Friday, August 28, 2015

IRRI chief at global health forum

IRRI chief Robert Zeigler joined experts to talk about smarter food production to address food insecurity at the COHRED Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015. In photo (from left): Roger Barroga, Philippine Rice Research Institute; William Dar, former director general, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics; Robert Zeigler; Karen Cooper, Nestle; Howarth Bouis, Harvest Plus; and Ellen Villate, IRRI.

"If you want to address poverty and malnutrition, you have to pay attention to rice,"  Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), told delegates of the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015.  

The forum, hosted by the Philippine government, was organized by the Council on Health Research for Development to identify innovative solutions to the world’s unmet health needs through research and innovation.

Malnutrition remains a huge health concern given the challenge of providing a growing global population with a stable supply of safe, affordable, and nutritious food while using less resources. More than half of the world’s population depends on rice as a major source of calories. Enhancing the nutrient content of rice can make a big difference, especially in developing countries that face the double burden of malnutrition in the rural areas and overnutrition in the urban areas. 

To this end, Zeigler explained IRRI’s work on developing healthier rice varieties. Rice biofortification is an innovation in staple crop improvement that has become a complementary strategy to help reach rice-eating communities with limited access to diverse diets.  In these areas, rice is crucially important because alternative foods may not be acceptable, available, or affordable. Nutrient supplementation alone may also be insufficient and unsustainable.

IRRI conducts biofortification to develop healthier rice varieties with enhanced beta carotene (pro-vitamin A), iron, and zinc content.  These nutrient-packed rice varieties can help address micronutrient deficiency that affects at least 2 billion people globally. 

For these healthier rice varieties to be successful, they should be recognized by farmers, consumers, and the rice sector as a potential complementary solution for micronutrient deficiency and for delivering clinically proven health benefits. Looking to the future, we can imagine combining traits for higher zinc, iron, and beta carotene with high yields, adaptability to a changing climate, and other traits that are attractive to farmers. These varieties must also pass regulatory muster in target countries. 

“Food security is not just about improved production, but improved quality of food’ said Zeigler. “Agriculture has a key role to play in improving nutrition, not just as a provider of calories but as a provider of nutritionally-enhanced foods.  Rice has an important role to play given its significance in the diet.” 

Zeigler also inspired researchers, health workers, and innovators wanting to make a significant social difference in a session on “Translating Research into Innovation.” 

Over 4,000 delegates from 72 countries attended the forum held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila on 24-27 August. The event attracted the participation of public, private, and nonprofit health and innovation stakeholders.

COHRED’s partners in the Philippines are the Department of Science and TechnologyDepartment of Health, and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. IRRI is a proud content partner of the Global Forum 2015.

View the Global Forum eBulletin here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indonesia and IRRI to revolutionize rice technology for swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan

The Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) is aiming to modernize the technology for growing rice in the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice producer and also one of the world’s biggest rice consumers. With its increasing domestic production and declining dependence on imports, the government is aiming to attain self-sufficiency in rice within the next 3 years.  Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces could play major roles in helping Indonesia reach this goal.  The government expects South Kalimantan to maintain its projected surplus rice production this year despite the current El Niño that has caused harvest failure in a number of rice-growing areas in Indonesia. The resiliency of the province’s rice production is credited to its swampy areas that provide a stable source of water for irrigation.

The Indonesian Swampland Agriculture Research Institute (ISARI) and the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) conducted a workshop on Developing Best-bet Management Practices (BMP) Specific for Swampy Rice Environment to take full advantage of the potential of the country’s swampy areas.

Indonesia has around 33.4 million hectares of swampy areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua, and the Sulawesi islands, collectively. However, only 1.3 million hectares of these have been reclaimed by the government, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. Swampy areas also have various rice production constraints including flash flooding, stagnant flooding, acid sulfate soils, pest, diseases, and weeds. Droughts also often occur in the upper portion of the swamps.

“These factors hamper the sustainable reclamation and development of Indonesian swampy lands,” said Ms. Rina Dirgahayuningsih, a researcher from the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) of South Kalimantan Province.

