Not so with Junel Soriano, an accomplished doctor and engineer.Dr. Junel Soriano
(third from right) teachers farmers in rainfed areas how aerobic rice can help them make their land more productive. Dr. Junel Soriano teaches at Bulacan Agricultural State College (BASC), about 2 hours' drive from Manila, Philippines, and an energetic member of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).He got his doctorate degree in agricultural engineering from the Central Luzon State University in April.His
scholarship was supported by IRRC
, and the "Developing a System of Temperate and Tropical Aerobic Rice in Asia (STAR)" project under the Challenge Program on Water and Food.
When asked how he
got into his
profession, Dr. Soriano
narrates, "I grew up on the family farm in Isabela.So from my childhood years, I learned from experience how important agriculture is to daily life.When time came for me to choose my own career, agricultural engineering was the natural choice."His bachelor's and master's degrees are also in agricultural engineering, which he received from the Tarlac College of Agriculture (TCA).Dr. Soriano first joined the IRRC Water-Saving Work Group when he worked in the National Irrigation Administration in 2000, doing projects on alternate wetting and drying (AWD) in Tarlac.
In 2003, Dr. Soriano
transferred to BASC
, under the mentorship of Dr. Josie Valdez, his former adviser and professor during his student days at TCA
, now the president of BASC
Right now, Dr. Soriano
director for research, extension, training, and production.
Led by Dr. Soriano
and in collaboration with IRRI
soon emerged as an authority on aerobic rice, a production system for rice under nonflooded conditions.Aerobic rice lets farmers produce more rice in rainfed areas using less water.Aerobic rice is more robust than conventional flooded lowland rice and is generally grown in nonpuddled conditions.Farmers attest to the fact that aerobic rice needs less labor and water and yields more than rice cultivated using conventional methods, thus providing them more income.Aerobic rice is also more tolerant of pests and is more competitive against weeds.Dr. Soriano
has worked closely with farmers, especially in Bulacan
, who welcomed aerobic rice, which allowed them to plant earlier in rainfed areas.Some 200 lowland farmers from Bulacan
now enjoy two cropping seasons instead of one, doubling their annual production from 3.5-4 tons per hectare to 7-8 tons per hectare. Dr. Soriano's
team now works with other state universities and colleges and government agencies to advance aerobic rice research and extension in the country.BASC
has entered into memoranda of agreement with Bataan Peninsula State University, Don Mariano Marcos State University, Palawan State University, and Aurora State College of Technology
. Dr. Soriano
also holds trainers' training on aerobic rice technology for faculty and agricultural technicians of the Department of Agriculture's
team is also developing a technology guide to help spread best management practices for aerobic rice in the wet season.
The hard work of Dr. Soriano's
team recently received well-deserved merit.This year, BASC and its collaborators were given the Best Research Paper award in the Regional Development Symposium, in competition from all other state universities and colleges and other research agencies in Central Luzon.
As Central Luzon's official entry to the 2007's National Symposium on Agriculture and Resources Research and Development, their work got second place for best paper in the research category.
Surprisingly, this dynamic and forward-facing team comprises only six people.When asked how they manage all the work, Dr. Soriano quickly acknowledges the funding support from the national government through the Department of Agriculture and other agencies and tie-ups with other institutions.
Their partnership with IRRC
helped develop the BASC
team's R&D skills and paved the way for national funding for aerobic rice, which enabled them to reach more farmers.
Now that BASC's work on aerobic rice has gained momentum in Central Luzon
, Dr. Soriano
is envisioning something grander for aerobic rice.His
team is now seriously toying with the idea of putting up a Philippine Aerobic Rice Program that includes not only research but more importantly what happens afterwards-extension, seed production, marketing, and promotion.
For Dr. Soriano
, time is a valuable resource, so he
makes each waking moment count.When not at work, he
is at home gardening, watching the local news, or spending time with his
wife and three daughters.He
also hangs out with friends while thinking about work.To take a break from his
busy schedule, he
goes to the beach or the mountains, where the serenity of nature is sure to recharge him."I like to spend my free time in quiet places," and revealing a sentimental side, confesses, "love songs bring special meaning to my life."
As a person, Dr. Soriano
describes himself with the acronym "SIMPLE"-smart, intelligent, magnificent, patient, loving, and eventful.And simple he
is, finding fulfillment in the little things that matter in life.For those who have been in the agriculture field for quite some time, he
may come across as a bit too ambitious, perhaps because of his
youthful enthusiasm or his
idealistic sense of duty to help others in need.After all, aerobic rice is still a young technology, with much left for scientists to understand.But Dr. Soriano
has every right to dream and dream big.If he
were dreaming alone, it is only a dream.But because others share his
vision, then it is the birth of reality.