Thursday, September 25, 2014

IRRI conducts training on latest molecular breeding technologies for developing new rice varieties

By Jerome C. Barradas

IRRI Training is currently conducting a two-week molecular breeding course from 22 September to 3 October  at IRRI Headquarters, Philippines. The course covers the latest computer software used in molecular breeding and provides a holistic training on the latest molecular technologies that can be applied in developing high-yielding rice varieties that are not just resistant to various biotic and abiotic stresses but also has improved grain and nutritional quality.

This year’s course has 19 participants that include rice scientists and researchers from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, and Vietnam.

The molecular breeding course is coordinated by Dr. Joong Hyoun Chin and Ms. Mayee Reveche of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division. The course is facilitated by Ms. Angie Maghuyop of the Training Center.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PRISM holds review training on on-site crop health assessment and information gathering

The Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project conducted a review training on crop health issues for 31 participants from eight Philippine Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices on September 16-19 at IRRI Headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna.

The review training provided the participants with the knowledge and skills for conducting effective assessments of crop health problems caused by diseases, pests, and weeds using mobile devices in the field. They also talked to farmers to practice their interviewing skills necessary for gathering the information needed by PRISM such as fertilizer and pesticide usage.

PRISM, one of the projects under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) in the Philippines is supported by the DA, is a project of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), sarmap and IRRI. It aims to establish and institutionalize a nationwide information system that will provide timely and accurate data on when rice is cultivated and harvested in each province. Such information can be used in research and development as well as policy and decision-making related to rice production and food security. It also serves as a platform to develop consistent and regular assessments of rice crop production, crop health, and crop losses due to flood, drought, wind damage, pest outbreaks, and severe disease epidemics.

Dr. Adam Sparks, co-project leader of the PRISM project (IRRI), together with Mr. Gertrudo Arida (PhilRice) facilitated the event.

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New blood needed in rice science, IRRI urges ASEAN

By Rona Niña Mae Rojas-Azucena

IRRI calls on ASEAN to build a new generation of rice scientists and extension professionals. According to V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, these efforts will help ensure secure and stable rice supplies across ASEAN and the world. The proposal calling for more support for science education and extension was presented during a series of high-level meetings with the ministers and senior officials of the ASEAN Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) on 20-26 September in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.

Monday, September 22, 2014

IRRI holds communication seminars on effectively reaching target audience

IRRI conducted two communication seminars on effectively reaching target audiences featuring the Development Communication Team from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Singapore-based Potato Productions on 11 and 12 September, respectively.

Karen Barroga, head of the PhilRice DevComm team, discussed the importance of communication research and how their development communication initiative helped Philrice effectively target their audience. “Communication research is a practice that helps communicators in understanding the dynamics among stakeholders of research,” Dr. Barroga said.

Potato Productions, headed by Jonan Loh, presented their strategy for reaching and engaging their target audience in Singapore using traditional print media and augmented reality. Augmented reality creates interactive print by linking videos, slideshows and other visuals on top of everyday print materials.

Another highlight of the seminar series was an inspirational talk given by Potato Productions' Emily Teng. Ms Teng (in photo) is also the founder of Blessings in a Bag, a non-profit organization in Singapore that delivers “blessings” to disadvantaged kids and poor rural communities in Southeast Asia.

"I've learned that the best way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people who are far more inspiring than me, who are heaps smarter, who have incredible stories to share and who are doing crazier things to shake up the world," she said about their group’s visit to IRRI. “We have been surrounded by scientists all day and it's incredible how their work is creating change in things we easily take for granted."

The IRRI Communications Seminar Series is an invitation-based forum where communication experts share their experience in their field.

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IRRI water science expert joins the Young Researchers' Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch hosted Elizabeth Humphreys, head of the Water Science Group, on 18 September. Dr. Humphreys has extensive experience working on crop and water management in South Asia.

During the discussion on the different aspects of water management, Dr. Humphreys emphasized that not all water-saving strategies actually result in more water being made available for other uses.

Dr. Humphrey, who is also soon retiring, also offered the young researchers some words of wisdom based on her experience working at IRRI. "Enjoy what you do," she said. "It's all about the people."

