Thursday, April 30, 2015

Heirloom rice featured in Madrid Fusion Manila

Heirloom rice, a special type of rice inherently unique in its natural features and eating quality, was featured in Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM), held at the SMX Convention Center in Metro Manila on 24-26 April 2015.

“Heirloom rice is in high demand in the export market and is now being promoted locally as an important and exceptional ingredient in Filipino cuisine,” said Casiana Vera Cruz, project leader of the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP). “More importantly, it is grown by farmers in highland communities, mostly in marginal environments.”

The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) is funding the HRP—as part of its bigger efforts to provide holistic support to increasing rice productivity in the Philippines—to help heirloom rice farmers harvest more while making sure that the traditions attached to the production of these special rice varieties is preserved.

The Heirloom Rice Project is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA). 

Studies have shown that heirloom rice has high nutritional value compared with common rice varieties. HRP also seeks to secure a geographical indication, or GI, tag for Philippine heirloom rice.

Some 20 heirloom rice varieties from four provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)–Kalinga, Benguet, Mountain Province, and Ifugao–were showcased in an exhibit as well as in the food tasting and 'food tunnel' sessions of the event.

In the food tasting session, varieties ominio, ingud-pur, minaangan, kalinga jekot, and tinawon were introduced and served to restaurateurs and food enthusiasts. These varieties were transformed into culinary specialities by renowned Filipino chefs Amy Besa, Robby Goco, and Jessie Sincioco in dishes served during the food tunnel sessions.

The HRP is being implemented by DA-CAR regional office, the International Rice Research Institute, and the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Philippines: IRRI holds course on becoming certified postharvest trainers

The Training Center and Postharvest Unit at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) organized a two-week course on the basic knowledge and skills necessary to become a certified postharvest trainer. Rice: Post-Production to Market Course was attended by participants from Australia, India, Lao PDR, Philippines, and Taiwan.

The participants were introduced to different postharvest technologies and postproduction practices through hands- on exercises and lectures. They also visited other institutions, communities, and rice value chain actors to learn more about the importance of rice postproduction process.

After the workshop, participant are expected to make informed decisions on identifying and measuring losses along the value chain, evaluating different post production technology options (harvesting, threshing, drying, storage, and milling), and using business plans to introduce or scale out suitable technology options for post production.

The Rice: Post- Production to Market Course was held on 13 to 24 April and will be offered twice a year at IRRI Headquarters. The second course will be conducted in October. For more details, please visit

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

IRRI-Bangladesh office celebrates Bengali New Year

The IRRI-Bangladesh office staff in Dhaka hosted a grand Bengali New Year (Pohela Boishakh) 1422. The event is celebrated from 14 to 15 April by Malayalis, Bengalis, and Tamilians who welcome the first day of their new year with great joy, colorful lights, and firecrackers.

The IRRI-Bangladesh office celebration, held on 13 April, featured cultural events, music and dance presentations, and a stage play. The festivities also included a fashion parade of the lungi (traditional men’s clothes) worn by male employees, a slogan competition, and raffle draw, followed by a wonderful feast mostly contributed by staff members.
There were planned and spontaneous participation from all staff and consultants who contributed their goodwill and support. The New Year party was also an occasion to discover hidden talents of many employees such as the musically inclined Accounts Officers and the terpsichorean skills of the consultants.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

BMGF lauds STRASA for speeding up the process of bringing new rice varieties to farmers in South Asia

By Maria Rowena M. Baltazar

Gary Atlin, senior program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, cited the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project for reinventing the process of varietal release and dissemination. 

“STRASA has been a flagship program for the Gates Foundation for the past 8 years,” said Dr. Atlin during the first year review of the project’s 3rd Phase. “It has the strongest abiotic pipeline development process in the world.” STRASA is the best investment that BMGF has made, he added.

“STRASA’s partnership with the national programs in eastern India made great progress through the years,” said Dr. J.S. Sandhu, deputy director general (Crop Sciences) at ICAR during the plenary session on 21 April. “Climate change is the biggest challenge we face but it is a good time now to move on and face these challenges in partnership with STRASA and the BMGF.” Climate change is expected to aggravate droughts, floods, and soil salinity.  

Concurrent sessions on the project’s four major objectives evaluated progress since the launching of phase 3 in 2014. The networks for each objective—Drought, Submergence, Salinity, and Seed Tracking and Dissemination—presented reports and reviews on their activities with partners including national research institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs). One of the activities is increasing awareness and use of stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) by farmers, especially marginalized women and farmers in remote areas. They also reported on how state governments and private companies are continuously becoming active partners in STRV dissemination and commercialization.

The Drought Breeding Network (DBN), the Eastern Indian Rainfed Lowland Shuttle Breeding Network (EIRLSBN), and the Salinity Tolerance Breeding Network (STBN) have been key movers in the development, evaluation and commercial release of drought-tolerant varieties, Sahbhagi Dhan, CR Dhan 201, 202, 204, and 205; submergence-tolerant varieties, Swarna-Sub1, Samba-Sub1 (Samba Mahsuri), CR1009-Sub1, and Rajdeep; and salt-tolerant varieties CSR43, CR-Dhan 405 and 406, and Gozaba 5, respectively. 

Other major research institutions under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), such as the Central Rice Research Institute, Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, and the Directorate for Rice Research, in partnership with major state agricultural universities, also contributed to the release and commercialization of STRVs last year, particularly, DRR Dhan 42, 43, and 44 and Tripura Khara Dhan 1 and 2, Tripura Hakuchuk 1 and 2, and Tripura Aus Dhan, all drought-tolerant varieties. 

