Friday, April 21, 2017

Millions of Odisha rice farmers to receive customized fertilizer recommendation at their doorsteps

The training on RCM will enable extension workers, crop advisors, and service providers 
to give farmers with customized crop and nutrient management recommendations.

ODISHA, India—Rice farmers are now receiving site-specific fertilizer recommendations for their crop without having to leave their villages through the Rice Crop Manager (RCM). Available in Odia and English, RCM is a web-based tool developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). It provides farmers with customized crop and nutrient management recommendations based on their actual field conditions and needs. Such recommendations can help increase the productivity and incomes of the farmers.

Fertilizer consumption in Odisha is much lower than the national average of 128.34 kg/ha, according to 2012-13 agricultural statistics.  However, in some districts, there are farmers who also apply more than the required levels of fertilizers. To prevent under- and over-fertilization, Odisha's Department of Agriculture (DoA), in collaboration with IRRI, is promoting the use of RCM through a project that seeks to increase the productivity and profitability of rice-based cropping systems and farmers’ income. Launched in 2016, the project has five subprojects including Raising productivity and profitability of rice-based systems of Odisha through RCM that aims to provide millions of farmers with site-specific recommendations.

During the 2016-17 rabi season, the districts of Puri, Bhadrak, Balasore, Sambalpur, Cuttack, Ganjam, and Bargarh were selected for the dissemination of RCM recommendations. The extension workers of the DoA, crop advisors, and service providers were trained to use RCM in interviewing farmers before the start of a rice cropping season. The responses given by the farmers are utilized in making tailor-made nutrient and crop management advisories. Around 3,000 farmers have received the recommendations for their rabi rice crops.

The DoA and IRRI have also developed partnerships with leading non-government organizations (NGOs) in Odisha to intensify the project's reach. The field staff of the NGOs, who are being trained in using RCM, will mobilize and motivate farmers, provide them the RCM recommendations, and follow up on its proper use.

RCM centers are being set up on every block in the selected districts for the upcoming kharif season. These centers are equipped with laptops, printers, and Internet connection and will be used by DoA extension staff to provide recommendations to the farmers. DoA and IRRI aim to reach around 50,000 farmers in time for kharif.

(Written by Preeti Bharti, Amit Mishra, and Sheetal Sharma)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

At least 150,000 smallholder farmers could benefit from new rice varieties released in Burundi


BUJUMBURA, Burundi—Two high-yielding rice varieties released to the government of Burundi in March can help hundreds of thousands of farmers overcome a major disease in the country’s irrigated rice areas.  Developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), IR87546-84-3-3-2 (photo above) and IR13A256, have yields of 7.5 and 6.7 t/ha, respectively, and possess resistance to rice blast, a fungal disease that can wipe out an entire crop.

“These varieties are set to improve rice production in our country where subsistence agriculture is still happening and where rice is slowly becoming a cash crop,” says Dr. Joseph Bigirimana, IRRI-East and Southern Africa (IRRI-ESA) regional coordinator. “These will help uplift lives of smallholder farmers in Burundi, more than 60% of whom are women farmers, who work to put daily food in the table for their families to eat.”

This development is a win for rice scientists and researchers in their mission to ensure food security in the country, according to Bigirimana.

“The primary beneficiaries of these varieties are at least 150,000 smallholder farmers living in the lowland of Imbo region along Ruzizi and along Lake Tanganyika,” adds Alexis Ndayiragije, lead of IRRI’s  Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) breeding team. “Breeders have to shorten the breeding cycle and deliver new resistant varieties within a short periode due to disease resistance breakdown through ESA RGA platform.”

Burundi is a small country and is considered as one of the poorest in the world. Most of the country’s poor are small-scale farmers. Other challenges in agricultural production in the country include sheath rot and the rice yellow mottle virus.

 “It is considered a success whenever a new rice variety is released to our government,” says Bigirimana. “However, we still have a long way to go as we are actively assisting Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture to multiply and distribute the seeds of these new varieties so that farmers can begin planting these seeds.”