“The good news is ICRR recently released several rice varieties suitable for the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan,” said ICRR scientist Dr. Indrastuti Rumanti, “These varieties are tolerant of flooding, salinity, acid sulfate soil, tungro and blast diseases.  Now, we need to integrate all the technology components from land preparation to post harvest as farmer-friendly products, in order for the new technology and rice varieties to be easily adopted by smallholder farmers living in marginal areas.”

At the workshop, a total of 17 scientists and researchers from ISARI, ICRR, AIAT-South Kalimantan, AIAT-South Sumatra, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) discussed the current constraints and opportunities for rice technology innovation. And these experts from diverse fields—soil and water management, landscape management, crop management, rice breeding, and crop protection—jointly prepared the best-bet management options for swampy rice areas.

“The multi-disciplinary work on technology development is always challenging, but we can learn many things from each other,” said Dr. Yoichiro Kato, IRRI’s rainfed lowland agronomist.

The participants also visited the farmers’ fields in South Kalimantan’s swampy and tidal areas, and discussed with farmers their practices and problems. This allowed them to compare their prepared management recommendations with farmers’ practices. These recommendations will be reviewed by scientists and extensionists working in the swampy rice areas at a national workshop at ICRR in September.

“The attempt to develop an integrated approach to managing rice is an important point for helping extensionists transfer the applied technology to farmers, and we hope the partnership between our Indonesian institutes and IRRI will get stronger in the future,” said Dr. Herman Subagio, ISARI director. He was also thankful to the support from the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments, which is funded by the International Funds for Agricultural Development, and Give2Asia project.

The workshop was held in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan Province on August 18-21.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rice research featured in ASEAN ministers meeting

IRRI showcased its rice research during the Special Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the 36th ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) meeting and the 14th AMAF Plus Three meeting in Horizon Lake View Resort, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, on 12–14 August 2015.

In his opening speech, Agriculture and Irrigation Minister U Myint Hlaing thanked IRRI for training future rice scientists.

The exhibit featured the various projects and products of the Institute in the country as well as a live display of IRRI-improved varieties tolerant of flooding, drought, and saltwater intrusion released through a close collaboration with the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI), particularly the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR). This has been the second straight year that IRRI was invited by the government of Myanmar, as host of the SOM- AMAF meetings, to participate in an exhibit featuring agricultural research in the country. 

Several high-profile guests visited the exhibit and found the live plant display very interesting. The booth was organized by Dr. Romeo Labios, IRRI scientist and acting IRRI Representative to Myanmar, and were manned by local project staff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Asian Youth Forum delegates want to improve conditions of young agriculture workers

Dr. Bruce Tolentino talks with participants of the 3rd Asian Youth Forum during their visit to IRRI on 14 August 2015.

Around 120 young people from around the world visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as part of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 3rd Asian Youth Forum (AYF3) to get an overview of agriculture and IRRI’s contribution to the sector. This year’s AYF3 called on stakeholders “to harness the demographic dividend in Asia through youth participation and engagement in generating and up-scaling of solutions for youth employment” through the theme, Investing in Youth: Engagement, Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship.

“Looking at youth employment, most young people working in the agriculture sector earn less than USD 1.25,” said Ponce Samaniego, lead youth coordinator for ADB.  “We wanted to look at that dimension of youth in agriculture and how we can improve their conditions.”

IRRI’s Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, Dr. Bruce Tolentino, welcomed the participants, presented some of IRRI’s work, and led an open discussion. The participants, whose ages ranged between 15 and 30, also toured the Riceworld Museum to learn more about rice, its history, culture, and products.

The AYF3 participants were generally impressed with what IRRI does and now have a better understanding of its efforts for food security.

“I was really impressed by the technology input that IRRI is actually giving farmers,” said 19-year-old Anand from Bangalore, India.

Ms. Ham Sae Rom from South Korea was equally impressed. “I’d like to give my warmest thanks to the scientists at IRRI who participate in creating solutions for food security and the food crisis in the world.”

As for what the youth can contribute to the rice sector strategy, Anand phrased it rather well. “A huge way that we can influence the rice output and food security in our country is by creating awareness that agriculture is a vital field for the survival of our planet,” he said. “Everyone relies on farmers. By raising awareness about the issues that we have with food security, I think we would take the first step toward actually obtaining food security.”

