Friday, December 1, 2017

Virgilio Carangal, former IRRI agronomist, passes away

Dr. Virgilio R. “Pexy” Carangal, 84, former agronomist (1974-94) at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), passed away due to congestive heart failure on 26 November.
He had been a Filipino plant breeder with an impressive track record in the administration of Philippine public-sector agricultural research when he joined IRRI’s Multiple Cropping Program in 1974. He was tasked with launching and then coordinating the Asian Cropping Systems Network (ACSN).
The concept of networking was new in 1974. The ACSN, under Dr. Carangal’s leadership, broke new ground institutionally since it was the first organization of its kind in international agricultural research. The ACSN, later to become the Asian Rice Farming Systems Network (ARFSN), put a farming systems approach to research into practice. The network’s evolution was a microcosm of the development of conceptual thinking about agricultural research worldwide. This networking model that Dr. Carangal pioneered was widely imitated by other research organizations.
        During his more than 20 years at IRRI, he was a dedicated agronomist who was well loved and respected by research collaborators in more than 30 countries in South and Southeast Asia. He raised substantial funds for cropping systems research under the ACSN/ARFSN umbrella and traveled extensively to monitor collaborative projects. He advocated the integration of crop-livestock farming systems and technology development for different ecosystems.
        He authored/co-authored numerous scientific papers on cropping and farming systems during the 1976-96 period. His 1996 book, with Simon Chater, On Farmers' Fields: Portrait of  a Network, encapsulates his seminal networking projects at IRRI. As pointed out in the book, "with emphasis on training and on fostering collaboration between different countries, the ACSN/ARFSN played a key part in building a stronger regional research capacity—one that was equipped to meet the challenges of feeding a hungry world in the 21st century."
        Dr. Carangal was preceded in death by his wife, Connie. He is survived by daughters Aileen Carney and Aimee Dhakhwa and son Eugene Carangal. His wake will be held at the Zimmerman & Sandeman Memorial Chapel in Oak Lawn, Illinois on Sunday, 10 December. A funeral mass will be held on 11 December at St. Terrence Parish, in Alsip, Illinois.
Colleagues and friends may send their messages of condolence to: pexycarangal@gmail.com.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Celebrating biotechnology and its benefits to humanity


The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) joins its host country, the Philippines, in celebrating the 13th National Biotechnology Week from 20-24 November 2017.


Back-to-back exhibits at the Department of Agriculture and at the Fisher Mall  in Quezon City kicked off the week-long celebrations that highlight the role of biotechnology in improving the lives of Filipino farmers and consumers. IRRI’s exhibit booth at the Fisher Mall is one of the crowd’s favorites with its live plant displays featuring climate-smart rice varieties.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cambodian farmers participate in cross-site visits to learn about Integrated Pest Management practices


                Farmers check the trichoderma x variety trial in
Por Lors Station, Prey Veng

Farmers adapt new technologies by integrating new knowledge to existing practices based on their present conditions. The Ecologically-based Participatory Integrated Pest Management for rice in Cambodia (EPIC) Project, through its Learning Alliance platform, facilitated cross-site visits among farmers that enabled them to share their knowledge and experiences on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technologies. The farmers from Prey Veng and Takeo Provinces had been involved in adaptive research trials for two seasons and this activity will enhance learning that will lead to its local adaptation in Cambodian provinces.

On October 24, 25 farmers and extension staff from Prey Veng visited the villages of Ro Vieng and Kandaul in Takeo to observe rodent management trials and interact with ‘host farmers’ who implemented them.

In Ro Vieng, the participants learned from farmers who tried the Community Trap Barrier System (CTBS) with various types of traps, and community rat hunting. In Kandaul, they met with farmers who have tried the Linear Trap Barrier System, which they say is useful for trapping rats but would prefer to have a longer barrier. The farmers also learned about community action and limited but well-timed use of Bromadiolone in controlling rodents. They found out that even if the LTBS was not as long as they would want, there was reduction in rodent damage. Researchers shared the findings from data collected from farmers. Damage caused by rats is 28% lower, and yield increased by 23% with LTBS vs. control plots (farmer’s practice). 

