Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SSD plans its strategy for the next 5 years

The Social Sciences Division (SSD) conducted back-to-back activities in late November and early December 2013, starting with a visioning exercise on 25–26 November 25-26. With all SSD internationally recruited staff (IRS) and collaborating research scientists (CRS) participating, the exercise aimed to review the mission and vision of the division, identifying gaps between recent and new activities and projects and planning for the next 5 years. The group also had ample time to discuss existing projects and activities, including cross-cutting issues on climate change, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and gender. They also looked at manpower needs to support the planned activities in the coming years.

After lunch on 26 November, the IRS and CRS were joined by the nationally recruited staff (NRS) and the afternoon was spent on hearing presentations of ongoing activities of each group/project. This gave everyone the opportunity to know what each group is doing, a difficult thing to achieve on ordinary days as the teams focus on their respective tasks. During the evening, the whole staff had after-dinner fun activities, which included a singing contest and group dancing. On the third day (27 Nov), there were team-building exercises composed of physical and strategy group games.

On 2–3 Dec 2013, the workshop on GRiSP’s Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) and M&E was held in Bangkok, participated in by 32 staff from AfricaRice, CIAT, CSISA-Bangladesh, CIRAD, ICRISAT, IRRI, and JIRCAS. The meeting was led by Bas Bouman (GRiSP director) and Samarendu Mohanty (Program 5 leader and SSD head). It was an excellent stock-taking exercise for GRiSP centers and partners who are using CAPI to conduct field surveys and employ various M&E systems for projects at the regional and hub levels. The key ideas presented involved ways to standardize, share, and link activities that could be used to achieve a common system of analyzing information and tracking progress through defined indicators.

This meeting also represented the first-ever comprehensive overview of all the M&E systems. A variety of conceptual frameworks and tools from these data-capturing tools were presented, in the hope of finding a systematic approach to collect and analyze the needed indicators.

Right after the CAPI event came the workshop on Food alue chain analysis: tools and applications, which was facilitated by SSD IRS Matty Demont and Valerien Pede. This workshop focused on tools and applications for food value chain analysis, such as demand, supply and trade analysis and simulation, surveys, experimental economics, spatial analysis, and other tools for qualitative and quantitative analysis. Apart from lectures, hands-on exercises and group presentations proved to be vital parts of the workshop. Twenty-seven collaborators/partners/scientists from India (12), Bangladesh (4 ), Sri Lanka (1), IRRI (9), and PhilRice (1) attended the workshop. The resource persons came from IRRI (11), FAO-Bangkok (1), ICAR (1), and ICRISAT-Malawi (1). This culminating workshop contributes to IRRI’s goal of developing existing and future partners/collaborators/young scientists in their own respective fields.

More photos:

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RMQA-RDM completes its last research data management course for 2013

The Risk Management and Quality Assurance (RMQA) training team finished its last Research Data Management (RDM) 101 course for 2013 on 10–12 December 2013 at the I.T. Learning Center. Ten participants completed the course: one from GQNC, one from HRS, six from PBGB (one from IRRI-India office), and two from GIS-SSD.

The course covered all areas of data management: data management planning; data collection, collection, and pre-analysis; data storage and backup; and, data archival and sharing (with emphasis on metadata and documentation). Ogie Alvarez, ITS senior manager, discussed how users can efficiently and securely back up their research data in the various ITS-managed storage on- and off-campus. The participants were also introduced to IRRI Dataverse, a cloud-based platform for archiving and sharing their research data.

The team, managed by Menchu Bernardo IRRI-RMQA head, includes Icoy Mercado, Dec Arreza, and Jean Sabado.

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IRRI welcomes government lawyers

A group of lawyers from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) of the Philippines visited IRRI on 13 December 2013 to learn more about the contributions of rice science and biotechnology to food security.

Led by Assistant Government Corporate Counsel Raul Ragandang, the lawyers of the OGCC’s agriculture and trade team gained a deeper understanding of IRRI’s legal status, objectives, and the Institute’s mission and vision.  The underlying theme in all the discussions was IRRI’s strict adherence to biosafety, environmental protection, and the quality of its research products. The visitors also received technical briefings from IRRI scientists and experts. Topics included rice breeding, genetic diversity, grain quality and nutrition, and biotechnology. Last on the agenda was a tour of IRRI’s RiceWorld Museum.

The OGCC is the principal and statutory law office of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and other corporate entities of the Philippine government.

Interactions with scientists provided the lawyers with expert perspectives on the public benefits and safety of biotechnology products, particularly of healthier and stress-tolerant rice varieties.

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India: Top researchers in bacterial blight gather in ICBB 2013

The 4th International Conference on Bacterial Blight (ICBB) was held in Hyderabad, India (2-4 December 2013) and jointly organized by the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Directorate of Rice Research, and the Society for the Advancement of Rice Research. Leading researchers from different parts of the world got together during the 3-day conference to discuss the latest developments in molecular breeding, plant-pathogen interactions, and epidemiology of this important rice disease.

The bacterial blight working group seeks to (1) develop and standardize a common genotyping and phenotyping system, (2) build a well-curated bacterial germplasm collection,(3) engage in high-throughput pathogen monitoring solutions, and (4) support a rice microbiome partnership.