ADB’s 3rd AsianYouth Forum was held on 12-13 August in celebration of the 2015 UN International Youth Day. They visited IRRI on 14 August. ADB is partnering with IRRI to develop and disseminate climate-resilient rice varieties and promote water-saving technologies in rice cultivation for drought-prone areas in Asia.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Next phase of GRiSP is focus of 2015 meeting of Asia rice research body

Dr. Mat Syukur, assistant to the Minister of Agriculture for Innovation and Technology, strikes the gong to ceremonially open the CORRA event as IRRI DDG-R Dr. Matthew Morell and IAARD Executive Secretary Dr. Agung Hendriadi look on. 
Bekasi, Indonesia – Leaders and representatives of national agricultural research institutions from 18 Asian countries gathered for the 19th annual meeting of the Council for Partnerships on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) to discuss the second phase of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). Participants also examined the relevance of GRiSP to the national rice research and development priorities of member countries and the national rice programs of member countries Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The event concluded with a formal declaration of CORRA’s support for GRiSP Phase 2. The declaration also included a pledge to promote the development of the next generation of rice scientists by encouraging national governments through the ministries of agriculture to fund relevant international programs.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. Agung Hendriadi, executive secretary of Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD). IRRI was represented by Dr. Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research, who also co-chaired the meeting.

CORRA is composed of heads of national research institutions from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, plus IRRI. IRRI is also the secretariat of CORRA.

This year’s meeting was held on 3-4 August in Bekasi, Indonesia and hosted by IAARD.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Role of rice research in feeding half the world’s population in global forum on health

How can rice research help feed 7 billion people? What are the promising innovations for sustainable food production?

The answers to these will be discussed by Robert S. Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), when he addresses delegates to the smarter food production session of the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health (Forum 2015) on 26 August at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila.

IRRI aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure the environmental sustainability of rice farming. As such, IRRI’s research programs directly contribute to providing the world’s growing population with sustainable, nutritious, and high-quality rice varieties while using less land and with lower inputs amidst the challenges of changing climate and limited resources. 

Dr. Zeigler will highlight the role of research and innovation, particularly in rice, which is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, in achieving food and nutrition safety and security. In particular, IRRI is developing healthier rice varieties that have enriched nutrient-content to help address malnutrition problems in developing countries.

The forum, which will run from 24-27 August, carries the theme People at the Centre of Research and Innovation for Health. Almost 3,000 delegates from 50 countries are expected to participate in more than 70 conference sessions on increasing effectiveness of health research and innovation through social accountability, increasing investments, and country-driven capacity building, and role of research and innovation in improving food and nutrition safety and security, health in mega-cities, and disaster risk reduction. This event is organized by the Council on Health Research for Development, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Health. It will bring together health professionals, policymakers, researchers, academics, and students.

In advance of the global forum, IRRI senior scientist Inez Slamet-Loedin will join a panel of new leaders for health on 23 August , also at the PICC. Dr. Slamet-Loedin will address an audience of young professionals to inspire them to take on careers in science and health.

Other fun and exciting activities including  IT4Health: innovations for global health; a film festival; global health debates, a photo exhibit; and a networking party are also being organized for the participants.

Registration is still ongoing at

For more information, please contact 
Ms. Ladylove May B. Baurile
Tel: (632) 837-7534 

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Outstanding projects on organic vegetable production awarded at SyenSaya 2015

The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) announced the outstanding agricultural research and development (R&D) projects at SyenSaya 2015.

The winners are projects that focused on improving production of organic vegetables. The University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) project on variety evaluation, on-farm trials and seed production of organic vegetables in Southern Luzon won in the research category,  and the Bureau of Plant Industry- Los Baños National Crop Research, Development and Production Support Center (BPI-LBNCRDPSC) project on the development of organic seed production system of lowland vegetables and legumes, and strengthening partnership in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Bicol Region won in the development category.

Recognition was given to Dr. Rodel G. Maghirang and Dr. Herminigilda A. Gabertan and their respective teams during the awarding and closing ceremony on 14 August at the SEARCA Umali Auditorium in Los Baños.