In exchange, 27 farmers and extension staff from Takeo visited the adaptive research trials in Sdao and Thom villages, and the Por Lors station in Prey Veng, on October 25.  Topics such as entomopathogenic fungi (biological control agent that eats pest insects), differences in herbicide programs for integrated weed management, Trichoderma (biological control against diseases such as rice blast) and pest-resistant varieties like CAR14, were covered during the field visit and discussions.

At the end of the visits, farmers in their village groups reflected on and shared what they have observed. The ‘host farmers’ shared their experiences in coordination, sourcing of materials, and implementation of IPM considering local conditions. They remarked on the effectiveness of the technologies and discussed future plans for the 2018 rice-crop season. 

This project is funded by the USAID through the IPM Innovation Lab. 

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IRRI scientist wins 2017 Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers



IRRI scientist Dr. Sheetal Sharma was chosen as one of the three winners of the 2017 Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers. Every year, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council (AFFRC) selects three young researchers who show outstanding research achievements that will lead to future technological innovation as awardees.

“The goal of my research program is to provide the farmers of India with information and tools that will enable them to become better stewards of healthy and sustainable ecosystems. Solutions to real-world natural resource problems typically require an understanding of basic scientific knowledge and processes. Thus, my research strives to combine studies of basic scientific principles with applied research,” Dr. Sharma said.

The research focused on the development of innovative approaches to enable smallholder farmers of South Asia to achieve gains in productivity and profitability through use of cutting edge Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) to guide application of site-specific nutrient and crop management options.

Dr. Sharma has led initiatives in India to transform the provision of information to farmers and, for the first time, make site-specific recommendations available to smallholder farmers. Her major achievements have been to combine detailed information on crop performance with innovative knowledge transfer approaches and the development of ICT-based decision-support tools suited to extension workers and farmers using mobile applications or computers. These tools have been endorsed and adopted by the government. The applications are enabling farmers to improve the profitability of rice through more timely and accurate crop management.

The award aims to increase motivation among young researchers contributing to research and development in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and related industries in developing countries. The commendation ceremony was held on November 2, 2017 at the U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

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IRRI partners with JAAS to establish a joint innovation laboratory



Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines - 14 November 2017  --  The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (JAAS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a joint innovation laboratory at the JAAS headquarters in Nanjing, China.

China has an average yield of more than 6.5 tons per hectare, making it one of the major rice-producing countries in the world. Continuous research, innovation, and knowledge transfer are needed to make the production of this food crop sustainable.

Under the new MoU, JAAS and IRRI commit to work together on gene and trait discovery, plant protection, parent building, and capacity development, and training for the next generation of rice scientists and farmers.

The success of the research done in the joint innovation laboratory would ultimately benefit farmers in rural areas and consumers. It would also help ensure the economic growth of China and other Asian and African countries.

“Through our new MoU and strengthened partnership, the two Institutions will be able to harness our mutual strengths and common interests to contribute to achieving sustainable rural development and food security in China and other Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries,” said JAAS President Yi Zhongyi.

The delegation headed by Prof. Yi Zhongyi also visited the International Rice Genebank, Molecular Biology Laboratory, and Grain Quality Laboratory at the IRRI HQ.

JAAS is one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in China and was founded in 1932.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Making rice production easier and more profitable through plant science




Los Baños, Philippines - Nov 15, 2017 -- The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) welcomed delegates from Croplife Asia today to its campus to discuss the vital role that pest management plays in securing food supply for the future. The visit was part of CropLife Asia’s Plant Science Primer event, an effort to bring together key journalists and other food stakeholders from across Southeast Asia to share information and experiences regarding the role plant science plays in enabling farmers. 

As a leading global research institution, IRRI works closely with partners from around the world in exploring rice germplasm for new traits, improving the productivity of farming systems so that they are resource-efficient, profitable, and environmentally sustainable.