Participants from IRRI were Kshirod Jena, Casiana Vera Cruz, and Ricardo Oliva of the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division. During the conference, Dr. Jena talked about Stacking and molecular characterization of major genes toward broad-spectrum resistance to virulent bacterial blight pathogen in rice, whereas Dr. Vera Cruz presented on Understanding the origin of Xanthomonas oryzae and its eco-evo relatives using high-throughput genomics.

Held every three years, the 5th ICBB conference will take place at the International Rice Research Institute in 2016.

More info is found at:

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Vietnam: Social networking to deliver technologies to poor farmers

Farmers in the mountainous region of northern Vietnam have limited access to new varieties and management options. Considered the poorest among the poor, these farmers are the target communities of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE).  CURE continuously develops and validates rice varieties and management options and mechanisms to be shared in the poor communities and, ultimately, to reduce poverty and raise productivity in these complex, diverse, and risky environments.

CURE coordinator Digna Manzanilla and assistant scientist Annette Tobias conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews with tribal communities in the four rice-producing communes (Phu Nham, Tu Le, Nam Bung, and Suoi Giang) in the mountainous region of North Vietnam. CURE aims to get insights on their social capital and networks to help design technology delivery strategies for the target communities. Initial FGD results identified the critical role of the commune leader trained together with the village leader and the oldest man in the village (called gia lang). The leader and the oldest man in the village then share  the information to the households.

A team, led by Valerien Pede, an agricultural economist from the Social Sciences Division, will conduct a more in-depth study using spatial econometrics and qualitative research methods to analyze the nature and information flow of the social network. This will contribute to the design of technology delivery in hard-to-reach and resource-poor rice-farming communities in Vietnam and Laos.
Social network analysis aims to assess the actors, groups, nodes of information sharing, and the implications of neighborhood influence on direct and spillover benefits from adopting  new varieties and cropping practices. This activity is in line with the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) goal of contributing to raise productivity and ensure food security in upland communities, including women farmers.

IFAD is funding the CURE  project, Reducing risks and raising rice livelihoods in Southeast Asia through the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE 2). The project is in collaboration with the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute in Vietnam and the Northern Agriculture and Forestry Research Center in Laos.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

151 Los Baños residents gain trade skills from livelihood training co-sponsored by IRRI

One hundred fifty-one residents from Los Baños completed a skills livelihood training program organized by IRRI with the Public Employment Services Office-Citizens’ Access for Employment and Skills Advancement Reinforcement, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). All graduates also passed the recent TESDA National Certification (NC) II test, which is recognized globally, giving them a competitive edge when applying for jobs abroad or in foreign companies.

Pascual Arriola, TESDA provincial director, said that while there are many job opportunities available not enough people have the necessary skills required—hence the importance of TESDA’s training programs to reduce unemployment. The livelihood program, which started in August, provided courses on massage therapy, electric arc welding, computer hardware servicing, electrical installation and maintenance, electronics, and refrigerator and airconditioning unit repair.

Los Baños Mayor Caesar Perez recognized the graduates’ capacity to become globally competitive and live up to society’s expectations.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentiono, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships, emphasized the value that the skills training program brings to improve people’s lives.  The ceremony was held at the new Municipal Building of Los Baños on 6 December 2013.
IRRI also received a certificate of appreciation signed by Mayor Perez.

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Philippines: IRRI ends year giving to Haiyan survivors

Soon after Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) struck, Director General Robert Zeigler of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) sent a letter to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III. In the letter, Zeigler conveyed support to the Philippine government in the recovery efforts, offering seeds of high-yielding rice varieties for farmers in the affected areas.

Gift of seeds
Leigh Vial, head of IRRI’s experiment station, loads the 
first haul of rice seeds for multiplication in Babatngon, Leyte and
eventual distribution in typhoon-affected areas in the Visayas.
The rice seeds—13 tons in total—have been committed for multiplication and eventual distribution in the hardest-hit central Visayas region through the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA).

The initial lot of 1.6 tons of rice seeds was formally handed over to the DA on 9 December 2013 and will be planted at Babatngon, Leyte, for seed multiplication. The produce will then be shared among the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Capiz, and Aklan, and others yet to be identified by the DA.

Santiago Obien, senior technical adviser of the National Rice Program, said that the seed growers, as well as associations and cooperatives, need help to produce their own seeds in community seed banks so that there will be enough high-quality seeds available to our farmers in the next planting season. “We will work together with IRRI in setting up a monitoring system to ensure that these valuable seeds are planted and cared for,” he added.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala thanked IRRI for the seeds. IRRI is continually consulting with the DA about other ways through which it can help.

The initial turnover of rice seeds to the DA was arranged by IRRI’s Partnerships Office, with the help of the Institute’s Experiment Station, which prepared the seeds.

One with typhoon survivors
On behalf of its staff, IRRI will donate the funds intended for its headquarters’ year-end party to Yolanda survivors through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). As one of the organizations working on the ground, CRS currently serves 40,000 families in Leyte and Samar, providing emergency shelter, water, sanitation and relief items. In January 2014, CRS will start a shelter recovery program as well as an agricultural recovery program which will work primarily with rice and coconut farmers in the most affected areas.

The redirection of the Christmas celebration money to typhoon-affected families was the consensus from a survey made by the Institute among its staff. IRRI management fully supports staff members’ intention to help.

