Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Philippines: IRRI hosts concert for typhoon-damaged school for the arts

By: Sarah Jane Delizo and Joann Forcado

Scholars of the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), a specialized public high school in the Philippines offering arts-focused education located at the foot of Mt. Makiling, displayed their talents in a benefit concert hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at DL Umali Hall on 3 December. Bayanihandog (from the Tagalog words for “spirit of communal unity and cooperation” and “offering”) was planned by the IRRI Partnerships Office to raise funds to help PHSA repair the electric power lines destroyed by Typhoon Rammasun in July.

The performances include a neo-folk dance depicting the heritage of rice culture and the traditional processes of producing rice by Sanghiyas Pangkat Mananayaw.  Aninong Makiling performed Unang Sibol (first sprouts), a shadow play about an Ifugao rice myth. Maquiling Ballet performed a dance about bambanti, the Ilokano term for scarecrow.

Dulaang Sipat Lawin enacted an excerpt from Paloob, Palabas—a tribute by Tim Dacanay to the Philippine national hero Andres Bonifacio and his works as an artist. Musika Ibarang and Himig Ibarang, the instrumental and choral groups of PHSA, respectively, serenaded the audience with songs and music.  A poetry reading was also presented by Kuwit.

In addition to the performances of the various PHSA groups, Antonio Lambino, IRRI’s head of communication and a former member of the famous Philippine pop music group Smokey Mountain, had a special participation. Mr. Lambino performed popular songs Tagalog songs from the 1990’s including Da Coconut Nut, Harana and Araw-Gabi.

In his welcome remark, Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director for  Communication and Partnerships, highlighted the close link between the arts and the sciences. “The creative process is at the heart of scientific discoveries,” Dr. Tolentino.

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Philippines: IRRI and partners hold workshop on technologies for mitigating impact of drought on rice production

Representatives from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), local government units, and state colleges and universities participated in a workshop to discuss the status of technological interventions from the drought project under the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) on 11 -12 December in Subic, Zambales.

Organized by PhilRice with support from IRRI, the workshop gathered outputs and outcomes from the project Improving Livelihoods and Overcoming Poverty in the Drought-Prone Lowlands of Southeast Asia funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and eventually share them with stakeholders. These include climate change-ready rice, improved nutrient management through the Rice Crop Manager, and mechanized seed planting, among others.

“When combined with good agronomic practices, rainfed rice farmer’s profited from greater productivity and impact,” said Yoichiro Kato, IRRI agronomist and coordinator of the drought project. Dr. Kato observed that farmers in 130 rainfed lowland sites in Cambodia were able to get a yield advantage of 1-2 tons per hectare when improved rice varieties were adopted with good management practices despite drought.

The workshop also identified bottlenecks in the project and narrowed future targets for outscaling or upscaling of the drought-mitigation technologies.

“Only in partnership can we thrive, grow, and be transformed,” said Dr. Manuel Jose Regalado, acting deputy executive director for research at PhilRice “All these fruits of labor would not be realized without each of us supporting one another. Every single one of us here are pieces of a puzzle that would not create a solid picture if one is missing.”

A total of 58 participants discussed the status of their milestones, ongoing activities, and outputs.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dartmouth College scientists are guests at the Young Researchers' Lunch for December

The Young Researchers' Lunch for December hosted Mary Lou Guerinot and Robertson McClung from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. Dr. Guerinot is molecular geneticist whose principal expertise and research interests are in the area of metal transport and regulation of gene expression by metals. Dr. McClung studies the genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which an organism measures time and uses that temporal information to regulate gene expression and cellular physiology.

There were two groups for the lunch, and both scientists engaged in lively discussions about their research with the groups. The participants from IRRI included Wanju Shi, Hsiang-Chun Lin, Anandhan Tamilselvan, Abraham Darius Llave, Lily Molina, Margaret Anne Pelayo, Aditi Bhandari, Christian Paolo Balahadia, Jessica Rey, and Walter Israel.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stages of their career. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics including science and career paths.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

India: NAAS honors IRRI director general for significant contributions to agricultural sciences

The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) elected IRRI Director General Robert Ziegler as a Fellow of the Academy for rendering conspicuous service to the cause of science beginning 1 January 2015.

NAAS logo. Learn  about NAAS 
Each year NAAS accords recognition to scientists at various levels, and encourages cutting edge research in different fields of agricultural sciences. The Fellows of the Academy, recognized for their contributions to science, include distinguished personalities in the field of agriculture and allied sciences, both from India and abroad.

NAAS aims to gain a recognition as a credible think tank to provide views of the scientific community on all agriculture-related policy issues, to encourage talent and promote excellence in science, making it a powerful instrument for the growth of national economy with a vibrant farm sector. The Academy focuses on the broad field of agricultural sciences including crop husbandry, animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and interface between agriculture and agro-industry.

