Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cambodia rice variety named world’s best

Cambodian rice variety Phka Rumduol, often called Phka Malis or Cambodia Jasmine Rice by rice millers and traders, was chosen as the “World’s Best Rice” during the Rice Traders World Rice Conference held in Hong Kong in November 2013.

Rice samples from several countries, including Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Thailand, and the United States, were evaluated in several rounds based on raw (chalkiness, head rice, shape, and size) and cooked qualities (gloss, color, stickiness, flavor and texture).

This was not the first time Phka Rumduol was recognized as such. In a similar competition at Bali, Indonesia in 2012, the variety was also chosen as “World’s Best Rice.” It is now thus considered the ‘Pride of Cambodia.’

Phka Rumduol was developed through support from the Cambodia-IRRI-Australia Project (1988-2001) and was officially released as a variety by the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in 1999, the same year CARDI was founded.

With continuous efforts to disseminate the variety since then, Phka Rumduol was accepted as one of the ten rice varieties promoted by the Royal Government of Cambodia in late 2010. It is now widely grown in Cambodia.

Phka Rumduol typically yields 3.5–5 tons per hectare under rainfed lowland conditions. It has a long slender grain and a nice jasmine-type aroma, is not chalky, and has low amylose content (13.8% which makes it quite sticky when cooked. The milled rice is translucent and the cooked one soft-textured, unbroken, and flavorful.

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Phka Rumduol rice variety is the Pride of Cambodia

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rural sociologist is guest in researchers’ lunch

Gelia Castillo, rural sociologist and National Scientist of the Philippines, was the guest of the Young Researchers' Lunch group for January.

Dr. Castillo is a former member of the board of trustees of several CGIAR centers and other international development organizations, and is considered the ‘general source of wisdom’ at IRRI. She reminisced and told the young group about the time when the first varieties were being released from IRRI, describing the excitement among farmers.

"Get into the field as much as possible,” she bid the young scientists, “and do not work on your computers all the time." She told them that the new generation of rice scientists has a big responsibility to help farmers increase their yield and profit.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting of scientists at IRRI who are in the early stages of their career. It provides an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics on science, including career paths.

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Former trustee visits IRRI

Sjarifudin Baharsjah, former chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees (BOT) chair and recent recipient of the 2013 Dioscoro L. Umali Award in agricultural development, was at IRRI on 17 January for a visit. [Photos]

Dr. Baharsjah received the Umali award on 16 January during a ceremony held in Makati, Philippines, hosted by the Dioscoro Luna Umali Foundation, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, and the Philippines’ National Academy of Science and Technology.

H.E. Ade Petranto, charge d’affaires at the Indonesian Embassy, described Dr. Baharsjah’s achievements as a strong foundation for his country’s efforts toward a sustainable and secure domestic rice supply.“Considering the size of its population, Indonesia was able to maintain and sustain its rice stocks with very marginal importation from neighboring countries,” he said.

Dr. Baharsjah was minister of agriculture in Indonesia (1993-98) and was the first Indonesian elected as chair of the IRRI BOT (1996) and as independent chair of the Food and Agriculture Organization (1997).

He earned his masteral and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky in Lexington (1965) and at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh (1974).

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IRRI hands over donation to Haiyan fund drive

The Philippine Desk of IRRI’s Partnerships Office turned over on 16 January a donation  to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to support rehabilitation work for survivors of the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) disaster in November 2013.

The donation was put together from the Institute’s budget for its end-of-year party for 2013 and the monetary equivalent of the rice rations that were volunteered by some employees.

CRS is currently serving 40,000 families, providing them emergency shelter, water, sanitation, and relief items for the first three months. These efforts are aimed at the most affected areas of Leyte and Samar provinces.

In January, CRS will start its agricultural recovery, which will mainly benefit rice and coconut farmers in the affected areas, and shelter recovery programs.
Joseph Curry, country representative, CRS intends to set up a long-term presence in Leyte and Samar for post-typhoon recovery.

Brian MacDonald (photo), program director at CRS, received the check from IRRI Partnerships office staff Sylvia Avance and Joselito Platon.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

IRRI scientist recognized for contributing in the development of Anhui province

Fangming Xie, hybrid rice breeder at IRRI, is one of 15 chosen to receive the Anhui Friendship Award for his contributions to the social and economic development of Anhui Province in China.

Dr. Xie, the only one among the awardees who is from the agriculture sector, helped the Anhui Academy of Agricultural Science (AAAS) develop drought-tolerant rice varieties suited for a rice-wheat cropping system. One of the varieties, Green Drought I,  does not require much water to cultivate nor extensive land preparation to embank water.

