Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Awarding of the second batch of Global Rice Science Scholarships cancelled

The second round of awarding of Global Rice Science Scholarships (GRiSS) under the Global Rice Research Partnership (GRiSP) of the CGIAR has been cancelled because of lack of funding.  The GRiSS was offered to students enrolled in or are to conduct their PhD research.

Early 2015, 402 applications for GRiSS were screened and selected candidates were to be announced at the end of March. Unfortunately, in mid-March, word was received about less-than-expected donor funding, which negatively affected the funding for the second round of GRiSS scholars. After careful consideration, the leadership of GRiSP saw itself forced to cancel the second round of GRiSP scholarships.

“This is a very unfortunate development as we had received many outstanding applicants who were full of hope and ambition to further their career in rice science,” said Bas Bouman, GRiSP leader. “GRiSP is proud of its scholarship program and will pursue every opportunity to mobilize donor support to keep investing in the future leaders in science and development in the rice sector.”

For more information and inquiries, email grispscholarships@irri.org.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

IRRI-ESA regional coordinator joins the Young Researchers' Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch for March hosted Joseph Bigirimana, a plant pathologist and IRRI's regional coordinator for East and Southern Africa (ESA).

Dr. Bigirimana shared many stories and the lessons he learned with the young researchers. He emphasized the importance of networking in a scientist's career. “A meeting with the IRRI Director General when I was a visiting collaborator eventually led to the IRRI-Burundi partnership,” Dr. Bigirimana said. “Visitors could lead to helpful contacts later so meeting them is essential.”

While Dr. Bigirimana advocated an attitude of humility, and advised the young researchers to adapt to the local people and culture when they travel to work in a new place, he also told them not to hide their achievements.

Participants were Maria Stefanie Dwiyanti, Bryan Balajadia, Sabiha Parween, Bryce Blackman, Anny Ruth Pame, and Satyen Mondal. The lunch was held on 27 March 2015.

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28 new rice varieties released in 2014 as scientists ensure responsive breeding for the future

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners released at least twenty-eight new rice varieties to governments of eight countries in Asia and Africa in 2014.

These newly-released varieties possess high-yielding and stress-tolerance traits that can help farmers overcome challenges, such as the negative effects of climate change, in their rice growing ecosystems. Some of the varieties released are flood-tolerant (India), drought-tolerant for rainfed rice areas (Nepal), and salinity-tolerant (the Gambia and the Philippines).

IRRI has released more than a thousand modern rice varieties in 78 countries since its founding in 1960.

"The work never stops," said Eero Nissila, IRRI's head of breeding and leader of its global rice research partnership in varietal improvement. "New challenges arise due to climate change and decreasing resources, which is why we need to keep revisiting our agenda and stay responsive to the needs of our farmers and consumers."

Scientists implementing IRRI’s breeding agenda are sharing the latest in their varietal improvement work during IRRI Breeders' Week, happening now at IRRI, 23-27 March 2015.

Critical improvements are being made to IRRI’s breeding infrastructure, which needs to be more responsive to the requirements of current and future rice demand. Responsiveness requires increasing rice genetic gain in yield and pursuing an agenda that’s driven by what consumers need and prefer. Taken together, these improvements are called Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At Breeders' Week, several updates were presented, which include development of profiles of rice preferred in selected countries in Southeast Asia and Africa; market research on types of rice consumers prefer; updates on the irrigated variety development pipeline that now benefits from an expedited breeding process; breeding hubs in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; grain quality and how it integrates into the development of high-yielding rice varieties with desirable traits; managing information through bioinformatics; genotyping services; partnerships within the hybrid rice development program; and exploration of rice's diversity for breeding.

IRRI is part of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), a platform for impact-oriented rice research for development with more than 900 rice research and development partners worldwide.

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“We are interested in having a special relationship with IRRI because rice is important to us” – senior Indian official

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna - Hon. Shri R. Rajagopal, additional secretary of India’s Department of Agriculture, Research, and Education visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) earlier this week to explore further areas of collaboration between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and IRRI. Rajagopal was specifically interested in scientist and student exchange as well as reaching more farmers through extension activities. He also discussed issues related to climate change and diminishing natural resources.

