Farmers planting the Sembada 188 variety of padi at Kandol, Belait. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Brunei will start cultivating the Titih rice variety, which has a yield potential of more than eight tonnes of paddy per hectare, the sultanate’s highest-yielding variety yet, by the end of this year, according to Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism.

Speaking during an interview recently, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said that the ministry plans to introduce the hybrid Titih to farmers by November, hoping to replace the Sembada188, which can produce six metric tonnes of paddy per hectare.

He clarified however that this does not mean the ministry is discontinuing the cultivation of Sembada188, but rather providing an alternative for Brunei farmers to “reap even more output and earn more profit through paddy farming”.

Farmers planting the Sembada 188 variety of padi at Kandol, Belait. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“The continued cultivation of the Sembada188 variety really depends on the farmers, but due to the high yield potential of the Titih, it is expected that farmers will gravitate more towards this (new variety),” he said.

The introduction of the new rice variety will be done in phases, he continued, focussing on paddy plantations which have consistent and effective irrigation and drainage systems like the Kandol and Wasan Agricultural Development Areas (KKP).

This is an essential requirement for hybrid rice varieties like Titih, YB Dato Hj Ali added.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali Apong

According to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA), the development of the Titih variety spans almost a decade, which began with variety suitability trials that were conducted between 2009 and 2012 by the department and Sunland Pte Ltd.

Results from the trial in 2011 had proven the Titih variety’s potential yield of more than eight metric tonnes of paddy per hectare, which represented one of the highest yields ever achieved outside of the DAA’s research fields.

Despite the promising outcome, seed production for the hybrid Titih has become a major hurdle due to its complex process, as the seeds are produced through the crossing of two genetically different parents which must be carried out manually. 

Farmers planting the Sembada 188 variety of padi at Kandol, Belait. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Therefore, due to the technical challenges posed by hybrid seed production skilled specialised seed producers are required to ensure that the parental lines remain pure, maintain the variety’s yield advantage.

Currently, a local company that was not disclosed has been appointed as a seed producer for the Titih, with seed multiplication activities already being carried out in small areas.

YB Dato Hj Ali went on to say that the ministry through the DAA will continue to collaborate with research agencies from the region and China, to identify other high yielding rice varieties that can be cultivated in the sultanate, hoping to find a variety that can produce up to 12 metric tonnes of paddy per hectare.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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