The rector of the National University of Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL) has this week launched a new publication collecting research results from student-led experiments conducted on rice cropping intensification in Timor-Leste. Supported by AI-Com, the publication marks two years of successful collaborative research conducted into growing more rice for Timorese families, and published novel research methods for increasing rice yields.
UNTL’s head of agronomy and co-editor of the publication, Dr Acacio Gueterres, highlighted the importance of local rice production for Timor-Leste’s future. “This research shows the way forward that Timor-Leste can produce more rice,” he said in his remarks. “This research shows a combination of rice hull biochar and some inorganic fertiliser can produce profitable and higher-yielding rice crops, which will allow Timor-Leste to reduce rice imports.”
The publication, Rice System Intensification for Production and Post-Harvest of Rice, contains 13 research papers, which are based on 11 projects conducted by fourth year UNTL agronomy students. All 11 experiments were conducted in the Buluto irrigation area, in the administrative post of Vermasse, in Baucau municipality on Timor-Leste’s northern coast. A flat area with good irrigation, Vermasse is home to the collaborative research site established between UNTL and AI-Com in December 2017 that has supported more than 35 student-led on-farm experiments since its initiation.
Students experimented with a variety of different doses of organic and inorganic fertilisers on the production of rice in Vermasse – notably, using rice hull biochar, an innovative local organic fertiliser tested by AI-Com, to explore how to increase crop yields.
With no added fertiliser, students found a mean yield of rice of 1.3 tonnes per hectare – very similar yields to the rice fields around the research plots.
But the addition of rice hull biochar and some superphosphate or urea increased the rice yields to more than 5 tonnes per hectare in all cases. The addition of biochar and urea increased yields to more than 8 tonnes per hectare.
These results demonstrate the potential of locally grounded farming innovations to increase crop yields for Timorese farming families.
The rice intensification research was launched together with three other publications from other faculties at a ceremony to mark the 19th anniversary of UNTL’s founding. The publication was edited by Mr Acacio da Costa Guetrres with Dr Marçal Gusmão. It is available in hard copy from UNTL and be downloaded (in Tetun) from AI-Com’s website.