Friday, May 26, 2017

IFPRI project holds policy writeshop for food and agriculture at IRRI



With the challenges facing food security today, foresight and strategies are important to get a step ahead. This entails understanding the landscape, exploring trends and policy options, and making informed decisions for policies in food and agriculture. To this end, the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight (GFSF) project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hoped to contribute through a meeting and a writeshop held at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from May 15 to 19, 2017.

The meeting, led by Keith Wiebe of IFPRI and Steve Prager of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), gathered together 24 participants from the different institutes across the CGIAR to work on papers exploring alternative agricultural research and investment scenarios, focusing on a range of commodities, regions, and other topics. The week-long activity aimed to prepare these papers for publication in an upcoming special issue of the Global Food Security journal, and to help in making informed decisions for the CGIAR and its partners and other policy-making bodies.

GFSF is a CGIAR initiative that works to explore long-term trends, challenges, and policy options for food and agriculture through multidisciplinary foresight analysis. It is a project designed to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability, especially in developing countries, and is focused on evaluating promising technologies, investments, and policy reforms. GFSF is funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Restructured Biometrics courses to boost use of statistics in breeding trials



IRRI Biometrics has re-designed  its course on Design and Analysis of Breeding Trials (DABT). The new DABT includes a one-day stand-alone session on the use of statistical design and analysis under different environmental and technical challenges.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trimble donates laser leveling equipment for IRRI projects in Myanmar


A partnership with Trimble, a company that supplies farming solutions, has been helping the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) sustain the work to help farmers through promotion and adoption of the laser-assisted land-leveling technology.

Trimble has been a partner in the distribution of high-quality equipment as well as provision of equipment for demonstration and capacity building, and offers a reliable support service.

Just recently, Trimble donated brand-new laser equipment for use in IRRI projects in Myanmar. The donation was facilitated by IRRI’s Postharvest and Mechanization Unit as a result of discussions held during AGRITECHNICA Asia in Bangkok in March 2017. The equipment will be used for adaptive research in laser leveling and for field demonstrations under the Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia (CORIGAP) and MyRice projects.

Mobile app Rice Doctor now available in Filipino

The Rice Doctor Filipino App features localized content for Filipino extension intermediaries and farmers

Rice Doctor, an offline mobile app for identification and management of rice crop problems in the Philippines, has just launched a version in Filipino and is now available for free at the Google Play Store for Android devices.

Poornima Shankar, knowledge management and outreach specialist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), describes Rice Doctor as an interactive questionnaire that helps extension workers, farmers, researchers, and students in the diagnosis of pests, disease, and other problems affecting rice. The current version of the app can help diagnose any of more than 80 of the most common of these conditions affecting rice. 

The app is also available online at http://ricedoctor.irri.org.

Although Filipinos remain among the most English-proficient in Asia, for many farmers as well as the agricultural extension workers assisting them, a mobile app such as Rice Doctor being available in Filipino presents an easier-to-understand and, thus, a more straightforward knowledge resource. Rice Doctor in Filipino is the first 'localized and translated version of the diagnostic app. Similar efforts are ongoing in India and Bangladesh.

To facilitate the ‘localization’ of Rice Doctor for the Philippines, workshops and consultations with farmers, extension workers, and specialists from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) were organized by the Impact Acceleration Unit of IRRI.

The development of Rice Doctor in Filipino was supported fully under the project ImprovingTechnology Promotion and Delivery through Capability Enhancement of Next-GenRice Extension Professionals and Other Intermediaries (IPaD), a collaboration among IRRI, DA-PhilRice, and DA-Agricultural Training Institute.

Last year, Project IPaD and the Impact Acceleration Unit also did a study in different parts of the country to assess and improve the usability of Rice Doctor.

IRRI with its partners have also developed other mobile-based tools for farming, one of which is RKB Lite, the offline version of the Rice Knowledge Bank, a web-based resource on the best practices in rice farming. It is also available as an app at the Google Play Store.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dilbagh S. Athwal, IRRI’s first deputy director general, passes away

By Gene Hettel

Dilbagh S. Athwal, 88, a member of the early management team at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), passed away on 14 May at his residence in Toms River, New Jersey. He was born in Lyallpur, India (now Pakistan) on 12 October 1928.

A renowned Indian plant breeder, Dr. Athwal joined IRRI in 1967 (photo from that time) as its assistant director. In 1972, he was promoted to associate director and then, in 1976, he was appointed as the Institute’s very first deputy director general.