Staff initiatives
IRRI staff also successfully conducted fundraising activities during the past weeks—the Yolanda Fund Drive and Dance for a Cause. The donation includes personal contributions made by IRRI employees. ( These were earlier turned over to the Philippine National Red Cross.

“As the year closes, I thank all IRRI staff for their generous spirit, and for finding ways to give and put together donations of money and supplies for the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda,” said Dr. Zeigler. “We join the international community in sending a message of hope to millions of Filipinos who are trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible storm.”

Photo of turnover:

Related stories
IRRI offers rice seed aid for Leyte farmers
Yolanda survivors to get help from IRRI
Philippines: Yolanda fund drive continues
Staff survey resulted to cancellation of Institute year-end party
Dance for a cause held for typhoon Yolanda survivors

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IRRI entry places third in biotechnology fair

The IRRI High-CO2 Facility: A new APP for Climate Change Studies, an entry at the Biotechnology Fun Fair presentation contest on agricultural biotechnology innovations, won third place.

The small CO2 chamber that contained rice seedlings—a teen category entry—elicited students’ curiosity and received 80% of votes.

The event, held on 29 November 2013, was part of the Philippines’ 9th National Biotechnology Week, which aims to encourage advocacy of science and technology, presenting agricultural biotechnology to primary and secondary school students in an entertaining and interactive approach.

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Kenya: Training on rice seed production held for technicians

A deeper understanding of the rice plant, its production, and postharvest operations were the aim of a training course on rice seed production and purification held recently in Kenya.

Twenty-seven researchers and techniciansfrom public and private sector organizations in Kenya, including women, registered for the course.

The training course was organized by IRRI, in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI-Kibos) and was held on 4-7 December 2013 at the Ahero National Irrigation Board (NIB) in Kisumu.

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India: University of Illinois joins postharvest activities with CSISA in India

Alfred Schmidley, Aanand Kumar, and 
Steve Sonka at a farmers’ pilot site where villagers 
have been introduced to open-drum threshing.
The ADM Institute for Reduction of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois-Champaign has joined postharvest initiatives under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) Project.

Steve Sonka, director of the institute, toured three districts under CSISA’s Bihar Hub and visited the Bihar Agricultural University, government offices, local NGOs, and other CSISA partners who are pilot-testing improved postharvest technologies among marginal smallholder farmers and women’s groups.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Philippines: Students awarded agriculture scholarships

Twenty-eight students from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB), Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Visayas State University (VSU), Central Mindanao University (CMU) and University of Southern Mindanao (USM) were awarded the Landbank Gawad PATNUBAY Scholarship on 3 December 2013 at the Landbank Plaza, Manila.
Officials of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Landbank of the Philippines were present during the official launching of the scholarship.
Landbank President and CEO Gilda Pico said, “We are grateful to have found a partner in IRRI which share our passion and commitment to both agriculture and education.”

“This is a significant partnership for IRRI with Landbank and the universities. The mission is strongly to reclaim dignity in farming,” said Noel Magor, Head of IRRI Training Center.

Landbank donates to Filipino agricultural students
The college scholarship program offers grants to fifty scholars – 28 for college degree scholarship in agriculture and 22 for technical-vocation education program (TESDA-certified). The scholars enjoy 100 percent tuition fee subsidy, including monthly stipend, book allowance, and uniform costs. Moreover, they will also receive employment assistance upon graduation.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book-reading held for local grade school

A reading of the children’s book Gabby Ghas was held for 138 fourth- and fifth-grade students of the Tagumpay and San Antonio elementary schools at Bay, Laguna, on 26 November 2013.

Gabby Ghas is about a tiny grain of palay who wanted to find his place in the world. It was read by Oscar “Kuya Pong” Garcia, who made it lively and interactive.

Burundi: Progress of rice breeding assessed for ESA

A regional workshop was held to determine the progress of evaluating and selecting breeding lines for irrigated rice areas in East and Southern Africa (ESA).

The workshop was held for the seventh time and also aims to assess the progress of the reinforcement of regional breeding nurseries and exchange of promising breeding lines. It was opened by Joseph Nduwimana, permanent secretary within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Burundi.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Youth group advocates biotechnology

Members of the University of the Philippines League of Agricultural Biotechnology Students (UPLABS), call their group the “emerging bastion of excellence” in advocating science-based knowledge. 

UPLABS, based at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, is a three-year-old academic organization especially for BS Agricultural Biotechnology students and has come forward as an advocate of biotechnology to advance Philippine agriculture.

In the aftermath of the Golden Rice field trial at Camarines Sur getting vandalized a few months ago, UPLABS issued a statement condemning “the uncivilized act done by a militant group in an experimental station.” Their statement acknowledged the freedom of each individual and organization to express opinions and views on certain issues that affect them, but that “despite the difference in views regarding genetically modified (GM) crops, respect for each other must be upheld at all times.” 

UPLABS also stated that once Golden Rice is approved by government regulators, they believe that it will help get rice enriched with beta carotene within reach of people and thus help address vitamin A deficiency in the country.

