Thursday, December 8, 2016

Odisha farmers switching to stress-tolerant rice varieties and mechanization

By N.C. Banik, P. Anand, and A. Kumar

ODISHA, India, 22 November—In the coastal region of this state, BINA dhan-11, a short duration and flood-tolerant rice variety, could be a good option for farmers resowing or transplanting late in the season in areas where floods have damaged crops planted earlier. This was a recommendation of Dr. Narayan Chandra Banik, an agronomist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-India.

Banik and other crop specialists and agriculture officials were interacting with around 65 farmers, village agriculture workers, NGO partners, and service providers in Puri District (photo). In the field demonstrations, the participants were able to observe the benefits of growing stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) and using sustainable intensification technologies. 

In addition to BINA dhan-11, other varieties showcased were flood-tolerant CR 1009-Sub1 and Swarna-Sub1 and the drought-tolerant DRR-42 planted in farmers’ fields in Danogahir, Achhuasahi, and Srikanthapur during the 2016 kharif season using direct-seeding drills and mechanical transplanters. Also highlighted were best practices such as optimal seed rate and planting time, fertilizer scheduling, and integrated weed management.  

Across different sites, farmers were impressed with the STRVs because of the vigorous crop stands, resistance to lodging, and higher yields compared with the region's traditional varieties. Some farmers were initially apprehensive about using STRVs and direct seeding—these being totally new interventions in the area. However, they were eventually convinced to adopt the technologies for next year’s cropping season as they realized the added assurance of higher yields even with heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding. 

The participating farmers were also impressed with the direct-seeding drill and mechanical transplanters. The immediate benefits of these machines include significant savings in labor, energy, cost of cultivation, and reduced drudgery. 

New service providers created by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and farmers who opted to use mechanical transplanting said they could transplant rice seedlings in time at a reduced cost. They also obtained higher yields than from manual transplanting. 

The main concern of stakeholders about direct seeding is weed management and limited knowledge on the proper use of herbicides. “Integrated weed management with newly recommended pre- and post-emergence herbicides and manual and mechanical weeding could be an effective option for controlling weed in direct seeded rice,” explained Dr. Ashok Kumar, IRRI coordinator of the  CSISA Odisha hub. “Training of product dealers and service providers on herbicides could also be helpful.”

While the majority of participants opined that the large-scale adoption of the technology was limited by lack of awareness and availability of the equipment, agriculture officials emphasized nursery enterprise development could enable a wider dissemination of mechanical transplanters.  Service providers can avail of the government’s subsidy scheme for purchasing trays for rice mat nurseries and provide services for using nursery and paddy transplanting machines. Current trained service providers can also target selected villages to increase awareness of mechanical transplanters, which in turn will increase their enterprise.

The traveling seminars and interactive meetings were organized by CSISA in collaboration with the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project coordinated by IRRI and the state’s Department of Agriculture.  Similar efforts to demonstrate and out-scale these technologies are being conducted in Khurda, Cuttack, and Jagatsinghapur in Puri District.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Scientists helping Filipino farmers adapt to climate change

ALABANG, Muntinlupa City, 28-29 November—The current practices of Filipino rice farmers and the varieties they are using are continually being upgraded by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to help them adapt to the unpredictable effects of climate change.

This was an observation from Dr. Yoichiro Kato, a rainfed lowland agronomist at IRRI, during his presentation at the recent 10th Annual Scientific Forum and Meeting, organized by the Philippine Association of Career Scientists, Inc. (PACS). The event attracted Kato and other international and national scientists from different disciplines who shared insights from their research activities in improving farmers’ planting practices.

Kato, when discussing other adaptive measures for growing rice under the current Philippine weather and climate conditions, cited Central Thailand's rice farming model, which uses a number of the dynamic farming approaches recommended by IRRI.

He also shared his three-step research philosophy for agricultural science: (1) know your own target; (2) get robust evidence; and (3) understand reasons behind the results. “This is my personal strategy to effectively implement basic researches in rice agronomy,” Kato said.

Dr. Ricardo Orge, from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), presented his study on coping with climate change in the Philippines.  He gave an overview of Palayamanan, a PhilRice initiative on water-saving technology for diversified and integrated system of farming.  Orge’s presentation stimulated a discussion on budget limitations for rice-farming research.    

According to Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza, Scientific Career Council Executive Secretary Academician, research and development (R&D) in the Philippines are lagging behind in the number of R&D personnel per million persons in the population.  This lags far behind other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and needs to be remedied.

Other prominent scientists from leading rice research centers in the country discussed how they are providing far-reaching technological solutions in line with the Forum’s theme, Reinforcing science and technology capacities for sustainable community development,

The Philippine Scientific Career System and the National Academy of Science and Technology collaborated with PACS in sponsoring the forum.

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On-farm research trials ramped up in Cambodia to reduce pesticide use in rice farming

Participants discuss and chart the next steps in conducting adaptive research on integrated pest management in Cambodia.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—A project led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Cambodia is set to conduct on-farm research to develop site-specific, environment-friendly integrated pest management (IPM) packages for the country’s rice farmers.