IRRI work in South Asia showcased in agriculture fair

IRRI’s work in the Cauvery Delta and other parts of India, especially those conducted under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) projects, were the focus of an exhibit featured in an agriculture fair held in Aduthurai, Tamil Nadu.

The Cauvery Delta is Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl, but the area suffers from regular shortages of irrigation water and of farm labor. Recently, poorly drained areas of the delta that have heavy clay soil have also started to sustain damage from flash floods that follow heavy monsoon downpour.

IRRI turns over 4 more tons of seed for Haiyan-hit areas

Four tons of seeds of high-yielding rice varieties were donated by IRRI on Tuesday, 14 January 2014, for farmer survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

The seeds were received by Ariel Palo, representing the Department of Agriculture (DA), on behalf of rice farmers in areas in the Visayas region that suffered the most damage from the supertyphoon.

Former IRRI trustee is Umali Awards recipient

For his work in helping his country, become rice self-sufficient, Indonesian Sjarifudin Baharsjah has been given the 2013 Dioscoro L. Umali Award in agricultural development. Awarding rites will be held on 16 January 2014 at the New World Hotel in Makati City, Philippines.

Dr. Baharsjah is a former member of the boards of trustees of IRRI and the International Food Policy Research Institute and was once chair of IRRI’s. From 1997 to 2001, he was independent chair of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Council.

Quest for perfect rice variety continues in Hong Kong

Rice, the staple food of Asians, was the starting point of a symposium attended by chefs, food writers, academicians, and entrepreneurs in Hong Kong who wanted to take a sociocultural look at food as a medium for connecting cultures in Asia.

The symposium, In a Grain of Rice: Food & Culture for South & Southeast Asia, was held on Sunday, 12 January 2014 at the Asia Society Hong Kong (ASHK) Center and featured IRRI’s research work on improving the eating quality of rice. The event is connected with the No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia touring exhibit of the Guggenheim MAP Global Art Initiative, which features the work of 13 artists from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 Rosa Paula Cuevas, a postdoctoral fellow at IRRI’s Grain Quality and Nutrition Center, in her presentation In the pursuit of the perfect rice variety said that South and Southeast Asia account for more than half of the International Rice Genebank’s collection of 120,000 rice types, which include heirloom rice varieties.

By making use of the rice diversity stored in its genebank, IRRI breeds improved varieties that not only yield more grain or are more resilient against climate change but also have good taste and texture.

“There is not one definition of a perfect or premium or high-quality rice, however,” said the grain quality expert. “It depends on the cultural context of the consumer.”

About a hundred people composed of ASHK members, art and culture enthusiasts, and members of the academe, media, nonprofit and private sectors, and the general public took part in the cooking demonstrations by various chefs and in IRRI’s rice-tasting activity.

Participants of the rice-tasting activity were asked to sample four rice types (brown, black, jasmine, and basmati) and vote for their favorite, considering attributes such as texture, aroma, and flavor; health benefits; and price. Black rice was the favorite among participants, getting 41% of the votes, followed by brown rice (29%), basmati (23%), and jasmine (7%). Participants surveyed after the rice-tasting activity said that most of them normally eat jasmine rice.

The symposium was sponsored by the Asia Society, with which IRRI has partnered for several initiatives such as the Never an Empty Bowl Task Force report released in September 2010 and the 38th Williamsburg Conference held at IRRI’s headquarters in the Philippines in May 2010.

 Dr. Rosa Paula Cuevas (leftmost) with Debbie Wong, staff
member of Asia Society, during the rice-tasting activity.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IRRI and CCAFS regional program office/ Southeast Asia organize training on greenhouse gas emission measurements

The IRRI Climate Change group and the Regional Program Office of CCAFS (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) jointly organized a hands-on training and coordination workshop on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission measurements in rice fields. The overall goal of the training was to enhance the technical skills of NARES staff thereby increasing their know-how to plan and conduct research activities on GHG mitigation in major rice growing areas of Southeast Asia. The event also aimed to develop standardized procedures that will increase precision and accuracy of GHG flux estimates for creating mitigation options for GHG emissions from rice fields.

A total of 13 delegates composed of 7 women and 6 men from Hue University, Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute(Vietnam), Prachin Buri Rice Research Center, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (Thailand) ), Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute (Indonesia) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the University of the Philippines-Los Banos attended the workshop. The course was also attended by two scientists from the National Institute for Agro-environmental Sciences (Japan) to ensure compatibility of their emission measurements with the techniques presented. The Japanese participants also took over individual lectures in this course.

The training was conducted by Dr. Agnes Padre (who also coordinated the course), Dr. Bjoern Ole Sander, Dr. Maricar Alberto, Ryan Romasanta, and Heathcliff Racela from IRRI's Climate Change Group.