A rice line introduced in Burundi goes through several stages of evaluation beginning with observation,  preliminary and advanced yield trials where the line is tested in multi-environmental settings, and a participatory variety selection or PVS.  During the PVS, all the stakeholders in the rice value chain—seed producers, rice growers, millers, vendors and consumers—are involved in the selection of good lines. The government of Burundi and IRRI’s collaborative work on rice began in 2008.  In 2011, IRRI released two rice varieties, locally known as Vuninzara and Gwizumwimbu, for irrigated lowland areas. Within two years, 90% of the rice-growing areas in irrigated lowlands were planted with these varieties and Vuninzara became a very popular variety. Unfortunately, in 2014, the variety became susceptible to rice blast causing significant decrease in yields. Another variety, Mugwiza, was released at the end of 2016 to replace Vuninzara.

Since 2011, IRRI has released a total of 15 varieties in other ESA countries: four in Mozambique, three in Uganda, two in Tanzania, one in Kenya, and five in Burundi including the two newly released varieties.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Experts find solutions for rice straw

IRRI's BMZ-funded project on sustainable rice straw management conducted its 
First Annual Review and Planning Meeting in Tien Giang province, Vietnam.

TIEN GIANG, Vietnam - Intensifying rice production has been increasingly dependent on machines to speed up the work, such as for harvesting. But what to do about the rice straw that remains in the field?

In the old days, rice straw was commonly burned to prepare the field for the next cropping, but the practice has been found to harm the air and environment and is thus no longer encouraged. There are also those who think that rice straw can actually have economic value.

In 2016, a project was started specifically to study rice straw and explore various options in managing it, to contribute to sustainable rice production.

“At this point, we all recognize that it is important to use rice by-products. As farmers and key rice actors strive for agricultural competitiveness in Vietnam, we must also consider the environmental sustainability and the improved quality of life of our rice consumers,” Duong Duy Dong, vice president of Nong Lam University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, shared. “I sincerely hope that this rice straw management project would provide opportunities to work together with other stakeholders and enable us to do more.”

On 28-29 March 2017, 53 rice straw experts and stakeholders from Cambodia, Philippines, and Vietnam convened to discuss research milestones and future opportunities for the project, titled Scalable straw management options for improved farmer livelihoods, sustainability, and low environmental footprint in rice-based production systems.

“IRRI has worked with different partners for a long time and we often work in different research areas that would help each country achieve agricultural competitiveness,” said Martin Gummert, postharvest and mechanization expert at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “However, technologies can also bring in challenges; an example would be the combine harvesters. We need to look at solutions in a holistic manner.”

The three-year project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development Cooperation.

Presentors Pyseth Meas (Cambodia), Caesar Joventino Tado (the Philippines), and Nguyen Thanh Nghi (Vietnam) gave presentations on the situation of rice straw management and current project initiatives in their respective countries.

Representatives from the University of Hohenheim in Germany updated the participants about the status of research and trials on rice straw carbonization and composting.

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Philippine government supports continued operation of satellite-based rice monitoring system

(From left) IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships Bruce Tolentino, DA Field Operations Service Director Andrew Villacorta, DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan, PhilRice Executive Director Sailila Abdula, and PhilRice Deputy Executive Director for Research and PRISM lead Eduardo Jimmy Quilang at the PRISM annual meeting. 

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—"We are not done here because we still have a long way to go, and now our project will go into the hands of the real users," shared Dr. Ariel Cayanan, undersecretary for operations of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) during the 2nd Annual Executive Meeting of the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project on 29 March.

PRISM is the first satellite-based rice monitoring system in Southeast Asia. The main goal of the project is to develop an online system that consolidates and presents accurate, timely, and location-specific information on rice production.

"PRISM maps and monitors rice areas, and produces yield estimates," said Dr. Eduardo Jimmy Quilang, PRISM project leader and deputy executive director for Research at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

PRISM provides maps and other information at the provincial level, which are freely accessible on its website. These will help the national and local governments make timely decisions or appropriate interventions to meet their respective rice production targets. PRISM can help policymakers understand what factors affect rice production, the most destructive of which are pests and diseases, for instance.

Using cloud-penetrating radar technology, PRISM is very useful in disaster preparedness and rapid response to any emergency situation.

"In the past three years, whenever flooding or drought affected our rice areas, we call on the PRISM team to provide us with detailed information on the areas that are affected by such calamities," said Cayanan. He stressed that the data that PRISM provides can supplement official statistics used by the government.

