Monday, March 31, 2014

Rice geneticist Dr. Yusaku Uga is guest in researchers' lunch

The Young Researchers Lunch hosted a lunch discussion with Dr. Yusaku Uga as guest on 25 March 2014. Dr. Uga is a rice geneticist at NIAS, Japan and is known for his recent work on DRO1 (deeper rooting 1). The group discussed different aspects of root growth and the traits that Dr. Uga has explored, including root angle, root elongation, and surface rooting. The group was also interested to hear about Dr. Uga's recent experience publishing his work in the journal Nature.

Participants included Andrea Lazaro, Julius Sagun, Efren Bagunu, Govinda Rizal, Zilhas Jewel, Chenie Zamora, and Fatemeh Farshad. The group was also joined by a Japanese televsion crew that was visiting with Dr. Uga.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stage of their careers. 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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The Heirloom Rice Project Launch

The Heirloom Rice project, one of seven projects under the Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) in the Philippines, was formally launched at DA-ATI-CAR, Benguet State University, Benguet Province on 11 and 12 March 2014.The launch was complemented with the regional stakeholders’ consultation and planning workshop by the DA-CAR Regional Field Office. The regional stakeholders’ workshop was held to discuss the roadmap for heirloom rice production in CAR to support the rice export target of the Philippine government.

In her opening message, Dr. Marilyn Sta Catalina, regional director of DA-RFO, CAR highlighted the region’s goal to preserve the cultural heritage of heirloom rice, to make heirloom rice more competitive in global market, and to build stronger partnerships with other stakeholders.

Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz discussed the process of varietal product characterization to identify the unique characteristics of heirloom rice varieties through phenotype-genotype relationship. She also spoke about the development of the varieties into products for the market while preserving the biodiversity of these rice varieties through active use on-farm. These characteristics are basis for varietal registry for community ownership.

Dr. Choy Mamaril, designated head, Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), Bureau of Plant Industry, discussed the importance of plant varietal protection particularly for the existing heirloom rice varieties intended for export. He emphasized the need to register the heirloom rice varieties at PVPO to protect the community’s ownership of these varieties.

Dr. Digna Manzanilla talked about the third and fourth components of the project on linking smallholder groups to value chain, documentation of models and processes, knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation. She noted that the gaps and priority interventions could be identified for heirloom rice community-based production through value chain analysis.

Mr. Democrito Rebong, PhilRice station manager, who represented Dr. Ruben Miranda, described in detail the component activities on local mobilization and capacity enhancement of target SHGs. Registration under Geographical Indications is another way to protect the identity of heirloom rice in CAR as explained by Ms. Jeanne Dugui-es, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines and Field Operation Specialist for CAR and Region 1.

The partnership among the stakeholders from DA-RFO-CAR, DA-BPI, ATI-CAR, PhilRice and IRRI was formalized with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Phenotyping workshop to be held in Montpelier

The 3rd GRiSP Phenotyping Network Workshop will be held at CIRAD in Montpellier, France, on 24-28 March 2014. About two years, or four experimental seasons, into a global program of diverse phenomics research on rice, the network hopes to take stock of some exciting results and formulate a sharpened vision for the future.

The network aims to discover and characterize new components in the genome of cultivated rice that may help improve yield potential and adaptation to environmental constraints, including those related to the changing climate.

For this, jointly agreed-on panels of genotypes representing the genetic diversity of rice are phenotyped in the field and in controlled environments for multiple traits of interest, through a multipartner consortium committed to sharing resources and results.

The workshop will bring together scientists from IRRI, CIAT, AfricaRice, IRD, and CIRAD, as well as from national partners, universities, and the private sector. A three-day program of scientific stock-taking and exploration of new directions will be followed by two days of discussing the methods and technical strategy for the network.

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2014 RDM 101 training kicks off

Thirteen IRRI staff were participants in the recently held Research Data Management (RDM) 101 course—the first batch for 2014.

RDM 101 is regularly offered by IRRI’s Risk Management and Quality Assurance unit and covers data management planning; data collection, validation, and checking; data transformation and retrieval; back-up; and archiving and sharing, with emphasis on documentation and metadata.

