Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SKEP exemplifies public-private partnership

IRRI and Syngenta held a review and planning workshop last April 23-25 at IRRI for the Scientific Know-How and Exchange Program (SKEP).Running on the second year of the project, the workshop aimed to evaluate what the project has accomplished in the first year, and to recommend plans for the next year.  Gathering together to discuss these items were scientists from Syngenta-Singapore, Syngenta-India, Syngenta-Philippines, and IRRI.

IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Dr. Matthew Morell emphasized that the work of the partnership should be within the context of IRRI’s mission of global contribution to alleviate malnutrition.  He mentioned IRRI’s ongoing process of visioning towards 2035 that celebrates achievements of the past and defines its role for the next 50 years.  IRRI is reconsidering its partnerships and is working more productively with the private sector with a common understanding and mutual benefit.

Parallel to IRRI’s direction, Syngenta Global R&D head Dr. Jihong Liang talked about the company’s vision for 10 years to serve the world, provide support, and contribute to food security for the increasing world population, especially the APEC areas.  He stated that growth in the world relies on effective research such as IRRI’s work.  He added that the private sector has the capability to engage the industry to identify their needs.  They require partnership with the public sector to design future products that will increase productivity.   

The IRRI-Syngenta SKEP Project consists of five (5) initiatives, each being co-managed by an IRRI scientist and a Syngenta scientist: 

Project 1. SNP marker validation (Michael Thomson and Ai Li Yeo); 
Project 2. Crop health management (Adam Sparks and Kon Kee Fui); 
Project 3. Outcrossing in hybrid rice (Fangming Xie and S. Sundar); 
Project 4. Phenotyping for lodging resistance (Michael Dingkuhn and Mila Lopez); 
and Project 5. Pyramiding high-value genes to increase rice yield (Kshirod K Jena and Kasul Sheshagiri).  

Discussions in Project 1 focused on achieving milestones in marker development, SNP haplotype analysis, SNP marker development and validation, and testing these results in IRRI’s breeding program.  Among the recommendations that came out of the review include prioritizing targets traits for gene deployment, improving experimental and statistical methods, and evaluating the SNP markers.

Project 2 discussions emphasized the importance of infield trials, farmer and field surveys, and capacity building and realignment workshops. Field trials using crop protection programs developed by IRRI and Syngenta resulted in improved crop protection and yield when compared to farmers' common practices. They launched a comprehensive on-farm survey to identify yield-reducing factors in various production situations.  These activities were guided by training workshops on crop health.

Representatives of Project 3 reported characterizing selected CMS A-lines and TGMS lines from IRRI and Syngenta for flowering traits.  They gained knowledge on the relationships between outcrossing and CMS flowering traits and identified key traits for measuring outcrossing rates.  They have collected phenotyping information at IRRI and are considering phenotyping at Syngenta locations.

Project 4 outlined the work of the Global Phenotyping Network, which included high throughput phenotyping methodologies for component traits for lodging resistance.  To simulate lodging in their experiments, the project scientists made use of a blaster that replicated the condition of wind and rain causing lodging.  

Among the milestones reported by Project 5 were the development of SNP markers for yield-enhancing genes, SNP validation of target traits in progenies of target germplasm with pyramided yield enhancing genes, the development of backcross breeding lines for increasing yield potential, and the development of screening methodologies for photosynthetic potential as well as grain filling duration and efficiency.

The workshop was highlighted by a meeting of the steering committee where issues to further enhance the IRRI-Syngenta partnership were discussed. 

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

7th HRDC annual meeting

The Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) held the 7th annual meeting on 18-20 March at IRRI Headquarters. Total of 75 participants from the private and public sector members of HRDC participated in the meeting and selection. Participants were welcomed by the new DDG-R, Dr. Matthew Morell.

