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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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

IRRI scientists join FP2 team to upgrade rice value chains in Asia and Africa

From left to right: Val Pede (IRRI), Kaori Fujita (JIRCAS), Vipa Surojanametakul (Kasetsart University), Tadashi Yoshihashi (JIRCAS), Rose Fiamohe (AfricaRice), Matty Demont (IRRI), Bas Bouman (IRRI), Frédéric Lançon (CIRAD), Prajongwate Satmalee (Kasetsart University), Guillaume Soullier (CIRAD), Martin Gummert (IRRI), Christian Mestres (CIRAD), Sali Ndindeng (AfricaRice)

Last October 23–27, a meeting on “Rice Flagship Project 2” was held at the CIRAD office in Montpellier, France. The objective of the event is to do a year-end review of the RICE-FP2, and discuss activities and outputs for 2018.

The event brought together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from IRRI, AfricaRice, CIRAD and JIRCAS committed to a common goal of upgrading rice value chains in Asia and Africa. The FP2 research promotes sustainable rice value chains by engaging with stakeholders such as farmers, processors, traders, service providers, consumers, policy-makers, and other stakeholders in rice and rice by-product markets. The goal of the research is to catalyze a wide portfolio of strategies to upgrade rice product quality, postharvest processes, policy and contractual arrangements, and to develop new products along the rice value chain.

IRRI is represented by Bas Bouman, CRP Director, Matty Demont and Val Pede, respective FP2 and FP1 leaders, and Martin Gummert, FP2 postharvest cluster leader.

During the event, participants reviewed the progress of their FP2 activities in 2017, and highlighted major achievements and lessons learned. They explored linkages between FP2 and FP1, and other CRPs such as CCAFS and PIM. They also presented strategies for gender inclusiveness and capacity development.

The team developed strategies for outreach and private sector engagement, and identified potential donors and funding opportunities to support FP2’s research portfolio. As part of the program, they visited the Soufflet Rice Mill in Camargue, France to learn about French practices in rice value chain development.

Rice Mill at Camargue, France
 At the end of the 5-day program, team members each presented their work plan and expected outputs for 2018. They identified several activities for 2018 such as webinars, virtual meetings, a symposium during the 2018 International Rice Conference, and a joint paper on upgrading rice value chains in Asia and Africa by the end of 2018.

Frederic Lançon of CIRAD remarked, “FP2 incorporates diverse expertise that can be used for effective training and capacity building programs with value chain stakeholders in Asia and Africa, which is essential in rice value chain upgrading”. Bas Bouman said that even though the FP2 team is small, it is dynamic and has achieved an impressive output during its first year. As an emphasis, Val Pede added that “The team has successfully bridged research between FP1, FP2, FP3 and FP5 and beyond. Examples are the market intelligence it produced for product profiling in rice breeding, the incentive mechanisms it developed for sustainable rice production and the ongoing collaboration with CCAFS on climate-smart and sustainable agriculture.”

Matty Demont reflected that “FP2 serves as an ideal platform for inter-disciplinary learning and spillover of research and lessons learned between Asia and Africa. Since FP2 provides market intelligence to other flagship projects, it is able to make the RICE CRP more market-driven and gender-inclusive. The product profiles for rice breeding, for example, take women’s preferences for varietal development into account in an early stage”.  Finally, Yoshihashi Tadashi of JIRCAS expressed appreciation for the team work, and looks forward to 2018 as a year of more success and achievements.

For more information on FP2 and its role in upgrading sustainable rice value chains, you may visit or contact Matty Demont at

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Friday, October 27, 2017

IRRI joins PhilRice Los Banos Station's "Lakbay Palay"

To celebrate Farmer’s Day, IRRI joined Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Los Baños Station’s 2017 Wet Season Lakbay Palay last 18 October. Bearing the theme “Binhing Sapat at Angkop, Itaguyod Natin”, the event aimed to teach farmers about new and appropriate rice technologies that they can adopt for a more sustainable rice production.

390 farmers from the CALABARZON region attended this bi-annual gathering. Various rice-related technologies were showcased in the exhibits, including hybrid and inbred seed production. IRRI in particular, highlighted hybrid rice technology, heirloom, and next generation (Next-Gen) rice varieties developed for major ecosystems in the Philippines.

A Technology Forum was held as part of the event. Keynote speakers discussed the importance of public hybrid seeds and its role in increasing agricultural yield.

As a token for the event, IRRI gave farmers some samples of improved irrigated and rainfed rice seeds.