More about India and IRRI

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Rice in the shadow of skyscrapers: Policy choices in a dynamic East and Southeast Asian setting

Edited by David Dawe, Steven Jaffee, and Nuno Santos
Published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank, and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). 149 pages

This compendium of policy notes is the result of cooperation among FAO, the World Bank, and IRRI. Across Asia, rice as food plays an important part of the human family. These policy notes seek to contribute to the ongoing policy dialogues and debates about rice and food security in East and Southeast Asia and make decision-making better informed .

This compendium aims to synthesize and reframe a large body of recent literature into a readily-accessible format for public officials, business leaders, civil society, and other stakeholders involved in policy-making.  Although this publication focuses on the rice sector in East and Southeast Asia, many of its key findings and conclusions will also be of interest to policymakers who are finding solutions to similar challenges that have something to do with staple foods in other regions.

The role of rice in East and Southeast Asia is shifting along with broader societal changes, including what is going on in economic structures, demography (including rapid urbanization), rising incomes, and changes in food consumption patterns.  Just the same, the political economy of rice remains exceedingly complex within the region.

Rice is still closely tied to food security imperatives, but increasingly also to improving the income of rice producers, realizing commercial trade objectives, and, more recently, lowering the environmental footprint of agriculture in major ricegrowing areas.

As this compendium seeks to support and nurture a learning process, it also aims to contribute to more effective and efficient policies and programs. This is part of the ongoing efforts of the three sponsoring organizations to win the fight against poverty and improve food security in East and Southeast Asia through research, sharing of knowledge, strategy development, technical assistance, and boosting investments in rice-related infrastructure and management systems.

Collaboration on this policy note series involved 20 authors from the three sponsoring organizations and other partner institutions. The work was initiated and led by Steven Jaffee, lead rural development specialist, Global Agriculture Practice in the World Bank, and David Dawe and Nuno Santos, senior economist and economist, respectively, in FAO. They worked together in identifying the major themes and contributing authors and they edited this publication.

The PDF of the book can be downloaded free at

View related press release

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

IRRI scientists publish article on using satellites to map a wide range of rice environments in Asia

Providing accurate, timely, and detailed information on staple crops like rice is the basis for food security policies. This is especially important in Asia where rapid changes in rice sector policies, market preferences, land use, water availability, and climate are occurring simultaneously.  Since 2012, IRRI has been collaborating with partners in Europe and Asia on the RIICE (Remote Sensing based Information and Insurance for crops in Emerging economies) project to build in-country capacity to use satellite information for rice crop monitoring in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In November, IRRI scientists Dr. Andrew Nelson, Dr. Tri Setiyono and colleagues published the first major scientific output from RIICE, Towards an Operational SAR-Based Rice Monitoring System in Asia: Examples from 13 Demonstration Sites across Asia in the RIICE Project. The study is the largest of its kind and was conducted in collaboration with Sarmap, Philippine Rice Research Institute, ICALRD (Indonesia), TNAU (India), GISTDA (Thailand), TRD (Thailand), Can Tho University (Vietnam), IMHEN (Vietnam), CARDI (Cambodia), GIZ-India, SDC-Cambodia and SDC-Vietnam. The article focuses on the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery which is highly suitable for detecting lowland rice, especially in tropical and subtropical regions, where pervasive cloud cover in the rainy seasons prevents the use of optical imagery. Hence, the study shows how a simple, robust, and rule-based classification algorithm can be used to map rice areas using regularly acquired, multi-temporal SAR imagery across a wide range of rice environments in Asia.

The paper presents rice monitoring results from 13 study sites across six countries. Project partners conducted more than 1,900 in-season site visits across 228 monitoring locations in the study sites and a further 1,300 field observations were made for accuracy assessment. Some 1.6 million hectares of rice areas were mapped with classification accuracy at field level between 85% and 95%.
The article recommends that the time is right for the development of national scale rice crop observation systems using this technology.  New satellite platforms such as Sentinel-1, ALOS-PALSAR-2 and RISAT-1 can provide free or low cost imagery over Asia which can be analyzed using RIICE technologies to provide monthly information on rice area, planting dates, yield estimates, and the impact of calamities like tropical storms and drought.   Such information would support governments in planning and policymaking, and other stakeholders such as crop insurance or disaster response units. It will also help IRRI and other research partners in better understanding current and future trends in rice production for better targeted research.

Better information for food security in a changing climate is essential as highlighted recently by the UN:
“Data are the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability. Without high-quality data providing the right information on the right things at the right time; designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies becomes almost impossible.” A World that Counts – UN Data Revolution, November 2014  

IRRI—through RIICE Phase II (2015-2018)—is committed to working with national partners to ensure that the capacity to use this technology is developed in-country. The aim is to provide governments and other stakeholders with national scale information on the rice crop that will ultimately benefit both rice producers and consumers.  RIICE Phase I has been supported by SDC and the Global Rice Science Partnership.

View publication |
Read more about the RIICE project |

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)
Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development (ICALRD)
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU)
Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA)
Thailand Rice Department (TRD)
Can Tho University (CTU)
Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IMHEN)
Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

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India: Drought-tolerant rice creates high hopes among farmers in Hazaribagh district

By D.K. Raghav, R. K. Singh, Mayank  Sharma, and Manzoor H. Dar

Holy Cross Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), an agricultural extension center and partner of the  Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project  in Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) organized a field day featuring a rice variety demonstration of the drought-tolerant Sahbhagi dhan at Village-Khodhar on 10 October 2014.