UPLABS had also expressed support for the Bt Talong (eggplant) project and other biotechnology research projects conducting multilocation field trials. In a statement following the court ruling on the Bt Talong case, UPLABS expressed its disapproval, saying that the completed field trials in various parts of the country “were responsibly undertaken by the researchers involved in the project, and were meticulously policed by the Institutional Biosafety Committee and representatives from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry.”  

UPLABS is grateful for the support of professors, advisers, university officials, and researchers for the group to continue disseminating factual information to the Filipino people, especially to the youth, who deserve to know how GM and other forms of biotechnology can benefit them.

In line with National Biotechnology Week (NBW), which is celebrated on25-29 November 2013, UPLABS prepared a series of activities seeking to share knowledge on advances in modern biotechnology and to promote agricultural biotechnology products. This year, the activities have the theme, “Toward the Enhancement of Food and Feed Quality through Agricultural Biotechnology.”

The week-long celebration started with the opening of the UPLABS exhibit at the Crop Science Cluster lobby at UP Los Baños. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships, and Antonio Laurena, UPLABS senior adviser, were on hand to give inspiration and pledge support. 

Dr. Tolentino bid some 160 students from the Los Baños National High School to keep their minds open about biotechnology and to share what they learn from their NBW experience to their peers and families back home. 

Jayvee Rosal, UPLABS president, said that their organization considers sharing knowledge about agricultural biotechnology to young people very important, as it is a good chance to educate and influence the country’s future leaders. He also encouraged the members to join the advocacy “Para sa bioteknolohiya, para sa bayan” (for biotechnology, for country).

Other activities lined up by UPLABS for the NBW include a career orientation, a quiz contest, and a symposium titled Enhancement of food nutritional value through agricultural biotechnology with the speaker being Gerard Barry, Golden Rice Network Coordinator at IRRI. 

More information about UPLABS and their activities for NBW can be found on Facebook

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Climate experts meet with Philippine partners

Members of the Philippine Climate Change Adaptation Project (PhilCCAP), led by  Wilbur Dee from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, visited IRRI on 18 November 2013.

"The main crops covered by the project are rice and corn, and we learn a lot about rice technologies during the discussions we had here," said Norman Cajucom, acting senior vice president of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation and a member of the PhilCCAP team.

Roland Buresh, IRRI soil scientist and a member of PhilCCAP, and his team are developing decision-support system tools that aim to enhance the Rice Crop Manager, an IRRI-developed tool, by providing rice as well as corn farmers information on crop management practices adapted to a changing climate. The tools are developed and tested at PhilCCAP pilot sites in Cagayan and Iloilo provinces in the Philippines.

"IRRI is important to us because there is a lot of research that we can benefit from. IRRI is looking at, for example, the water requirements of rice and how this specifically affects the crop," Dr. Cajucom explained.

Dr. Cajucom said that PhilCCAP and the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) are currently working on a way to determine the water requirement of a rice variety at a specific stage of growth. "In the future, we can link with IRRI for that kind of information," he said.

IRRI experts Julian Lapitan, head of partnerships; Reiner Wassmann, climate change coordinator; Joel Janiya, senior associate scientist; and Dr. Buresh gave presentations to brief the PhilCCAP group.

The visit included stops at o the Ecological Intensification Platform, the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment, and the International Rice Genebank.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

IRRI congratulates World Robot Olympiad second-placers

IRRI wishes to congratulate the members of the Philippine Robotics Olympiad—King Olgadao, Anne Jazpher Raz, and Rey Allen Infante—that represented the country in the 2013 World Robotics Olympiad (WRO) held in November 2013 at Jakarta, Indonesia. The Philippine team won the silver medal.

The winning group, together with some of their schoolmates from Dr. Yangas Colleges, Inc. (DYCI) in Bocaue, Bulacan, visited IRRI on 12 November, inspired by how IRRI has been developing and using tools for precision rice farming. They were accompanied by their coaches and supervising officer.

The students did a demonstration of their robots, request staff of IRRI’s External Relations office and some IRRI scientists to review and feedback on their creations.

Roger Carlo Pineda, DYCI supervising officer, said that the students have used many of IRRI’s online information for their project and were thrilled to finally get to visit the Institute.

“It is very encouraging to see high school students interested in technologies that would help rice farmers,” said Corinta Guerta, IRRI’s director of external relations.

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Indian agriculture officials come to IRRI for discovery visit

Senior officials from India’s Ministry of Agriculture are at IRRI for a two-day (25-26 November 2013) series of awareness and consultation meetings on the Institute’s work and its collaborative projects with the country.

The agriculture officials, who represent various Indian states, learned particularly about the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) Project that is coordinated by IRRI in South Asia.

Myanmar: IRRI represented in rural development strategy setting

“Poverty reduction in Myanmar is dependent on the development of the agriculture and livestock sectors,” said Myanmar President U Thein Sein in his opening speech during the national workshop on the Rural Development Strategic Framework, held on 18-19 November 2013 at the nation’s capital of Nay Pyi Taw.

President U Thein Sein’s message centered on the political, social, and economic reforms that must take place to bring political stability and lasting peace, and less incidence of poverty. He said that food security, rural development, poverty reduction, and a sustainable economy must develop parallel with the economic, social, health, and education sectors after peace and stability are restored.