A highlight of the closing ceremony was the keynote address of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo, 2015 Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology, professor and scientist at the UPLB-Institute of Biological Sciences. Dr. Dupo shared how the Los Baños science community  has served as a nurturing environment in shaping the minds of scientists like her. She emphasized the importance of  the role of the family, school, peers, or a "village" such as the LBSCFI that looks after future thinkers and innovators. "That is what we have done this week in SyenSaya, we sow seeds, and what we reap are our future scientists."

With this year’s theme, Los Baños Science Community: SyenSaya at Kabataan: #WOWTLG! (TLG stands for Technology Leads to Globalization), the 3-day event featured fun programs, a technoforum, and Wonderama exhibit on basic science principles and science appreciation, and application modules on food and agriculture, technology, development, and environment. "One of the major goals of this science community is to inspire the youth to excel in science and technology," said Dr. Casiano S. Abrigo Jr., president of LBSCFI.

LBSCFI celebrates the National Science and Technology week through SyenSaya, the Los Baños Science Festival, which provides a venue for the Los Baños community, especially the youth, to appreciate and understand the role of science in everyday life.

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APEC visit highlights building inclusive global community through rice science

"It takes a global village to do rice science for a better world," said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), to delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) visiting IRRI on 12 August 2015.

The APEC visit was organized as part of the 6th Meeting of the APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology, and Innovation (PPSTI) that was recently held in the Philippines through its Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

"I was fascinated to see that my economy, New Zealand, does have a variety of rice; I didn't know that before I came here. But even coming from an economy  that doesn't consume or produce a lot of rice, the statistics from IRRI make the importance of rice so clear:  rice is providing 50% of the world's staple and 70% of the diet of the world's poor," said Alex Rogers, program director of APEC-PPSTI.

Minister Malakai Tabar of Papua New Guinea gave a good analogy: "Over three billion people around the world pay worship to rice because it's eaten three times a day." Tabar heads PNG’s Ministry for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology. “IRRI is an institute that has made a major contribution in nourishing many families, especially those who live in the rural areas,” he said further. “And the children of many of these families have become successful in their respective professions, thus, contributing to the development of their respective countries.”

“I was overwhelmed by IRRI's research programs and impressed with its genuine efforts to collaborate with other economies and to maintain this strong commitment to improving rice. Just reflecting on these thoughts makes me feel honored to have been able to come to IRRI,” he adds. “Several years back, I had worked in an agricultural college and heard about IRRI, so I had always wanted to visit it.”

"(I think) the steps that IRRI has been taking over the decades it's been in operation are critical, not only to the social and emotional wellbeing of people, but also to economic progress because nutrition sets the platform for economic progress," explained Mr. Rogers.

He also intimated how pleased he was to see how, at times, IRRI was breaking down barriers to get everyone to work together on rice. "This one which you achieved recently between Bangladesh, Nepal, and India to share new rice varieties that they developed amongst themselves—it's great. Cooperation is something we promote in APEC as well. I think today’s visit has been a fantastic opportunity for these officials, from all around the region that are  working on science and technology issues, to really see firsthand the good work you're doing."

Spend more time in the field - IRRI scientist

Scientists should dialogue with farmers and connect with partners to facilitate technology development and adoption.

“How can we work in the diverse rice farming systems of Southeast Asia, especially in unfavorable environments?” asked Yoichi Kato, rainfed lowland agronomist, during his seminar on 14 August at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Dr. Kato explained that drought, flooding, and salinity are some of the climate-related challenges that the rice production systems in the region need to cope with. To address these problems, Dr. Kato’s group has been conducting research on the regulation of plant elongation, nursery management, rice adaptation to soil-water fluctuation, mechanized direct seeding of rice (DSR), and diversified cropping systems.

Some updates and initial results of their research activities include:
  • in collaboration with rice breeders, identified some promising genotypes and/or cultivars with short growth duration to cope with limited irrigation periods in the dry season, and genotypes and/or cultivars for dry-seeded rice culture for labor savings;
  • regulation of plant elongation plays a pivotal role in stagnant-flooding tolerance in the field; 
  • diversified cropping in rice-based systems is the better strategy for flood-prone areas.
But beyond the realm of research, Dr. Kato stressed other important matters he learned from his experience in field-oriented research for development.