Reports on progress of rice varieties tolerant to multiple abiotic stresses (submergence + salinity or drought + submergence) indicated these varieties are currently being evaluated in multi-environmental trial (MET) sites. Issues on MET protocols and procedures for consolidation in each network were a major focus in these sessions. 

Farmer partners gave their testimonies on the benefits gained in planting STRVs, particularly, the flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1 and the drought-tolerant Sahbhagi Dhan. 

Mr. Anand Kumar Singh, a farmer from Bihar, who planted Swarna-Sub1, narrated, "I was the only one to have a harvest after flooding hit our rice fields. Since then, I have not stopped planting Swarna-Sub1 and have shared my success story with more than 400 farmers."

The first year review of phase 3 of the STRASA project  was held from 19 to 22 April. Highlighting the plenary was a brainstorming discussion on the way forward for STRASA, focusing on the challenges and opportunities in the rainfed lowlands.

Capping the activity were joint meetings of STRASA-associated projects under European Commission-International Fund for Agricultural Development, National Food Security Mission, Improved Rice-based Rainfed Agricultural Systems, and the Agricultural Technology Adoption Initiative. A special information/training session was conducted for breeders by Eero Nissila, head, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and Marco Karkkainen on the new Breeding for Rice (B4R) software being developed by IRRI. 

About 150 participants attended the event.  

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IRRI observes Earth Day 2015, urges staff to be climate-smart

Reduce your team’s environmental footprint by lowering your office’s energy consumption. It will automatically conserve non-renewable fossil fuels and help to reduce IRRI’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world celebrates the 45th Earth Day on the 22nd of April, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) urges staff to make meaningful commitments towards environmental change and responsibility.

“Staff members can do a lot to help reduce energy costs by using  light and air conditioning wisely as these consume the most energy in the workplace,” said Arman Mohammed, head of IRRI’s Physical Plant Services.

IRRI is taking significant steps to reduce the energy consumption of its various facilities. The Institute is currently installing solar-powered street lights in research areas and staff housing.  It is also replacing fluorescent lights with more energy-efficient LED lights.  Motion-activated sensors are also installed in common areas to avoid wasting electricity when there is no-one in the building.

Here are  five easy tips that staff can do to reduce their carbon footprint at work and at home:

  1. Set the air conditioner thermostat to 23-24 degrees Celsius.
  2. Switch off lights, computer screens, and air conditioners when leaving the room.
  3. Choose reusable food and drink containers and utensils instead of disposable options.
  4. Close the doors and windows of air-conditioned rooms .
  5. Use double-sided printing to conserve paper. 

“IRRI scientists are constantly looking for ways to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production,” says Brechje Maréchal, an IRRI researcher and volunteer working behind the Sustainability@IRRI campaign. “Researchers encourage farmers around the world to farm more sustainably by using less fertilizer, water, and pesticides. Individuals in the IRRI community should do their part too.”

IRRI employees  are also invited to join the Sticker Happy contest for friendly reminders on saving energy. The winning entry will be made into a sticker to be placed in buildings and announced in all iTVs across the IRRI campus. Entries must contain less than 20 words and submitted (in Word files) to on or before 15 May.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

IRRI joins in celebrating 50 years of rice research in India

IRRI staff and members of the Board of trustees (BOT) led by Director General Robert Zeigler and Deputy Director General for Research Matthew Morell participated in the Golden Jubilee Annual Rice Research Group Meeting (ARRGM) held at the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, 12-15 April. Important items on the agenda were to join IIRR staff in celebrating the milestone 50th annual meeting and to review the progress of the IRRI-India Work Plan (2013-16). Around 500 rice researchers and dignitaries from across India (photo) attended the four-day event and took the opportunity to interact with the visiting IRRI staff members.

At the inaugural session on Sunday morning, Zeigler expressed his appreciation of the contribution of Indian scientists to agriculture. “India’s initiative in 1965 by setting up an agency for rice research, now IIRR, was a model emulated the world-over. “India leads the world in food security and its strides in rice research have always been first-of-its-kind,” he said.

During a media briefing following the inaugural session (photo), Zeigler said that the importance of rice in India cannot be overstated. “The country must be able to feed itself and, in now doing so, a platform has been provided for economic development and a foundation for social growth,” he told reporters.

This year, IRRI researchers and their Indian counterparts joined in discussions on five key areas among the 24 joint projects that are being conducted under the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP): system agronomy, breeding for unfavorable environments, yield enhancement, breeding for direct seeding, and the rice strategy for India and the future of the rice sector in the country.

Morell pointed out that IRRI’s commitment to strengthening its presence in India is exemplified by the presence of the Institute’s Board of Trustees in Hyderabad, which held its annual meeting at ICRISAT, 15-18 April.

He was pleased to see that the IRRI-India interactions are strong and the progress in the collaborative work plan is being made. “There is a lot of excitement around the technologies being used and the varieties that are coming through the breeding pipeline,” he said. “We have a great foundation to continue into the future.” In the photo (from left) are J.S. Sandhu, deputy director general (Crop Science) for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research; Gurbachan Singh, chairman of the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board; and Dr. Morell.

During the ARRGM session on Wednesday, Sam Mohanty, IRRI's chief economist, said that India has reached the pinnacle in rice exports. “The country has come a long way in the past 5 decades from a country with a severe food deficit to being a major grain exporter.  Much of what Mohanty covered is in the April-June issue of Rice Today.

Photo montage: A busy week in India

At the ceremonial lamp lighting to kick off the 4-day ARRGM are (from left): Madappa Mahadevappa, former chairman of the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board; Dr. Zeigler; Dr. Sandhu; V. Ravindra Babu, director of the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project; and Subbanna Ayyappan, director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Dr. Zeigler (4th from left in photo) helped hold up a 6-yard-long saree made entirely of rice straw during inaugural ARRGM session. Read more about it in The Hindu.