“Our three-day visit has been extremely interactive and discussions focused on how we can improve cooperation between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and IRRI in terms of increasing production, improving the welfare of the rice farmers, and providing more emphasis on rice research,” said Rajagopal during his March 23-25 visit.

India, with its tremendous range of laboratories and institutes has an inherent strength in rice, according to Rajagopal. “We have a lot of rice scientists who will benefit from the interaction with IRRI scientists,” he said. “Likewise, IRRI scientists will benefit immensely, after visiting India, by understanding better the condition in farmers’ fields.”

According to Rajagopal, “We have core centers established for frontline extension activities in every district of the country. An extension activity can be outscaled straightaway to millions of rice farmers if we have the right mechanism... This will make a difference in the lives of millions of farmers if we are able to get across the technologies that IRRI has developed.”

Rajagopal also identified climate change is a major threat to rice production. He said developing climate-smart rice varieties with higher tolerance for salinity, flood, and drought, will help IRRI and ICAR work together in a much bigger way. He was also pleased to learn about IRRI’s alternate wetting and drying technology that can save up to 30%  of the water used in rice production.

When asked about the future, Rajagopal said “I was focusing on the sentimental attachment to rice in India, especially in the rice producing states, where young scientists soon after graduation will have a desire to do something significant for rice”.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

IRRI joins celebration of Women’s Month

The contribution of women in rice research and production was the focus of the 2015 celebrations of International Women’s Day (IWD) and Month (IWM) at the International Rice Research Institute.

IRRI’s own studies have documented the various important roles women have in different farming scenarios across countries, as well as changes in the farm—such as migration of labor to urban areas—that affect these roles and, hence, the whole rice production chain.

Once a year, IRRI honors the role of women in rice production and research, and in the efforts that support these two endeavors, in a series of activities held in March, IWM.

This year’s IWD theme, “Make it Happen,” was also the title of the photo exhibit at IRRI Headquarters that featured women staff members, including some from the Institute’s country offices.

Other highlights were a special seminar by Liz Humphreys, senior water scientist, and a freedom wall on which IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler scribbled, “Our power derives from our women, without whom our vision would be an unfulfilled dream.”

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IARI agriculture fair showcases STRASA, CSISA and IRRI technologies

By Mayank Sharma & Manzoor H. Dar

Thousands of farmers, researchers, scientists, and government officials attended the annual Kisan Mela (agricultural fair) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute  (IARI) campus in New Delhi, on 10-12 March.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) hosted an exhibit booth featuring technologies developed by the Stress-tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project and Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). The booth also displayed IRRI technologies and products including the manual transplanter, the community mat nursery, and performance charts of stress-tolerant rice varieties, in partnership with Improved Rice-based Rain-fed Agricultural Systems (IRRAS) and the National Food Security Mission (NFSM). Various literatures on stress-tolerant rice management, seed production, and postharvest techniques were also distributed to farmers and extension workers.

Thousands of farmers from different states visited the IRRI booth  and enquired about the latest technologies developed by the Institute. Many also shared their experiences using IRRI technologies.

Mr. Ram Raji from Madhubani, who has been cultivating Swarna-Sub1, a flood-tolerant rice variety for three years,  was awarded by the Government of Bihar for getting highest paddy yield in the district in 2011.

This year’s Kisan Mela was inaugurated by Dr. J. S. Sandhu, deputy director general (Crop Science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The representatives from IRRI-India  who attended the event included Dr. Sheetal Sharma, Dr. Sarvesh Shukla, Mr. Mayank Sharma, Mr. Bhanu Bhadauria, Mr. Girija Swain, Dr. Maneesh Dwivedi, Ms. Poornima, Ms. Ishika Gupta, Ms. Mamta Mehar and Mr. Shriram Manogaram.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hokkaido Univ's Research Faculty of Agriculture strengthens collaboration on rice research and education with IRRI

The Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University (RFAAHU) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) signed Memorandum of Agreement strengthening cooperation between the rice scientists of the two institutes. According to the agreement, the two institutes will undertake exchange of organization members and research fellows; joint supervision of students conducting research, thesis, and fieldwork; exchange of academic materials, publications, and information; and conduct joint research projects and organize symposiums.

