Friday, January 30, 2015

South Asian challenges and opportunities identified in GRiSP session

Jagdish K. Ladha, IRRI representative for India, presented last January 29 at the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Science Week, the phase 3 of India's work plan—which runs from 2013-16—and has a total of 24 projects. Seven of these are implemented at the IRRI HQ, while 10 are operating in India. He stressed that the ideal engagement would be a model in which partners are working together for the same objective when collaborating. Matthew Morrell, deputy director general for research, underscored that creating or finding the right collaboration model is important as it is relevant for other countries so finding or creating the right model is crucial.

Dr. Ladha also presented their future strategy based on a meeting with IRRI Indian scientists last January 19. This included their priority in terms of rice ecology, crop establishment, variety, and agronomic practices. Under rice ecology, they would focus on rainfed and irrigated areas as well as those that provide opportunities for rice-fallow or aerobic systems. On crop establishment, the focus is on direct seeding and mechanized transplanting, which is becoming highly popular in south India because of increasing labor costs and shortages. In terms of variety, there have been areas experiencing lower amount of sunlight so rice varieties that are specially adapted to low-light conditions need to be developed. Also, shorter-duration varieties, which can easily fit into many cropping systems, are needed. When it comes to agronomy, Dr. Ladha explained that the focus should be on systems agronomy; on intensification and diversification; on identifying best management practices for key ecologies; and maximizing the yield potential from a best mix of agronomic practices and varieties.

Priority regions in India include its eastern, southern, and southwestern parts. Although there are many challenges such as competing demands, bureaucratic delays, high expectations, and reluctance to sign outside the existing work plan, there are also opportunities to co-lead certain research areas based on comparative advantage; to co-invest by aligning own R&D priorities and activities with GRiSP for greater synergy; and to mobilize additional national resources for upstream research areas.

Bangladesh is also similar to India which presents several challenges and opportunities. According to Dr. Paul Fox, IRRI representative for Bangladesh, farm sizes have been increasingly getting smaller, but surprisingly there's been a reverse trend in land tenancy, which has gone up in much recent years. Other challenges which can also be seen as opportunities include managing crops in saline rice-based systems on monsoonal deltas; increasing water-use efficiency in northwest Bangladesh during the aman and boro rice cropping seasons; coastal community water management; and mechanization and weed problems; among others.

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