The president also cited the important role of the international scientific community in providing technologies that will help ensure sustainable food production and preserve the country’s natural resources at the same time. “Myanmar has to exert utmost effort in the task of reducing the poverty rate from 26% to 16% by 2015.”

The IRRI Myanmar office put up an exhibit alongside the workshop that featured samples of new stress-tolerant high-yielding rice varieties selected during participatory varietal selection activities held in the Delta; and publications, videos, and posters depicting IRRI’s activities in Myanmar.

Madonna  Casimero, IRRI representative for Myanmar, and May Nwe Soe, assistant scientist, were participants in the workshop, which was organized by the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries, and Rural Development and the Livelihood and Food Security Trust.

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Thailand: Preparations under way for rice congress in 2014

The International Rice Congress (IRC2014) is where the world’s rice scientists will gather to share their recent findings in all research areas that have to do with rice. The congress will be held in October 2014 at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC).

The schedule has been set for the conference and arrangements are being made for plenary and special symposia speakers. Mike Jackson, chair of the science program for IRC2014, is at IRRI for two weeks to meet with the science committee for the conference and with coordinators of the symposia. He is also already deep in planning program details with conference organizers in Bangkok.

Details and updates will be posted on the conference website as well as on Facebook and the IRC2014 blog.


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Philippines: Yolanda fund drive continues

Sylvia Avance of the IRRI Partnerships Office
turned over donations from staff to
the Philippine Red Cross on 21 Nov. 2013
IRRI initial collection of donations from its staff (Yolanda fund drive) for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) were turned over by the Philippine Desk of the Partnerships Office to the Philippine National Red Cross on 21 November 2013.

The Partnerships Office will continue to accept donations from staff until Friday, 29 November 2013.

As part of its response to the disaster, IRRI is working closely with the Philippine Department of Agriculture to determine the extent of typhoon damage on rice production and to provide seeds of flood-tolerant rice to farmers for free.

Related stories | IRRI offers rice seed aid for Leyte farmers
Post-typhoon rice damage assessed in the Philippines
Yolanda survivors to get help from IRRI

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rice Mix Day (22 Nov.) and NYR Run (24 Nov.)

As part of the National Year of Rice 2013 campaign, the IRRI Main Cafeteria and the ECDC food center will be serving rice-mix recipes on Friday, 22 November 2013.

It is a practice in many Filipino homes and food centers to serve steamed white rice. Last week, IRRI participated in the first-ever Brown Rice Day, where the cafeteria and the food center served only brown rice to all customers. This week, on Rice Mix Day (22 Nov.), everyone is urged to try the rice mix and to get more nutrients from rice by mixing it with other staples such as corn, banana, sweet potato, and cassava.

On Sunday, 24 November, the NYR Run will start 5 A.M. at Baker Hall in the UPLB campus. More than 40 IRRI staff have registered for the run. Those who want to join the race can still register at the NYR booth, which has moved from Harrar Breezeway to Baker Hall. It is open from 1–4 P.M. until Friday, 22 November.

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AFIRE Alumni Homecoming

Many say that once you become a part of IRRI, you never really leave. This becomes especially true this week for former IRRI staff who shall return to headquarters for the first reunion of the Association of Former IRRI Employees (AFIRE). The event will be hosted by the Institute through the Partnerships Office and will be held on Friday, 22 November 2013.

AISAS members attend annual conference

Members of the Association of IRRI Secretaries and Administrative Staff (AISAS) attended the annual Administrative Professionals Conference-Workshop sponsored by the Philippine Administrative Association (PAS) held on 14-16 November 2013 at Davao City.

The workshop is a business gathering for secretaries, executive secretaries or assistants, administrative coordinators or assistants, office managers, and office support personnel during which they discuss their responsibilities and their vital roles in business, industry, education, environment, and others areas. It was also an opportunity for the IRRI delegates to learn or share something new and return energized.

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IRRI’s breeding program promoted to students

Twenty-nine college students from two universities in Southern Luzon attended a lecture at IRRI on the Institute’s breeding programs, including GM-assisted research, on 14 November 2013.

The students, accompanied by faculty members, represented Southern Luzon State University in Lucban, Quezon, and the four campuses of the Laguna State Polytechnic University.

Gerard Barry, IRRI’s Golden Rice project leader, presented an overview of the Institute’s breeding programs and discussed why GM technology is crucial to rice research.

Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, gave an introduction to IRRI and its mission that includes developing healthier rice varieties.

A presentation was also made about the C4 Rice project.

The lecture is one of the activities lined up for National Biotechnology Week (25-29 November 2013) and was held in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD.  


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Former IRRI crop physiologist is guest at researchers’ lunch

The Young Researchers Lunch for November hosted Tanguy Lafarge, senior scientist and leader of the Crop Physiology Group at the Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) in Montpellier, France.

Dr. Lafarge introduced CIRAD to the group composed of young research staff at IRRI and shared his views on the role of plant physiologists in international agricultural research. He emphasized the importance of plant physiologists to research that seeks solutions to real problems in the field, but adding that research does not have to have direct impact on farmers to be useful.

Participants of the November lunch were Changrong Ye, Ainara Penalver Cruz, Nurul Hidayatun, Wanju Shi, and Robert Coe.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for IRRI research staff and scholars who are at the early stages of their careers. It aims to provide an opportunity for discussion with senior scientists on a range of topics related to rice science and career path.