Participants at the event were Jayanta Bhattacharya, Nibir Kumar Saha, Julie Ann Basconcillo, Jianyuan Yang, and Tahir Hussain Awan.

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, September 18, 2014

Philippine farmers and IRRI scientists discuss ecological engineering at open day

By Finbarr Horgan

Fifty seven farmers and 15 agricultural extension officers from Victoria, Pila, and Nacarlan in Laguna, Philippines joined scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to discuss ecological engineering at the IRRI open day on 3 September.  The farmers shared their ideas on rice farming techniques, pest management, and bund agriculture during sessions held at their respective municipal halls before travelling to IRRI for an introduction to the concepts and practices of ecological engineering.

At IRRI’s experimental station, the farmers visited one of two experimental ecological engineering sites where they held open discussions with entomologists and ecologists concerning environmentally friendly pest management. The farmers were informed by scientists about crops suitable for growing on bunds, adaptations to the bunds for better crop production, and the best methods to avoid problems with insects, snails and rats.  The scientists also explained the advantages and problems they have experienced while applying ecological engineering for improved rice crop management. The participants also attended a presentation and a poster and live-insect exhibits.

At the end of the day, farmers evaluated what they had seen, expressing their wishes and concerns about ecological engineering as well as their willingness to become farmer-researchers by using the method on their own farms.

The event was a good opportunity for both farmers and scientists to share their experiences and build better collaboration. Three similar events, all aimed at better understanding ecological engineering, are scheduled for 2014.

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IRRI's MAGIC project wins best research paper award at SyenSaya 2014

The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) named IRRI’s Multiparent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) Populations in Rice: Progress and Potential for Genetic Research and Breeding as the Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. best research paper at the 7th SyenSaya on 10 – 12 September in Laguna, Philippines. The recognition was given to Nonoy Bandillo, Glenn Gregorio, R.K. Singh, Hei Leung, and Ed Redona, and their team during the awarding ceremony at the SEARCA Umali Auditorium in Los Baños.

Every year LBSCFI celebrates the National Science and Technology week through SyenSaya, the Los Baños Science Festival that provides a venue for the community to appreciate and understand the role of science in everyday life.  The event also aims to promote Los Baños as a premiere science tourist destination. This year’s theme, Los Baños Science Community: Supporting the nation in meeting global challenges, featured basic science principles, appreciation, and application modules in food and agriculture, technology, development, and the environment.

More about MAGIC
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New chief of Bureau of Plant Industry visits IRRI to strengthen partnership

Paz Benavidez, the newly appointed director of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) under the Philippine Department of Agriculture in the Philippines, visited IRRI on 16 September to boost ties with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

"I really need to know more about IRRI and its relationship with BPI and how to strengthen our partnership more," said Atty. Benavidez.

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy-director general for communication and partnerships, provided the BPI head and members of her party, Dr. Vivencio Mamaril and Ms. Edith Almirante, with an overview of the Institute's work. The group also visited the International Rice Genebank, the Golden Rice screenhouse, the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment plot, and IRRI's seed health unit and breeding lines.

"I think IRRI is a responsible institution when it comes to handling seeds and materials, especially transgenics," said Atty. Benavidez.
IRRI has worked with BPI for about 30 years in releasing the seeds of new rice varieties developed by the Institute.

Photos of the visit 

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IRRI and partners organize farmers’ field day on ecological engineering in Bukidnon

By Finbarr Horgan

The Regional Plant Protection Cluster of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bukidnon, Mindanao held a farmers’ field day in Colonia, Valencia City on 10 September highlighting environment-friendly pest control methods. Over 90 farmers attended the event where they were introduced to the concepts of ecological engineering, bund agriculture, and pest-natural enemy dynamics.

The farmers then visited the farm of Ms. Josephine Alugboc where over 3 hectares of rice has been set-up with high diversity vegetation (HDV) patches as an environment-friendly pest control method.  At the farm, participants had an opportunity to taste pesticide-free vegetables produced on the HDV patches. They also viewed a collection of live specimens of beneficial organisms that are natural enemies of pests that can be found on the farm. The open day was also an important opportunity for researchers to get feedback from rice farmers on ecological engineering as a possible rice pest management method.

