Friday, June 14, 2019

Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail receives prestigious Fellowship of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences

5 June 2019, Delhi, India - Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, Principal Scientist and IRRI Representative in Africa was presented the prestigious Fellowship of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India as a foreign fellow. The honour is effective January of 2019 and was conferred to Dr. Ismail in a formal ceremony chaired by Dr. Panjab Singh, President of the academy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

John Sheehy, former IRRI senior scientist, passes away in UK

John E. Sheehy, 76, a crop ecologist and crop modeler at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for 14 years (1995-2009), passed away last Friday (7 June 2019) after battling Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy (MSA) for several years in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, UK.

For his entire time at IRRI, he headed the Applied Photosynthesis and Systems Modeling Laboratory. He was also head of IRRI’s Climate Unit and Systems Modeling Group and was adjunct professor in the Agronomy Department of the University of the Philippines Los Bańos.

At the turn of the century, he kick-started a project designed to make rice utilize photosynthesis more efficiently. It all started with a think tank that he organized, which was attended by a small group of elite modelers, systems analyzers, ecologists, and environmental and crop physiologists who were on a quest to reduce hunger by redesigning rice photosynthesis. The gathering was at IRRI in the Philippines, 30 November–3 December 1999. The result was a proceedings that became the “Bible” for a while as research got underway. It was superseded by Charting new pathways to C4 rice, published by IRRI and World Scientific, emanating from a 2006 follow-up workshop to catch up with the rapidly growing literature. 

In an interview (15:11) given at IRRI on 26 March 2013, Dr. Sheehy talked about the project’s concept. “C4 rice is the ultimate goal of rice scientists' attempt to supercharge photosynthesis, the process by which a plant uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to produce carbohydrates—in rice so that it yields more grain. Rice, a C3 plant, uses these resources far less efficiently than C4 plants (e.g., maize) do. A C4 rice plant would use less water and fertilizer and produce at least 50% more grain.”

Dr. Sheehy appreciated that IRRI could not realize the dream of developing C4 rice alone. So, after the 1999 think tank, he set about persuading, and bringing together, a group of many of the best scientists worldwide to join in the C4 Rice Project. In 2008, he helped secure partial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which continues support to this day. At the time of his death, and after 20 years of research, C4 rice is not yet a reality, but significant progress has been made. The ongoing Project is indeed an important part of Dr. Sheehy’s scientific legacy.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Thailand gears up innovations on land leveling

Proper use of the laser-guided land leveling system entails correct and safe tractor operation
The Phraojen Village is one of the rice-producing areas in Chainat province that needs more water during dry season. “Although we have adequate supply of water through the Chao Phraya River, we don’t have enough during the dry season so we need to take measures,” said Winai Jaengan, village head.

To overcome this challenge, the village members rely on underground irrigation during the dry season. “This is costly for us because it needs more fuel to pump the water out.   Additionally, the farmers use small walking tractors which takes time and more cost to level the field,” he added.

The Thai Rice Department, in partnership with IRRI through the CORIGAP project has introduced innovations in rice production. One of these innovations is the laser-guided land leveling.