Friday, August 11, 2017

India: Season-long training on rice cultivation under way in Odisha

To further disseminate information and technologies on rice production across Odisha, India, season-long training sessions on using a mat-type nursery and mechanical transplanting and other aspects of cultivation have been under way since 14 July. The first session focused on raising healthy rice seedlings and preparing a mat nursery. 

Organized by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)-Bhadrak of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India) in collaboration with Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA), the program is composed of five training days for each session, which are covering each phase of rice cultivation. The other four sessions are tackling rice transplanting, weed management, pest and disease management, and harvesting.

Twenty village agricultural workers from the Department of Agriculture participated during the first training day. They were grouped into five, each of which was assigned a plot at the KVK experimental farm. This scenario allows them to conduct trials throughout the training period.

Dr. Aurovinda Das, senior scientist and program coordinator of KVK-Bhadrak, explained the objectives of the training program as well as its relevance in Bhadrak, Odisha. Scientists from CSISA and KVK discussed the technical aspects of the program and demonstrated the actual mat nursery preparation in the field.

Instructional leaflets containing guidelines on mat-type nursery management, manual transplanting, and best bet agronomy were distributed among trainees. All participants are expected to further train farmers, dealers, and members of NGOs in mat-type nursery management in Odisha, India. 

Establishing a modified mat nursery is the most popular training video that IRRI has ever produced with nearly 310,000 views.

Authors: Aurovinda Das, Debashis Nayak, Vivek Kumar, Panneerselvam Peramaiyan, and Ashok Kumar
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

IRRI bags Outstanding Research Award for biofortified indica rice study

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines ― IRRI's  Genetic Transformation Laboratory, headed by Dr. Inez Slamet-Loedin, was recognized at the Regional Science and Technology Week (RSTW) for its work on iron- and zinc-enriched indica rice. The study is regarded as a breakthrough in the battle against micronutrient deficiency.

IRRI's Genetic Transformation Laboratory Team receives an Outstanding Research Award from LBSCFI's PARRFI.

Titled "Biofortified Indica Rice Attains Iron and Zinc Nutrition Dietary Targets in the Field," the paper garnered the Outstanding Research and Development Award for the Research Category from the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc.'s (LBSCFI) Philippine Agriculture and Resource Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI). LBSCFI's PARRFI grants this award to agricultural, forestry, and environmental projects that contribute to national development. The study was also recently published at Nature's Scientific Reports.

"The team is really excited to learn that we won the award. We feel honored that our continuous and persistent effort all these years was greatly appreciated. This recognition would certainly encourage the team to work with more spirit and more focus on developing healthier rice varieties for rice consumers," said Norman Oliva, one of the researchers.

The study successfully verified the proof of concept on attaining Fe/Zn nutritional targets under flooded field conditions. Genetically engineered rice has raised the levels of iron (up to 15 micrograms) and zinc (up to 45.7 micrograms). Generally, polished rice grains contain only around 2 micrograms of iron and 16 micrograms of zinc.

The RSTW, themed Science for the People: S&T in Harmony with Biodiversity, was organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Region IV and featured back-to-back activities with the LBSCFI.  Highlight of the celebration was the Syensaya's Wonderama, which showcased interactive urban-, marine-, agriculture-, and environment-related exhibits. Simultaneously, fora were also conducted, including the DOST CALABARZON Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology Forum and LBSCFI's Technology Forum on Water Security. The event was held on August 2-4.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gelia T. Castillo (1928-2017): Helping science to serve a human purpose

                                                                                         Photos by Gene Hettel
It is with deep sadness that the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) announces the passing of Dr. Gelia Tagumpay Castillo, 89, on Saturday, 5 August. Gelia, who was a Philippine National Scientist and long-time IRRI consultant, had been ill for some time.

Born on 3 March 1928 in Pagsanjan, Laguna, Philippines, she was an internationally respected rural sociologist. Her outstanding publications are major and definitive works on Philippine agricultural and rural development.

Her books include All in a Grain of Rice, known to be the first book written by a Filipino about the Filipino farmer's response to new technology, and Beyond Manila, cited as an in-depth and analytical study of the actual problems and needs of the rural areas in relation to countryside development. These works gave Filipinos insight on their own rural development efforts and their attempt to reach the farmer and the rural poor. Throughout her professional life, she was guided by the precept that “science must serve a human purpose.”

Gelia earned her AB (psychology), MS (rural sociology), and PhD (rural sociology) degrees, respectively, at the University of the Philippines (1948), Pennsylvania State University (1958), and Cornell University (1960).