The event, a part of a series of open days with Philippine farmers, was organized and facilitated by entomologists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its other partners under a project  funded by DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research, the German Ministry of Education, and the Global Rice Science Partnership.

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Heirloom Rice Project hosts workshop on effective marketing of traditional rice varieties

By Leo Angelo Ocampo

The Heirloom Rice Project, together with the Department of Agriculture Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR), and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), conducted a workshop as part of its effort to develop, implement, and sustain a knowledge management program to enhance the productivity, livelihood and on-farm conservation traditional rice varieties. Thirty four research and LGU staff from the provincial and municipal agricultural offices in Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province, PhilRice, DACAR, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) participated in the Knowledge Management and Capacity Development Workshop on 9-11 September at the Azalea Residences in Baguio City.

The workshop covered the role of knowledge management and how it can be integrated with the biological and socioeconomic components of the Heirloom Rice Project. It explored the most effective ways of developing methods and tools for communication collaterals including branding, recognition, and recall; designing of packaging and marketing materials; and photo and video documentation. The participants also developed a one-year knowledge and management plan for their respective province.

The ability to brand and to market heirloom rice varieties, create collaterals which have excellent design, and content that are geared toward the target audiences is critical in the overall work, said Mr. Tony Lambino, head of IRRI Communication. That will make a significant contribution to the success of the project

The Heirloom Rice Project,one of the projects under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program in the Philippines, is supported by the Department of Agriculture, IRRI, and the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE).

Dr. Digna Manzanilla, CURE coordinator, is the co-project leader of the Heirloom Rice Project. CURE spearheaded the workshop and related planning activities. Dr. Lorna Calumpang, CURE communication specialist, facilitated the event.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thailand: CORIGAP team conducts workshop on the environmental footprint of rice production

The Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) project conducted a Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (PIPA) workshop for 30 participants from 12 different Thai organizations in Bangkok, Thailand on 8-9 September. The workshop is aligned with CORIGAP’s objective to measure environmental footprint rice farming using ecological indicators.

The PIPA workshop is a starting tool to guide the participants in identifying the changes needed to achieve shared goals.  Group exercises were conducted to gain a deeper understanding of how various stakeholders are linked (or not) in the collection of data on ecological indicators, what data they need to collect, and where the project could provide support.  The group formed a learning alliance and identified topics of interest to be discussed and implemented in 2015.

By bringing varied stakeholders together, CORIGAP aims to facilitate coordinated collection of data that can be used to develop policies on optimizing productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice production systems.

“We need to gather ecological indicators to help us identify rice farming practices that are environmentally safe and profitable,” said Mr. Chanpithya Shimphalee, the director general of the Thailand Rice Department.

“It is important to start thinking about sustainability and ecological indicators,” said Dr. Sombat Thiratrakoolchai from the Thai Chamber of Commerce. “Some companies will do everything to meet the demands of foreign markets. We could wait for foreign markets to force us, or we could plan ahead.”

The PIPA workshop was facilitated by Engr. Martin Gummert, Dr. Sarah Beebout, Ms. Reianne Quilloy, and Ms. Rica Flor.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet the IRC2014 Young Rice Scientists awardees

Rice scientists all around the world submitted more than 700 abstracts for just over 140 oral paper slots in the IRC2014 program. Papers were selected on merit, and among them were 29 papers whose lead authors are Young Rice Scientists (YRS).

In the blog about the Young Rice Scientists, four recent posts feature the awardees:

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IRRI celebrates the future leaders in rice research at the first Scholars’ Day

IRRI celebrated the first Scholars’ Day on 10 September in honor of the 192 undergraduate and graduate scholars who came to the Institute to work on their MS or PhD degrees. Every year, Scholars’ Day will provide IRRI scholars with the opportunity to develop rapport with fellow scholars and enjoy the friendships, diversity, and the living and learning experience during their stay.

IRRI’s Training Center hosted the day-long event that started with breakfast with Director General Robert Zeigler and other officials of the Institute. “IRRI is on the right track in attaining the desired number of scholars this year that would significantly contribute to IRRI in achieving its goals,” said Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI’s Training Center, as welcomed the group.