At IRRI, he administered the fledgling training program, supervised the research studies of postdoctoral fellows, and shared various administrative duties with IRRI’s first director general, Robert F. Chandler. Of his colleague, Chandler later wrote: “Athwal had sound judgment, was an indefatigable worker, and was highly regarded by the IRRI staff.”

While still at IRRI in 1975, in recognition of his outstanding work as an agricultural scientist, Dr. Athwal won the Padma Bhushan Award. It is the third-highest civilian award presented by the Government of India. Also in 1975, he took a sabbatical from IRRI and completed an MBA at Harvard University.

In 1954, Dr. Athwal earned his PhD in genetics and plant breeding at the University of Sydney in Australia and then, back in India, he became the first head of the Department of Plant Breeding at Punjab Agricultural University and did pioneering work that led to the development of the hybrid pearl millet variety, Bajra, in 1963. He went on to produce the iconic wheat variety, Kalyan, in collaboration with his colleague and friend Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. His work in wheat was instrumental in bringing the Green Revolution to Punjab, India.

In 1977, Dr. Athwal left IRRI to become program officer for Asia at the Rockefeller Foundation's International Agricultural Development Service (IADS) in New York under Sterling Wortman, former IRRI associate director who was then IADS president. In this position, he traveled extensively in Asia where he helped design and implement programs to increase food production.

His career also took him to Washington, D.C., and Winrock International in Little Rock, Arkansas, from where he retired as a senior vice president in 1991.

Dr. Athwal is survived by his wife Gurdev, son Barinder (wife Susan), son Harjit (wife Amardeep), and five grandchildren, Lisa, Neal, Jagdeep, Nishan, and Hernoor. He is also survived by many family members, including his nephew, Raghbir.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., 17th Floor, Chicago, IL 60601.




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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sustainable Rice Platform plans integrated training strategy to support rollout of rice assurance program



LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – Experts gathered at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in early May to design a training strategy to support smallholder adoption of sustainable best practices.

The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), an alliance of 70 stakeholder institutions convened by IRRI and UN Environment, will launch an assurance scheme targeting smallholders, based on the SRP Standard and Performance Indicators for Sustainable Rice Cultivation—the world’s first sustainability standard for rice.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

New book on success stories and lessons in unfavorable rice environments launched

CURE's newly launched book is also freely available at irri.org.
VIENTIANE, Laos—A new book that documents success stories as well as lessons learned from the work to help farmers in unfavorable rice environments of Asia was launched by the International Rice Research Institute during a review and planning meeting of the  Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) on 9-11 May 2017 in this Laotian capital.

The book, titled,  Climate-ready technologies: Combating poverty by raising productivity in rainfed rice environments, shares in detail the challenges, lessons learned, and cases of success in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Rainfed rice areas, largely considered unfavorable because of lack of irrigation, are also home to millions of farmers who live in poverty and rely on rice farming for their livelihood. These areas are unstable and have low productivity, ranging from an average across years of 1–2.5 tons per hectare because of the constraint presented by multiple environmental stresses, such as drought followed by flood. 

“The Consortium has worked to improve lives in resource-poor rice communities by building a network of networks and linking groups and individuals facing similar constraints,” said CURE Coordinator Digna Manzanilla.

The book also offers insights into drivers of change and enabling factors—social, cultural, economic, environmental, and institutional—that helped partner countries benefit from technologies and make an impact in unfavorable rice environments.

While farmers in several partner countries have limited access to seeds, for example, rice farmers in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal have faster access to newly-developed high-yielding, climate-ready varieties because of a regional seed cooperation agreement that expedites the release and dissemination of rice varieties to farmers in stress-affected areas.

Laos’ agri chiefs received first copies of CURE's latest book, Climate-ready technologies: Combating poverty by raising productivity in rainfed rice environments): (L-R) Digna Manzanilla, CURE coordinator; Bounthong Buoaham, director general of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI); David Johnson, head, IRRI-CESD, and former CURE coordinator; Xaypladeth Choulamany, director general of planning and cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Laos; Chay Bounphanousay, deputy director general of NAFRI and Laos representative to the CURE Steering Committee.
“Although one country’s experience may be unique from another in terms of specific contexts, we see this exchange of experiences as contributing to innovative ways of thinking about how we can overcome many of the constraints and challenges facing rainfed rice environments,” said David Johnson, who also formerly managed CURE and is currently head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD).

“There is rarely a clear-cut path to overcoming any challenge and raising rice productivity in rainfed environments, but by looking at what worked and what did not work from the experiences shared by our country partners, we can find ways to make rainfed rice environments less challenging,” Dr. Johnson added.

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