Heirloom Rice

The Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) is a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research for development project by the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

It aimed to meet the needs of the Cordillera farmers through research on heirloom rice. Project activities were divided among the three agencies and assigned based on institutional capabilities and expertise. The project outcomes are aligned with DA’s agenda of “ani” (harvest) and “kita” (profit).

Project highlights

Philippine Cordillera Heirloom Rice: Varietal Catalogue

Heirloom rice farmers can get information on the important inter-generational characteristics of their treasured seeds - from vegetative up to the postharvest stage, including information on disease resistance.

The catalogue serves as a reference for the general public in selecting particular traits for their precise purpose such as chefs, traders, and general consumers of heirloom rice on the appearance (i.e. grain color), grain consistency (i.e. glutinous or not), eating quality (i.e. soft or hard), shape and other traits of the culinary and gustatory value of the heirloom rice varieties.

Expanded Value Chain Analysis of Heirloom Rice in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)

The project contributes to the sustenance and productivity of the heirloom rice farmers, providing a way for them (the majority of whom are now female) to survive and thrive despite the harsh farming conditions in the Cordillera mountains.

The value chain of heirloom rice has acquired some stability, as a small but fairly regular supply of heirloom rice now reaches the domestic market. By linking small-scale processors to established companies, the HRP helped create a better standardization of the processing procedures and adherence to safety measures.

A market study in Metro Manila conducted under HRP I and II has shown that urban consumers’ willingness to pay for heirloom rice is currently lower than the prices farmers need to receive in order to get a decent return for their labor costs.

Monograph: Postharvest Innovations for the Heirloom Rices of the Cordillera Administrative Region

The project conducted an impact assessment/evaluation of the innovations to evaluate and assess the efficiency of these innovations. Aside from impact evaluation, an ex-post evaluation was conducted after the years of the end date of the project to know its long-term impact on the heirloom rice field.

Field Guide: Earthworms in Heirloom Rice Fields of the Philippine Cordillera and Their Integrated Management

The project conducted recommended activities to prevent these pests during the field preparation, during & after transplanting, and after harvesting.

Simple diagnostic keys may be a great help for the farmers to identify the three dominant destructive species in the said region for effective pest management.

Lastly, practical integrated management options to control earthworms can be used by the heirloom rice farmers in the Cordillera region.

Ways Forward

The Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) of IRRI and DA has made great progress in achieving its goals, but there are still some challenges that need to be addressed.

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of data on the resistance of heirloom rice varieties to local pests and diseases. To address this challenge, IRRI is working with DA and other local partners to collect, isolate, and evaluate pathogen isolates from the Cordillera region. This will help to determine the actual resistance of heirloom rice varieties to natural pests and diseases.

There has also been significant progress made in bringing heirloom rice varieties to consumers, and it is hoped that this trend will continue in the future.

In addition, there is a need for scaling post-harvest innovations to improve the storage and marketing of heirloom rice.

These are just a few of the challenges that the HRP is facing and addressing. With the help of DA, IRRI is confident that the Philippines can continue to make progress in the conservation and use of traditional rice varieties.

Online Resources

DA - IRRI2016 - 2021