The highlight of the meeting was the discussion on expectations of HRDC members both from the private and public sector as presented by Dr. Ish Kumar of Rasi Seeds Ltd and Dr. Manuel Regalado of PhilRice, respectively. Other topics presented in the meeting included:
  • Rice market research (Alice Laborte)
  • IRRI's new inbred breeding program (Bertrand Collard)
  • Characterization and mapping of long stigma trait for improvement of outcrossing in rice (Balram Marathi)
  • Rice grain chalk research update (Nese Sreenivasulu)
  • Marker Lab Service for HRDC members (Michael Thomson)
  • HRDC General Report (Charisse Grace Arlegui)
  • HRDC MRYT Report and HRDC Research update (Fangming Xie)
Participants also visited the IRRI’s Inbred Breeding, Multi-environment Rice Varietal Testing (MET) and HRDC Multi-location Replicated Yield Trial (MRYT)

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Piloting MET for Rainfed Lowland Rice

The IRRI MET Team, in collaboration with the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) and CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), held a mini-workshop to pilot a Multi-Environment Testing (MET) scheme for rainfed lowland rice in selected Southeast Asian countries for the 2014 wet season. The workshop was a special activity of the 13th Steering Committee meeting of CURE held on 8-10 April 2014 in Da Nang City, Vietnam.

IRRI began implementing a new MET scheme to improve the overall efficiency of breeding for the irrigated ecosystem at the beginning of the 2011 dry season.

This system for irrigated rice has since been refined and now involves three stages (MET 0, MET 1, and MET 2) implemented in the Philippines and 5 other Southeast Asian countries.  Under the proposed MET for rainfed lowland rice, the most promising breeding materials from the IRRI rainfed lowland breeding pipeline along with elite rainfed lowland breeding products from national breeding programs will be evaluated together in pilot sites for the 2014 wet season in 5 countries – Philippines,  Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam. These countries are also key members of CURE and are involved in CCAFS activities, particularly the CCAFS ‘climate-smart villages.’

The workshop was organized by Dr. Ed Redoña, leader of the GRiSP Product Team for MET and INGER. It was attended by potential implementing scientists from Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, along with delegates from IRRI, CURE, and CCAFS.

Pilot sites were selected during the workshop and detailed protocols for trial composition, field establishment, crop management and data collection were discussed in preparation for the wet season implementation.  The MET is the final step in the varietal testing process undertaken before an elite breeding line is considered for commercial release to farmers. The envisioned activity will be the first formal MET system for rainfed lowland rice in Southeast Asia.

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CAR stakeholders attend training on heirloom rice

Thirty-one participants from different groups of stakeholders from the four provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) joined the Training on Morpho-Agronomic Characterization of Traditional/Heirloom Rice on 22-24 April 2014 at IRRI HQ.

The 3-day program was designed to improve the variety characterization and purification skills of participants and thus adding value to their long-nurtured rice genetic resources. By maintaining the purity of desired varieties, their market value is increased.

The output of this activity will be used to publish a catalogue of their heirloom varieties which will serve as community registry. This will then be submitted to the Plant Variety Protection Office as a form of defensive protection against misappropriation.

Furthermore, the characterized varieties based on morpho-agronomic traits will be used to study their diversity and genetic relationships. The study isaimed at maintaining the varieties’ purity and identity for further research and market preference. Those with high market potential will also feed into the application for geographic indication product mark that will put the Cordillera heirloom rice in the world market.

Participants underwent different practical exercises on how, when, and where to observe specific traits and characteristics of heirloom rice. At the end of the training, the group came up with a common guide for variety characterization and the project’s work plan.

Resource persons for the training included IRRI’s senior scientist and project leader of the Heirloom Rice Project Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, CURE coordinator and co-project leader Dr. Digna Manzanilla, senior associate scientist Mr. Renato Reaño, postdoctoral fellow Dr. Rosa Paula Cuevas, PBGB scientist Ms. Isabelita Oña, PBGB researcher Ms. Pauline Capistrano, designate-executive assistant of National Seed Industry Council of the Bureau of Plant Industry Dr. Vivencio Mamaril, and Professor and Head of Plant Genetic Resources Division, Crop Science Cluster, UPLB Dr. Teresita Borromeo.