"Implementation of PRISM by PhilRice, with IRRI's support, will promote the success of the Philippine government's effort to add focus on historically underserved areas such as Mindanao,” said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

PhilRice Executive Director Sailila Abdula urged the PRISM team to collaborate and form partnerships with other government agencies, such as the Philippine Statistics Authority, and potential stakeholders like the Department of Interior and Local Government. He also underscored the importance of capitalizing on human resources.

According to Quilang, PRISM started as a research and development (R&D) project in 2013 and the R&D stage of the project will officially end by December 2017. “But this does not mean that the project itself will end because PRISM will now move into the operational phase under the management of the DA,” explained Quilang.

“The DA will continue to provide strategic directions, policies, and guidelines, PhilRice will establish the center unit of PRISM, and the DA regional field officers will continue to meet the operations at the regional level," he said.

Quilang added that other partners in the attached agencies will continue to validate all the information generated and serve as data sources while partners IRRI and sarmap will serve as technical consultants.

"Our meeting today has highlighted the impact that PRISM made in various parts of the country," said Abdula. "We found that, without a doubt, it has revolutionized rice science technology. This is only one of the many reasons why we support the sustainability of the project."

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Philippine farmers learn about quality rice seed production and value of community-based seed systems at a partnership training



LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Seed security means food security and the production and immediate dissemination of seeds to farmers is crucial to rice productivity.  To this end, a consortium that promotes agricultural development in Asia and a network of farmers' organizations in the Philippines formally established a partnership to address one of the challenges of rice production.

The Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) and the Medium-Term Cooperation Programme with Farmers’ Organizations in Asia and the Pacific Phase 2 (AFOSP-MTCP2) organized the technical services and training for farmers on producing quality seeds of the most preferred, appropriate, and climate-change ready rice varieties. Around 20 farmers, farmer-leaders, and project partners from 10 provinces in the Philippines are attending the training on 4-7 April at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters.

The event aims to introduce seed health management techniques, crop management practices, and various technologies in a seed-to-seed production system. The concept of community-based seed systems was also covered.

“Ensuring food security entails making available seeds at the right time, right quality, and quantity of most suitable varieties,” said Dr. David Johnson, head of Crop and Environmental Sciences Division at IRRI.  “Community-based seed systems can be used for introducing new technological options to more farmers. It also provides the project team to identify strategies and activities that will support MTCP2 farmers as partners in policy formulation and provide services under rural development programs.”

Johnson also encouraged the participants to take an active role, share the knowledge they gain from the training, and build learning alliances.

CURE and MTCP2 are two grants implemented in the Philippines by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). CURE is a regional platform for partnerships among 26 research institutions from 10 countries in South and Southeast Asia. In collaboration with IRRI scientists and its research partners, CURE aims to benefit the 100 million farm households in Asia that are dependent on rice. MTCP2 is a network of farmers' organizations that aims to strengthen the roles and functions of farmers' organizations in policy processes and services to members, including the effective pro-poor services in actively participating in agriculture and rural development.

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for partnerships and communication, emphasized the importance of the partnership between MTCP2 and CURE in enhancing the delivery of new climate-smart technologies to target communities.

“This partnership as an important step in contributing to the objectives of IFAD's Country Strategic Opportunities Program and the new Philippine Development Plan toward poverty reduction,” said Mr. Jerry Pacturan, IFAD country program officer. "IRRI is an important partner of IFAD in contributing to food security and poverty reduction in the region."

“Connecting with networks of farmers' organizations is as important as developing new varieties since products of research should be need-based and acceptable to the target users in rural communities, “ explained Dr. Digna Manzanilla, the coordinator of CURE. “Through this significant partnership, more farmers can benefit from the new knowledge, management practices, and varieties that are generated by the projects that cater to the development needs of poor farmers and fragile rice ecosystems.”

Mr. Ferdie  Buenviaje, national coordinator and executive director of MTCP2, welcomed the partnership that links government and non-government organizations with farmers' network to strengthen their capacities in scaling up services and increasing their participation in agricultural development programs, as they continue to engage in policy fora for rural transformation.