Dr. Zeigler (center) and other Institute staff surveyed progress in IRRI's experimental rice plots on the campus of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT). From left with Dr. Zeigler are Dr. Morell; Arvind Kumar, plant breeder for South Asia; Sudhir Yadav, irrigated systems agronomist for the South Asia Breeding Hub; and J.K. Ladha, representative for India and Nepal.

During the ARRGM, Gene Hettel, editor-in-chief of Rice Today, visited with the magazine's April-June cover guy, Nekkanti Subba Rao. Read about the incredible story of this Andhra Pradesh rice farmer in Rice Today.

On Monday morning, 13 April, an IRRI delegation led by Drs. Zeigler and Morell visited the Professor Jaishankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, India, to hear about the university's rice research projects and how IRRI can assist. Following the signing of an MOU between IRRI and PJTSAU, staff representatives from both organizations posed for this group photo. See story in The Hindu.

At IRRI’s exhibit at the ARRGM, Lanie Reyes, Rice Today magazine's managing editor, interacts with some of the participants as they eagerly sign up for receiving the quarterly electronic version of the magazine.

During a break during the ARRGM sessions, IRRI researchers R.K. Singh (2nd from right) and Hei Leung confer with (from left) A.P. Padmakumari and Gururaj Katti, both IIRR principal scientists in entomology.

Members of the IRRI Board of Trustees held their annual meetings at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, 15-18 April. They took time out on 16 April to move from the meeting rooms to the great outdoors to inspect IRRI's research plots on the ICRISAT campus. In the photo, they are joined by members of IRRI's HQ management and India research teams.

Arvind Kumar, leader of IRRI's rainfed lowland South Asia Hub plant breeding group, has the rapt attention of some of the Institute's BOT members as he explains ongoing research in IRRI's experimental plots on the ICRISAT campus.

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Golden Rice to receive 2015 humanitarian award from U.S. government

The Golden Rice Project has won the prestigious 2015 Patents for Humanity award on nutrition. Through this award, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recognizes the vision of Ingo Potrykus, Peter Beyer, and Adrian Dubock for creating the enabling conditions for smallholder farmers to benefit from Golden Rice. Potrykus and Beyer invented Golden Rice as a potential complement to the nutrition toolkit in the fight against vitamin A deficiency that afflicts about 190 million people globally.

Royalty-free access to key technologies used in Golden Rice has enabled IRRI and public institutions to continue research and development of Golden Rice on a not-for-profit basis. Through this royalty-free arrangement and by breeding Golden Rice into already popular inbred varieties, resource-poor farmers can afford and reuse the seeds when they become available.

The USPTO confers the Patents for Humanity award to patent owners working to bring life-saving technologies to the underserved people of the world. Innovations in medicine, sanitation, household energy, living standards, and nutrition aimed at improving global health and living standards for the less fortunate are eligible for the award. The USPTO will confer the award during a livestreamed ceremony from the White House at 10 am EST on April 20.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Union agriculture minister urges Indian farmers to grow flood-tolerant rice

Bihar, India - Union Minister of Agriculture Shri Radha Mohan Singh asked farmers from 15 states of India to grow Swarna-Sub1, among other flood-tolerant rice varieties. This was the minister’s key message during the 2015 Horticulture Conclave in Bihar on 10 April 2015.

Flood-tolerant rice is a major innovation that can greatly help bring the second green revolution to eastern India,” stated Singh.

 “About 30% of rice area in India is flood prone,” said Sudhanshu Singh, an agronomist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) who works on rainfed lowland rice systems. Thus, flood-tolerant rice, such as Swarna-Sub1, can help increase farmers’ incomes by enabling them to grow rice in previously unproductive areas.

In response to the call of the minister, many farmers at the event visited the IRRI booth to learn more about flood-tolerant rice. "This is the first time I learned about this variety and I cannot believe that it can survive under water for more than 12 days," says Kishore Yadav, a farmer from Betiah district. I will grow this next season in my field near river Gandak."

Farmers were also interested in drought-tolerant Sahbhagi dhan, as the lack of water often affects rice grown in elevated areas.

Minister Singh appreciated IRRI's efforts in distributing brochures on the management of these stress-tolerant varieties in Hindi and other local languages. He also acknowledged IRRI’s efforts in disseminating the technology and seeds of climate-smart rice in Bihar through the Improved Rice-Based Rainfed Agricultural Systems and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) projects.

The government has implemented large-scale programs for the multiplication and distribution of seeds of Swarna-Sub1 and Sahbhagi dhan. These programs include the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and Bringing the Green Revolution in Eastern India (BGREI). In Bihar, the IRRI-NFSM project has planted about 4,500 hectares of demonstration plots to climate-smart rice over the last 3 years.

In Bihar, a large quantity of Swarna-Sub1 and Sahbhagi dhan seeds were distributed in 2014. The government has invested in large-scale seed production of these varieties and is expected
to produce more than 3,000 tons of Swana-Sub1 seed this year alone.

"We will not rest until we succeed in ensuring the turnaround of the farm sector and see smiles on the faces of the farmers," the agriculture minister said.

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Philippine agriculture officers undergo training on field trial protocols

Regional field officers from the Department of Agriculture (DA) underwent training in preparation for participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials that they will facilitate for the 2015 wet season. PVS is a simple way for breeders and agronomists to determine varieties that perform well on-farm and are preferred by farmers.

The activity was conducted under the Accelerating the Development and Adoption of Next Generation Rice Varieties for the Major Ecosystems in the Philippines (NextGen Project), which aims to accelerate the release of new rice varieties to Filipino farmers. The course was designed to help the participants from Regions 1-3 and the Cordillera Administrative Region improve their data collection and field layout techniques.