Representatives from the two institutes also discussed mutual areas of interests.  Chaired by Prof. Yuji Kishima of RFAHU, participants from IRRI included Dr.Noel Magor, Dr. II Ryong Choi, Dr. Russell Reinke, Dr. Takashi Yamano, and Ms. Anilyn Maningas.

IRRI External Relations Director Corinta Guerta and RFAAHU Dean Prof. Tomomi Marutani signed the agreement on 10 March.

RFAAHU was inaugurated in 1876 and was the first academic institute in Japan to award bachelor degrees. Today, it remains at the forefront of research on food security, bio-resource management, biomass energy supply, and environmental conservation through restructuring of systematized agriculture. 

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Friday, March 20, 2015

RMQA-RDM training team concludes this year’s 1st RDM 101

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Risk Management and Quality Assurance Research Data Management (RMQA-RDM) training team concluded this year’s first Research Data Management (RDM) 101 course.

Thirteen participants completed the three-day training course: three from IRRI-India country office (CSISA); internal IRRI staff include five from Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB), four from Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD); one from Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (GQNC); and one from Genetic Resources Center (GRC). It was held on 17-19 March 2015 at the IT Learning Center in the IRRI Headquarters.

The course covered all areas of data management: data management planning; data documentation; data collection and pre-analysis of statistical software (using MS Access for data transformation as pre-analysis in statistical software); data validation and quality control; using bar codes in experiments; using  mobile devices in collecting data; data storage backup, and security; and data archival and sharing. Moreover, the training team also discussed and demonstrated file management tools/software that include: Beyond Compare, Cobian, Mendeley, and the IRRI Dataverse (an online repository for data archiving and sharing).

The training team, managed by IRRI-RMQA Senior Manager Menchu Bernardo, is composed of Enrico Mercado and Deacart Arreza. Mr. Rogelio Alvarez of Information Technology Services (ITS) provided a lecture on data backup, security and storage.

RDM 101 is conducted quarterly.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

C4 Rice Center interns win top prize at 2015 UST Pharmacy Research Expo

Gericho Soriano and Mau Tanaka won the top prize for their scientific poster at the recently held 2015 UST Pharmacy Research Expo. Mr. Soriano and Ms. Tanaka, both interns at the C4 Rice Center at the International Rice Research Institute, were cited for Cloning of two candidate genes related to Kranz anatomy from Zea Mayz CV B73 using Gateway cloning. Arnelyn Doloiras and Akshaya Kumar Biswal from the C4 Rice Center were co-authors on the poster and also served as their supervisors during their summer training.

C4 plants like corn (Zea mays) that exhibit Kranz (German word meaning wreath) anatomy in their leaves, show higher photosynthetic capacity, nitrogen utilization and water use efficiency than C3 plants like rice. It is therefore one of the important targets of C4 consortium to introduce this trait into rice by transferring necessary gene(s) from closely related C4 species. Though it is not clear which gene(s) are responsible for Kranz anatomy, several candidates have been predicted.  To supplement our effort of evaluating about 100 candidate genes, this study involved cloning two of the candidate genes from maize leaf primordia. The transgenic plants overexpressing one of the two genes are currently being evaluated at C4 Rice Center.

“Both students were highly enthusiastic and hard working," said Dr. Biswal. "The cutting edge molecular biology facility at C4 Rice Center helped them to quickly acquire the skills and consequently, led to the success in cloning the genes in a short period. This recognition will motivate them for a career in rice research and success in life."

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Tripura farmers welcome the release of drought-tolerant rice varieties

Thousands of farmers in drought-prone Tripura Province welcome the release of 16 new varieties of various crops, including nine rice varieties for different ecosystems. These ecosystems include drought-prone lowlands and uplands. These varieties were launched on 1 March 2015 at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) research complex for the Northeastern Region in Lembucherra. The released lines have high-yield potentials that provide a yield advantage of 1.0-1.2 tons per hectare under moderate to severe drought over presently cultivated varieties. The farmers of Tripura also showed their preference for these varieties during participatory selection trials.

Manik Sarkar, chief minister of Tripura Province, presided over the ceremonial release of the varieties. Mr. Sarkar expressed his gratitude to scientists at ICAR and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for making the new varieties available to farmers and for working together to increase rice production in the province.