Focus on the process rather than the perfect product. Scientists should pay careful attention to the process of introducing a certain idea or technology to farmers rather than focus on developing a perfect product. Farmers are often given straightforward options that they can either accept or reject. Dr. Kato suggested that a product or idea can be “half baked” (60% complete)—not a “complete solution or technology”—when offered to farmers.

“Any product should be reviewed by farmers in the farmers’ fields,” he said. “As experts themselves, farmers have their own idea and opinion on how they could make their crops adapt to stress-prone environments.”

Networks and partnerships are important. In technology development and outscaling, networks of partners and stakeholders play an important function. “IRRI can capitalize and build on its very strong network and links especially with the NARES," Dr. Kato said. “In fact, through this partnership with NARES, IRRI has successfully developed a series of stress-tolerant varieties and have disseminated them to farmers’ field.” Also, through networks and partnerships, the transfer of information and technology can be facilitated. “Here, IRRI can play an important catalytic function,” he added.

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IRRI appoints acting representative for India and Nepal

Dr. Umesh Singh, acting Country Representative for IRRI-India and -Nepal

Umesh Singh, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been named acting representative for India and Nepal. Dr. Singh is replacing  J. K. Ladha who recently completed his term for the said post. Dr. Ladha is returning to IRRI headquarters in the Philippines to continue his research.

Dr. Singh is noted for his outstanding work in rice research and for promoting improved seed systems across South Asia. He is also the South Asia regional coordinator of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA).  As IRRI representative, Dr. Singh will continue to strengthen relationships and oversee IRRI’s current research and development activities with the two countries.

Some of IRRI’s current R&D activities with India include exploring rice genes, breeding improved varieties, improving grain quality, fine-tuning rice farming systems, and coping with climate change.
With Nepal, IRRI is developing a seed business model involving key seed specialists, government officials, private companies, and community groups or cooperatives. IRRI and Nepal are also working on enhancing the rural poor’s access to improved agricultural technologies, especially in stress-prone areas.

IRRI’s collaboration with the two countries has resulted in hundreds of improved rice varieties that are pest and disease resistant. Recently, a number of climate-smart rice varieties, which can withstand drought, flooding, and salinity, have been released in India and Nepal. These varieties have reached millions of farmers in the two countries and are helping increase and stabilize rice productivity despite climate change.

Meanwhile, Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general for research, acknowledged Dr.  Ladha’s role as instrumental in securing closer relationships with key agencies in each country, notably the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, and other institutions. “These relationships position IRRI strongly for the future,” Dr. Morell said. “IRRI greatly appreciates Dr. Ladha's contribution in this role.”

He added that, “JK's contribution to India and Nepal is celebrated beyond IRRI, as exemplified by the recent announcement of his being awarded the prestigious International Service in Crop Science Award for 2015 by the Crop Science Society of America.”

Dr. Morell is hopeful and confident that IRRI partners will extend their support to Dr. Singh as he takes on these responsibilities.

Odisha Government and IRRI to collaborate on making rice farming more profitable for farmers

A delegation of state officials from Odisha, headed by State Chief Secretary Shri Gokul Chandra Pati visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to review and identify areas for collaboration targeting the development of its rice sector. Odisha is seventh biggest producer of rice in India with more than seven million tons output every year.

“There is a need for a criteria that ensures the seeds developed and disseminated by IRRI effectively increase farmers’ income,” said Chief Secretary Pati.

Deputy Director General for Research Matthew Morell assured the officials that IRRI’s research will ensure income profitability for farmers by developing rice varieties that are income-centric.

The Chief Secretary also wanted to learn more about IRRI's  ongoing work on stress-tolerant rice varieties and their dissemination in India, particularly Odisha.   Swarna-Sub1, the flood-tolerant version of the popular mega-variety Swarna (MTU 7029) occupies more than 30% of the total rice area in Odisha. Most of the feedback from farmers on Swarna-Sub1 was quite positive and many farmers who grew Swarna-Sub1 for the first time in 2012 on parts of their land have expanded it to their entire landholding.