"We conducted  the training to make sure that the data we would get from the PVS trials managed by these field officers in the different regions are accurate or error-free because that would affect the results of the NextGen project," said Thelma Padolina, a NextGen counterpart from the Philippine Rice Research Institute ( PhilRice).  "For example, if the field layout alone was incorrectly set up, that would affect all the sampling data and we want to avoid that.”

“What was good about doing the field layout exercise was that besides being hands-on, it was also collaborative," said Dr. Arthur Dayrit, a supervising science research specialist and the rice development and extension focal person in Region 3 who attended the training activity at PhilRice in Nueva Ecija.  “We were able to discuss our ideas and clarify any differences in doing the actual field layout before going into the field.”

Once farmers have selected 2-3 varieties at the PVS trials managed by the field officers, the registered and certified seeds to be planted by accredited seed growers in specific rice areas  will be certified by the National Seed Quality Control Services of the Bureau of Plant Industry so the seeds  will be commercially available to farmers.

"Our aim in the NextGen  project is not only to breed the next generation of superior rice varieties,” said Dr. Mary Jean Du, a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “But also to provide a mechanism for making seeds more available in the regions, helping them become seed self-sufficient."

The participants were also trained in data analysis and using the Rice Crop Manager.

"As researchers we need that because it's important for us to know how to interpret the data correctly," noted Dr. Jesson del-Amen, the National Cooperative Trial (NCT) cooperator from the Benguet State University in CAR.  "I also found the Rice Crop Manager interesting because that was something new for me.  It is simple to use and, as long as you have Internet connection in the field, you can use it to help farmers directly."

The course, which was held  on  23-26 March, was the last of a series conducted by PhilRice and IRRI. Similar training were conducted in the Visayas and Mindanao earlier this year. The four-day training is part of the Philippine Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap  2011-2016, a product of a series of workshops spearheaded by the DA Rice Program and participated in by various agencies in the Department of Agriculture. Its target is to achieve rice self-sufficiency for the country by 2013 and maintain it through 2016.

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IRRI research hub in Hyderabad benefits South Asia

Arvind Kumar, leader of IRRI's rainfed lowland South Asia Hub plant breeding group, has the rapt attention of some of the Institute's BOT members on Thursday morning as he explains ongoing research in
 IRRI's experimental plots on the ICRISAT campus. 
Hyderabad, India- "In three short years, a systematic breeding program for irrigated direct-seeded rice (DSR) and rainfed conditions is now in place at IRRI’s South Asia rice breeding hub in Hyderabad, India,” says Arvind Kumar, IRRI plant breeder and head of the facility.

IRRI’s Hyderabad team has developed and identified lines that are suitable to drought conditions in South Asia. These lines are being developed in the background of popular mega-varieties in the region. Thus, drought-tolerant versions of Sambha Mashuri, MTU1010, Vandana, Anjali, and Kalinga3 are now ready to be tested and validated in many different locations in South Asian countries.

Kumar and his team have also developed lines that are drought-tolerant versions of Swarna-Sub1, a famous IRRI-bred, flood-tolerant variety that is in great demand by farmers.

“The unpredictable climate with its extreme fluctuations in rainfall and temperature during the wet and dry seasons is giving farmers extreme anxiety,” says Kumar. “Swarna-Sub1 with the drought tolerance trait will surely help those farmers in rainfed areas whose crops often suffer drought during one part of the season and then must endure floods during another part.”

Testing of the Swarna-Sub1 + drought lines began last year in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. “We also have some promising breeding lines for DSR and aerobic rice,” he adds.

Capacity-building programs for researchers in the region have also been conducted recently through the IRRI hub. These include Marker-assisted introgression of different traits to develop new generation climate-smart rice; Rice breeding: recent developments, emerging challenges, and future needs; and statistical analysis training.

New projects with support from the Indian government and international agencies have been initiated in the hub. These include a Harvest Plus-supported project on zinc biofortification; an ADB-supported project on climate-smart rice; and government-supported projects on breeding new rice varieties and improving productivity of different crops in Karnataka state.

 “We are really excited about the work being done in the hub,” says Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general. “The facility is already providing targeted breeding in India with a spillover benefit to its neighbors.”

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Philippines: Rice farmers, extension agents get acquainted with online information tools at PhilRice technology fair

Extension workers farmers and students were introduced to an online source of information for rice farming at Lakbay Palay, a bi-annual field day that features the latest technologies in rice production. Audiences at the event received an overview of the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) and the Rice Doctor.

RKB showcases country-specific rice production techniques, agricultural technologies, and best farming practices based on International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI) research. The Rice Doctor is an online diagnostic tool for crop problems, management tips, and prevention tips. The Rice Doctor is also available as an offline mobile app.

Lakbay Palay is organized by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for rice farmers and other stakeholders. It was held on 14-15 April at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station in Maligaya, Munoz, Nueva Ecija.

The RKB and the Rice Doctor were also presented to extension workers at a provincial training of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in San Pablo City, Laguna on 10 April and at PhilRice’s Mobile Rice Teknoklinik (technology clinic) at IRRI Headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna on April 16.

The RKB and Rice Doctor presentations were conducted by Jerome Cayton Barradas, Maria Teresa Clabita, and Arnold Joseph Reyes in collaboration with the Improving Technology Promotion and Delivery (IPaD) Project. The IPaD project is a joint activity of IRRI, PhilRice, and ATI that aims to prepare rice extension professionals and intermediaries face the challenges of a more complex rice farming environment and develop their role as additional information sources for rice farmers.