Menchu Bernardo, RMQA senior manager, also discussed IRRI’s current IT infrastructure that staff and scholars can use to help them manage their data more efficiently.

IRRI Dataverse, developed by IQSS at Harvard University as a cloud-based research data repository, was as introduced as tool for use in archiving and sharing the Institute's research findings.

The next RDM 101 training is scheduled on 20-22 May 2014. Interested parties can contact Deacart Arreza at

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Division showcases decision-support tools in IT exhibit

Five decision-support tools developed by various teams at IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) were the highlight of the CESD Got IT exhibit that opened 4 March.

“The IT tools represented in this exhibit are the result of years of work, and gradually evolved from paper- to web-based tools,” said David Johnson, CESD head, addressing some 130 IRRI staff. “We want you to think of how these tools might apply to your work, how they can help you be more precise, and be inspired to make more out of your data.”

The featured tools were ORYZA (formerly ORYZA2000), Rice Crop Manager, a WeRise (Weather-Rice-Nutrient integrated decision-support system) prototype, Online Climate Database, and Field Calculator.

ORYZA, now on its third version, simulates rice growth and development and is a decision-making tool for rice breeding, resource management, and assessment of climate change and socioeconomic impacts on rice production.

The Rice Crop Manager is a farmer-oriented and science-based tool that offers advice on crop management to help farmers increase their income.

The WeRise prototype integrates seasonal weather forecasts and real-time weather data with the field-tested ORYZA2000 model and nutrient management tools (such as Nutrient Manager for Rice-PHSL in Indonesia) to provide quick advice to farmers, researchers, and extension workers on e.g., optimum planting time, variety to use, and amount and timing of fertilizer application in rainfed rice areas under current and future climate conditions.

The Online Climate Database provides weather data since 1979, following standard recommendations of the World Meteorological Organization. Recently, the database, through the Weatherlink mobile app, started contributing real-time data to world weather data.

The newly developed Field Calculator aims to help farmers visualize the economic and environmental impacts of a new technology on rice production should they adopt it.

Flickr | More photos

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India: Work on stress-tolerant rice features in local fair

The work of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project were highlighted in a national agriculture fair organized by the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and attended by more than half a million farmers.

The fair, locally called “Krishi Vasant,” was opened by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. The work of IRRI through the STRASA project—stress-tolerant rice varieties for various affected areas in India—was showcased.

The five-day fair was held at the Central Cotton Research Institute in Nagpur in February.

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Myanmar: Rice crop management training held at Rakhine State

Minister U Than Lu Shay delivers his opening and
welcome remarks during the opening ceremonies.
Participatory approaches to improved crop management were the subject of a training held at Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, in Myanmar.

The training covered all aspects of rice production and crop management—land preparation; identification of insects, diseases, and weeds; and postharvest.

The event was opened by U Than Lu Shay, minister of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries ; U Mya Aung, minister of development affairs; U Khin Maung Win, regional director of the Department of Agriculture in Rakhine; and U Aung Gyi, national senior Tan Lan Project coordinator of the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The crop management training was conducted in collaboration with IRC, the lead NGO, together with others in Rakhine (Save the Children, Oxfam, Care, and Better Life). It was facilitated by IRRI under the LIFT Project. Speakers were IRRI’s Madonna Casimero, country representative to Myanmar, and Joel Janiya, senior associate and extension agronomist.

SkyNet reported interview U Aung Gyi, Senior Tan Lan
project coordinator of IRC.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

IRRI celebrates inspiring women

To celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los BaƱos organized a series of activities to highlight the important role of women in all areas of human endeavor. The IRRI community and guests from neighboring areas in Laguna participated in the two-day event.

Guided by the global theme “Inspiring change,” a special seminar series featured women who have been able to bring about change in their own lives and through their chosen professions. Speakers included
Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, gender specialist  Thelma Paris, and soil scientist Sarah Beebout.