One such partner is Croplife Asia, whose focus is around ensuring that crop protection products such as pesticides are utilized responsibly and handled in the safest and most effective way to help farmers improve agricultural productivity and contribute to food security. 

Biotechnology provides farmers with tools that can make production cheaper and more manageable and provides consumers with foods that are nutritionally-enriched. Biotechnology has helped to make both insect pest control and weed management safer and easier while safeguarding crops against disease. The application of biotechnology in agriculture has  resulted in benefits to farmers, producers, and consumers.

“IRRI’s work will enable innovations that will empower governments and private sector players  to overcome the inter-related challenges of continuing population growth, malnutrition, poverty, climate change, and deteriorating natural resources,” said V. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships. 

IRRI’s scientists and researchers have been developing new approaches and products that fit farmer practices, production environments, and are resilient to climate change. Moreover, IRRI’s rice breeding work encompasses the multiple disciplines of conventional and modern biotechnology to improve rice for better grain quality and higher yield, resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance of environmental stresses, less farm input requirements, and higher nutrient content. Crop protection solutions have addressed problems caused by pests such as weeds, diseases and insects which have led to higher and quality yields.

“The challenge of growing more food with fewer natural resources and less impact on the environment is one that requires solutions that are game-changing and sustainable - the innovations plant science technology provides are just that. At the same time, the responsibility of supporting our region’s farmers to ensure they have access to the technology and tools they need is a shared endeavor, and we proudly stand with IRRI in continuing this important work,” added Dr. Siang Hee Tan, CropLife Asia Executive Director.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

ISARC hosts first international hands-on training on quality seed production


29 October 2017. IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) informally opened its offices at the National Seed Research and Training Center (NSRTC) Campus in Varanasi, India.

ISARC will serve as IRRI’s center for capacity building in agriculture, particularly on rice-based systems in the South Asian and African regions.

A robust seed system is the backbone of agricultural developments and to start its operations, ISARC hosted its first international training on quality seed production. The training aimed to strengthen the agriculture and seed sector of the country. It also provided a hands-on training for technical knowledge on quality rice seed production, and addressed problems that farmers, researchers, and seed production agencies commonly encounter.


Through the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, India’s government sponsored 10 participants from their country, and 15 from Cambodia. The participants represent government research and development institutions, as well as public-private organizations.

During the sessions, experts from different organizations gave presentations about India's seed system, seed and rice morphology, the growth stages of rice, management of seeds, best practices in its production, and pointers on certification and quality control. 

Participants were also exposed to a rigorous hands-on training that enabled them to better understand the process of quality seed production. During the exercise, they learned how to select representative panicles to sow directly in raised beds, row transplanting, roguing during all the growth stages for nucleus seed production, select high quality seeds, and handle the breeder seed production from sowing to maturity. To learn more about rice-based cropping systems, they visited the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research.

The training is expected to help farmers improve their crop management skills, which will lead to better harvest.

Dr. A. Vaishampayan, Director of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, opened the training session and experts from different organizations gave presentations. They are Dr. J.P. Tandon from ICAR, Dr. S. Selvaraj and Dr. R.K. Trivedi from MOAFW, GOI, Dr. Sudhanshu Singh and Dr. R.K. Singh from IRRI, and Dr. P.K. Singh from BHU. The hands-on training was coordinated by Drs. R.K. Singh and P.K. Singh of IRRI, and Dr. R.K. Sahu of the National Rice Research Institute in Cuttack.  

Cambodian representatives remarked that “this training is an eye-opener for us. Though communication was a challenge, the hands-on exercise helped us better understand the importance of seed quality in producing rice”. 


In his closing address, Dr. Arvind N. Singh said, “this training initiative is very useful in developing seed expertise and entrepreneurship among farmers in this region. The skills they learned will help them improve their livelihoods, which will benefit the society as a whole”.

The 4-day training was jointly organized by ISARC, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and NSRTC, and was coordinated by Mr. T.C. Dhoundiyal, IRRI’s Project Manager for South Asia's Stress Tolerant Rice Program.

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