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Bangladesh: Women entrepreneurs seek to strengthen local agribusiness

Women entrepreneurs from southwest Bangladesh discussed agribusiness and markets with successful business owners as a critical pathway to women’s economic empowerment during a two-day workshop organized by IRRI and UN Women.

The workshop was held to assist women entrepreneurs who own small- to medium-scale agroenterprises grow their businesses by linking them with established women-led ventures.

Forty-eight new and veteran entrepreneurs from Bagerhat, Barguna, Jessore Khulna, Sathkhira, and Patuakhali participated in discussions and exchange of ideas on running agriculture-based businesses, linking these with national-level agribusiness and retail trade, and identifying constraints to these and solutions.

The workshop is especially significant as it provides knowledge that may help safeguard small businesses in southwest Bangladesh, a region prone to climatic disasters.

Represented among the participants were business associations such as the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) and the Women Entrepreneurship Association banks (Bangladesh Bank and Krishi Bank).

The workshop, held at the CSS Ava Center in Khulna, was conducted under the USAID-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia project in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD).

For more information, please contact Bushra Rahman, manager for communication and documentation of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD) at 

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IRRI offers rice seed aid for Leyte farmers

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has offered the Philippine government flood-tolerant rice seeds for distribution to rice farmers in Leyte who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda).

Donating flood-proof rice seeds is but one part of IRRI’s long-term assistance to farmers in Leyte Province and other areas affected by the supertyphoon, and starts with assessment of the damage in rice-growing areas, which IRRI will carry out jointly with the Department of Agriculture (DA). IRRI is continually consulting with the DA about other ways through which it can help.

Fundraising for typhoon survivors

In the immediate period, IRRI has set up the Yolanda Fund Drive that puts together donations of cash and goods from IRRI staff and friends.Collection through the fund drive plus cash has so far amounted to Php 379,130.00. Donations of sacks of rice, canned food, and medicines have also been pouring in.

A representative of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) is coming on 20 November to fetch the funds and supplies from V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships.

IRRI’s collection of donations will be channeled through the PNRC, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Using science to cope with climate change

In a letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler expressed sympathy for the plight of thousands of Filipinos in the Visayas region affected by the huge devastation from the supertyphoon and conveyed support to the Philippine government for the rehabilitation of Leyte province, especially in agriculture.

Flood-tolerant rice, also called ‘scuba rice’ and known as ‘Submarino’ in the Philippines, is a product of research being done at IRRI that aims to breed rice varieties that can withstand flooding, drought, and salty soil—environmental stresses that are predicted to intensify with climate change.

In a recent international symposium on rice genetics held in Makati City—just as Typhoon Haiyan started making its way into the central part of the archipelago—President Aquino cited in his message to participants (read on his behalf by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala) the “urgency of scientific research helping countries cope with the challenges posed by climate change.”

The Haiyan aftermath remains a stern reminder of just how urgent the need has become, with food production being just one of several fronts that bear the brunt of extreme weather events—and with which science can help.

“Rice production in the affected regions accounts for less than 10% of the Philippines’ annual rice production,” said Sam Mohanty, IRRI economist and head of the Institute’s social science and policy arm, in his blog . Luckily, most of the rice crop in these regions had already been harvested when the typhoon hit.

Dr. Mohanty added, though, that it will take a little more time to see the full extent of the damage, as flooding from the typhoon and storm surge will likely have ruined the harvested grains stored on-farm or in warehouses.

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Rockefeller scion refreshes historical ties with IRRI

David Rockefeller, Jr., American sailor, philanthropist, and an active advocate in environmental issues; and spouse Susan Cohn Rockefeller, writer and filmmaker, visited the IRRI headquarters on Friday (15 November) for an overview of the Institute’s research and to, in turn, discuss the Rockefeller Foundation(RF)’s development agenda. Mr. Rockefeller is a leading fourth-generation member of the prominent Rockefeller family. In 2006, he was appointed to the RF board of trustees, thus becoming the sixth member of the family to have served on the board since its founding by John D. Rockefeller in 1913.

Meeting with DG Robert Zeigler and other members of IRRI management, Mr. Rockefeller remarked, “This visit to IRRI is hugely important and personal to me since so much of the Rockefeller family and the history of the Foundation is linked to the success of IRRI and the Green Revolution that was started here.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Medical and counseling mission held for PWDs

IRRI's Partnerships Office conducted another medical mission and counseling on 6 November 2013, this time for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families at the Batong Malake covered court in Los Baños.

Emergency services training for local community held

Another batch of the Neighborhood Emergency Services Team (NEST) training was held for residents of barangays Calo, Maitim, and Puypuy of Bay, Laguna, on 4-8 November 2013.

South Korea honors IRRI plant breeder

The Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea, a long-time partner of IRRI, has named Kshirod K. Jena, senior scientist and plant breeder at IRRI, honorary scientist and advisor for RDA’s Agricultural Green Technology effective October 2013.

Dr. Jena’s designation, awarded by DA Administrator Lee Yang-Ho, is a recognition of his contribution to the development of the rice sector in Korea.