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Understanding and assessing rice seed systems: A training collaboration of IRRI and CIAT/FLAR

Quality seed production and ensuring delivery of quality seeds to farmers are significant challenges for national seed systems around the globe.  To address these challenges, IRRI Education, together with with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR), conducted a two-week training on seed production and understanding of seed systems.

Entitled Understanding and Assessing Rice Seed Systems, the training which ran from October 17 to 27 was attended by 20 delegates from four Latin American countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Panama, in addition to Taiwan and Japan. The first leg of the training was held at CIAT headquarters near Cali, Colombia while its second leg was held in Ibague City, Colombia, hosted by the Rice Producers Federation of Colombia.

The second leg of the training included sessions about seed systems by Dr. Silmar Peske, seed expert from Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and editor of SeedNews bulletin. Tours were also conducted to provide a context of rice and seed production in Colombia.

"This training has been a great opportunity to provide capacity building for FLAR partner countries.   There is plenty of excitement among participants to learn from experts as well as each other about how to address the many challenges of producing quality seed and understanding seed systems,” shared FLAR Executive Director, Eduardo Graterol. 

"The training participants have varied roles across the seed production chain, coming from both the public and private sectors and ICDF as a rural development organization,” added Dr. Ana Laura Pereira, seed production specialist from the National Institute of Agricultural Research in Uruguay. Dr. Pereira provided an excellent review of seed production techniques during the training.

"This training brought a lot of different aspects together," said Jason Beebout, IRRI Education training designer.  "Aside from this first-time partnership between IRRI and CIAT/FLAR for capacity building, it brings a diversity of participants and resource persons together”.

Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF), an international organization that supports smallholder farmers globally, worked with IRRI and CIAT to sponsor this capacity building initiative. Following up from last year’s two-week Seed and Extension capacity training at the IRRI Headquarters, this initiative also widened the reach of IRRI Education.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

IRRI, BRRI discuss policies on adopting farm mechanization and AWD technology in Bangladesh

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) are jointly spearheading the adoption of climate-smart technologies for agriculture in Bangladesh through the project, “Climate-smart practices and varieties for intensive rice-based systems in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh is prone to various natural disasters, such as severe flooding and pest onslaught, that cause significant damage to rice-based systems. The project’s aim is to test, validate, and outscale technologies and practices, such as the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation method, diversified rice-based cropping systems, and new rice varieties, to cope with the adverse effects of climate change in the country.

To discuss strategies to help improve the lives and livelihoods of the rice farmers, a policy dialogue meeting on the constraints to the large-scale adoption of farm mechanization and AWD technology and the required policy measures in Eastern Bangladesh was held at the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) last 19 October 2017.

This project, funded by the Asian Development Bank, is implemented at the Muhuri Irrigation Project area in Feni District, Bangladesh.  It also seeks to address limitations in technology and identify required policy measures for scaling the climate-smart agricultural technologies.

High-level officials and delegates from the academe, government, and private agencies were present during the event. Among them are policymakers, academicians, researchers, agricultural scientists, development workers, private sector representatives, and farmers.

Dr. Shahjahan Kabir, Director General of BRRI, led the meeting, and Dr. Md. Abdur Rouf, Joint Secretary for Policy Planning of the Ministry of Agriculture, was the chief guest.

The participants also outlined the next steps in promoting rice transplanting and harvesting machines, and AWD methods in eastern Bangladesh. Dr. Arvind Kumar, IRRI Senior Scientist, and Dr. Abul Basher, ADB’s representative, gave keynote presentations that provided an array of information about the new technologies.

Attendees expressed their appreciation for the event as it gave them a platform to discuss critical issues in Bangladesh’s rice industry. To ensure continuity of the project’s success, stakeholders may expect similar policy dialogues in the future.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Climate-smart rice project shortlisted in 2017 Newton Prize

The project Climate-ready rice: Optimizing transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses, led by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with Kasetsart University in Bangkok and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been shortlisted in the 2017 Newton Prize. The Prize is part of the Newton Fund initiative and supports exceptional research and innovation in partner countries in Asia, where production of better rice varieties have social and economic importance.

“We are honored and delighted that we were shortlisted. It is indeed good news because this recognizes our excellent work in rice research and collaboration with our international partners,” said Dr. W. Paul Quick, IRRI Principal Scientist and the lead project coordinator at IRRI’s C4 Rice Center.

This international collaborative project aims to enhance the heat and drought tolerance of rice plants while decreasing water loss and increasing water-use efficiency. In turn, this will make the crop survive and produce yield even in dry conditions. The success of this project would benefit farmers and improve food security in Asia.

The Newton Prize winners will be announced at celebratory award ceremonies held in each of the partner countries in November 2017. 

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