She began her professional career as an instructor in psychology and sociology in the Department of Agricultural Education, College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines (UP, 1953-57). She went on to become an assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor of rural sociology at the UP College of Agriculture, respectively, 1960-66, 1966-72, and 1972-88). In 1988, she was appointed to the highest rank of university professor (one of the first six appointees to such a position at UP, which she held until her retirement in 1993). On 3 March 1993, she was appointed as professor emeritus.

In 1999, she was conferred the rank and title of National Scientist by the President of the Philippines. She also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the UP Alumni Association (1975), the Rizal Pro Patria Award (1976), and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the UP College of Agriculture (1979).

Outside the Philippines, she was a teaching and research assistant and visiting professor in the Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, 1958-60 and 1966-67, respectively.

Gelia makes a point during IRRI's 2010 science review. 
At IRRI, she served as a visiting scientist in the Social Science Division during the mid-1980s and was a consultant to the Institute beginning in 1994 through to 2013. Recently made an IRRI scientist emeritus, she was truly the grande dame of the Institute community.

She was contributing her social science expertise to the early efforts of the Institute’s fledgling Agricultural Economics Department as far back as the 1960s. More than half a century later, she was still asking piercing questions at Thursday seminars and making pithy on-the-mark observations during IRRI’s annual scientific reviews, like this synopsis given at the conclusion of the 2010 review when she emphasized the importance of the Global Rice Science Partnership.

Her 2009 IRRI Pioneer Interview (depicted in the photo montage at the top) displayed her great enthusiasm, zest, and love for rice, rural sociology, and life itself.

IRRI Director General Matthew Morell noted: “Over recent years, Gelia continued to regularly attend events at IRRI and, despite her declining health, provided us with vibrant examples of intellectual vitality, lifelong curiosity, and passion for knowledge. She was a truly remarkable person.”

IRRI Director General Emeritus Robert Zeigler, who worked closely with Gelia during her final years at IRRI, recently stated, “She was a tireless champion for our relations with the national agricultural research systems. She always reminded me of how important training was and is for IRRI to remain relevant.”

Gelia is survived by three children, Evello (Bobby) Castillo, Gertrudes Castillo Holder, and Nina T. Castillo-Caradang; six grandchildren; and one great grandchild. She was preceded in death by her husband, Leopoldo S. Castillo, who was professor emeritus at the UP Institute of Animal Science.

In lieu of flowers, colleagues and friends may give a donation in honor of Gelia to the Philippine Sociological Society.

Listen to some of the speakers at a memorial service for Gelia attended by IRRI colleagues held on 9 August 2017 at the Resurrection Chapel of St. Therese on the UPLB campus in Los Baños, Laguna.

Other reports: GMA News | Philippine Sociological Society


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Enhancing nutrition through gastronomic research


New Delhi, INDIA—“To find effective interventions that can improve nutritional security for poor families in eastern India, researchers must first better understand what drives their food choices,” says Dr. Matty Demont, senior economist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and leader of the project, Drivers of Food Choice in eastern India (DFC).

Guidelines: Innovation Platforms in Ag Res for Dev

About this booklet

Innovation platforms (IPs) provide a space for farmers, agricultural service providers, researchers, the private sector, and other stakeholders to jointly identify, analyze, and overcome constraints to agricultural development. Recognizing the need to reflect critically on how IPs can meaningfully contribute to agricultural research for development, collaborators from a number of CGIAR centers and universities have published a booklet, Guidelines for Innovation Platforms in Agricultural Research for Development.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cambodia: Increasing farmers’ income with rice straw


Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Sustainable rice straw management practices in Cambodia can enhance using the byproduct to significantly increase farmers’ income. On 5-6 July, this was examined during a roundtable meeting and workshop on building potential business models for the rice straw supply chain in the country.

Asia & Africa: Improving skills on technology transfer systems


Participants during one of their field trips during the 2-week technology transfer workshop.

Jerome Cayton Barradas facilitates the discussion on the use of ICTs in communicating agricultural information.


It is important to develop the capacities of Asian and African countries for effective knowledge dissemination and technology transfer, according to Peter Brothers, head of IRRI Education. To help achieve this, IRRI Education, the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) facilitated a training workshop on technology transfer systems in Asia, 26 June-7 July, at the International Technology Cooperation Center, RDA Headquarters, Jeonju, Republic of Korea.