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IRRI BOT member Dr. Kaye Basford is guest in researchers' lunch

On Tuesday, 15 April 2014, the Young Researchers' Lunch invited Dr. Kaye E. Basford, Professor of Biometry and former head of the School of Land, Crop and Food Sciences at the University of Queensland and member of the IRRI Board of Trustees, to its lunch meeting. Dr. Basford was visiting IRRI for the BOT meeting.

The group discussed different concepts in statistics, and Dr. Basford stressed the importance of researchers knowing what statistical analyses they can handle on their own and when they should seek help from a statistician. Dr. Basford also encouraged the young researchers to be involved in different committees as part of a well-rounded career development path.

Participants were Tahir Awan, Crystal Concepcion, Corinne Marfori-Nazarea, Grace Centeno, Alaine Gulles, and Avigail Cosico.

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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Monday, April 28, 2014

Sokor RDA and IRRI ink new set of projects

Representatives of the Rural Development Authority of the Republic of Korea, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) met at IRRI headquarters, 21 April 2014, to assess the progress of the 2012-2013 collaborations and to develop the 2014-2015 RDA-lRRl collaborative work plan, which includes the approval of new project proposals.

Acknowledged during the meeting is IRRI’s productive partnership with RDA. Representatives expressed excitement over the forthcoming collaborations between the two organizations. The meeting also highlighted the increasing leadership and contributions of the Republic of Korea in supporting other national agricultural research systems in Asia and Africa.

Among the priority areas of research in the new agreement are the development of abiotic stresses and disease tolerance in temperate japonica, and the development of rice cultivars with tolerance to high temperature.

RDA's Department of Rice and Winter Cereal Crop general director, Ki-Hun Park, and IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Matthew Morell were signatories to the agreement.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vietnam: CURE holds 13th Review, Planning, and SC Meeting

Ninety-one representatives from ten countries in South and Southeast Asia participated in the 13th Review, Planning, and SC Meeting in Danang City, Vietnam on April 8-11, 2014. Organized by the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE), researchers and scientists of IRRI and partner institutions discussed milestones on rice varietal development and adoption in unfavorable areas. Capping the event was the announcement of the approval of the second phase CURE-IFAD funded project, entitled “Reducing Risks and Livelihoods in South-East Asia through the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments.”

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Nguyen Van Tuat, Vice-President of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science (VAAS), emphasized the anticipated negative effects of climate change on rice yields in Vietnam and stressed the importance of stress-tolerant rice varietal development work to help farmers cope with climate change to guarantee sustainable rice production.

To show how unfavorable environment would impact rice production, participants visited the salt-affected rice fields of Binh Giang commune, Thăng Bình district of Quang Nam province. During this visit, participants were able to dialogue   with the local farmers and hear their sentiments on rice crop diversification.

During the program, CURE also honored Dr. Ganesh Thapa, Senior Economist of IFAD-Asia Pacific Region for his strong support of CURE in the last nine years.  Giving the keynote address was Dr. Nguyen Nhu Cuong, Deputy Director of Sciences, Technology and Environment Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). His message hammered on Vietnam’s response to climate change by expanding the area for research on rice and other crops in unfavorable areas.

Back-to-back with the SC meeting was the IRRI Multi-Environment Testing (MET) meeting led by Dr. Edilberto Redoña.

CURE is a regional platform for partnerships among institutions from South and Southeast Asia. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as the host institution provides the coordination function. Scientists from IRRI and the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) of partner countries work together to help raise productivity and contribute to improved livelihoods in unfavorable rice environments.