The project, EPIC (Development of ecologically-based, participatory IPM package for rice in Cambodia), has ramped up its plans to conduct adaptive and participatory research on IPM to help Cambodian rice farmers reduce their use of chemical pesticides. The plans, along with forming regional- and provincial-based learning alliances and target-specific communication initiatives, were announced during the annual meeting and workshop of the EPIC project on 1-2 December.

“Several pests and diseases in rice production have been causing significant yield losses,” said H.E. Hean Vanhan, director general of the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. “Over the last decade, farmers mainly relied on chemical pesticides as a major method to control rice pests and diseases. The immediate goals of EPIC are to contribute to the improvement of farmers’ livelihoods, which is in line with the policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia.”

 “Adaptive research will take a prominent role in the work that EPIC project will do,” said Dr. Sang Lee, representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Cambodia. “This is critical to be able to fine-tune, adjust, and perhaps even change course to address the complex ecological solution that the IPM program plans to address.” The EPIC project is supported by USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative.

Workshop participants shared and discussed the initial results of survey activities and field trials conducted in Prey Veng, Battambang, Takeo, and Kampong Thom Provinces. Sessions were conducted to map out future initiatives on forming learning alliances, conduct of adaptive research, and information dissemination and capacity enhancement.

“We are reviewing what has been done in the past year in partnership with GDA and the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) so we can chart the next direction of the project in Cambodia,” said Dr. Buyung Hadi, IRRI entomologist and EPIC project coordinator.

Dr. Seng Vang, Deputy Director General CARDI, also shared that these initial achievements would not have been possible without the all-out support and cooperation of other partners.

More than 50 participants attended the meeting including representatives from GDA, CARDI, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Virginia Tech, Cornell University, and the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Battambang, Prey Veng, Takeo, and Kampong Thom.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Eastern India’s seed industry needs to be more aware of climate-smart rice varieties

by Mayank Sharma

WEST BENGAL, India—There are many stress-tolerant rice varieties that have been released in India. However, seed producers and companies in the country’s eastern region urgently need to be more aware of their availability and ways to promote them. So, a varietal exhibition and a workshop were held recently in Birbhum to do just that.

The events aimed to improve seed supply and accelerate the adoption of suitable varieties by small and marginal farmers living in the region’s stress-prone areas. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in India facilitated the activity through its project, Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA).

To support its objective, STRASA brought together around 140 representatives from seed dealers, seed producers, private seed companies, state seed corporations, nongovernmental organizations, progressive farmers, and others from Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam to enhance their knowledge of new stress-tolerant rice varieties.

The on-farm displays featured almost all the stress-tolerant rice varieties released in India along with some popular high-yielding varieties from eastern Indian states. The participants were able to observe the traits of these improved rice varieties.

“Engaging the private sector in the diffusion process is important and sustainable,” said Dr. Manzoor Dar, an IRRI-India development specialist who initiated the idea of bringing together these stakeholders in eastern India. “Delivering these services directly to seed dealers has a greater impact on the spread of new varieties since they have incentives to spread this information to their customers. Increases in the demand for these varieties translate directly to increased profits for dealers.”  

The IRRI-STRASA workshop covered various aspects of the seed supply chain to help the private sector develop better seed markets and strategies for scaling-up the varieties’ production and adoption. During the workshop, Dr. Gary Atlin, (third from right in photo) senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed the role of private seed companies and dealers in supplying quality products to the farmers and need to promote climate-resilient rice varieties.

The workshop provided key seed players with a platform to give their feedback.

“We encourage seed dealers and private seed companies to share their experiences and requirements on behalf of the farmers,” said Dr. George Kotch, head of IRRI’s Plant Breeding Division. “This way IRRI breeders can be more effective in meeting the need of the farmers and the market.”

IRRI, through STRASA, is currently working to build the capacity to scale out stress-tolerant rice varieties across South Asia.

“This includes partnerships with local NGOs and private seed companies to ensure adequate and sustainable seed supply and availability,” said Dar. “IRRI-STRASA is forming a platform for all stakeholders in the seed sector who can be part of enhancing the delivery of these varieties in the target areas.”

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

IRRI joins leading biotech centers to promote universal biotechnology stewardship

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has been granted membership into a global agricultural technology stewardship program that promotes responsible management of plant biotechnology research. The program’s focus is to develop and encourage implementation of ethical practices and educating the public about those practices.

Excellence Through Stewardship (ETS) is a global nonprofit organization that promotes the universal adoption of stewardship programs and quality management systems for the full-life cycle of agricultural technology products. The organization assists its members in the implementation (or improvement) of stewardship programs and quality management systems and facilitates auditing by independent third parties to verify them.

IRRI recognizes the importance of ensuring responsible conduct of transgenic research with the highest ethical standards in its operations and activities. It also knows the potential risk of intentional and unintentional release of transgenic materials, which may result in reputational, financial, and/or operational damage. IRRI’s regular membership in ETS paves the way for it to successfully complete a third-party independent audit. ETS recognition will serve as a testament to IRRI’s standard of excellence in transgenic research.