The demonstration was supervised by Holy Cross KVK under International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-National Food Security Mission (NFSM) collaborative project in a 100 hectare area of 10 drought-prone villages in Hazaribagh district.  Seed and other inputs were provided to the farmers. The farmers were also trained in quality seed production and safe storage so that they can keep the seed for the next cropping seasons and share with other farmers.

Sahbhagi dhan matures earlier and requires less water than traditional and hybrid varieties, said most of the farmers who participated in the demonstration.  One of the farmers claimed Sahbhagi dhan had more panicles with more number of grains as compared to other traditional varieties. The yield recorded ranged between 3.5 tons per hectare for direct seeding and 6 tons per hectare under transplanted conditions. The farmers also reported that their fields would remain fallow due to drought, but this year’s Sahbhagi dhan crop yielded enough to feed their families and livestock.

Surendra Kumar Singh, District Agriculture Officer of Hazaribagh, emphasized the importance of  disseminating the variety in other drought affected areas. Mr. S.K. Singh also asked farmers to take initiative to adopt the high-yielding, drought-resistant Sahbhagi dhan as a farming community strategy.

 Dr. S. N. Giri, deputy director of the Seed and Farm, BAU Ranchi, said that this variety is suited to mitigate drought effects under climate change scenarios. It can ease the fallow field problem during kharif season, he added.  In the past, farmers cultivating longer duration traditional varieties and hybrids suffered heavy losses due to drought and scanty rainfall.

The field day was organized by Mr. S.K., Dr. S.N. Giri, Dr. R.K. Singh (Programme Coordinator, KVK), Dr. D.K. Raghav, Mr. S.N. Chaudhary, and Mr. D. Rai of Holy Cross KVK. About 160 farmers from surrounding villages were also present.

Under IRRI-NFSM project, 150 such field days/farmers’ awareness meetings have been organized by more than 50 partners in seven eastern states in India. An estimated 8,000 farmers, including farmers from ten drought prone districts in Jharkhand, have participated in these meetings during the kharif season 2014-15.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

IRRI-Myanmar wins award for its technologies and products display at the LIFT Annual Forum 2014

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-Myanmar office’s exhibit of its different activities, technologies, outputs, and products received the award for best stall display during the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) annual forum 2014 at Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on 25-26 November.

Under this year’s theme, Knowledge sharing and ideas for Myanmar’s rural development, the two-day event brought together national and international rural development specialists from government and non-government organizations, and private institutions to support LIFT’s vision to be a collective voice for innovation and learning, and to provide a platform for policy engagement.  The IRRI-Myanmar stall display featured corporate posters and best management practices in stress-prone environments, publications, videos, and 7 newly released rice varieties from the Participatory Variety Selection Trials in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Research, and non-government partners.  It bested 15 international and local non-government partner organizations of LIFT who participated in the competition based on the following criteria: (a) design and arrangement, (b) attractiveness of materials, (c) clarity of message, (d) quality of personal interaction, and e) overall impression.

LIFT Annual Forum 2014 also conducted 4 sessions to discuss the changing dynamics of Myanmar’s rural economy, private sector engagement with smallholder farmers, building knowledge platform for agriculture, and rural development and increasing resilience of rural households. Experts in these four themes presented plenary papers followed by panel discussions and open forum.

His Excellency U Soe Thane, union minister at the President’s Office, and Roland Kobia, ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar, gave the key messages. Attending the event were Dr. Madonna Casimero (IRRI representative, Myanmar), Dr. Romeo Labios (IRRI scientist), Dr. Ye TunTun, Dr. Nyo Me Htwe, and Dr. KhinThawda Win (IRRI postdoctoral fellows), and May NweSoe (IRRI assistant scientist).

The LIFT annual forum 2014 was jointly organized by LIFT Fund Management Office and the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development.

Read more about Myanmar and IRRI

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Philippines: IRRI joins organizations in hosting study tour for the 6th National Biotechnology Education Conference for Teachers

A group of 36 teachers from different science high schools in Metro Manila, Cavite, Quezon, Laguna, Palawan, Camarines Sur, and Bulacan visited the laboratories and facilities at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters on 24 November as part of the 6th National Biotechnology Education Conference for Teachers (NBECT).

In addition to IRRI, the educators also visited the laboratories and facilities at National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and the Institute of Plant Breeding at University of the Philippines Los Banos. The tour also included film showings and discussions of issues related to biotechnology at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. Two other collaborators for the study visit are the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program and Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Diliman Foundation Inc.

NBECT is an activity held during the annual National Biotechnology Week commemorated on the last week of November. Now on its 10th  year, NBW is focusing on the promotion and advocacy on the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology.

This year’s year theme,  Edukasyon sa Bioteknolohiya: Pagyamanin para sa kinabukasan natin, (Harnessing biotechnology education for the future) highlights the need to strengthen biotechnology education and encourage more young people to take science, specifically agriculture and biotechnology courses in college, and eventually become part of the next generation of experts and scientists. This mission begins with enhancing the awareness and appreciation of science educators, and updates them on the R&D efforts and products of international and national biotech research institutions in the country.