You may visit the RKB at and the Rice Doctor at

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50 years of India-IRRI partnership


Hyderabad, India - On its golden jubilee, India’s Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) has been elevated to a national institute in recognition of its expanded role in research, partnerships, and technology delivery. The directorate is now the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) under the umbrella of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

“Representing the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), I’m delighted to be part the golden jubilee celebration—along with ICAR and the DRR, now the Indian Institute of Rice Research or IIRR,” said IRRI chief Robert Zeigler during the inaugural session of the 50th Annual Rice Research Group Meeting held in Hyderabad on 11-15 April 2015.

V. Ravindra Babu, IIRR director said that through continued collaboration between IIRR and IRRI, as equal partners, we will be able to meet India’s future challenges in rice production and productivity.

“It has been IRRI’s privilege to have worked, trained, and learned together with Indian scientists over these 50 years to help improve the lot of rice farmers and to help feed the world's hungry,” said Zeigler.

Hundreds or rice scientists from all over India attended the meeting. The program included sessions on varietal improvement, crop production, and crop protection. On 15 April, a special, full-day session featured the decades-long ICAR-IRRI collaboration during which scientists shared updates on the latest advances in their respective areas, as well as broader ideas on potential next steps in country-level partnership. Special awards were given to some of the country’s best farmers and rice scientists.

In 1965, ICAR established the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) in Hyderabad with a mandate to develop an integrated national network of cooperative experimentation on all aspects of rice production. As one of its key efforts, AICRIP accelerated breeding of the new semidwarf varieties, among other technologies, and helped launch the Green Revolution in India.

The Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and IRRI were soon associated with the project to enhance the pace of the rice research being undertaken by AICRIP.

As AICRIP evolved into a holistic system, it was elevated to directorate level (DRR) in 1975 until it became IIRR after 50 years of service. IIRR is empowered to maintain AICRIP to pursue its vision to look after the welfare of the present and future generations of Indian rice farmers and consumers by working towards food, nutrition, and livelihood security. Within this framework, the India-IRRI partnership has been a fruitful relationship with a record now spanning half a century.

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New Indian agricultural university and IRRI commit to building next generation of rice scientists

Hyderabad, India - Building the next generation of rice scientists is one of the main goals of a memorandum of agreement between the recently established Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Robert Zeigler says that building this next generation of scientists has been a high priority since he started as IRRI’s director general in 2005. “So, I would like to see meaningful postgraduate exchange programs, in which some PhD students conduct part of their research at IRRI headquarters in Los Baños and MSc students can work in our research hub in Hyderabad, where the university and IRRI have overlapping programs.”

Zeigler suggested that PJTSAU scientists in their early and mid-careers spend one or two years at IRRI through a sabbatical-type arrangement.

According to PJTSAU chief officer V. Praveen Rao, his staff expressed enthusiasm regarding the opportunity to collaborate with top international rice scientists. He says that both the student exchange program and capacity building of their staff are some of his university’s own priorities.

Aside from capacity building, PJTSAU and IRRI will collaborate in R&D in rice. The MOU provides for sharing research and knowledge, technology and tools, as well as seed materials.

The MOU reflects objectives shared between PJTSAU and IRRI to promote and accelerate research on rice and rice-based farming systems and strengthen natural resource management research programs.

“After listening to the kind of research that the university does, I am now aware that our interests have a clear interface,” says Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general for research. “This is a great time for biological research as we now have advanced tools in genomics. We now have the ability to do phenotyping work better than before and we have a great flow of information that we can share and communicate from around the world.”

“It is really an extraordinary time to build a career in rice research and bring through another generation of rice scientists who can carry the torch further,” says Dr. Morell.

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South Asian officials and IRRI agree on broader partnership

Los Baños, Philippines - Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has invited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to address the SAARC ministerial assembly on research activities that will benefit rice farmers and consumers in the region. This is one of the concrete steps that senior officials from SAARC and IRRI agreed on at the conclusion of the visit of the SAARC delegation to IRRI on 7-9 April 2015. 

With the secretary general were SAARC directors L. Savithri and MJH Jabed as well as Rosalind McKenzie, regional cooperation specialist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Jesusito Tranquilino, ADB consultant, were also in the delegation.

According to Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships, “the current memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SAARC is project-based, specific to the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project. It will be important to raise the partnership to the level of SAARC and IRRI as institutions.”  Such an institutional partnership already exists, for instance, between IRRI and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Secretary General Thapa said areas of potential collaboration include soil mapping, use of ICT through IRRI’s nutrient manager project, and the development of a genebank for South Asia.

“But even at this early stage, while we don’t have the status of a development partner yet, we can already work on including technical people from SAARC countries in IRRI’s various training programs,” said Tolentino. “It is already an open door for technical exchange.”

Tolentino also suggested that arrangements for germplasm exchange be extended to all SAARC members in addition to Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.”

“I am very happy that SAARC is joining efforts with IRRI,” said Abdelbagi Ismail, leader of the STRASA project. With SAARC’s role especially at the policy level, it will greatly help us move across borders and make climate smart-ready varieties such as drought-, flood-, and salinity-tolerant rice, be available to poor farmers wherever they are in South Asia.”

IRRI representatives in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh will work with the SAARC Secretariat toward raising the partnership to the institutional level.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

India: Swarna-Sub1 hailed as a major innovation with great potential for helping rice farmers in flood-prone areas

Shri Radha Mohan Singh, the Indian Union Agriculture Minister, declared the flood-tolerant rice, Swarna-Sub1, as a major innovation with great potential for helping farmers in the flood-prone lowlands of eastern India. Swarna-Sub1 can survive being under water for two weeks and produce higher yields that the same variety without the flood-tolerant gene. Mr. Singh encouraged farmers to take full advantage of the variety in their flood-prone fields, which often remain submerged during the rainy season because of flash floods.

