inbred rice from land preparation to harvesting and the process is no different at all.

Parehas lang ang araw, oras at (higit sa lahat) pagod kahit anong variety ng palay ang gagamitin (Just the same day, time and most of all tired no matter what variety of rice is used),” Pasion said as he explained his routine in the farm. Like other rice variety, part of his daily challenges is dealing with pests and diseases which can be controlled.

In his paddy fields, Pasion has no special techniques to control pests and diseases but he is always in the position of controlling the imminent threats to his farm. Such agricultural practice is spraying bio-control agents against snails and other pests before planting.

Pasion said the yield from the SL-8H variety is more than double or triple than the usual inbred varieties of palay. With his perseverance in farming, the time and money he spent are his investments that he wanted other farmers in the country to adapt—a regular income of PHP200,000 during dry season.

He said PHP50,000 to PHP100,000 is a small investment, as the earnings will definitely cover all the efforts poured in farming.

The relentless efforts of Pasion in farming paved the way for his eldest child to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy. From the bulk of his earnings only during dry season, he was able to support the studies of his children.

As he continued his cropping this wet season, he will take a risk of using another variety of SL, the SL-20H, in this cropping season. Said to be an all-weather variety, SL-20H is also resilient during the wet season. And so, Pasion is very eager and hopeful that this yield will also become double or triple using SL-20H.

“Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa Department of Agriculture na nabibigyan kami ng ganun (suporta) (I am really thankful to the DA which provides such support),” Pasion expressing his heartfelt gratitude as one of the many beneficiaries of free seeds from the rice resiliency program of DA.

But Pasion, as the farm leader in Barangay San Marcos, reminded himself and his farmer members that “we should not be dependent alone in the support coming from DA”.

“Hindi naman kailangan iasa lahat sa kanila (We should not rely on everything to them)”, Pasion explained referring to DA. “Nasa ugali ng tao ang pag-asenso (Progress depends on the person’s character).”

His experience taught him well that support from DA will be unproductive if farmers will not do their part. (PR)