"Agriculture is not only about farming," said Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI, during his welcome address for the teachers who are first-time visitors at the Institute. "We should not only teach our children the science behind producing food, but encourage them to become scientists and experts, who will later develop better crops and help address the challenges of climate change."

IRRI also collaborated with the University of the Philippines League of Agricultural Biotechnology Students in conducting Mag-BIOTECH Ka Na (Let's Take Up Biotechnology) a forum for students about potential careers in the field of agricultural biotechnology. The forum featured Filipino scientists who discussed their journeys towards "intellectually fulfilling" and fun careers in science and agriculture.

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Philippines: Riceworld Museum and Learning Center celebrates 20th anniversary with school children

The Riceworld Museum and Learning Center at the International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) Headquarters celebrated its 20th anniversary by hosting a fun, educational party for 60 students and teachers from five public schools in Bay and Los Baños, Laguna on 21 November.

The event, Riceworld@20: Where Rice is Twice as Nice, featured entertaining ​ interactive activities including storytelling, learning stations on rice and a healthy diet, a discussion on different insects found in rice fields, planting rice and rice sorting games, and making rice art.

Corinta Guerta, director of External Relations at IRRI, described Riceworld@20: Where Rice is Twice as Nice as the most important occasion of the year for the Events, Visitors and Exhibits Office at IRRI. She also expressed the Institute’s pleasure in celebrating the museum’s 20th anniversary with the children and their teachers.

“We are very proud to showcase artifacts from different countries who shared the vision of educating young children like you and attracting you to the career of science,” Ms. Guerta said. “It is IRRI’s hope that the children will become the next scientists and researchers, and that they will appreciate the importance of science and agriculture.”

The special event ended with the children sharing their newfound knowledge on rice farming, beneficial insects found in rice fields, eating a balanced diet, and an appreciation for the work of rice farmers around the world.  Photos

​Related links
Riceworld Museum and Learning Center celebrates 20th anniversary with public school students
Visit the Rice Museum

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Myanmar: Farmers discuss experiences in agricultural practices at village-level Learning Alliances in Maubin and Bogale townships

By Reianne Quilloy and Martin Gummert

The Learning Alliance (LA) team held village-level LA meetings at Maubin and Bogale Townships on 18 and 20 November, respectively. Facilitated by IRRI, the LA is a platform engaging different rice value chain actors and support service providers including the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), government agencies, private enterprise, and non-government organizations to share and develop agricultural practices in areas identified by different stakeholders in rice value chain in Myanmar. Funded by the Livelihoods for Food Security Trust Fund (LiFT) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), fifty-four participants attended the 4th village-level LA meeting at the Department of Agriculture office in Maubin Township. The group reviewed topics on crop variety and marketing conducted in 2013. They also identified the important lessons they learned from these activities. The meeting also opened opportunities for discussion between farmers who tried the rice and pulse varieties. The group identified fertilizers, marketing, and reliable seed sources as the topics for their next learning meeting.

About 40 people from the four project villages attended the 5th LA village-level meeting in Bogale Township with LiFT partners from GRET, Welthungerhilfe, Radanar Ayar, and Proximity Designs. Taking stock of the previous learning agenda, the group discussed what they have learned from the market visit to Bayint Naung and Wardan market in May. Some farmers who tried using the IRRI flatbed dryer and stored grains using GRET’s communal storage also shared about their experience. The Bogale LA group identified producing improved rice quality through good drying practices and use the communal storage facility for the next meeting. Members will also try to sell their produce in Yangon market.

“The Learning Alliance brings out the potential from the village in terms of improving their rice quality and linking to better markets,” Martin Gummert,  a postharvest expert at IRRI and lead scientist for the Postharvest and Learning Alliance, remarked about the progress of the learning activities since 2013.  “It can serve as a model for other villages in Myanmar.

“But it also improves the project’s learning process; we will learn a lot from the participants, and we (IRRI project team) will have an idea what to do next,” he added.

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Myanmar: IRRI-designed threshers introduced in Maubin and Bogale Townships to reduce postharvest losses

By Reianne Quilloy and Martin Gummert

The Learning Alliance (LA) platform conducted an overview of the TC-600 lightweight thresher, designed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), to show how postharvest losses can be reduced in Maubin and Bogale Townships on 18 and 20 November.  IRRI postharvest specialist Christopher Cabardo, Assistant Scientist-Agricultural Engineering Yan Lin Aung, and consultant for LiFT and ACIAR project Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw provided the lecture and demonstration and shared IRRI’s initiative to assess and reduce postharvest losses and add value to rice.

During the event, the participants had the chance to examine the thresher and assess its performance. The Postharvest team answered questions from the farmers and manufacturers regarding the technical specifications and cost of the thresher. They also provided feedback where they think the equipment could be improved.