Postproduction-to-market course on rice starts at IRRI

For decades, millions of rice farmers lose up to 30% of the crop between harvesting and getting the rice to the market—a significant loss that affects their income and livelihood. On 28 October-8 November 2013, 23 representatives from the research, extension, NGOs, and private sector across eight countries came to IRRI for the Rice: Postproduction to Market training course that seeks to tackle postharvest losses.

Temperate rice group meets at IRRI for the first time

The Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC) held its annual review and planning meeting on 8-9 November 2013, at IRRI headquarters for the first time.

The consortium meets yearly to review research progress on key issues affecting temperate rice and to plan the most effective use of their resources. Holding this year’s meeting at IRRI provided a good opportunity for members to hear from IRRI scientists on issues affecting temperate rice areas, such as phenotyping, GIS mapping, hybrids, germplasm exchange, and marketing.

The meeting was attended by more than 50 participants from 18 countries.

Training on ecological control of pests ongoing at IRRI

Management of rice pests (rodents, weeds, insects, birds, and golden apple snails) needs both a strong ecological and social dimension, such as that offered by a training course on ecological management of pests in rice agroecosystems that is ongoing (4-15 November) at IRRI headquarters.

The course was jointly convened by IRRI senior scientists Grant Singleton (rodent management) and David Johnson (weed management). Charles Krebs, a world-renowned ecologist and professor, joins IRRI scientists as resource speaker.

Myanmar seeks to intensify rice production sustainably

A symposium on sustainable management of pests through ecological engineering was held recently in Myanmar, an emerging global leader in rice production.

IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, in his opening message, said that the country can play a key role in ensuring global food security in the future. “Myanmar can really show the way forward to a responsible growth and development of a rice industry,” said Dr. Zeigler, who added that if Myanmar chooses the path of sustainable productivity, it can emerge as a true global leader that produces rice intensively and on a large scale but sustainably.

Earlier, in September, in a meeting in which Myanmar’s rice sector strategy was mapped out, Dr. Zeigler discussed an important area of innovation and policy: plant protection, particularly the use of pesticides.

"Experiences across Asia now show that, in general, pesticides were often used much too intensively and were easily subject to abuse. Overly intensive use of pesticides harms the health of farmers as well as the long-term productivity of farms," cautioned the head of the leading global research organization on rice.

Dr. Zeigler said that IRRI strongly advises Myanmar to promote sustainable management of pests through policy, regulations, the right messages, and careful management of the entry, promotion, and use of pesticides in Myanmar.

George Rothschild, former IRRI DG and now professor emeritus at  the University of Greenwich, gave the keynote  speech.

 “The symposium aimed to consolidate reports on the threat of planthoppers to the sustainability of rice production, and the ecological factors involved,” said Madonna Casimero, IRRI senior scientist and head of the IRRI-Myanmar Office.

Partners also shared ecological engineering approaches. A set of videos was also launched as an information resource to support sustainable pest control.

Messages were also given by guests Sir Gordon Conway, professor at the Imperial College in London, and U Myint Hlaing, Myanmar’s union minister of agriculture and irrigation (read by Thein Lwin, director general of the Myanma Department of Agricultural Research).

The symposium, held on 11 November 2013 at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon, was a joint undertaking of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

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IRRI joins NYR activities

No other rice, except unpolished rice, will be
available at IRRI cafeteria and food centers on Friday, 15 Nov.  
In celebration of the Philippines’ National Year of Rice 2013 and National Rice Awareness Month, everyone is invited to join activities and promotions in the next few days, starting with the country's very first Brown Rice Day at the IRRI cafeteria and food centers on 15 November (Friday), Rice Mix Day on 22 November (Friday), and the NYR Run on 24 November (Sunday).  The run will be held at the UP Los Baños and UP Diliman campuses.

Yolanda survivors to get help from IRRI

Typhoon Haiyan, also known by its local name Yolanda and cited as the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines, battered the central islands of the country on Friday, 8 November 2013.

Yesterday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has declared a state of national calamity as this will enable the government to respond more effectively to the devastation in the Eastern Visayas, which bore the full brunt of Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to make landfall. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) joins the international community in supporting the Philippines, its host country, during these difficult times.

IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, on behalf of the Institute’s staff, has this message for the Filipino people: “ In my many years in the Philippines since 1992 I have never seen devastation of this scale. Like many of you, I am deeply saddened by the great loss of life and massive destruction caused by this typhoon. We thank everyone for sending their support to the Philippines during these dark times. We’ve had many staff asking how to help so we have set up a “Yolanda Drive” that IRRI will forward to those in need.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Asia food security summit features GRiSP director

The Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) is hosting the AIDF Food Security Summit: Asia 2013 at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok, Thailand on 26-27 November 2013.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Local college gets mini-bus from IRRI

IRRI donated its Mitsubishi coaster to the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) to help the school with its mobility needs especially when doing field trips and community visits under its agricultural extension program.

In a turnover ceremony held on 23 October 2013 held at IRRI headquarters, Nestor de Vera, LSPU president, received the key to the coaster/minibus from V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI.

School kids get free haircut from livelihood training grads

Pupils of a local elementary school had their pre-Halloween treats of free haircuts and styling from 63 women graduates of the Ganda Mo, Hanapbuhay Ko (GMHK) livelihood training program sponsored by IRRI and the Ang Hortaleza Foundation, Inc.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rice scientists convene for Asia review of the Global Rice Science Partnership

Scientists from IRRI and its partners met for the Asia Review and Planning Forum of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, last week at IRRI headquarters.

