New rice experiments begin in Laleia

The fourth phase of student-led research at AI-Com and the University of Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL)’s collaborative research has commenced with 11 eager new students and a plan for figuring out how to grow more rice for farming families.

As the year’s rice season begins, AI-Com is supporting UNTL students and lecturers to conduct a series of rice trials in Laleia, Manatuto municipality, just west of the research site at Vermasse that has supported previous UNTL student experiments.

Flooding of rice paddies started last week, and the students have arrived at the new Laleia site, just two kilometres west of Vermasse.

Following trials in the Bulutu irrigation system last year, student researchers will in January start experiments slightly closer to the water inlet, where farmers have requested AI-Com and UNTL’s support. The Bulutu trials follow three successful phases of research at the Vermasse site established in November 2017 – the 2017 dry season, 2017 rice season and 2018 dry season.

Last year, rice crops responded well to applications to organic and inorganic fertilisers, including urea, rice hull biochar, TPS36 and NPK. Experiments this year will increase maximum rates of applied fertiliser over last year’s trials.

At a farmer field day in Vermasse in November, farmers asked AI-Com and UNTL to commence research at Laleia, which has a similar soil type to Vermasse. Student experiments will be planted in farmers’ rice fields, rather than in a single continuous plot, offering greater chance of participation by local farmers in experiments.

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