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IRRI’s new strategy for Bangladesh and South Asia align with government, stakeholders’ priorities

Scientists, policymakers, investor representatives, development professionals, and rice experts from a wide range
of organizations joined the discussion on IRRI's country strategy for Bangladesh and strategy for South Asia.

DHAKA, Bangladesh—The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) held a roundtable discussion on 28 March to ensure its draft country strategy for Bangladesh and regional strategy for South Asia are aligned with the priorities of the government, investors, and other stakeholders.

“South Asia’s socioeconomic status, global funding for agricultural research, and national agricultural research landscapes are changing rapidly,” said Dr. Nafees Meah, IRRI's representative for South Asia. “To prepare and plan for these changes, IRRI is revising its country and regional strategies for South Asia.

“As an international organization with strong track record in rice research, much social capital established in the region, and a big presence in the field, IRRI has a comparative advantage to work with various partner research institutes, the private sector, development agencies, other CGIAR centers, and investors and make a big impact in helping deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals in South Asia,” he added.

During the meeting, Dr. Anasar Ali, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) research director, discussed the rice research priorities for Bangladesh while Dr. Matt Curtis, deputy director of the Feed the Future Program of the United States Agency for International Development Bangladesh, presented  the donors’ perspectives and priorities in agriculture and overall development in Bangladesh. The half-day roundtable discussion was chaired by Mr. Anwar Faruque, former Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh.

More than 40 scientists, policymakers, investor representatives, development professionals, and rice experts from a wide range of organizations, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, BRRI, Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Cooperation, Department of Agricultural Extension, BRAC, ACI Limited, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and other international developmental organizations attended the event.

National stakeholders praised the more than five decades of partnership between IRRI and Bangladesh and IRRI’s significant contributions to improving the country’s food security and rural livelihoods. The participants requested IRRI’s continuing support in the supply of genetic materials, varietal development, crop and natural resource management, mechanization, socioeconomic research, and capacity building in Bangladesh.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bacterial blight management is crucial to strengthening Pakistan's rice breeding program and enhancing its rice productivity

Participants learn to identify, diagnose, and collect rice leaf samples infected with
bacterial blight. Inoculation and disease assessment in breeding populations were also part of the course.

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Eleven rice researchers from Pakistan attended a workshop on managing a bacterial rice disease as part of the Agricultural Innovations Program (AIP) that aims to strengthen Pakistan’s breeding program for Basmati and indica rice.

Bacterial blight is one of the most serious diseases of rice. The earlier the disease occurs, the higher the yield loss. It can damage as much as 60–70% of susceptible rice varieties and can even result in crop failure, especially when disease strikes at the seedling stage. Rice infected by bacterial blight near its reproductive phase produces poor quality grains, high sterility, and low grain weight.

The proper management of the disease would impact the value chain of Pakistan’s cereal crops, according to Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, deputy director general for Research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) where the workshop was held on 27-31 March.

“Understanding the impact of environmental stresses on plant resistance gene interaction will guide the breeding for the best gene combinations for durable resistance under a variable climate,” said Casiana Vera Cruz, a plant pathologist at IRRI. “A set of pre-breeding lines with combined resistance to diseases and tolerance of harsh environmental conditions are being developed at IRRI, which can serve as diverse genetic resources for the breeding program in Pakistan.”

“There is a need to shorten breeding cycles and release new crop varieties in Pakistan as soon as possible,” Abdelbagi Ismail, head of IRRI’s Genetics and Biotechnology Division. He emphasized the importance of strengthening current and future collaborative efforts between IRRI and its national program partners in building up breeding programs.

Dr. David Johnson, head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division and IRRI’s principal scientist as Lead for AIP, encouraged the participants to keep communications open between Pakistan’s rice research centers and IRRI. “With the excellent achievements of the NARES partners, I am optimistic that future collaborations will follow this project.”

The training program covered field disease diagnosis and assessment, pathogen isolation, culture collection maintenance, molecular approaches for detection of a pathogen, advances in breeding high-yielding rice varieties with disease resistance and tolerance to flooding, drought, and salinity.  The participants who attended the workshop were from the Rice Research Institute at Kala Sha Kaku, Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology, National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, National Agricultural Research Centre, Soil Salinity Research Institute, and Engro Fertilizer Ltd.

The AIP for Pakistan is funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

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