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IRRI participates in 49th Annual Rice Research meetings in India

IRRI staff members led by DDG-R Matthew Morell attended the 49th Annual Rice Research Meetings held at the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, India, last 6-8 April. One important item on the agenda was to review the progress of the IRRI-India Work Plan (2013-16). IRRI researchers and their Indian counterparts joined in discussions on 24 projects across the six themes of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). More than 450 rice researchers from across India attended the three-day event and took the opportunity to interact with the visiting IRRI staff.

Attending his first DRR meeting, Dr. Morell summed up the experience as a very useful process, adding that he was pleased to see that many IRRI-India interactions are very strong, although there are some areas in which strengthening is needed. He thanked the DRR for sharing its research during the meetings and stated that he looks forward to continuous engagement over the next years of the current work plan.

The milestone 50th annual rice meeting will take place in April 2015 and IRRI plans to be a part of the DRR’s celebration by inviting to a special alumni reunion of all Indians who were or are IRRI staff members, scholars, or BOT members over the last half century.

Photos, clockwise starting in upper right: 1) Swapan Datta, deputy director general (crop science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and former IRRI tissue culture specialist and plant biotechnologist (1993-2005), welcomes the delegates on Sunday morning. 2) During a break, Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, IRRI GRC head, discusses the work plan with E.A. Siddiq, IRRI plant breeder based in Egypt (1983-86), DRR director (1987-94), and IRRI BOT member (2000-06).  3) During the work plan discussions, Dr. Morell makes a point with B.C. Viraktamath, DRR project director. 4) During a trip to nearby field plots, R.M. Sundaram, DRR senior scientist in biotechnology, presents his work on the development of biotic stress resistance in rice through marker assisted selection to (from left) Lanie Reyes, Rice Today managing editor; Dr. Sackville Hamilton; J.K. Ladha, principal scientist and IRRI representative (India and Nepal);
Dr. Morell; and Bas Bouman, GRiSP director.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

PRISM and RIICE: Back to back workshops in March

Three workshops namely, Philippine Rice Information SysteM (PRISM) Kickoff, PRISM Training of Crop Health Trainers,  and Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging Economies  (RIICE ) were held on 19-21 March, 25-28 March, and 24-26 March, respectively.

The PRISM kickoff workshop aimed to inform stakeholders, collaborators and relevant agencies about the PRISM project, address concerns, and identify potential opportunities to engage with other projects or programs.  More than 100 participants from DA and its regional offices, PhilRice, and IRRI went to SEARCA to attend the event on the first two days and about 25 at IRRI on the third day.

Regional directors were present during the first day. The second day was devoted to PRISM focal persons and PhilRice participants in defining regional agendas, planning for capacity building, and fieldwork activities with the help of DA-Phil Rice, IRRI, and the DA Regional Field Offices (RFOs). The third day was focused on the development of a 2014-2015 project roadmap together with DA-PhilRice and IRRI.

The PRISM Training of Crop Health Trainers workshop was conducted to teach participants from Philippine Regional Department of Agriculture offices the methods used for crop health data collection as a part of the Crop Health Monitoring portion of PRISM. Forty-three individuals from seven regions (CAR, Region III, Region IV-A, Region IV-B, Region V, Region VI, Region VII, Region VIII, and IRRI as well as PhilRice) were involved.

The first two days covered how to accurately diagnose and identify rice diseases, weeds and insect injuries, and how to use the IRRI Crop Health Survey Portfolio followed by identification tests using live plants. The third day covered the use of electronic gadgets to collect in-field information for the Survey Portfolio with an in-field exercise conducting the IRRI Crop Health Survey. On Friday, the last day, participants practiced delivering the presentations that were used in the training so that they canbecome more familiar with the materials that they will be using to train the field observers that will be collecting data in their respective regions.

The  RIICE workshop was held in IRRI with the following objectives: 1) for national partners to present their work to date and share experiences, including presentations from each partner, journal publication planning, and trouble-shooting sessions on key technologies in the RIICE project, 2) develop country specific work plans for monitoring, field activities and training in 2014/15, 3) brainstorm and plan for 2014 in-country workshops to present RIICE to key government stakeholders and obtain government level support for RIICE, and 4) identify possible opportunities to collaborate with other agencies or key stakeholders, in all RIICE countries using examples from Thailand (GISTDA) and the Philippines (IRRI/GIZ/Philippines).
Each partner was requested to provide and present their 2013 field monitoring data, rice mapping and accuracy assessment results to the project.