Threshing right after harvesting is crucial to prevent postharvest losses but Myanmar farmers often delay their threshing activities for several weeks due to lack of suitable threshers. Threshers that are available locally are heavy, cumbersome, and do not work well with wet crop.

The activity was funded by the LiFT and ACIAR project.

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Philippines: IRRI participates in power consumption reduction scheme during periods of energy crisis in 2015

Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and deputy director generals Norman Macdonald and Bruce Tolentino signed an agreement to participate in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) of the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) on 20 November at the IRRI Headquarters.

Under the program, developed by the Energy Regulatory Commission, power consumers with large loads like commercial establishments agree to voluntary operate their own generator sets during periods of power generation deficiency to reduce demand and ensure the availability of supply. Full or partial deloading to reduce power consumption for certain periods will help mitigate imminent power outages expected to occur in the dry season of 2015. IRRI has committed to reduce its load by up to a total 3.7 mega watts.

MERALCO was represented by its Vice President and Head of Corporate Business Group Victor Genuino, and Head of Public Sector Relationship Management Geralyn Solidum.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Philippines: Carbohydrate metabolism expert from Rothamsted Research joins the November Young Researchers Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch for November hosted Matthew Paul, a plant biologist at Rothamsted Research, UK. Dr. Paul, who also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to present a seminar on his research on trehalose signaling, discussed various aspects of signaling pathways, biochemical analysis, and the use of transgenics for understanding biochemical pathways in plants with IRRI researchers.

Participants were Zilhas Jewel, Shanta Karki, Ronald Tapia, Anca Macovei, Niteen Kumar, and Akshaya Biswal.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stages of their career. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics including science and career paths.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Philippines: Riceworld Museum and Learning Center celebrates 20th anniversary with public school students

The Riceworld Museum and Learning Center at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters is holding Riceworld@20: Where Rice is Twice as Nice, a special event for students from selected public elementary schools in Bay and Los Baños, Laguna on 21 November 2014. The event will include interactive sessions on health and nutrition, insects found in the rice fields, rice games, rice art making, and story-telling activities.

Riceworld@20: Where Rice is Twice as Nice is part of Riceworld Museum’s 20th anniversary celebration and in commemoration of Rice Awareness Month (November) highlighting the value of rice as the country’s staple, and promoting the Philippine government’s efforts to increase rice production.

The Riceworld Museum and Learning Center presents information on rice, rice culture, and  IRRI's research outputs to give the public a better appreciation of rice and its importance in the survival of billions of people, its role in the culture of many countries, and its significance as form of livelihood for millions of rice-farming families.

The museum opened its doors in 1994 and welcomed more than 30,000 visitors on its first year. Today, it has hosted a total of more than 1 million visitors comprised of farmers, dignitaries, scientists, tourists, and the general public. Majority of its visitors are students, who make up 80% of its audience, making it one of the top educational centers in the province.

Come visit the Riceworld Museum and Learning Center 

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Philippines: RMQA-RDM Training Team holds last data management course for 2014

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Risk Management and Quality Assurance Research Data Management (RMQA-RDM) training team concluded its last RDM 101 course for the year on 18-20 November at the IT Learning Center at IRRI Headquarters.

This quarterly training covers all areas of data management including planning: documentation; collection;  pre-analysis  using MS Access for data transformation as pre-analysis in statistical software;  validation and quality control; using bar codes in experiments; using  mobile devices in collecting data; data storage backup, and security; and archival and sharing.

In addition, the RDM 101 training team also discussed and demonstrated file management tools and software that include: Beyond Compare, Cobian, WinDirStat, Mendeley, Beyond Compare, and IRRI Dataverse, an online repository for data archiving and sharing.

Seventeen participants from IRRI country offices in Africa; Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology; Crop and Environmental Sciences Division; C4 Rice Center; Grain Quality and Nutrition Center; and Social Sciences Division (SSD) attended the three-day training course.  Joining them were five participants from WorldFish, Ifugao State University, Department of Agriculture, Central Mindanao University, and Kalinga Apayao State College.

The RDM 101 training team, managed by IRRI-RMQA Senior Manager Menchu Bernardo, includes  Mr. Enrico Mercado and Mr. Deacart Arreza. Mr. Rogelio Alvarez of Information Technology Services  provided a lecture on data backup, security, and storage.

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Rice scholars recognized by Illinois University for excellent academic performance

Nirmal Sharma (Bangladesh), Pradeepa Hirannaiah (India), Lenie Quiatchon-Baeza (Philippines), Hung Bui (Vietnam), and Parthiban Thathapalli Prakash (India), all graduate fellows under the Lee Foundation Rice Scholarship Program, were recognized for making it to the top 15 percent of the graduate class in the College of Agriculture, Crop Science and Environmental Science (ACES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana (UIUC)-Champaign during the Graduate Fellowship Awarding Ceremony at the UIUC Alumni Center on 6 November.

“It just feels great to have our small unit of IRRI family here away from home,” says Ms. Baeza, who is currently doing her research on crop genetics and molecular biology to gain better understanding of the effects of stress brought about by climate change on different grain quality traits.