“Women are agents of economic change. Research shows that empowering women benefit society as a whole,” Senator Santiago said. “When women are educated and empowered economically, their families become healthier, their children go to school, incomes increase, and communities thrive,” she added. The senator noted that while women’s roles in the agricultural sector continue to grow, they remain economically marginalized and have less access to agricultural resources such as land.

With almost 40 years of experience in her field, renowned gender specialist Dr. Paris shared her experiences in the capacity development of women in South and Southeast Asia.  “In spite of the significance of women in agriculture, their contributions are often underreported. Women can strongly influence the development and adoption of technologies, which affect their traditional roles and responsibilities,” she explained.

Sarah Beebout, IRRI soil scientist, 10 March 2014 
A recipient of Devex’s 40 under 40 award as one of the most influential leaders in development, IRRI’s Dr. Beebout shared about her personal struggles combining the personal and professional.  She is a mother of two and a scientist. As a soil chemist, she is working on increasing the amount of zinc in rice to improve human nutrition and prevent stunting and diarrheal diseases often associated with zinc deficiency in children.

IRRI celebrated IWD on 10-11 March 2014 as part of its Gender & Diversity (G&D) Program. The Institute’s work around the world includes a focus on women—empowering them and strengthening their roles in agricultural development. In Burundi, about 400 ex-combatant women learned to produce rice that helped reintegrate them into society. Also, through the STRASA project, women farmers in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh were able to lead participatory varietal selection of rice seeds to meet their specific needs.

More photos: International Women's Day 2014 at IRRI 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

MAGIC open house held

The  Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) rice breeding nursery  at IRRI field was opened to IRRI staff on 6 March 2014, to showcase the MAGIC population and its novel genetic resources as response gene pools.

"I hope our field tour reflected the magic of MAGIC by creating better rice combinations by shuffling eight different parents," said Glenn Gregorio. Dr. Gregorio, along with Dr. Hei Leung, organized the tour. Other MAGIC experts in attendance were RK Singh, Ed Redona, Chitra Raghavan, Irish Lobina, and Mona Liza Jubay.

Deputy director-generals for research and communication and partnership, Matthew Morell and Bruce Tolentino were also present, along IRRI communication head, Tony Lambino, IRRI scientists, Post Docs, Scholars and research staff from different divisions and units.  Photos

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IRRI celebrates International Women’s Day 2014

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) joins the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago as special guest, on 11 March 2014, Tuesday.

Senator Defensor-Santiago has been named among the “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” (the Australian Women’s Magazine, 1997). Her flamboyant personality and strong opinions have often captured the imagination of national and international media.

Meet the esteemed lawmaker and participate in the discussion as she delivers her message on the IWD 2014 global theme, “Inspiring change.”

Join us in the two-day (10-11 March) special seminars at the D.L. Umali Building, IRRI.  All staff are encouraged to wear purple to show support to women.

We look forward to seeing everyone.

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News Bangladesh: Local millers learn more on new technologies for drying paddy

A meeting of stakeholders of the US-AID funded FtF Innovations Laboratory for the Reduction of Postharvest Loss was held at Rajbari District in southwest Bangladesh on 2 March 2014. Represented in the meeting were IRRI, Practical Action, and VPKA Foundation and five local millers.

The meeting builds on a previous exposure tour where millers were taught about improved technologies for mechanical drying of paddy.

Local millers, during the meeting, shared about their new knowledge, including the costs and benefits of adopting a particular technology that allow them to overcome bottlenecks in sun-drying on chatels (platforms), especially during the rainy season. They also affirmed ways of increasing the drying capacity and overall efficiency of their village mill enterprises.  The project plans to join these millers to conduct trials of mechanical drying of fresh parboiled paddy at an established CSISA pilot site in Jessore to demonstrate the benefits to milling before installing additional pilot sites.

As a supplement to the meeting, attendees made field visits to the represented mills to conduct site assessment of where mechanical dryers could be installed.

The millers had particular interest on improving drying and milling of newly released varieties, such as BRRI 50, to gain market acceptance and thus help farmers and other postharvest actors gain better prices.

The meeting received TV, internet and a national newspaper (see above right).

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