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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