“IRRI scholars have an important role in making new discoveries and improving the livelihood of rice farmers,” said Dr. Zeigler. He also expressed his respect to the scholars and acknowledged the personal sacrifices they made in order to pursue their advanced education.

Meanwhile, Dr. Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research, emphasized the need for scholars to enhance their communication skills. “This will help engage people into their work and help understand the challenges they are facing,” Dr. Morell said.

Other activities include a workshop on basic leadership skills conducted by The Center for Leadership and Change; a basic training on presentation skills facilitated by Ms. Ma. Socorro Arboleda, Training Center’s senior specialist; and building online social networks presented by Mr. Gerardo Laviña , Communication’s senior specialist on web architecture and design. Scholars’ Day also featured fun games, dinner, and socials.

Since 1964, over 15,000 scientists have been trained to conduct rice research. IRRI scholars have become ministers, secretaries, and heads within the national research and extension systems. Many have also become leading scientists all over Asia.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dr. Grant Singleton receives lifetime recognition for his work on rodent management in Southeast Asia

By Trina Leah Mendoza

Grant Singleton, IRRI principal scientist, was awarded with the Lifetime Recognition of Excellence during the 5th International Conference for Rodent Biology and Management (ICRBM) on 25-29 August in Henan, China. This special honor was given to Dr. Singleton in recognition of his international scientific leadership in rodent biology and his untiring efforts in promoting the ICRBM around the world.

According to ICRBM, Dr. Singleton “has made major advances in the management of rat damage to rice crops in Southeast Asia, and has championed the need for ecologically based management of pest problems based on good ecological science.”

Dr. Singleton presented two papers at the event, reviewing 15 years of ecologically based rodent management and rodent impacts on food security in Southeast Asia. Together with world-renowned ecologist Prof. Charles Krebs, he also delivered the closing remarks where he cited the important issues in rodent biology and management under global change.

"The conference highlight was the exceptional quality of the seven plenary talks from world leaders in their respective fields. Emerging topics are the importance of rodent borne diseases in agricultural and peri-urban communities, the use of tools from behavioral ecology to assist in developing more effective management of rodent pests, and that food security demands a resilient agricultural system, which can be facilitated by ‘re-wilding’ crop margins and better preservation of biodiversity in patches of forest in an agricultural landscape," he concluded in his speech.

As the current coordinator of the Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) Project, Dr. Singleton continues advancing ecologically based pest management through his work at IRRI.

Other CORIGAP scientists and national partners also presented papers and posters in the conference. They were Dr. Alex Stuart (CORIGAP postdoctoral fellow), Dr. Nyo Me Htwe (postdoctoral fellow, Myanmar), Dr. Sudarmaji and Arlyna Budi Pustika (Indonesian collaborators), and Dr. Nguyen Thi My Phung (CORIGAP consultant, Vietnam).

Around 165 delegates from 25 countries attended the event that convenes every 4 years. This provides the international community the opportunity to exchange information, discuss interdisciplinary studies and promote international collaboration in scientific research on rodent biology and management. The conference was hosted by the International Society of Zoological Sciences.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Partners convene to steer climate change activities to next level

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partner institutes in the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in Irrigated Rice Paddies in Southeast Asia (MIRSA-2 Project) and the Paddy Rice Research Group (PRRG) of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) held their annual meetings at IRRI headquarters on August 18-19 and 21, respectively, to discuss their climate change agendas for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses that cause climate change.

The MIRSA-2 Project
Launched in 2013, MIRSA-2 is a 5-year research project that aims to develop an improved water management in rice-cropping systems in Southeast Asia using the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology.  Researches in several Asian countries have shown that AWD can reduce the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas, from irrigated rice paddies by 30% compared with the conventional farming practice. The National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, Japan oversees the overall execution of the MIRSA-2 project, while IRRI provides technical support and synthesis of data.

Concurrent with the AsiaFlux Workshop 2014, the project highlighted the results and lessons learned from the first season AWD experimental field trials in four MIRSA sites. Additionally, a proposal for a structured MIRSA database system and formulation of guidelines for measurement, reporting and verification of GHG emission reductions with the adoption of AWD in irrigated paddies were discussed. Ultimately, the MIRSA-2 Project aims to create an implementation guideline on techniques to reduce GHG emissions from irrigated paddy rice fields and set up an information infrastructure to share the findings of participating members.