Participants from Cambodia (Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute),  India (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Agricultural Insurance Company of India) , Indonesia (Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development), Philippines (Philippine Rice Research Institute, and Philippine Crop Insurance corporation), Thailand (Thailand Rice Department), and Vietnam (Can Tho University and  Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology & Environment) were joined by participants from Sarmap, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and IRRI.

These workshops were facilitated by Andy Nelson (RIICE) and Adam Sparks (PRISM).


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CSISA and FtF Innovations Lab join hands in Bangladesh for promoting drying technology

On 22 March 2014, a “Miller’s Workshop on Flatbed Drying of Parboiled Paddy” was held in Jessore, Bangladesh.  The event was co-sponsored by two US-AID-funded initiatives, the CSISA Project and the FtF Innovations Lab Project with supporting partners, IRRI, WorldFish, Practical Action, and ADMI.

The stakeholder workshop sought to test and demonstrate newly piloted flat bed drying technology with village millers and other stakeholders for drying of high-moisture freshly parboiled paddy – a new application under evaluation in Bangladesh.  This can potentially remove labor bottlenecks and drudgery in the processing of parboiled rice that is commonly eaten throughout South Asian countries.

Currently village millers sun-dry parboiled paddy on large concrete platforms.  While the sun is “free”, the platforms are expensive and take land out of production.  Moreover, the sun is not available for sufficient periods during cooler, cloudy winter months, or during the rainy season.  This produces delays in processing and a major bottleneck for farmers, millers, and other actors in the chain.

As a result of this workshop, 4 additional pilots will be established in new locations with new stakeholders who agreed to invest in the technology for the upcoming Boro season.  “Through such learning events, private sector millers and processors are convinced to directly invest in this technology, while projects such as CSISA and the FtF Innovations Lab ensure technical support and training early on for successful entry,” explains Alfred Schmidley, IRRI’s Postharvest Value Chain Specialist.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

IRRI engages in Asian Development Bank’s initiatives in Myanmar

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) organized a joint knowledge event with the theme “Managing Natural Capital to Ensure Food, Energy and Water Security" on 25-26 March 2014 at Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw.

The event was composed of plenary presentations and annual meetings of the Working Group on Agriculture (WGA) and the Working Group on Environment (WGE) as well as a market place exhibition.

Over one hundred participants from six Greater Mekong Sub-region member countries (Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam). Environmental Operations Center (EOC) representatives, senior agriculture and environment officials and energy sector officials, donors and development organizations attended the event. During the WGA working group meeting, Dr. Madonna Casimero talked about the research and development activities of IRRI and identified areas where IRRI, MoAI and ADB can collaborate in Myanmar.

The IRRI Myanmar office also participated in the market place exhibition by showcasing unmilled and milled grain samples of new stress-tolerant, high yielding rice varieties. These varieties were selected by farmers during the participatory variety selection activities for three seasons (two monsoons and one summer) in 2012-2014 in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta.

Publications, videos, and posters depicting IRRI’s activities in Myanmar were also put on display.
Dr. Madonna Casimero (IRRI Representative, Myanmar) and Ms May Nwe Soe (Assistant Scientist) participated in the joint knowledge event.

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PBGB risks reviewed and plans ahead

The Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division Risk Management and Quality Assurance (PBGB RMQA) team held a review and planning workshop on 20-21 March 2014 at Surga, Majayjay Laguna. The team was composed of the RMQA officers and representatives from each of the 35 groups/units within the division.  The IRRI RMQA unit facilitated the activities.