Twenty-three participants from Cambodia, Côte D’Ivoire, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam joined the 2-week course, which focused on rice production technologies for breeding, pest management, post-production, and developing successful rice-extension linkages.

The workshop also involved developing an understanding of the skills needed by modern rural extension agents including an appreciation of the benefits of information and communication technologies. At the end of the workshop, the trainees created and  presented work plans that they intend to implement in their countries.
During the closing program, Chhourn Orn, a participant from Cambodia, thanked RDA and IRRI for organizing the workshop. “After being introduced to new technologies, we can now deal with problems and issues when we go back home”, he added. In addition, Ngozika Fanny Okorie, a trainee from Nigeria, said that the workshop has been very informative and helpful and that she looks forward to carrying and sharing these with others upon her return home.

“In 2017, the workshop accepted trainees from African countries for the first time as a means of expanding the program’s reach,” said Dr. Brothers. FAO supported the attendance of the participants from Africa. Since its initial offering in 2002, the training workshop has produced almost 300 graduates from 15 countries in Asia and now Africa as well.

This year’s workshop was designed and facilitated by Maria Socorro Arboleda (IRRI Education) with Dr. Brothers, Carlito Balingbing (Crop and Environmental Sciences Division), and Jerome Cayton Barradas (Integrative Impact Division).

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Odisha & IRRI review their collaborative research


BHUBANESWAR, Odisha - Seeds of climate-resilient rice varieties, cost-effective management technologies, and innovative extension approaches are among the advances that are making significant inroads to improve rice production in the Indian state of Odisha on the country’s eastern coast. This was revealed during the first annual review workshop of the collaborative program between Odisha and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), held 23 May.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

WateRice: New joint Philippine-IRRI water project kicks off


With the goal to achieve a rice-secure Philippines, the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) is working with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on various initiatives and interventions to improve the country’s rice productivity, the latest involving water use efficiency.

Experts chart future pathways for the rice straw market in Vietnam

Rice experts gathered to chart future pathways for the rice straw market. The IRRI -BMZ rice straw project is investigating
 ways to find new market outlets and developing value chains for rice straw.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Upgrading rice value chains to make them more sustainable involves identifying new markets for the byproducts that are generated along the way. Technological upgrading in rice farming, for example, can bring in new challenges. While mechanized rice harvesting eliminates the back-breaking work of traditional harvesting, accomplishing it in a shorter time leaves even more straw to dispose of. Instead of burning the straw, developing a value chain for the straw itself can be achieved by finding new market outlets for the byproduct.

Knowledge-sharing platform to be established in Bangladesh’s coastal zone


To improve the livelihoods of communities through improved food production systems in the Coastal Zone of Bangladesh, there is a need for establishing a knowledge-sharing platform (KSP). It would bring together the information coming out of various research-for-development (R4D) projects on agriculture, aquaculture, and water management.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bill Smith, former IRRI editor, passes away (updated 15 June 2017)

By Gene Hettel

William H. “Bill” Smith, 84, former science editor at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), passed away on 4 June in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Bill attended Iowa State University on the GI Bill, and received a degree in Scientific Journalism.

The Oklahoma native began as an IRRI editor in the then Office of Information Services in 1979 (later to become Communication and Publications Services) and remained there until his retirement in 1991. He continued as a consultant for a brief time in 1992-93.

His 12-year tenure on the communication staff was during the heyday of scientific publishing at the Institute when there was production of numerous field guides for farmers and extensionists in local languages and cutting-edge scientific monographs. He was a member of the editorial team that produced Robert F. Chandler’s seminal work, An Adventure in Applied Science: A History of the International Rice Research Institute.

Bill has many good friends at IRRI who still remember him 28 years after his retirement. His compassion, council, wisdom, and humor are legendary. He affectionately earned the moniker “Coach” Smith for his intense and sometimes controversial coaching of IRRI’s international staff softball team during the 1980s.  

In his IRRI Pioneer Interview in June 2008, he pondered IRRI’s future challenges: “I think the biggest challenge is pretty much the lack of funding that all the institutes are feeling. Another thing that was true 12, 15, and 25 years ago is that population is still growing and, as it does, land comes out of production. Even though yields can go up to increase production, they don’t seem to be keeping up with population. Fertilizer and water, I think, are going to be the biggest challenges that IRRI, or for that matter any of the agricultural research institutes, will face and should be working on in the future.”