Kazuyuki Inubushi, the designated adviser of the MIRSA project by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, represented the project donor. Dr. Inubushi met with delegates from the project’s partner research and academic institutions including Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam; Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research  Institute (IAERI), Indonesia; Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment/King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand; Prachin Buri Rice Research Center, Thailand, and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

The Global Research Alliance
In the same week GRA held a meeting to discuss the five action plans set by PRRG.
The action plan includes hastening efforts to: 1) standardize measurement techniques; 2) create a database of publications and experts; 3) increase country participation; 4) set-up a pilot multi-country experiment; and 5) build a network for mitigation and adaptation synergies.

Research activity reports were presented by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Chiba University, IAERI, and IRRI. IRRI is a collaborative partner in the Alliance’s PPRG which focuses on reducing the GHG emissions of paddy rice cultivation systems while improving efficiency production. Ms. Deborah Knox, GRA secretariat, also presented an overview of the Alliance, while Dr. Kazuyuki Yagi, co-chair of the PRRG, presented an overview of the PRRG.

The 2014 Asia sub-group meeting of the PRRG was attended by representatives from Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Vietnam as well as representatives from member countries in Latin America.

Launched in 2009, the GRA brings more than 30 member countries from all regions of the world together to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cyber Village project workshop shares successes and learnings

A workshop for the second phase of Enhancing knowledge exchange and decision-making among rice stakeholders through the development and promotion of location-specific Rice Knowledge products and delivery system was held on 19-21 August in Zambales to evaluate the successes, challenges, and insights gained from eight pilot sites of the Cyber Village, a project on communicating rice-based technologies using information and communications technologies (ICTs) to farmers across the Philippines.

Results of baseline survey on farm production costs, farmers’ socio-demographic characteristics, and attitudes towards ICTs for extension were presented at the workshop. Participants also presented the results of the follow-up survey on farmers’ use of and opinions about fertilizer guidelines derived from the Nutrient Manager for Rice (now Rice Crop Manager)— an ICT-based decision tool for farmers developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Dr. Karen Barroga, project leader of the Improving Promotion and Delivery (IPAD) encouraged participants from the local government units  agencies under the Department of Agriculture, state universities and colleges, and non-government organizations to sustain and integrate the gains of the project into the agriculture programs of each  municipalities.

Roger Barroga, FutureRice program leader at the Philippine Rice Research Institute and lead developer of the Online Public Academy for Philippine Agriculture, cited the PhilCECnet roadmap—a national program that aims to integrate ICT use, not only in agriculture, but also in e-governance, disaster management, distance education among others— as “the way forward.”

Jojo Lapitan, Cyber Village project coordinator and head of IRRI's Partnerships office, encouraged the group to scale-up ICTs in provinces and avail of opportunities provided by the IPAD project for the transformation of communities. Mr. Lapitan also urged participants to continue their relationships with the Cyber Village groups. He plans to invite key farmer-cooperators to IRRI to share their experiences with media exposure and panel discussions.

Gelia Castillo, National Scientist and IRRI Consultant, noted that the limitations of the technical infrastructure/ administrative aspects of ICT at the village level are still far from being solved. But she cited the Cyber Village project can be used as stimulus for acquiring connectivity that would allow ICT-based agricultural technologies to reach farmers and other community stakeholders.Dr. Castillo also added that the Cyber Village participants must form a collective group (social mobilization) and lobby to seek government support to provide internet connectivity in villages. She concluded that the project could offer opportunities in introducing a tech-savvy agriculture to entice the youth to rice science.

Partners who were instrumental to the implementation of the project were recognized during the workshop with plaques of appreciation.

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IRRI holds weather database management system training in Myanmar

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) conducted training on weather data retrieving, processing, and management using an automatic weather observation station (AWOS) on 22-23 August in Myanmar.

IRRI provided and installed the AWOS in an irrigated rice field inside the Department of Agricultural Research. Installed before the actual training session, the instrument includes sensors for weather elements, which affects rice growth including temperature, solar radiation, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and direction. The Institute also provided two tablets for downloading the data from the AWOS.