With the aim of enhancing risk awareness and and of continuously promoting the risk management culture in PBGB, the group reviewed the division’s Risk Register and its Business Continuity and Recovery Plan, and devised various strategies and approaches on how to better manage the risks the division is exposed to.

The plans will be approved by the Division Head, Eero Nissila, and Deputy Division Head/RMQA IRS, Glenn Gregorio. Specifically, the proposal to establish an off-site back-up seed storage facility at PhilRice for the elite breeding lines was discussed and will be initiated soon.  The participants also reviewed existing guidelines/policies such as (1) the IRRI review and publications guidelines, (2) the OU internal clearance, (3) the use of the IRRI Research Notebook and, (4) the PBGB Operations Manual and Guidelines.

The RMQA-Research Data Management (RDM) team reported on the status of the division’s network repository. The Biosafety Officer gave an overview of their role and function and updated the group on issues and some policies regarding transgenics.

The PBGB RMQA Officers include: Glenn Gregorio, Vit Lopena, Norman Oliva, Joie Ramos, and Mayee Reveche. RMQA unit is composed of Menchu Bernardo (Senior Manager), Rizza Mendoza (Manager, Biosafety Office), Icoy Mercado and Dec Arreza (Research Data Management).

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Nepal: 3-day rice tech transfer training workshop held

IRRI, in collaboration with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), organized a 3-day international training workshop on “Rice technology transfer systems (RTTS) for stress-prone environments in South Asia” at Pokhara, Nepal from the 20th to the 22nd of March 2014. The workshop was supported by the EC-IFAD funded project “Improved rice crop management for raising productivity in the submergence-prone and salt-affected rainfed lowlands in South Asia” and STRASA (Stress tolerant rice for Africa and South Asia).

Thirty researchers and extension workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, and India participated in this event. The focus of the training was to share the knowledge and experiences of successful rice technology transfer models and research-extension linkages as practiced in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal and to strengthen the technology promotion and delivery system.

Dr. A. K. Agnihotri, senior associate scientist, IRRI India welcomed the chief guest Dr. Ram Chandra Adhikari, regional director of the Regional Agricultural Research Station of NARC, Lumle, and participants from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. He talked about harnessing the productivity potential of Himalayan and Tarai regions of Nepal through introduction of suitable stress tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) and improved management practices. These practices can help augment food grain production in the regions. Dr. Adhikari applauded the continuous support of IRRI in improving the rice productivity.

“70% of the total rice area in Nepal is rainfed and prone to frequent drought, submergence and cold stresses due to climate change. There is an urgent need to offer sustainable solution to mitigate these challenges that could be achieved only through strengthening the NARC partnership with IRRI,” Dr. Adhikari said.

Mr. Julian Lapitan, senior manager, National Programs Relations, IRRI, Philippines pointed out that agriculture is facing challenges of dwindling land area, the aging of farmers, aversion of youth to practice agriculture, and the declining interest of students in the discipline of agriculture. There is a need to popularize and transfer relevant affordable and sustainable technologies to farmers to increase productivity and improve their livelihood to accelerate the dissemination efforts, he added. Dr. Bhaba Prasad Tripathi  highlighted the overwhelming success of Swarna-Sub1, Samba Mahsuri-Sub1 in Nepal and the recent release of drought tolerant rice varieties Sukha Dhan 4, 5 & 6.

Mr. Lapitan facilitated the training and demonstrated how business management practices and leadership development improve the technology transfer system. Dr. R.M. Kathresan, Dean, Annamalai University, India delivered a lecture on farming systems research options and highlighted the successful crop diversification interventions in Tamil Nadu State of India.

Mr. T.C. Dhoundiyal, project manager, STRASA South Asia talked about how project management practices and tools can be used in agriculture extension system for transfer of technologies.

The project partners from India, Bangladesh and Nepal shared their experiences and lessons learned from the outcomes of the EC-IFAD and STRASA projects. These useful deliberations helped get the participants acquainted with new advancement in the agricultural research, extension and development.