Also, during his interview, he stated, “I spent a year and a half working as a news reporter and photographer at a daily newspaper in northern Iowa [Fort Dodge Messenger]. Then, I spent 3 years working as an educational representative with a medical and biological publishing house [Saunders Publishing in St. Louis, Missouri]. Then, I worked as a physical science technical editor at the Ames Laboratory, affiliated with Iowa State University. However, working at IRRI was the best professional experience of my life. This weekend [8 June 2008], we are at Michigan State University attending, I think, the fourth reunion of former and present IRRI staff. I can’t think of any other institution that has its employees get together in a manner that generates such a feeling of camaraderie. So, IRRI does have to rank at the top.”

Bill was a long-time member of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE). Upon his retirement, he was awarded life membership in the organization.

He liked a quote from Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, the ancient Roman rhetorician (c. 35-100 AD): “We should not write so that it is possible for the reader to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us.”

Bill is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marlene, five children: Stephen of St. Ignatius, Montana; David and wife Shirley of Mingo, Iowa; Meric Shipman of Springfield, Illinois; Stacie and husband Gary of Des Moines, Iowa; and Lisa and husband Jeff Ruppel of Dubuque, Iowa. Other survivors include eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

On 13 June, a memorial mass was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and Parish in Tortugas. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Humane Society of Southern New Mexico, PO Box 13826, Las Cruces, NM 88013.

Those who would like to send condolences and memories to his wife, Marlene, can use Bill's email address: bsmith@totacc.com.

Read more about Bill's life.


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Monday, June 5, 2017

In Indonesia: Laser leveling of farmland steps up agricultural production


Participants in the laser leveling demonstration learn the basic principles of the technology and how to operate the equipment. IRRI’s CORIGAP project supports capacity building of NARES partners and other rice-farming sectors, such as youth, to accelerate adoption of best management practices that will support Indonesia’s national goal to achieve rice self–sufficiency.

The swampy land areas of South Sumatera, Palembang are poised to become the next rice granary in Indonesia. Recently, to step up the region’s agricultural productivity, local extension professionals, farmers, and students were trained on the use of laser-assisted land leveling and tractor driving in Palembang.

Friday, May 26, 2017

At IRRI: IFPRI project holds policy writeshop for food and agriculture



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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Friday, May 12, 2017

Alternative seed systems help unfavorable rice areas combat poverty

Partners from nine member-countries of CURE convened in early May to share challenges and lessons in their work to help farmers in unfavorable rice environments.  

VIENTIANE, Laos—The formal rice seed production system in Laos can supply only 10% of the country’s seed requirement, but as researchers have found, availability of seed is just one part of the story. The delivery system is just as important, but not as simple when it comes to rainfed and similarly challenged rice areas. In the country, several non-government organizations (NGOs) were instrumental in helping some of the country’s food-insecure communities acquire rice seeds.

Community-based seed systems were reportedly instrumental in introducing stress-tolerant varieties in India, Nepal, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia, where formal seed sectors are yet to meet national seed requirements. These seed systems also supported the government’s move in these countries to fast-track seed dissemination, especially when the formal seed sector has not operated well, and where commercial seed growers are yet to be convinced that the production of seeds is investment-worthy.

“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).
IRRI's CESD chief and former CURE coordinator David Johnson sought insights, experiences, and lessons from each member-country, recognizing that seemingly  unique experiences also offer an array of options that may apply to other countries as well. 



This and other interventions were discussed in a review and planning meeting of the steering committee of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) on 9-11 May, which this year focused on scaling out climate-smart technologies that help raise productivity and combat poverty in Asia’s fragile rice ecosystems.

More than the interventions and outcomes are so-called ‘enabling’ factors—social, cultural, environmental, financial, political, and institutional—that were just as important to achieve impact at a broader scale.

Through better varieties, improved management systems, community-based seed systems, and several other interventions, the abovementioned countries benefitted from enabling farmers in the most challenging environments to improve their livelihood. These experiences were reported in a newly published book by CURE, “Climate-ready technologies: Combating poverty by raising productivity in rainfed rice environments.”

“This year’s meeting brings member-countries together to discuss accomplishments, experiences, learning, and challenges during the past four years and as well as form plans for the coming year,” according to Digna Manzanilla, CURE coordinator.

“There is rarely a clear-cut path to overcoming any challenge and raising rice productivity in rainfed environments,” Dr. Johnson added. “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.”

The member-countries of CURE include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos PDR, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar.