Thirty-two staff from the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), two from the Yezin Agricultural University, and six from the IRRI-Myanmar office in Yangon, participated in the event.

The participants greatly appreciated the training since the country has several extreme environments, where analysis of weather data would be useful, according to Ms. Helen Grace Centeno, coordinator of the Climate Unit at IRRI, and Ms. Justine Bonifacio, researcher at IRRI's Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology division.  Myanmar’s coastal areas get inundated from time to time while some inland areas are also prone to drought.

The 2-day training was sponsored by the IRRI-LIFT (Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund) project that aims to improve livelihoods of rice-based rural households in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady delta.

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ASEAN Secretariat visits IRRI to learn about the Institutes' One Corporate System Project

Photo credit: 

The ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) Enterprise Resource Planning Working Group, led by Ung Sreng Kong, director of Corporate Affairs, made a structured learning visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines on 27 August 2014 to learn about its business processes and One Corporate System Project (OCS).

ASEC Business Process Integration and Automation Programme is still underway and through the visit, the group aimed to learn OCS best practices as well as the lessons from the project that could prove useful in their program development. The OCS has been launched successfully at IRRI in October 2013.

“We have learned enormously on how to introduce and manage organization cultural changes,” said Mr. Kong. ”These included impact of active involvement of stakeholders at the outset, top management support, and committed project team. The good practices and pitfalls we have learned are very valuable to our ERP Working Group members.”

The group was welcomed by Ms. Corinta Guerta, IRRI director for External Relations, and Marco van den Berg, IRRI chief information officer. Mr. van den  Berg is also the project manager of the OCS Team. IRRI expressed its strong support to ASEC Capacity Development Programme and looks forward to a closer cooperation with the ASEAN Secretariat.

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National workshop focuses on raising the productivity of Indonesia's unfavorable rice areas

The Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) held a national workshop on challenges and prospects for technology development in drought- and flood-prone rice ecosystems during the 40th anniversary of the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development on August 19-20.

At the workshop, scientists from ICRR and the International Rice Research Institute; researchers from the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology, the Indonesian Swampland Agriculture Research Institute, and the Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute; extension officers and farmers discussed problems, constraints, existing practices, and possible recommendations for growing rice in unfavorable rice areas.

“Though the government reportedly has new programs to expand agricultural areas this intervention may still be limited because of rapid conversion of land for industrial or commercial uses,” said Dr. Indrastuti Rumanti, a scientist at ICRR. “So another important strategy is to increase the productivity of unfavorable rice areas through breeding and cultivation programs instead.”

ICRR's acting director Ir. Made Jana Mejaya also said that the workshop had been a good opportunity for all partners to come and understand each other, discuss, and agree jointly on what to do next. “It would be a big challenge to continue the network,” said Dr. Mejaya. “But if we can do it, then it will greatly improve rice production through knowledge sharing,”

According to Mr. Cartim and Mr. Hambali, two farmers who participated in the event, they were able to get new information such as specific varieties for a particular area and also best management practices for different agroecosystems. Not every farmer could get this opportunity, they said.

Drought is a major constraint affecting the rainfed lowlands of Indonesia, especially in northern Sumatra, southern Sulawesi, eastern Java, and Nusa Tenggara. Flooding, on the other hand, predominantly affects swampy areas, which spread to southern Sumatra and Kalimantan. Farmers living in those areas usually own a minimum of one hectare compared with those living in more favorable lands, who usually own less than a hectare.

Moreover, this is also becoming a problem in irrigated areas because of the bad condition of irrigation channels, and silting of the rivers surrounding the paddies. Around 80 million—more than half of the country’s 132.57 million people living in rural areas—are estimated to be directly affected by these stresses in the rainfed lowlands.

The national workshop was supported by the IFAD-Drought project under the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments.


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IRRI and ASIAFLUX hold workshop on how to sustain balance in ecosystem

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Asiaflux co-organized a short training course and workshop where scientists, academicians and entrepreneurs shared scientific knowledge to ensure sustainability of life on earth through flux monitoring.  Guided by the theme Bridging Atmospheric Flux Monitoring to National and International Climate Change Initiatives, Asiaflux Workshop 2014 was  held on 18-23 August at IRRI headquarters.