A field visit to RARS, Lumle was organized for the participants. Dr. R.C. Adhikari, along with ateam of scientists and officials welcomed the participants and presented the overview of research and extension works of the station. RARS Lumle is mandated for generating suitable technologies for Western Development Region including screening and evaluation of new rice germplasm. Dr. Adhikari sought a collaboration with IRRI in developing cold tolerant rice varieties suitable for the region.

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Myanmar: Village-level learning alliance meetings conducted

Two village-level learning alliance (LA) meetings were held in the Maubin and Bogale townships last March 15th and 18th of 2014. These meetings aim to support project activities and the use of new technologies, including new varieties and postharvest technologies.

For the Maubin LA meeting facilitated by Rica Flor, 44 participants (13 women) from the Department of Agriculture (DOA), four key project villages, partner NGOs, millers, traders,  private sector stakeholders, and IRRI personnel attended the event in the Maubin Township. Updates on the ongoing participatory varietal selection trials and postharvest h issues were discussed among the group.

Meanwhile, a total of 36 participants joined the Bogale LA meeting held in the Bogale Township Library and facilitated by Reianne Quilloy. 23 farmers (six women), four from partner NGOs, two from the DOA, one miller, and six from IRRI attended the event.

One of the event highlights was the discussion of farmers about the benefits and challenges in piloting the flatbed dryer (FBD). The FBD, which the farmers’ group has already used in the last postharvest season, was installed by the IRRI Postharvest group and village farmers on October 2013.

The Group for Research and Technology Exchanges (GRET), which funded the FBD, has in the meantime established an inventory storage system to be used for the drying operation, enabling farmers to store high quality rice coming from the dryer until market prices are favorable for selling grains.

As a result of the meetings, the farmers have identified future learning opportunities. For instance, farmers will produce good quality grains using postharvest technology, like the FBD, sell the grains to miller partners, document how the crop is assessed, and see if the millers will give price incentive for quality.

The Learning Alliance is a platform to engage project stakeholders to share, learn from one another, and collaborate on providing solutions to produce better quality grains and link farmers to better markets in Myanmar.

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Vietnam: IRRI country office welcomes new staff

With the merging of the IRRI Vietnam office and IRRI-CCAFS SEA office in Hanoi, IRRI welcomes  Ms. Dinh Kim Dung, (the first name is pronounced as Dzung), who will officially assume the post of associate manager starting 1 April 2014.  Dung will handle the day-to-day operational (administrative and financial) activities of the IRRI Hanoi office.

She comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience in finance/accounting as well as administrative processes and project management.  Her experience includes working in foreign-funded projects that allowed her to network with different NARES partners and other stakeholders in Vietnam.
Another new staff at the IRRI office in Hanoi is Mr. Nguyen Chi Kien (first name is Kien), driver-cum-office assistant. Kien has been working at the IRRI office in Hanoi for about 5 months.  A competent driver, he is comfortable working with foreigners as he has worked with foreign-aid assisted projects like DfID in the past.
Leocadio S. Sebastian, IRRI country representative in Vietnam and regional program leader for Southeast Asia CGIAR Research Program for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) would also like to thank Ms. Nguyen Thanh Huyen, assistant manager, IRRI Vietnam office, for the commitment and dedication she has shown for the past 20 years. She manned the IRRI office in Hanoi alone most of those years. Many of you who have visited Vietnam will remember the hospitality and friendliness of Huyen.  She will return to her mother agency, the Department of Science, Technology and Environment (DOSTE) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  

The IRRI office located at the Directorate of Fisheries will be closed effective 31 March 2014.   The IRRI office in Hanoi will now be located at the following address:

IRRI-Vietnam/CCAFS SEA Office
c/o Agricultural Genetics Institute (Vien Di Truyen Nong Nghiep)
Km 2, Duong Pham Van Dong, Tu Liem District
Hanoi, Vietnam

Effective  1 April 2014, please send your requests for logistical assistance to our partners in Vietnam, to, with copy to

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UK Ambassador visits IRRI and looks into creating energy from rice straw

In his visit to IRRI on the 24th of March 2014, UK Deputy Ambassador H.E. Trevor Lewis discussed several UK-supported initiatives, including a new one that looks at how to harness bioenergy from rice straw.