He  was also briefed on developing and disseminating good management practices, including crop manager for mobile phones, and possible areas of collaboration on rice value chain and training and extension, especially for women farmers.

The long-standing partnership between India and IRRI was highlighted by IRRI’s Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships Bruce Tolentino and senior scientists Uma Shankar Singh, Samarendu Mohanty, Kshirod Jena, and Jagdish Ladha.

The Chief Secretary and Shri Rajesh Verma, principal state secretary- agriculture, also toured the International Rice Genebank, the Grain Quality and Nutrition Center, the Genetic Transformation laboratory, several IRRI experiment stations, and the Riceworld Museum.

The visit on 10 August 2015 was an initiative of the Stress-tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) Project. The event was facilitated by Uma Shankar Singh , STRASA’s South Asia Regional Coordinator and acting IRRI representative to India and Nepal;  Sudhanshu Singh,  IRRI rainfed lowland agronomist to South Asia;, and Abdelbagi Ismail, overall STRASA project leader and IRRI principal scientist.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Asia Rice Foundation USA announces 2015 Travel and Study Grant winners

During their 16th annual meeting, held on 25 July at U.C. Davis, the trustees of the Asia Rice  Foundation USA (ARFUSA) announced four 2015 winners of the organization’s Travel and Study Award Program. The objective is to help develop the next generation of young rice scientists.

They are Jenna Reeger, pursuing a PhD in plant biology at Penn State University; Anuj Kumar, a Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Research Fellow doing research on rice drought tolerance and water use efficiency at the University of Arkansas; Anne-Marie Mitchell, a Peace Corps Volunteer (2014-16) in Benin under the Master’s International Program with Cornell University; and Hussain Sharifi, a PhD student in the Agro-Ecosystems Laboratory at the University of California at Davis.

Ms. Reeger, a University Graduate Fellow, a Graham Endowed Fellow, and Roche/ARCS Foundation Scholar, is finishing her first year with Kathleen Brown and Jonathan Lynch in the Roots Lab, studying anatomical traits of rice roots and their genetic controls. Jenna is determining the influence of increased percent aerenchyma area and other root anatomical traits on drought tolerance in rice in greenhouse and field trials and comparing anatomical trait development and influence under drought stress between greenhouse-grown and field-grown rice.

She is already attending IRRI’s 2015 Rice: Research to Production Course, 10-28 August, where she is learning the fundamentals of rice production and the key research concepts and methods employed in IRRI’s programs for rice improvement. She will be able to make use of that knowledge in her own research. She plans to return to IRRI to conduct detailed drought trials with Dr. Amelia Henry, IRRI’s drought physiologist.

Mr. Kumar is doing his PhD studies in the department of Crop, Soil, & Environmental Sciences (CSES) at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville with Dr. Andy Pereira as his major advisor. His project, Development and Characterization of Rice Genotypes for Water-Use Efficiency and Drought Resistance, is a collaborative research between University of Arkansas and IRRI. His aim is to screen the USDA rice mini-core collection for water use efficiency and drought resistance related parameters, generate and evaluate the populations (F2, BC1, etc.) from high-yielding, but drought-sensitive and drought-tolerant genotypes, and map QTLs for grain yield and drought-related parameters.

His trip to IRRI will include participation in the international Molecular Breeding Course (28 Sept.-9 Oct.) and a continued stay at the Institute through Dec. 2015 to conduct some research training including work with Dr. Arvind Kumar, leader of IRRI’s rainfed lowland South Asia plant breeding group, for phenotyping of an F2 population (indica x glaberrima) and some other advanced lines. He will also learn other advance technologies to impose drought in the field.

Ms. Mitchell is studying international agriculture and rural development while in the West African nation of Benin. As a volunteer, she is serving as the Rice Programs Manager for the 2015 Food Security Committee where she is developing informational rice manuals and resources and training fellow volunteers on best management practices that can be implemented in their respective communities. The aim of her project is to reinforce best management practices and to advance simple technologies through the discovery of the most effective tools for weeding rice fields.

