Rice Crop Manager Advisory Service
Rice in Asia is typically produced in small landholdings and farming practices vary among farmers and fields. Field-specific crop and nutrient recommendations are needed to optimize yields and profit.
Rice Crop Manager Advisory Service (RCMAS) is a web- and Android-based platform for field-specific information on crop and nutrient management to increase yields and income of rice farmers, based on site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) principles.
Its research & development was funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institutes (PhilRice). The Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) funded IRRI to support large-scale deployment.
The nationwide training, dissemination, and deployment were implemented in collaboration with the DA Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs), DA-ATI with the support of its Regional Training Centers (RTCs), and the agricultural extension workers (AEWs) at the local government units (LGUs).
RCMAS was transitioned to DA in October 2021. Beginning 2022, DA manages the operationalization, maintenance, and management of the RCMAS applications and databases.
Since the project was disseminated at scale nationwide until December 2021, RCMAS was used by trained users to reach at least 1.4 million rice farmers and generated more than 2.7 million recommendations on best nutrient and crop management practices. Additionally, the nationwide deployment of RCMAS facilitated the registration of farmers and georeferencing rice farms equivalent to more than 80,000 hectares.
This will further increase in number as DA’s updating of the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture (RSBSA) already adopted the RCMAS protocols in georeferencing of registered farms in their system starting 2022.
Furthermore, based on 1,766 on-farm trials nationwide from 2014 to 2021, the average yield increase with RCMAS recommendation was 391kg/ha/season or 9%. The biggest yield increase of 17% was observed in on-farm trials where farmers' yield was below 4t/ha.
RCMAS also recorded approximately 8,000 registered users with different access levels from data controllers from PhilRice and DA central offices, national and regional users from DA and ATI offices, provincial and municipal users from the local government units, and public users such as farmers, students, and private sector.
More than 50% of these users are agriculture extension workers from the provincial and municipal agriculture offices who are the key intermediaries to deliver the services to rice farmers.
Results and Impact
Reach, yield, income
Based on the MEL survey results, 27% of respondents indicated that they had received and applied the RCM recommendation. The estimate for the number of unique farmers was 69,000, lower than the project's initial goal.
MEL survey results showed that the project goals of increased yield (target of 500 kg of unmilled rice/ha/year) and net income (approximately US$83/year) were exceeded. Surveyed farmers who said they followed at least one component of the RCM recommendation recorded an average yield increase of 880 kg/ha and an average net income increase of over US$420/ha.
Adoption of recommendations
In terms of increased yield and income, 29% followed the fertilizer quantity recommendation only, 25% only followed the fertilizer timing and nitrogen distribution recommendation, 23% followed both the fertilizer quantity, timing, and nitrogen distribution recommendation, and 14% followed both nutrient and crop management advice.
For partial recommendation adoption by farmers, 64% noted that they followed the recommendation because of RCM's utility as a decision-making tool. Familiarity with the interviewer or being interviewed by an AEW increased the likelihood of adoption.
Farmers with lower yields before learning about RCM were more likely to adopt the recommendation. 21% noted that the DA's endorsement was a deciding factor to encourage them to adopt. Farmers with access to loans were more likely to purchase the recommended inputs: without access to loans, some farmers were unable to afford the recommended fertilizers.
One reason for not following the full recommendation was that 28% did not have sufficient funds to buy the recommended fertilizer. 23% of farmers were skeptical about the accuracy and reliability of the recommendation. 26% adjusted the recommendation or did not adopt in full because of weather and water variability, citing a need for more dynamic recommendations to adjust to conditions as they arise. Lastly, 11% also noted that the recommendation arrived late.
Overall, results in experimental fields and MEL studies have shown that if RCM recommendations are followed, increases in yield and income will be achieved.
Starting in 2022, key agencies within DA will sustain the operations of RCMAS through different components:
PhilRice will handle the technical content upgrading of the system based on research results and recommendations from the actual use of RCMAS.