Updates and innovations over the last year were shared from across all six research programs: genetic diversity (1), better varieties (2), crop and environment (3), adding value (4), targeting and policy (5), and last mile delivery (6). Research leaders and young rice scientists shared the spotlight to ensure a dynamic and interesting engagement by all participants.

Livelihood training making a dent for local residents

The IRRI Partnerships Office (PO) launched another training course under the Ganda Mo, Hanapbuhay Ko (Your Beauty, My Livelihood) program offered to residents of Los Baños and Bay towns on 21 October.

Sixty-six unemployed women registered for the 5-day livelihood course, Basic Cosmetology, which covers hair and nail treatments. The PO partners with a Philippine company, the Ang-Hortaleza Foundation, Inc. (AHFI), which provided the trainers and materials for the course.

Gabby Ghas book-reading sessions held for local school kids

A storytelling session was held for third- and fourth-grade pupils of barangays Masaya and Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, featuring the picture book, The Adventures of Gabby Ghas.

Gabby Ghas is a tiny grain of palay who wanted to know his place in the world and goes on a journey during which he encounters rice seedlings, weeds, predatory insects, and friendly insects that protect rice plants from harm.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

IRRI donates computers to local police

IRRI, through its Information Technology Services (ITS), turned over a donation of ten computer units to the Los Baños police force, in response to a request made by Andres Simbajon, Jr., chief of police.

The donation was made in a ceremony held at the LB police station on 9 October 2013, with IRRI DDG-CP V. Bruce J. Tolentino conveying IRRI's support for its host and neighboring communities in efforts to maintain peace and order.

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IRRI joins UPLB in commemorating Loyalty Day

IRRI joined the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in its 95th annual commemoration of Loyalty Day and alumni homecoming on 10 October 2013. The event had the theme, UPLB Alumni for Sustainable Community Transformation, and featured the traditional parade of UPLB alumni, faculty and staff members, students, as well as friends and partners including IRRI. Several photo exhibits on the National Year of Rice were on display at UPLB’s D.L. Umali Auditorium.

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Plant biology professor is guest in researchers’ lunch

The monthly Young Researchers Lunch hosted Tim Colmer, professor of plant biology at the University of Western Australia, on 8 October 2013. Dr. Colmer's work focuses on plant response to flooding but includes anatomy and ion and oxygen flow in plants. He was at IRRI to attend the conference of the International Society for Plant Anaerobiosis.

Philippines: Partners in Pampanga get IRRI books

A donation of IRRI books and posters were handed over to the municipality of Apalit, Pampanga, on 11 October 2013. The donation was received by the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist, led by Vicky Caylao.

Myanmar partners get help on producing quality rice seed

Forty-five representatives from IRRI’s partners in Myanmar underwent a hands-on training on quality rice seed production held recently at Yezin. Production of good-quality rice seed will help increase the overall rice productivity of Myanmar.

Philippine IT group donates more computers for Cybervillage Project

ITAPhil BOT members hand over more laptop units
for the CyberVillage Project.  
In continuing support of IRRI’s CyberVillage Project, the IT Association of the Philippines (ITAPhil) donated four laptop computers on 10 October 2013. The donation comes on top of one made in September 2013 of three laptop units from Lenovo (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.

India: National Advisory Council Chair Gandhi notes IRRI’s work in stress-prone areas

Sonia Gandhi, chair of the National Advisory Council of India, expressed a keen interest in IRRI-developed salt-tolerant rice varieties after distributing salt-tolerant wheat varieties to farmers for planting in the rabi season. Mrs. Gandhi is a member of parliament representing Raebareli District and is current president of the Indian National Congress Party.

India: Public and private stakeholders discuss rice sector’s future

“How do we create a better life and a better future for rice? How can we do much more, with less?”  were some of the questions posed by Tobias Marchand, Bayer Cropscience head for the Asia-Pacific, to 200 rice experts and policymakers that present during the two-day Rice Future Forum on 8-9 October 2013 in New Delhi, India.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

IRRI donates vehicles and computers to local towns

Research and academic institutions and the municipalities of Los Baños and Bay were the recipients of several vehicles from IRRI, which made the donation to support projects that will help improve the welfare of local residents and to further strengthen its partnership with these local partners.

Three Toyota Revo units were turned over to Los Baños mayor Caesar Perez on 7 October 2013 during the Monday flag-raising ceremony that was attended by municipal employees, members of the Sangguniang Bayan, and representatives from IRRI’s Office of the Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships (DDG-CP) and Transport Services Unit. Photos  

Plant anaerobiosis group meets this week at IRRI

The International Society for Plant Anaerobiosis (ISPA) has chosen IRRI to be the venue of its eleventh international conference, happening this week (7-11 October 2013).  Photos 

The conference draws 130 members and other scientists from around the world, all of whom are involved in research on plant responses to impeded aeration. This year’s theme, Translational Science, brings the focus on solutions to major global challenges, including food security and environmental safety.

JIRCAS hosts blast research network workshop

The direction of research on rice blast in Asia, Africa, and Japan was taken up during the eighth workshop of the Blast Research Network for stable rice production, held at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) in Tsukuba.