The initiative, which began last year is called the “Rice Straw Energy Project” and is a research partnership between UK-based SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub and IRRI. The project aims to study promising ways to use rice straw for energy, such as by creating electricity from burning it or producing gas for cooking.

Craig Jamieson, coordinator of the project, explained why they were investigating this: rice straw is often simply burned by farmers after harvesting, and this contributes to climate change and serious health issues.
Engr. Martin Gummert, head of IRRI’s Postharvest Unit, said that using rice straw for generating energy rather than burning it in the field also provides opportunities for farmers to add value to what is currently considered a waste and thus increase incomes from rice production. The project runs until 2016.

The team recently held a workshop last week which ended on 27th of March 2014.

Several UK-supported initiatives such as sourcing renewable energy from rice straw were the topics of discussion in this week’s visit by the UK Deputy Ambassador.

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Ambassador of Vietnam affirms IRRI’s work and contribution to the country’s rice sector

Together with five officials from the Vietnam embassy in the Philippines, the Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the Philippines visited IRRI on Wednesday to learn more about the Institute and explore its facilities.

H.E. Truong Trieu Duong expressed his admiration for the Institute’s contributions to the country’s rice sector. “Your work has helped save millions around the world. We appreciate all your endeavors.” he said. In his speech, Ambassador Duong stated his country’s strong reliance on rice and delighted to learn that IRRI has a good knowledge of rice production in Vietnam.

Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnership, welcomed the Ambassador and embassy officials with a presentation of the Institute’s research agenda.

David Johnson, head of Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD), briefed them on collaborative projects with Vietnam such as Mot Phai, Nam Giam (1 Must, 5 Reductions) on good agricultural practices.

A discussion with scientists on IRRI-Vietnam projects and a visit to the key facilities at IRRI ensued.
Vietnam and IRRI have worked hand in hand in areas of varietal improvement, conservation of rice diversity, sustainable farming systems, and capacity building since 1963. As of 2012, 89 IRRI-bred lines have been released as varieties in Vietnam.

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CCAFS R4D maps out agenda & strategy for Southeast Asia

A team of researchers from various CGIAR Centers centers and the National Agricultural Research Systems of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar,  Philippines  and  Vietnam gathered in Hanoi on  the 12th to the-14th of March to map out the regional R4D agenda and strategy for CCAFS in Southeast Asia.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) Vice Minister Mr. Ha Cong Tuan, gave  gave the keynote speech in which he emphasized climate change as one of the most serious challenges facing Vietnam.

“Our major concern is the extent to which climate change will hit poor households, partly because of the decline in agricultural incomes and because of an increase in food prices,” he said. “We foresee that the poorest 20 percent of our households, both urban and rural, will experience larger reductions in standards of living due to climate change than the top 20 percent,” he added.

The four CCAFS flagship themes: (1) climate smart agricultural practices, (2) climate information services and climate-informed safety nets, (3) low emissions agricultural development, and (4) policies and institutions for resilient food systems, were put into the Southeast Asia context by identifying and defining their corresponding regional outcomes,  next users, milestones, outputs and R4D priority activities. A  regional impact pathway-driven R4D agenda was mapped out  and the full strategy is currently being finalized, linking existing projects with future research activities.

Read also:  CCAFS R4D Agenda & Strategy for Southeast Asia

MARD Vice Minister Mr. Ha Cong Tuan delivering the keynote speech during the CCAFS-SEA R4D workshop with Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, CCAFS-SEA regional program leader), Dr. Nguyen Van Bo, president of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Dr. V. J. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for partnerships and communication, IRRI.

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