Addressing farmers from 15 states during the inauguration of the Horticulture Conclave in his native town of Motihari in Bihar on April 10, Singh emphasized the need for bringing the Green Revolution to India’s eastern region.

In response, many farmers at the fair visited the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) booth to know more about the flood-tolerant rice that could change their livelihood. The IRRI team provided farmers with brochures about Swarna-Sub1.

"This is first time I learned about this variety and I cannot believe it can survive under water for more than 10-12 days," says Mr. Kishore Yadav, a farmer from Betiah district. "I got all necessary information from the IRRI booth including literature and source of seed. I am definitely going to give it a try this coming season in my field near river Gandak."

The farmers also showed great interest in Sahbhagi dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety, as droughts often affect rice grown in elevated areas. Mr. Singh appreciated IRRI's efforts to distribute brochures for the management of these varieties in Hindi and other local languages. He also acknowledged IRRI’s efforts to disseminate technology and seed in Bihar through the Improved Rice-Based Rainfed Agricultural Systems and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) projects.

In addition to promoting the use of climate-smart rice, Singh also shared information on the steps the agriculture ministry had taken in the past year to improve the condition of farmers especially in the eastern part of the country where productivity is still very low.

"We would provide a soil health card to every farmer to keep one informed of requirements of their fields." He said there were efforts to remove intermediaries in the transfer of subsidies for the purchase of farm equipment. He emphasized the importance of making high-quality seeds and agriculture plantation materials available to farmers for increasing productivity.  "Increasing productivity is important along with proper marketing facilities for the agricultural crops," he added.

During his address, he urged the Small Farmers' Agriculture-Business Consortium to support farmers and form more “farmer-producer organizations” to help improve the plight of farmers. He mentioned plans to establish two more Indian Agricultural Research Institute offices in Jharkhand and Assam. Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Samastipur, Bihar also received central university status. These institutes are expected to improve education, awareness, and agricultural productivity in India’s eastern region.

"We will not sit and rest till we succeed in ensuring the turnaround of the farm sector and bring smiles to the faces of the farmers," the agriculture minister said.

Horticulturists, agricultural input suppliers, agriculture machinery producers, seed producers, and agriculture institutions from across the country participated in the event organized by the agriculture ministry in association with National Horticulture Board.

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Scientists from Asia and Africa attend rice crop simulation training

Twenty-one scientists from Japan, South Korea, Benin, India, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are attending a training program for ORYZA version 3 at IRRI’s Training Center. ORYZA is an important rice production tool for extrapolating their research results; verifying various hypotheses prior to possible experimentation; evaluating the impacts of climate change, rice variety, and dissemination of rice variety and technology on rice production; and aid in rice breeding.

The training aims to help the participants understand the structure and functions of the software as well as the essentials of the modeling—data preparation, setting of parameters, and cultivar parameterization, including interpretation of simulation outputs and analysis of different crop management scenarios. The 5-day program, which runs from 13 to 17 April, is being conducted by the Training Team comprised of Tao Li, Ando Radanielson, Olivyn Angeles, Man Marcaida, Mahlie Manalo, and Lolit Adriano.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Philippines: CCARA holds workshop on using weather forecasting app to help rice farmers

An international workshop on a seasonal weather forecast–based decision support system was held to help farmers in rainfed rice production in Southeast Asia cope with climate change. Weather-Rice-Nutrient integrated decision support system (WeRise) ) is a promising tool being developed by IRRI-Japan collaborative research project on Climate Change Adaptation in Rainfed Rice Areas (CCARA). It can provide rice farmers with information on the best time for sowing, transplanting, applying fertilizer as well as  suitable varieties for planting based on seasonal weather forecast.

“This is an exciting opportunity that we have during the workshop to talk about something that I would never have imagined was possible during the very beginning of my career,” said Dr. Sarah Beebout, deputy division head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division. “The idea that we can actually know enough about seasonal weather in advance to help farmers understand when it might be best to plant, which varieties to use is pretty amazing.”

WeRise has been evaluated in project sites in Laos and Indonesia to validate the system. The upscaling and upgrading of the developed system need to be designed in order to implement it in more rainfed rice areas of Southeast Asia. The workshop participants discussed how WeRise can be integrated into local systems to improve rice production. They also identified the next steps in the development of WeRise and its use in Laos, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Dr. Satoshi Tobita, division head of the Crop, Livestock and Environment Division of the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) emphasized the need to identify best ways to implement WeRise in the respective partner countries in line with CCARA’s goal of improving current and future situation in rainfed rice farming in Asia.  Dr. Tobita also presented the activities of JIRCAS on the development of  the Decision Support Model for Cropping Systems in the Nacala Corridor, Mozambique.

Dr. Maria Excelsis  Orden, professor and division chief of the Socio-Economic Research and Development Communication Division of Central Luzon State University discussed the importance of impact assessment in the development and dissemination of WeRise.

Dr. Keiichi Hayashi, CCARA project coordinator, discussed the approach used in the development of WeRise and the strategy for upscaling and upgrading the tool during the next phase of the IRRI-Japan collaborative research project

Dr. Tsutomu Ishimaru, a senior scientist who leads the breeding component of CCARA presented the achievements and challenges encountered in the development of improved rice varieties suitable for dry conditions and high temperatures. Improvement of agronomic traits particularly enhanced yield potential and shorter growth duration were implemented by introducing useful genes from donor Japonica-type varieties through DNA marker-assisted selection.