Dr. Akira Miyata, chair of Asiaflux and director of the Agro-Meteorology Division of the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Studies, explained that IRRI was the apt choice for the activity with its extensive and long history of methane flux study. Methane is an important greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. IRRI is also recognized as one of the focal points for research of crop science in the world, thus, providing the best platform to promote flux studies in tropical ecosystems in monsoon Asia.

In his opening speech, Robert Zeigler, director general of IRRI, stated that the Institute has long been working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice fields.  “We look at changes in rice-based systems in Asia,” Dr. Zeigler said. “We need all the tools at our disposal to try to understand how our interventions affect other aspects of system performance and their impact on the environment.”

Meanwhile, Reiner Wassman, head of IRRI’s climate change research, emphasized that, apart from the provision of tools and information to assess GHG and mitigation programs,  how to engage the stakeholders to ensure practicality of results is another important concern.

Prior to the conference, a two-day training course was conducted by staff from Campbell Scientific. It focused on the basics and principles of the Eddy Covariance System (ECS), a system to measure carbon dioxide, methane, and heat fluxes between soil and plants and atmosphere. The participants also had a hands-on experience in setting up various ECS and basic programming of the software that runs the ECS.

Asiaflux 2014 was supported by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, Campbell Scientific, National Institute for Agro-Environmental Science and the National Institute. Dr. Wassman and Ma. Carmelita Alberto, associate scientist at the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, were in charge of the preparations and activity implementation of the workshop.

Asiaflux is a regional research network bringing together scientists from university and institution in Asia to study the exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and energy between land-based ecosystems and the atmosphere.  The organization conducts flux monitoring and data management in Asia, international workshops/conferences, and trainings, and information sharing.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RMQA-RDM holds training on data management and security awareness

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Risk Management and Quality Assurance (RMQA)–Research Data Management (RDM) training team concluded the third RDM 101 course on August 26-28 at IRRI headquarters.

The course,which is conducted quarterly. covered all areas of data management including management planning, documentation, collection and pre-analysis of statistical software, storage and backup, and archival and sharing. The training team also discussed and demonstrated file management software Beyond Compare, Cobian, WINDIRSTAT, and Mendeley, and presented an overview of The IRRI Dataverse, an online repository for data archiving and sharing. Mr. Rogelio Alvarez of Information Technology Services provided a lecture on data backup, security and storage.

Fourteen participants completed the three-day training course: 8 IRRI staff members, 4 researchers from Can Tho University in Vietnam, a consultant from the IRRI-Bangladesh office, and a scientist from the University of Virgin Islands.

The training team is managed by IRRI-RMQA Senior Manager Marichu Bernardo and includes Enrico Mercado and Deacart Arreza.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University honors Dr. Robert Zeigler’s contribution to agriculture research and development

His Excellency the Governor of Tamil Nadu, India and the Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Dr. K. Rosaiah, conferred the Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Cause) to IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler during TNAU’s 35th convocation on August 26 in Coimbatore. This exceptional honor was given to Dr. Zeigler in recognition of his contribution to global agriculture research and development.

"IRRI and India have been successfully collaborating for nearly five decades," Dr. Zeigler said in his acceptance speech. "India has been actively involved in IRRI’s priority setting, strategic planning, scientific advising, and implementation of research across  South Asia. The results of this collaboration have been outstanding and have set an example in international research collaboration."

He also praised the partnership between IRRI and TNAU to promote the exchange of information and technology on rice research, farming systems, and value chains for over 40 years.

“The strength of the University was the strong base it has in its research activities,” said Vice Chancellor K. Ramasamy in his welcome address. “The scientists were always in the frontline in executing viable research projects in rice and other important cereals and crops to evaluate and evolve crop varieties and technologies.”

TNAU also presented 133 doctoral degrees, 323 post-graduate degrees, and 1,065 undergraduate degrees to its graduates.

The event was attended by the Minister of Agriculture of the State of Tamil Nadu, Dr. J.K. Ladha, IRRI Representative in India and Nepal, and the faculty, staff, and students of TNAU.

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