IRRI’s application for regular membership was facilitated by the Transgenic Stewardship Office under the newly created Research Infrastructure and Operations Unit of the office of the Deputy Director General for Research. The application was evaluated by the ETS Board of Directors and membership acceptance was confirmed on 17 November.

ETS membership is open to technology companies, academic institutions, public and private research organizations, seed producers, licensees, and other service providers engaged in discovering, developing, handling, or commercializing biotechnology-derived plant products.

In addition to IRRI, the CGIAR-member institutes accepted by ETS are the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. Other organizations holding ETS membership include BASF Plant Science, Bayer CropScience, Monsanto Company, and Syngenta Seeds Inc.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Abdel Ismail to lead IRRI’s Genetics and Biotechnology Division

Abdelbagi Ismail has been appointed as the head of the Genetics and Biotechnology (GB) Division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) starting 1 January 2017. Dr. Ismail will succeed Dr. Hei Leung, the interim GB head, who will focus on guiding IRRI’s research initiatives in China and Japan.

Dr. Ismail, a Sudanese national and plant physiologist by training, brings 24 years of professional experience to lead the GB division. Currently serving as the coordinator of the project, Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), he has spent a significant part of his career developing rice varieties that can withstand harsh environmental conditions such as flooding, salinity, and soil problems.

“Indeed, it is an honor to serve as the GB head and to follow and build on the dynamic leadership of Hei Leung,” said Dr. Ismail. “I am delighted to take up this responsibility and to work vigorously with our colleagues towards a more productive, results- and impact-oriented research. We need to continue tackling current and future challenges and ensuring secured food and wellness of rice farmers and consumers.”

Aside from STRASA, Dr. Ismail has provided leadership to more than 20 projects at IRRI since 2005. He has been involved in the generation and management of major research grants totaling more than USD100 million. His research work aims to improve the lives of marginal farmers in different parts of the world who are most vulnerable to climate change adversities by sustainably increasing their rice productivity and income.

Some of his research has focused on refining screening methods, identifying tolerant donors, and establishing the genetic and physiological basis of tolerance. He has also assisted in developing tolerant breeding lines using standard and molecular methods and then evaluating and selecting them in farmers’ fields. He has developed and validated sets of best management practices for different abiotic stress conditions to maximize expression of genetic tolerance and mitigate stress effects.

His research leadership spans many countries in South and Southeast Asia and Africa as he works with national research and extension systems, nongovernment organizations, the private sector, donors, and other members of the international R4D community.

Dr. Ismail’s work has been recognized through awards from partners such as the Government of Vietnam's merit medal in 2010 for the cause of science and technology development of Vietnam. In 2007, he received a gold medal from the government for his “contribution to agriculture development in Vietnam."

Dr. Ismail graduated from the University of Khartoum in Sudan with both bachelor and masters degrees in agriculture. He earned a PhD in botany from the University of California, Riverside, majoring in environmental plant physiology, stress physiology, genetics, and breeding. He is married and a father of four.

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CIAT celebrates the 50th anniversary of IR8

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of rice variety IR8 is very timely for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and its partners in Latin America. The variety’s release impacted the evolution of rice breeding programs, the development of rice varieties that have been released since then, and agronomic crop management.

CIAT will mark the IR8 anniversary on 28 November at its headquarters in Cali, Colombia. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) initially introduced IR8 in the Philippines and India, but it was rapidly adopted by thousands of farmers around the world, including Latin America.  Short stature, early maturity, and high-capacity performance were the defining characteristics of IR8 that allowed the production of rice to quadruple.

In 1966, the same year that IR8 was released in the Philippines, IRRI breeder Peter Jennings sent 100 kilos of seed to Jorge Ruiz Quiroga, then manager of the National Federation of Rice Growers of Colombia (FEDEARROZ). He was responsible for expanding the use of IR8 by farmers affiliated with the Federation. IR8 had a great impact on rice production in Colombia and, subsequently, in other tropical countries of Central and South America as well as the temperate regions of the continent’s Southern Cone. This was the beginning of the first Green Revolution in Latin America.

By 1967, CIAT had been established in Colombia and an inter-institutional collaboration with the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) and FEDEARROZ was established. By the end of the 1980s, all irrigated and rainfed areas were sown to semidwarf varieties derived from IR8, such as Cica 4 and 8, Oryzica 1, Oryzica Llanos 4 and 5, Metica 1, and Oryzica Caribbean 8, among others.

CIAT’s  celebration, to be held in conjunction with Fondo Latinoamericano para Arroz de Riego (FLAR) and FEDEARROZ, will include presentations and discussions on the importance and impact of IR8 in Colombia and Latin America (click on the image above for more details).  Additionally, there will be a discussion on the future of rice research in Latin America and the opportunities offered by new biotechnological tools and conventional technologies that could lead to the continent’s second Green Revolution in rice.

To join the event beginning at 10 a.m. local time (3 p.m. GMT) on 28 November (Monday) via live streaming, follow these instructions:

To join the meeting from your computer or phone, go

  • Enter your name and click the button "Join as Guest"
  • Install the application. Follow the instructions.
  • Select "Computer Audio & Video"
  • Click the blue button "I'm Ready"

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