The Lee Foundation Rice Scholarship Program aims to educate and train a new generation of young rice scientists and researcher to help feed Asia. This exciting new program offers young Asians a unique opportunity to gain excellent education from reputable academic institutions. It is anticipated that they will be part of a new science leadership in the region and build key partnerships in the coming decades.

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Philippines: Volunteers from IRRI and other organizations plant 200 trees for a community restoration project

Staff members from the Communication Unit and Partnership Office of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) joined other volunteers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs, Rotary Club of West Bay, and the local government of Barangay Tuntungin Putho in planting 200 trees during the second phase of the Bitukang Manok Creek Restoration project on 15 November.

The restoration project is a collaborative effort among community members in Tuntungin Putho to prevent flooding at the creek site. The area is home to around ninety families who are at risk of being displaced by floods caused by heavy rains. The first phase of the restoration project was held on 23 August when around 150 volunteers and residents cleared the site of debris and weeds in preparation for the tree planting.

IRRI, through the Partnerships Office-Philippines Desk, continues to support development activities in neighboring communities as part of its commitment to strengthen ties with local and national communities and local government in its host country.

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Philippines: AISAS celebrates 30th anniversary with photo exhibit of its activities through the years

The Association of International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) Secretaries and Administrative Staff (AISAS) celebrates its 30th anniversary with Supporting success through excellent service, a photo exhibit documenting some of its activities from 1984 to present, at the Breezeway in Harrar Hall at IRRI Headquarters.

The opening of the exhibit was graced by Bas Bouman, director of Global Rice Science Partnership,and Ms. Mishel Ciceron, AISAS 2014 president. Dr. Bouman emphasized the importance of secretaries and administrative staff in a dynamic science community like IRRI. The photo exhibit will run until 20 November.

In addition to the exhibit, AISAS 30th anniversary celebration includes the following activities:

Seminar on Principles and Best Practices in Event Management
Ms. Ruth Ann FelisminoSeminar Room, Harrar Hall
19 November

AISAS Ribbon Making Workshop
CESD Conference Room 1, DL Umali Building
27 November

Think Outside the Bottle
Tzu Chi Foundation Activity
28 November

AISAS Night: Acoustic Jamming
3 December

AISAS was formed primarily to provide professional and personal growth for its members, represent its members within and outside IRRI, contribute to the well being of IRRI, and actively participate and cooperate with other sectoral organizations in the pursuit of common goals.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Philippines: IRRI conducts training in ORYZA 3 rice modeling tool for advanced applications in rice research

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Training Center held a training program for the use of the ORYZA 3 rice modeling tool for advanced application studies at IRRI Headquarters on 10-14 November. The training aims to improve and extend the skills of researchers in using ORYZA 3 for managing large scale simulations, climate change studies​, evaluation of ​breeding lines, and crop management optimization.

ORYZA 3 is the latest version of the modeling tool which simulates growth and development of rice under wider range of environments after thorough testing of hypotheses through field experiments, extrapolating observed data through simulations, and converting simulation results to decisions through practical information. It was calibrated and validated for 18 popular rice varieties in 15 locations throughout Asia.

The training was attended by participants from Brazil, Colombia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Uruguay, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and IRRI.

The ORYZA 3 training was conducted by Tao Li, Ando Radanielson, Olivyn Angeles, Man Marcaida, and Mahlie Manalo, with Lolit Adriano as secretary.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Philippines: Iloilo farmers share their views on ecological engineering with scientists at IRRI/DA-BAR Open Day

By Finbarr G. Horgan

Over 100 farmers visited the Western Visayas Agricultural Research Center (WESTVIARC) at Jaro, Iloilo to discuss ecological engineering as an environmentally friendly pest management strategy for rice  during the International Rice Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (IRRI/DA-BAR) Open Day on 6 November 2014.

Ecological engineering is a management strategy to build diversity which strengthens the rice field’s natural capacity to cope with pests. It includes the growing of vegetables on bunds to increase habitat diversity which can be a source of additional income as well contribute to better nutrition of farming households.

The farmers visited ecological engineering field plots where the Center's manager Corazon Arroyo  and Virginia Agreda, a researcher at  WESTVIARC, explained the concept of ecological engineering. The group then attended a presentation by IRRI researcher James Villegas and viewed a video on the ecological dynamics behind the method by Dr. Buyung Hadi, an IRRI entomologist.

During an open forum the farmers had an opportunity to ask questions and give their recommendations for and reactions to ecological engineering practices. Farmers’ feedbacks were also documented in a survey designed by IRRI and the DA and conduced by WESTVIARC staff.

The Open Day was organized by WESTVIARC together with IRRI entomologists and ecologists. This was the fourth in a series of open days funded by DA-BAR, the Global Rice Science Partnership, and the German Ministry of Education and Science as part of the LEGATO Project

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Philippines Rice Awareness Month launched

The Philippine Department of Agriculture launched Rice Awareness Month, 10 November 2014, to highlight the value of rice as the country’s staple, and promote government efforts to increase rice production.

President Benigno Aquino III signed Proclamation 524, declaring November as Rice Awareness Month, putting to fore the partnerships and programs aimed at increasing the country’s rice productivity.

