Friday, March 27, 2015

“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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