S.V. Ngachan, director of the  ICAR Research Complex, reiterated the commitment of ICAR to increase productivity of different crops as well as fisheries and poultry in the north eastern region of India. Arvind Kumar, leader of the rainfed lowland South Asia plant breeding group at IRRI, encouraged state agencies to undertake a systematic seed multiplication program for newly released varieties.

The new rice varieties include five drought-tolerant breeding lines developed at IRRI by the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These varieties were evaluated by the Drought Breeding Network in several locations in India including ICAR in Lembucherra and the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Program coordinated by the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad.

The new drought-tolerant varieties include Tripura Khara dhan 1 (IR87707-446-B-B-B), Tripura Khara dhan 2 ( IR87707-182-B-B-B) for lowland rainfed drought prone-regions of Tripura; Tripura Hakuchuk-1 (IR83928-B-B-56-4) and Tripura Hakuchuk 2 (IR82589-B-B-138-2) for dry direct-seeded rainfed upland areas; and Tripura Aus dhan (IR83928-B-B-42-3-4) for both transplanted and dry direct-seeded situations.

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IRRI Training Center conducts workshop on effective scientific communication

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Training Center conducted a workshop to help scientists and researchers develop their skills in communicating scientific information. The five-day workshop is designed to provide participants know-how on writing and revising manuscripts and familiarity with the guidelines of scientific writing and the peer review process.

The course was attended by sixteen participants, mostly IRRI scientists, scholars, and collaborators, from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Maria Socorro Arboleda, senior specialist at the Training Center, coordinated the workshop.

The workshop was held on 2-6 March at MS Swaminathan Hall, IRRI Headquarters, Philippines.

The Training Center will also offer a basic scientific writing course for beginners on 9-13 November 2015. Interested applicants may now apply at http://training.irri.org/short-courses/how-to-apply-short-courses.

For other training opportunities, please visit http://training.irri.org or send an email to IRRITraining@irri.org.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Bangladesh MP and agriculture officials visit IRRI

Hon. Chhabi Biswas, Member of Parliament of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and a delegation from Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture  visited the International Rice Rseearch Institute (IRRI) Headquarters on 2 March 2015.

The group was briefed by Dr. Bruce Tolentino, director general for Communications and Partnerships, and Mr. Julian Lapitan, consultant and former partnerships manager, on IRRI’s work and the long-standing collaboration with Bangladesh as well as the contribution of their countryman Dr. Muhammad Yunus as a member of IRRI Board of Trustees. The guests also toured the different facilities and experimental plots of the Institute led by Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail for the experiment station, submergence- and drought-tolerance farm plots, and rain-out shelter; and Dr. Elizabeth Naredo for the International Rice Genebank.

Dr. Uma Shankar Singh, regional coordinator for South Asia of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project and who was part of the delegation, said the regional cooperation on seed networking between Bangladesh, India, and Nepal—established through STRASA and IRRI—was a major accomplishment in the Project’s seed multiplication and dissemination efforts.

The entourage included Mr. Md. Eunusur Rahman and Mr. Md. Azim Uddin, secretary and chief seed technologist, respectively, of the Ministry of Agriculture;  and Mr. Md. Anwarul Islam Sikder, chairman, Mr. Md. Ramjan Ali, member director, and Mr. Md. Golam Kibria, manager,of the  Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation, a part of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Hon. Biswas’ visit was capped with a dinner hosted by IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler.

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Philippines: IRRI and Army General Hospital hold medical mission for indigent families in host community

The Partnerships Office of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) with the support of the Army General Hospital medical personnel headed by Dr. Mary Agnes C. Motril, held a medical mission at Brgy. Sto. Domingo, Bay, Laguna, on 27 February.

The mission provided free medical check-up for nearly 250 indigent families consisting of around a thousand individuals, including babies and pregnant mothers. The activity also offered free health counseling as well as medicines donated by IRRI spouses. In addition, Gardenia Bakeries (Philippines), Inc. also donated bread to each family.

IRRI hosts monthly health, sanitation, and nutrition programs to help reduce the incidence of common medical problems in its host community of Los Baños and Bay.