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IRRI participates in workshop on improving small farmers' postharvest practices


Field visit to Florenden Farms in NE Arkansas. UARPP workshop participants pose in front of storage silos for rice. (L-R): Kate Wilkes (University of Arkansas), Dr. Michele Reba (USDA-Agricultural Research Service), Zarini Tahir (Kellogg Company), Caling Balingbing (IRRI), Dr. Alicia Perdon (Kellogg Company), Martin Gummert (IRRI), Dr. Terry Siebenmorgen (University of Arkansas),  Sangeeta Mukhopadhyay (Univ. of Arkansas), Mike Sullivan (Florenden Farms), Dr. Bhagwati Prakash (Univ. of Arkansas), and Zeph Odek (Univ. of Arkansas). Photo by Miriam Gummert.

ARKANSAS, USA—To exchange knowledge on state-of-the-art quality research and identify potentials for cooperation on grain quality improvements, two IRRI staff from the Postharvest and Mechanization Unit (PMU) participated in the Rice Postharvest Processing and Management Workshop sponsored by Kellogg’s and hosted by the University of Arkansas Rice Processing Program (UARPP), USA, last 3-4 April 2017. This was followed by a field trip to rice farmers, food processors, and support service providers from 5-7 April.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mozambican farmers learn to choose the best rice varieties


Farmers get busy selecting best rice varieties during a field day held at the locality of Mucelo in Zambézia, Mozambique in April 2017.

ZAMBÉZIA, Mozambique - Farmers learned how to better select the best rice varieties during a field day in late April organized by the Mozambique Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

About 40 participants came for the event, during which the farmers among them were given an introduction to concepts and principles that guide the breeding scheme at IRRI and the goals of the rice sector in countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The event was organized by the IRRI-Mozambique rice breeding team involving various partners in the rice value chain. Millers and representatives of district services for economic activities (SDAE) and some NGOs also took part in the event, in addition to the rice farmers who themselves represented several farmer associations.

The event included a visit to a field that had been set up with breeding trials and demonstration plots of promising rice lines. Twelve lines, including checks from the participatory varietal selection (PVS), were presented for final selection. Some of the promising lines in the demo plots were the same ones that had previously been selected by the participants themselves. Lines HHZ5-SAL14-SAL2-Y1 and IR 10L 203 were finally selected as the best, having high yield, long panicles, medium and long grains, medium plant height, and disease tolerance.

During the event, participants were able to share their respective experiences and come to appreciate new and well-performing varieties.

At the end of the field day, a recommendation was made that more of the participatory varietal selection trials be conducted in more locations.

IRRI and its partners hold field days to help rice farmers stay up-to-date on varieties, technology, and equipment that could help them improve productivity, thus empowering them to make informed decisions to improve their income and livelihood.


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Agricultural extension seen as key to impact of science in India


NEW DELHI, India – Senior officials, scientists, and other representatives of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and partners convened for the ICAR-IRRI Collaborative workshop on 4-5 May 2017 to discuss the strengthening of research in agricultural extension.

Agricultural extension is seen as a crucial means to accelerate the impact of agricultural knowledge and technologies by informing policy and practice, as well as to promote innovation.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

IRRI gears up for a modernized rice breeding program

By Maria Rowena M. Baltazar



NEW DELHI, India—“Modernize your rice breeding program.”

This is the challenge issued by Gary Atlin, senior program officer, Agricultural Research and Development of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), to the scientists and partners of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) program, supported by the BMGF, during the annual review and planning meeting.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

NIA, farmer group, partner with IRRI for irrigation research

Signatories to the agreement were Engr. William Ragodon, regional manager, NIA Region IV-A;
Jacqueline Hughes, deputy director general for research, IRRI;
and Mr. Andres Batitis, president, PIDAMMARIS .

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – A portion of the experimental farmland of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will soon become the site of research to find the most efficient way to distribute irrigation water.

Under an agreement signed recently among the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) of the Philippines, the farmer association Pinag-Isang Damdamin ng mga Magsasaka ng Mabacan River Irrigation System, Inc. (PIDAMMARIS), and IRRI, the project will be looking at rice productivity and water use, sustainability of rice production systems, water quality, and the overall operations and management of a local irrigation system, with the goal of developing a model approach for other irrigation systems under NIA.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rice technologies feature in India farmers’ fair

BIHAR, India - Rice technologies were showcased during the Kisan Kalyan Mela 2017 (agriculture exhibit) held at the Motihari District of Bihar on 15-19 April 2017. The event commemorates the  100th year of the Champaran Satyagrah movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi, whom many consider the “father of the nation,” to help poor farmers in the region.

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.

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.

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.

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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