A total of 34 participants from IRRI, JIRCAS, Indonesia (Indonesian Center for Rice Research, Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute, Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development, and Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology Central Java), Laos (National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, PhonNgam Rice Research and Seed Multiplication Center, and Department of Meteorology and Hydrology-Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment), and the Philippines (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, and the Municipal Agriculture Office of Victoria, Tarlac) attended the event.

Participants were grouped by country during the workshop facilitated by Dr. Benjamin Samson, former IRRI Representative to Laos and current consultant to the Charles Sturt University (CSU)/
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Southern Laos Project. Each country group identified opportunities and constraints in integrating WeRise into national rice production programs, specific steps for in-country adoption, and further research areas to improve/increase adoption of the tool.

A hands-on training on WeRise was also held on 19 March. A total of 33 participants were introduced to WeRise, its development, and operations.  The participants said WeRise was easy to use (100%) and its output was easy to understand (90%) and easy to explain (71%).

The event which was organized by CCARA, a project funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan with support from JIRCAS, was held on 18-19 March at Hotel Jen Manila.

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AfricaRice's genetic diversity and improvement expert is guest at Young Researcher's Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch for April hosted Takashi Kumashiro, program leader for Genetic Diversity and Improvement at Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice). During the lunch, Dr. Kumashiro shared the details of his career, which started at the Plant Breeding and Genetics Research Laboratory of Japan Tobacco Inc.  He then became the director of the Biological Resources Division of Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences before joining AfricaRice. Dr. Kumashiro discussed his career transitions from research to management and from private to public sector. He also emphasized the importance of knowing the beneficiaries of any research undertakings.

Participating researchers included Zilhas Ahmed Jewel, Robert Coe, Walter Krystler Israel, Ma. Veronica Sapasap, Geisha Sanchez, and Haley Sater.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stages of their career. The purpose of the activity is to provide an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics including science and career paths.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Burundi: New research laboratories to support rice improvement program in sub-Saharan Africa

New research laboratories constructed at the International Rice Research Institute-East and Southern Africa (IRRI-ESA) regional office complex in Bujumbura will boost the rice improvement program in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The newly-built laboratories resonates IRRI’s commitment to provide farmers with high-yielding rice varieties that are well-adapted to the region and can withstand different stresses that hamper rice production in sub-Saharan Africa,” said IRRI-ESA Regional Coordinator Joseph Bigirimana.

Once fully operational, the facilities for plant pathology, molecular biology, and grain quality will be shared by IRRI-ESA with universities, research institutes, and other national and regional stakeholders. The research hub in Bujumbura was inaugurated in 2013 to provide the region’s rice sector with modern technologies and management and scientific leadership capacity.

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Myanmar: Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun farmers receive training on improving the quality of their rice

The Learning Alliance team conducted training in grain quality assessment for about 30 farmers from different villages in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun Townships on 4 April. The event consisted of lectures and hands-on exercises on using the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) grain quality assessment kit. The IRRI kit can be used to quantify quality traits of paddy and milled rice either by direct measurement or by calculation. Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw, postharvest consultant of the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LiFT) project, taught the farmers to measure moisture content, identify dockage, cracked grains, and assess seed purity and discolored grains.

At the end of the activity, the farmers expressed their appreciation for the first-of-its-kind training. They also identified other topics that they are interested to learn such as cooking quality and better production management practices to enable them to produce better quality rice and obtain higher profit. Rice from Bogale Township command low market price due its poor quality.

The event was funded by the LiFT project through its Improving livelihoods of rice-based rural households in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady delta initiative. Under the initiative IRRI, Welthungerhilfe (WHH),    and other nongoverment partners of Learning Alliance collaborate to help improve food security and livelihood in Myanmar.

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Myanmar: Learning alliance introduces rice farmers to benefits of using flatbed dryer

About 30 farmers from various villages in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun Townships participated in an activity comparing grain drying using the traditional sun-drying method and a flatbed dryer. The event was conducted by the Learning Alliance through the United Nations Office for Project Services-funded Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LiFT) project in Kyee Chaung Village on 3 April.    
The farmers assessed the flatbed dryer installed by the International Rice Research Institute,  Professionals for Development (GRET), and Welthungerhilfe (WHH) in Kyee Chaung. Farmers who had tried the flatbed dryer shared their experiences using the two methods in terms of the quality of paddy they obtained, cost, and how sun drying and flatbed drying performed under different weather conditions.
Participants also discussed possible mechanisms they can organize to encourage more farmers from Kyee Chaung and  other villages to try the flatbed dryer. They also planned to distribute flyers and leaflets, and posters to these villages.   
Flatbed dryer removes water from wet grains by forcing heated air through the grain. This model is easy to operate and gives better quality grain compared with sun drying.  Its simple design allows local production and ensures easy maintenance and repair. More than 300 flatbed dryers have been installed in Myanmar and about 35,000 farmers are already benefiting from them.

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Young aspiring scientists attend symposium on the impact of climate change on rice crop

More than 200 participants, mostly students taking up advanced classes in plant physiology and agronomy from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, attended a mini-symposium on the stresses facing rice production due to climate change. Stress Talks: Rice against the elements featured heat, drought, salinity, and submergence—common abiotic stresses in rice aggravated by climate change.

Dr. Ma. Carmelita Alberto of the Climate Change Unit at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) delivered a speech at the plenary session giving participants an overview of the topics. The Physiology Cluster of the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) at IRRI presented lectures, posters, and actual demonstrations of research outputs and current studies. Dr. Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, Dr. Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research, and Dr. David Johnson, head of CESD, expressed their appreciation for the interest shown by young aspiring rice scientists.