"Science has been a crucial part in our efforts to be food secure,” said Secretary Proceso Alcala. “We determined underlying problems and corresponding solutions to achieving this through studies conducted by our partners at IRRI and Philrice.”

IRRI Deputy Director General V. Bruce J. Tolentino gave tribute to IRRI and the DA’s strong and long-standing partnership.  “The research that happens at IRRI cannot happen without this partnership. The first seeds and the first attempts at bringing technology to the farmers, start in the Philippines, with the DA,” said Dr. Tolentino.

Dr. Tolentino also noted that IRRI and DA’s collaboration has been strongest under Sec. Alcala's stewardship of DA. “No one can dispute that in the last 3-4 years, the Philippines has been the fastest growing country in Asia in terms of rice yield.”

DA Assistant Secretary for Operations Edilberto de Luna hopes that every Filipino practices responsible consumption of rice to reduce wastage. “Our effort to optimize domestic rice production is two pronged: increase productivity, and reduce wastage. We also encourage all Filipinos to eat brown rice, and other `pigmented` rice, which have been proven to be more nutritious than white rice.”

The RAM puts focus on the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), seven-project strong partnership between DA and IRRI with the objective to meet the domestic requirements of the country, aims to strengthen national resilience to impacts of climate change. To address the challenges of increasing adoption of yield-enhancing technologies, improving the delivery of extension and research services, and strengthening the capacities of concerned public institutions.

Featured in the RAM launching exhibit are two of the seven areas of collaboration under FSSP. These are the Heirloom Rice Project, and the Next Generation Rice Project. The heirloom project seeks to provide assistance to heirloom rice farmers in enhancing their productivity and linkage to market, while Next-Gen will help accelerate the development and adoption of higher-yielding varieties and hybrids with resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

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Philippines: IRRI opens Rice Survivor Season 4

Jerome Cayton Barradas

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Training Center opened the 4th season of its own “reality show”, Rice Survivor (RS4), on 12 November 2014 at MS Swaminathan Hall, IRRI Headquarters, Philippines. Rice Survivor is a season-long, hands-on, seed-to-seed training on rice production and farm management.

“Rice Survivor gives IRRI staff a first-hand experience of the challenges faced by rice farmers,” said Dr. Noel Magor, head of the Training Center. “It is also an opportunity for different employees in various divisions to interact and work together to build a culture at IRRI, that we are about rice.”

Jason Beebout, a consultant at IRRI and RS4’s coordinator gave an overview of the exercise. Dr. Beebout, a “survivor” from the previous seasons, shared his own experiences with the new batch of participants. “I came face-to-face with rice production challenges,” he said. “I saw rice production as a season-long process and not just individual activities. It boosted my rice production knowledge and it sparked my appreciation for farm workers.”

The opening session was attended by 12 participants from the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division, and the Training Center who will be grouped into teams. Each team will cultivate a crop of rice on an assigned plot. They will be tasked with selecting the rice variety to plant, land preparation, crop management, harvesting, and post-harvest processing. The teams' performance will be evaluated based on yield, environmental sustainability, and profitability.

RS4 is still accepting participants until 14 November.  For more information please contact RS4 facilitator Majilene Marikit at

For other training opportunities please visit or e-mail us at

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Philippines: IRRI Training conducts course on science communication and writing for scientific journals

Jerome Cayton Barradas

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Training Center is conducting the Basic Scientific Writing Course (BSWC) from 10-14 November 2014 at MS Swaminathan Hall, IRRI Headquarters, Philippines.

BSWC is a five-day course that helps develop skills in organizing a scientific paper and in preparing each part of the paper to communicate scientific information effectively. The course includes scientific writing, basics of science communication, outlining, preparing abstracts, writing the scientific paper, preparing references, and putting it all together into manuscripts appropriate for submission to journals.
Attending the course are sixteen participants, composed of specialists, scientists, researchers, IRRI collaborators, and members of the academe, from Bangladesh, India, Philippines, and Vietnam.

BSWC is coordinated by Maria Socorro S. Arboleda, senior specialist at the Training Center.

The course will be offered again in November 2015. For more information and other training opportunities, visit or email

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Community news: IRRI promotes nutrition education in Los Baños and Bay

The Partnerships Office of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has partnered with municipal nutrition action officers, IRRI spouses (SUHAY), Rotary Club of West Bay, and the Rotary Club of Los Baños to sponsor Pabasa sa Nutrisyon, a nutrition education program for IRRI's host communities of Los Baños and Bay. Pabasa sa Nutrisyon is a major project of the National Nutrition Council of the Philippines to prevent protein-energy and micronutrient deficiency among low-income families. The program focuses on nutrition education among women who are pregnant or lactating as well as mothers with underweight and malnourished children, and those with children in preschools and primary schools.

The 5-day activities include public readings of Nutri-Guide and sharing of personal experiences on meal planning and cooking. It also uses fun learning activities such as interactive games, exercises, and demonstrations to strengthen nutrition messages and encourage the participation of mothers. The Partnerships Office and the co-sponsors of the program will also continue to support the monitoring and evaluation of the weight increases among malnourished and underweight infants and children.