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UPLB honors its best

IRRI joins 106th Foundation Day rites 

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) recognized the best and brightest from among the UPLB faculty, research, extension and management personnel at the 106th Foundation Day rites on 5 March.  UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, Jr. and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Director General Robert Zeigler led the awarding ceremonies.

Among the awardees were two teams namely the research and extension teams of the ASEAN-Korea Environmental Cooperation Project and the Cereals Section of the Institute of Plant Breeding of the College of Agriculture, and outstanding teachers in physical sciences (Reginald Recario and Liza Comia), social sciences (Gemalyn Lozano and Loida Mojica), and biological sciences (Ivy Amor Lambio).

UPLB has a notable history of developing many of the country's most important innovations on food production and environmental sustainability in collaboration with the Los Baños Science Community, which includes IRRI.

"The excellent education that many agricultural scientists received at UPLB is fertilizing and penetrating the soils of research across Asia," said Dr. Zeigler who emphasized the long partnership between IRRI-UPLB. He shared the sentiments of Dr. Randy Barker, one of IRRI’s first agricultural economists and a former head of the Institute’s social science division, who said “the joint venture between our two institutions has been truly beneficial over the years. Indeed, IRRI's support staff is one of the finest in the world thanks to the UPLB-IRRI connection.” There are 347 nationally recruited staff at IRRI who are UPLB graduates.

Dr. Zeigler also mentioned some outstanding graduates of the University who eventually carved out distinguished careers at IRRI, including  national scientist and UPLB professor emeritus Gelia Castillo. Dr. Castillo, recognized internationally for her contributions as a social scientist, is a long-time consultant at IRRI.

UPLB was established in 1909 as the UP College of Agriculture (UPCA). In 1959, the Rockefeller and Ford  Foundations decided that the Philippines was the most logical location for the IRRI Headquarter partly because the country was—and is—a rice-producing area, but mainly because of the agricultural research excellence of the UPCA.

Read more about UPLB and IRRI collaboration

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

IRRI Training hosts Nagoya University students' field work on agriculture

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Training Center hosted a scientific visit of  graduate students of Nagoya University in Japan on 26 February at Swaminathan Hall, IRRI Headquarters. Seven participants represented the university’s Graduate Schools of Bioagricultural Sciences, Health Sciences, International Development, Medicine, and Education.

The participants received a briefing on the different activities of the Training Center and an overview of the basics of rice production. They also visited the experimental fields where different IRRI rice varieties were developed.

The scientific visit at IRRI is part of the students’ field work on agriculture planned in coordination with the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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IRRI-NARO holds symposium on development and deployment of resistant rice varieties

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Japanese National Agricultural Food Research Organization (NARO) held a symposium to forge collaboration between the two parties toward the development and deployment of pest- and disease-resistant rice varieties at IRRI Headquarters on 25 February.

Members of the NARO contingent presented their work on resistance to brown planthoppers (Masaya Matsumura) and resistance to leaf and panicle blast (Tomomori Kataoka and Hiroyuki Sato). Sachiyo Sanada-Morimura and Hiroshi Wada presented insecticide resistance in small brown planthopper, and the physiological mechanisms leading to chalky rice under drought conditions.

IRRI scientists gave updates on their ongoing research at IRRI, including rice resistance to planthoppers (Finbarr Horgan), the role of endophytes in resistance to insects (Buyung Hadi), resistance to blast and bacterial blight (Ricardo Oliva), and tungro resistance (Il-Ryong Choi).

The event was also an opportunity for students and interns at IRRI to present the results of their research. Entomologists Rina Racmawati, Suja Thanga Srinivasan, Mahardika Gama, Vu Quynh, and James Villegas presented topics ranging from the role of bacterial endosymbionts in the breakdown of planthopper resistance, to the use of soil amendments to increase resistance against hoppers and stemborers. Plant pathologists Jaymee Encabo, Eula Oreiro, and Sylvestre Dossa presented the mechanisms of rice resistance to tungro virus, screening for sheath blight, and the efficacy of bacterial blight resistance genes under conditions of drought, respectively.

The participants discussed the worrisome trend of pest and disease adaptation to resistance genes during round table talks, and devised mechanisms to improve collaboration and research toward understanding and curtailing this adaptation. An agenda for building parallel research on common interests was also highlighted at the symposium.

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