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IRRI donates additional 6 tons of seeds of high-quality rice varieties for farmers in Yolanda-stricken areas

IRRI, in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Rice Program Secretariat, turned over 6 tons of seeds of high-yielding rice varieties to the Department of Agriculture earlier today.  The donation, a component of IRRI’s ongoing support to the Philippine Government’s disaster response efforts, will be used for seed multiplication to help farmers in areas devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda that hit the central region of the country in November 2013.

The seeds will be delivered to seed growers and members of the Irrigators Association and the Community Seed Bank Cooperatives in Leyte and Samar. To be sown during the dry season for seed production, all seeds produced will be distributed to affected farmers in time for the coming wet season cropping.

 “Seeds are basic to the life of farmers. They need these seeds to rebuild their livelihood.” says Santiago Obien, senior technical adviser of the National Rice Program. Dr. Obien thanked IRRI during the ceremonial turnover of the second batch of high-yielding and newly released rice seeds at the IRRI Experiment Station on 8 January 2014.

The initial 1.6 tons of rice seeds was turned over on 9 December 2013. A third batch, for seed multiplication in Hamangaya, Jaro in Iloilo, will be handed over later this month.

The seed donations were arranged by IRRI’s Partnerships Office with the help of the Institute’s Experiment Station, which prepared the seeds.

From left to right: Department of Agriculture official Dr. Santiago Obien, IRRI's Julian Lapitan, 
DA's Dr. Edmund Sana,  Carlito Balingbing of IRRI experiment station, and  Dr. Bruce Tolentino, 
IRRI’s deputy director general of communications and partnerships, join in loading 
quality rice seeds for  farmers in Yolanda-stricken areas in Region 8.

Photo of turnover: IRRI Yolanda Donation 2014

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Millions of Nigeria’s farmers to benefit from new lowland rice varieties

Three new lowland rice varieties were officially released in Nigeria on 11 December 2013 to help improve rice productivity and increase the incomes of millions of rice farmers across West Africa and beyond.

The varieties—UPIA1, UPIA2, and UPIA3—are early maturing and high yielding. They also posses  tolerance to iron toxicity and resistance to African rice gall midge, among others. The long slender grains also meet the cooking preference of Nigerian consumers.

The varieties are the products  of the breeding efforts of IRRI, the University of Port Harcourt, and AfricaRice. The new varieties were released in Nigeria by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, through its partnership with the University of Port Harcourt.

Related story

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IRRI scientist puts climate-smart rice on the spotlight at enhancing rice productivity seminar

Uma Shanker Singh, IRRI scientist and south asia regional coordinator of the Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, took part in a seminar about enhancing rice productivity at Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology in India on 30 December 2013.

Dr. Singh delivered a lecture on enhancing stability in rice productivity in South Asia through climate resilient rice variety. He said the project has remained momentous in increasing the production of rice both in India and South Asia. He also discussed the challenges, like flood and drought, which affect the production of rice. Dr. Singh stressed the importance of developing rice production in the country and varieties resistant to weather and climate changes.

"By way of using advanced technology, the production of rice can be increased manifold which can end the existing shortage of food in the world," he said.

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December Young Researchers’ Lunch features leading expert on plant phenomics

The Young Researchers' Lunch for December hosted Robert Furbank, plant physiologist and director of the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre at CSIRO in Canberra, Australia. Dr. Furbank discussed a number of high-tech approaches that his group is developing and  the strong collaborative research network among scientists and wheat producers in Australia. He also had a number of suggestions for employing high-throughput phenotyping techniques at IRRI. I. Zarei, C. Diaz, S.Shrestha, R. Bahuguna, M. Sattari, and M. Acoba attended the event.

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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CSISA and STRASA highlight the crucial role played by women in food production

CSISA and STRASA projects organized a two-day action workshop on empowering women in agriculture through systematic inclusion in farming value chains on 17 and 18 December 2013 at Baripada, Mayurbhanj, Odisha in India.  The workshop aimed at developing a platform at the grass root level to create an effective and working network to reach large number of women farmers.

The objective of the workshop was to build partnerships that may link the technology options of CSISA and STRASA with programs implemented by both public institutions and civil society organizations, particularly those who work with women, in the district of Mayurbhanj.

Mayurbhanj was selected as the first district for this initiative because it has a large population of small and marginal farmers belonging to various vulnerable tribes where women are solely responsible for farming due to migration of men to other places for work.  The target of the initiative is to reach 8000 -10,000 women within the district with improved crop management and stress tolerant rice seeds within the next two years.
Representatives of Department of Agriculture, Government of Odisha, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, and Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood Programmes  along with seven local Non-Government organizations working on the issue of women empowerment and agriculture participated in the workshop.

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