Through farmer experimentation, she hopes to determine the most suitable weeding instruments for the southeastern region of the country. With the assistance of the Union of Rice Farmers of the Oueme Plateau (URIZOP), the Collaborative Council of Rice Farmers in Benin (CCR-­‐B), and Farm Integrated Agricultural Solidarity (SAIN), 20 rice farmers from around the Oueme Department will be chosen to experiment with three different weeding methods: by hand or with a hand tool, with a cono-­‐weeder, and using a locally—made, ecologically—adapted weeder. This equipment is being financed by the ARFUSA grant.

Before the start of the growing season in October, farmers will be chosen by CCR-­‐B and trained on best management principles and surveyed on their perception of rice practices and the overall experiment. As a part of the experiment, farmers will be asked to use 9-­‐12 rice plots, using 3-­‐4 plots per weeding method. Post-­‐surveys will be conducted at the end of the season (April-May 2016) to evaluate the advantages or disadvantages of each weeding method.

Mr. Sharifi, a native of Afghanistan, is aiming to develop a predictive tool in order to support
improvements in rice breeding, production, quality, and management. To this end, he is evaluating the effects of environmental factors (such as temperature, photoperiod sensitivity, and field management practices, including irrigation practices such as the alternate wetting-drying system) on rice growth and development.

As a prominent part of his research, he has tested the accuracy of Oryza2000 and CERES-Rice, widely used rice crop growth models, under these environmental variables. The accuracy of these models under varying environmental factors is essential to efficient rice crop management—and consequently yield and profitability—in the face of climate change. Not wasting any time, he has already arrived at IRRI to attend the 2015 Rice: Research to Production Course, which ARFUSA is funding for him. Particularly interested in crop modeling, he will also be conferring with Tao Li, IRRI’s crop modeler.

For more information about ARFUSA, go to

PRISM management team holds meeting, visits project partners in Iloilo

The PRISM management team at San Miguel, Iloilo, one of the municipalities that the project monitors.

The management team (MT) of the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) Project conducted its third quarterly meeting in Iloilo City on 5 August 2015. This is the first PRISM MT meeting conducted outside of Luzon. The day before, the team took the opportunity to present the project outputs of the 2015 dry season to partners from the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office VI (DA-RFO-VI, Western Visayas). They also handed over supplies, which included mobile phones, grain moisture meters, portable spring balances, and rubber boots. 

The day after the meeting, the team joined the DA-RFO-VI partners in collecting data from farmers’ fields. They also paid a courtesy call to Mayor Dunstan Claudio Sale of San Miguel, Iloilo, one of the municipalities monitored by PRISM. Mayor Sale and Vice Mayor Bonifacio Salapantan, Jr., joined the team during their monitoring activity—a clear indication of interest in and support for the project by partners in the local government unit. During the visit, IRRI scientist Nancy Castilla explained the causes and management of diseases and insect pest injuries that were observed in the area. Mr. Arnel Rala, another IRRI scientist, explained the use of electronic survey forms installed in smartphones for data collection and submission.

The mayor acknowledged that, by generating timely and accurate information on rice, the project will help improve farmers’ knowledge on rice production.

PRISM, a collaborative project among DA-PhilRice, DA-Bureau of Plant Industry, the DA-RFOs, and IRRI in support of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program, is funded by the National Rice Program through the Bureau of Agricultural Research. PRISM regional partners regularly collect data, which goes simultaneously with satellite image acquisition, from selected rice fields during a cropping season. They also interview farmers to collect information on cropping practices and data on pest injuries in the field at the booting and dough stages of the rice crop. There are 780 rice fields being monitored this wet season throughout the country; 60 of these are in the municipalities of San Miguel, Dingle, and Passi in Region VI.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

IRRI Training Center conducts course on rice research to production

IRRI Training Center, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, Cornell University, and Colorado State University, is currently conducting a three-week course on rice research to production from 10–28 August at IRRI headquarters, Philippines.

The course aims to help the participants understand the basics of rice production through practical activities and field visits. In addition, it also aims to introduce them to rice research through hands-on activities related to breeding, molecular genetics, and genomics. Furthermore, the course aims to gather young rice scientists and to develop international research collaborations in the future.

There are 26 participants from 11 countries, namely Cambodia, Columbia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, and the United States.