Stress Talks: Rice against the elements, spearheaded by the Division Management Committee of CESD, was held at the DL Umali Rooms A,B&C on 30 March.  The mini-symposium aimed to (1) provide venue for young CESD scientists to feature their research studies; (2) disseminate information and knowledge to other Division clusters in and the IRRI community; and (3) foster partnership between the academe and CESD for future rice research projects.

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Japan: JIRCAS and GRiSP hold the international seminar and workshop on rice research collaboration

Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) conducted an international seminar and  workshop to review and evaluate the achievements of Japanese collaboration on rice research over the past three decades. Rice Research Collaboration: Past and Future, held on 4-5 March in Tsukuba, also focused on the current situation, identified new research areas for future collaboration, and strengthened the partnership between Japan and CGIAR scientists.

“Technology development for rice production, processing, and distribution has always been the primary concern of  JIRCAS,” said Dr. Masa Iwanaga, president of JIRCAS. “This is because rice is life in many Asian countries including Japan. Even now JIRCAS devotes more than 20% of its entire resources to rice science.”

JIRCAS plays an important role in the area of international rice research as a strategic partner of the GRiSP. In 2014, IRRI-Japan collaborative research project, founded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), marked its 30th anniversary. This collaboration is one of the most successful projects in rice research.

“JIRCAS researchers have been involved in the six phases of the project for three decades so it is high time to celebrate and reflect on the role of this long-term collaboration,” Dr. Iwanaga added.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Akira Endo, director of International Research Division of MAFF, noted the importance of enhancing the “general economic level in the community as a whole through high-value added product by utilizing the private sector vitality and fund.”

The seminar and workshop provided timely information for the second round of CGIAR Research Programs, according to Dr. Takuji Sasaki, a member of CGIAR’s Independent Science & Partnership Council. Meanwhile, Dr. Akinori Noguchi, member of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Board of Trustees, hoped for more social science research to cover the possible problems that could result from aging population.

Prof. Keijiro Otsuka, chair of the  Oversight Committee of GRiSP and professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Dr. Gurdev Khush, a former IRRI breeding director and now adjunct professor at the University of California, Davis delivered the keynote addresses.

Dr. Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general for research discussed potential and future areas for collaboration between IRRI and Japan. Dr. Marco Wopereis, deputy director general of Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), and Dr. David Johnson, head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division discussed the Japan-GRiSP collaboration in Africa and Asia, respectively. Prof. Kensuke Okada, professor and director at the University of Tokyo discussed the Japanese collaboration with the  International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Ninety-four participants attended the seminar while 75 people attended sessions on genomics, genetic resources, and breeding; physiology and production environment; and climate change and impact assessment during the workshop on 5 March.

Participants came from various organizations including JIRCAS, IRRI, MAFF, CIAT, AfricaRice, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences,  Japan International Cooperation Agency, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization,  Tokyo University of Agriculture, Nagoya University, Tsukuba University, Kyushu University, NARO Institute of Crop Science, Kyoto University, United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, and Tohoku University.

The events were organized by JIRCAS and GRiSP with support from the Research Council Secretariat of MAFF, NARO, NIAS, NIAES, as well as the CGIAR research centers: IRRI and AfricaRice.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Philippines: Department of Agriculture recognizes 2014 top rice-producing provinces

 The Department of Agriculture (DA) honored the 10 outstanding provinces for their invaluable contribution to the national rice production output at the 2014 Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards (APRAA).

This year’s awardees were Pangasinan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Bulacan, Tarlac, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, and Davao del Sur.  In addition to plaques these provinces received PHP 4 million each.

Aurora, Pampanga, Mindoro Oriental, and Zamboanga del Sur were also cited for their significant contribution to the increased production of the country’s staple food and were awarded PHP 200,000 each.

The winners in other categories are:

Outstanding municipalities and cities (PHP 1 million each in cash prize)

San Marcela, Apayao
Vintar, Ilocos Norte
Cabatuan, Isabela
Bustos, Bulacan
Calamba City, Laguna
Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro
Castilla, Sorsogon
San Enrique, Iloilo
Bayawan City, Negros Occidental
Caibiran, Biliran
Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur
Lala, Lanao del Norte
Banay-banay, Davao Oriental
Koronadal City, South Cotabato
Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur

Outstanding irrigators’ associations (PHP 1 million each)
San Isidro Farmer Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Carmen, Davao del Norte
Bacnor Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Burgos, Isabela
Patag-Corona Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Maramag, Bukidnon
Bulacanon Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Makilala, Cotabato
Albatana Blucon Malabis Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Magsaysay, Davao del Sur

Outstanding small water impounding systems associations (PHP P500,000 each)
Western Alcala Farmer Irrigators’ Cooperative, Alcala, Cagayan
Barangay Sibariwan Small Irrigators’ Association, Inc., Dumarao, Capiz
San Jose Norala Communal Irrigators’ Association from Norala, South Cotabato

APRAA is an annual event organized by the DA-National Rice Program to recognize outstanding provinces, municipalities and cities, irrigators’ associations, small water impounding systems associations, agricultural extension workers, and local farmer technicians for their contributions to the rice industry. The program aims to encourage the full participation of local government units and other stakeholders in rice production, and to sustain their awareness, support, and commitment to attain rice self-sufficiency.

Mr. Julian A. Lapitan, head of the Partnerships Office of the International Rice Research Institute was among the guests at the event. The 2014 Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards ceremony was held on 26 March at Resorts World Manila, Pasay City.

In 2014, the Philippine rice industry performed well, reaching a national production all-time high of 18.97 million metric tons. The 2.87% production growth exceeded the previous year’s record by 528,406 million tons. The boost in production is attributed to the 3% improvement in the average yield per hectare, which increased from 3.89 million tons per hectare in 2013 to 4 million tons per hectare in 2014.

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