From July to November 2014, Pabasa sa Nutrisyon activies were held in Bayog, Anos, and Batong Malake in Los Baños, and Tranca, Sta. Cruz, Bitin, Puypuy, Masaya, and Paciano Rizal in Bay. IRRI plans to sponsor the program in all the barangays in both towns as part of its commitment to promote nutrition education.

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IRRI scientists play leading roles in the joint CRPs CGIAR conference on 'Unlocking the production potential of the Ganges coastal zone'

The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) conference on Revitalizing the Ganges Coastal Zone attracted leaders of development projects, donors, government policymakers, NGOs, and researchers from local and international research institutes. The participants shared plans, progress and ideas for unlocking the potential of the coastal zone. 

Several scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) played key roles in organizing the conference. Dr. Manoranjan Mondal, collaborative research scientist under the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division and the Social Sciences Division of IRRI, chaired the organizing committee. Dr. Liz Humphreys, lead of the Water Science Group at IRRI, chaired the science program committee. 

The first day of the conference featured the participation of policymakers led by Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Honorable Minister of the Ministry of Water Resources. With him were Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan, secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources and Dr. Shelina Afroza, secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Director General of Bangladesh Water Development Board Md. Shahidur Rahman chaired the event. Other highlights included presentations from some of the large development projects operating in the coastal zone, presentations on the messages from the CPWF project by former IRRI scientist Dr. T.P. Tuong, and by Dr. Humphreys and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) researcher Dr. Marie-Charlotte Buisson, and "Voices from the Coastal Zone" (messages from local government representatives and farmers from the coastal zone).

This was followed by a two-day science conference which attracted over 100 participants who showed keen interest right to the end. Papers were presented on a range of topics including the past, current and future status of coastal zone water resources, the coastal environment, and water governance;  opportunities for improving agricultural, aquacultural, and homestead production systems; and technology/cropping system extrapolation domains. Two IRRI scholars won prizes for their presentations - Nibir Saha (PhD scholar) was awarded the best early career scientist oral presentation by a panel of four judges, and Nefaur Rahman (MSc scholar) received the best poster award (people's vote).

The conference was jointly sponsored by the CGIAR Programs on Water, Land and Ecosystems, Aquatic Agricultural Systems, and the Global Rice Science Partnership. The conference, held in Dhaka on 21-23 October, also served as the official launch of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems’ Ganges Focal Region program. The conference proceedings, a peer-reviewed collection of about 40 papers, will be published in early 2015.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Investment in temperate rice research pays dividends

Dr. Jong-Min Jeong and Dr. Russell Reinke at the Korean Rural Development Administration's Chuncheon sub-station, where rice is tested under cold water treatment.

BANGKOK, Thailand - “Their investments are paying off,” says Dr. Russell Reinke, head of the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC), referring to the support given by the Korean Rural Development Association (RDA). RDA is the consortium's primary investor.

Temperate rice is generally grown in regions with long days and lower temperatures than the tropics, at latitudes greater than 23.5° south or north. Areas that produce this type of rice are widely dispersed around the world, making regular scientific interaction a big challenge.

RDA’s funding made TRRC possible, as well as the recent research developments and breakthroughs on temperate rice. In recent years, there has been an increased sharing of germplasm among partners. TRRC now has 22 member-countries. Because of the isolation of some temperate regions, it’s also crucial to have a reason for temperate rice regions to come together and share research developments.

Key results on sustainability, cold tolerance, and grain quality were presented during the 5th Temperate Rice Conference (TRC5), integrated this time around into the science program of the 4th International Rice Congress or IRC2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.

TRC5 is seen as a way of educating the tropical researchers about the extent and diversity of rice-production regions (e.g., temperate rice).

“This conference has provided a venue for us to interact. Just as RDA’s investment is paying dividends, I hope that the effort that researchers have made to come here will also pay dividends for them,” adds Dr. Reinke.

Since its creation, TRRC has accomplished more through collaborative research aimed at increasing rice production in temperate and high altitude regions, as well as overcome constraints to better yield and quality of temperate rice.

Among several constraints that limit rice production in temperate areas is low temperature. It affects several million hectares of rice cultivation area in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South and North America resulting in annual yield losses. In addition, low temperature at the seedling stage damages boro rice production in Bangladesh and in high-altitude regions of Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Nepal.

Also, biotic stresses such as blast and bacterial blight are problems in areas with lower temperature---a disease-conducive environment in temperate as well as high-altitude regions.

Even though temperate japonica rice occupies only 20% of the rice cultivation area worldwide, the decline in its production is a major cause of food insecurity.

Thus, research and sharing of information through TRRC play important roles in understanding how yield potential can be increased in temperate areas.

Around 1,500 participants from 69 countries are attending the 4th International Rice Congress, or IRC2014, at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC).

IRC2014 is being held under the patronage of the Royal Government of Thailand, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and is touted as the “Olympics of rice science,” being the largest gathering of rice science and industry held every four years. 

For more information: 

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