The course is coordinated by Noel P. Magor, head of the Training Center, Hei Leung, principal scientist at the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, and Jan Leach, professor at Colorado State University. Jason Beebout and Eugenio Castro, Jr. are course co-coordinators.

Rice: Research to Production is an annual course that has been offered for the past 9 years. For more information about this course and for other training opportunities, please visit

Friday, August 7, 2015

Some key points regarding retraction of Golden Rice study

You may have come across recent reports on a retraction of a journal article on Golden Rice. This is not a new issue. While IRRI was not involved with the study, the Institute is committed to making sure the research continues because of the Golden Rice project’s crucial humanitarian purpose. Bob Zeigler posted a blog on this topic almost two years ago. The points Bob made about the retracted article are just as valid now:
“I cannot speak for what happened with the Golden Rice research in China, as IRRI and our partners working with us on Golden Rice were not involved. But it is important to note that the Tufts study wasn't a safety trial, because existing research was already available that showed that beta-carotene in Golden Rice was as safe as beta-carotene in other foods. As the statement from Tufts notes, their review found no concerns related to the safety of the research subjects. From all reports, it is very clear, perhaps more importantly, that no one was harmed in any way in the China trials. To the contrary, the studies showed unequivocally that Golden Rice is an effective way to improve the Vitamin A status of deficient children. This is great news, indeed!
I was disappointed, of course, to hear from Tufts that the research itself was found not to have been conducted in full compliance with the appropriate board policy or relevant regulations. But I don't think that these lapses should be used as a cynical excuse to stop all Golden Rice research, or indeed to be used as an inflammatory attack point to suggest that everyone involved in Golden Rice research has misguided intentions or that the research should be stopped.
Golden Rice offers a very unique opportunity to improve the nutrition of people—particularly of women and children in Asia—who are not reached by current interventions to reduce Vitamin A deficiency.”
Here’s a statement from a Tufts University spokesperson:

No questions were raised about the integrity of the study data, accuracy of the research results or safety of the research subjects.  The decision to retract a paper is ultimately a matter between the journal and the authors, and we must respect an academic journal’s editorial process and decisions…
There was no evidence found of falsification or fabrication of the data that underlie the study’s primary findings. Those reviews did, however, determine that the research had not been conducted in full compliance with Tufts research policies and federal research regulations.”

For more information, please contact the Healthier Rice communication team through Aileen Garcia (, Senior Communication Specialist, Golden Rice Project. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IRRI welcomes UPLB College of Agriculture freshmen

The University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Agriculture (UPLB-CA) held an orientation for UPLB-CA freshmen and their parents on Sunday, 2 August 2015. This included a guided tour of the IRRI headquarters (HQ) facilities, which was made possible through partnership efforts led by the newly appointed UPLB-CA dean, Dr. Enrico P. Supangco, and IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, Dr. Bruce J. Tolentino.

The orientation was well attended by around 300 BS Agriculture, BS Agricultural Biotechnology, and BS Food Technology freshmen and their parents. The morning program at the UPLB Baker Hall intended to motivate future scientists and agricultural technology enthusiasts through the inspiring messages delivered by the dean and directors of the UPLB-CA clusters, and other academicians and scientists. Guidelines and assistance programs offered by CA and UPLB were also discussed. The UPLB-CA research clusters and academic organizations had their booths set up in Baker Hall, including those of other research institutions around the campus and some from the private sector. The IRRI booth was  set up by staff members of IRRI’s Events and Visitors Office (EVO) and manned by members of the IRRI Filipino Scientists Association (IFSA). These booths served to promote future career opportunities in the field of agriculture.

The guided bleacher tour of the IRRI HQ facilities was done in the afternoon, in which IFSA members served as guides for the students, parents, and some members of the CA faculty. The tour kicked off at the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment plots, followed by IRRI’s research buildings, screenhouses, salinity-submergence plots, pure breed variety plots, and finally, the IRRI Riceworld Museum.

UPLB has always been a strong partner of IRRI in its research mission. It not only hosts IRRI’s headquarters, but also provides a steady and reliable stream of scientists and scientific training since 1960, when the Institute was founded.

To read more about IRRI and UPLB collaborative projects and partnerships, visit