Friday, October 30, 2015

The man they called Tom C (1956-2015)

 Tom Clemeno, fondly called Tom C, has served IRRI for more than 34 years.
Tom Clemeno, agriculturist and former manager (1998-2010) of the Experiment Station (ES) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), passed away at age 59 on 27 October 2015.

Tom served at IRRI for more than 34 years in different capacities starting as a research aide in 1984. He worked his way up to senior manager of ES, where he served for almost twelve years. Finally, he served as senior consultant at the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division in late 2013. 
Known as a man with a big heart, Tom supported various projects and was very active in employees' welfare. He led former IRRI employees’ associations, and groups such as the IRRI Filipino Scientists Association (IFSA) and the Society of IRRI Non-research Professionals (SINOP).

Tom, during the last days of his life, wrote a 14-page memoir The man they call Mr. Tom C, which was shared with family and friends during a funeral service held in his honor on 29 October 2015. He is survived by his wife Jovita, children Joanne Christianne, Timothy John, and Tom Justin, daughter-in-law May Lanuang, and granddaughter Louise Ysabelle. Tom's body was laid to rest on 30 October at Heaven’s Garden, Los Baños, Laguna.

Tom was considered a fine leader and a dear friend to many in the institute, and will be greatly missed. Friends and former colleagues who would like to extend help and contribute financially to Tom’s family may do so through IRRI’s sectoral organizations. 

                              "It's been all rice through my life (until today)." -Tom Clemeno
in a memoir titled The man they call Mr. Tom C.

 Full memoirshared with permission from the Clemeno family.

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Taiwan and IRRI reignite its partnership under new program

Dr. Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, Ms. Corinta Guerta, IRRI director for external relations, and Ms.Rose Dong-Chong Hsiou, deputy director general of the Department of International Affairs, Council of Agriculture, Taiwan discuss joint activities at the review and planning meeting for the new collaborative program on 27-29 October at IRRI Headquarters. 

Taiwan and IRRI have never been short on agricultural innovation and reinvention. The development of Taichung Native 1 (TN1)—a high-yielding semidwarf indica variety—by the Taichung District Agricultural Improvement Station in 1949, is one of the significant events in the history of rice varietal improvement. The dwarfing genes found in Taiwanese semidwarf rice varieties were used by IRRI to develop modern rice varieties.

“When we look back at the history of the Institute, one of the very key parts was the creation of the IR8 rice variety,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of IRRI. “It was made possible with the introduction of material from Taiwan. We’ve had a very close relationship with Taiwan from the beginning.”

Back in IRRI’s formative years, Dr. T.T. Chang became the institute’s first geneticist. From 1962 to 1991, Chang managed the International Rice Germplasm Center. His research on the evolution and variation of rice has led to major advances in plant breeding, productivity, and disease resistance, with a profound impact on agricultural productivity throughout much of Asia, Africa, and South America. The genebank was later named the T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center in his honor. Dr. Paul C. Ma and Dr. Shen Tsung-Han also played instrumental roles in the launch of the institute.

Other past collaborative activities have proven mutually beneficial among IRRI, the National Taiwan University (NTU), and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, Council of Agriculture of the Executive Yuan. These led to the promotion of research, training, integrated pest management, and rice germplasm improvement and conservation, among others. In October 2008, IRRI and NTU signed an agreement establishing a partnership in rice research to boost global rice production.

However, changes in the political landscape limited the once rich collaborative activities between Taiwan and IRRI. According to Zeigler, political sensitivities have probably contributed to the slowing down of the development of IRRI’s relationship with Taiwan. “That’s unfortunate,” he said, “We need to take advantage of the skill set within Taiwan.”

Now, a new chapter in IRRI’s partnership with Taiwan begins. Recently, Taiwan strengthened its commitment to global food security with an annual donation of USD 600,000 to support a collaborative program on rice research with IRRI from 2016 to 2019. This program was the result of a long-term dialogue between Taiwan and IRRI representatives Zeigler, Ms. Corinta Guerta (director for external relations), and Dr. Hei Leung (scientist and country representative to Taiwan).

Leung recounted how the newly energized partnership with Taiwan began. “It started as an initiative in Taiwan to explore ways and means of developing climate-resilient crops 5 or 6 years ago,” said Leung. “As a consequence, we were invited to submit a research proposal.”  The project was called Intensifying rice breeding technology to cope with climate change and increase rice self-sufficiency in Taiwan. It is the second phase of this project that the government of Taiwan, through the National Taiwan University, is currently funding.

“I have always been very impressed with the quality of science and institutional strengths in Taiwan,” Zeigler remarked during the Taiwan-IRRI collaboration review and planning meeting for the new collaborative program held on 27-29 October 2015 at IRRI headquarters. “We are natural partners. We are very pleased to move this relationship to a new level and once again start a formal research partnership with Taiwan.”

The meeting was attended by Ms. Rose Dong-Chong Hsiou, deputy director general of the Department of International Affairs, Council of Agriculture (COA), and Deputy Secretary General Lee Pai-Po of the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF).

Also part of the Taiwan delegation were Deputy Director General Hung-Hsi Lee, Department of Science and Technology; Dr. Chwen-Ming Yang, director of the Crop Science Division, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI); Dr. Ming-Hsin Lai, Crop Science Division, TARI; Dr. Men-Chi Chang, Department of Agronomy, NTU; Ms. Chia-Yu Li, program manager, Technical Cooperation Department, TaiwanICDF; and Ms. Ming-Chuan Chung, specialist, Department of International Affairs, COA.

Hsiou welcomed this development and thanked Zeigler, Leung, and Guerta for paving the way for the reboot of this research partnership. “Because of you, Taiwan and IRRI can reconnect again,” she said. “This is very, very important for us. I heard so much about your very good results and progress. While I am with the COA, I will work for a closer relationship between Taiwan and IRRI and we will work hard to increase our contribution.”

In addition to the COA, TARI, and NTU, the new program also expands IRRI’s partnership to include TaiwanICDF. TaiwanICDF is dedicated to boosting socioeconomic development, enhancing human resources, and promoting economic relations with partner countries. “This is the first time we will be working with TaiwanICDF. The partnership will focus on capacity building and training on postharvest and seed production,” said Guerta.

Zeigler, who is retiring from IRRI at the end of the year, is very optimistic about the reinvigorated relationship with Taiwan.  “I see this as a strategic partnership. It is something that we hope will endure over many, many years and encompass a wide range of areas that are mutually important for both Taiwan and IRRI. This is a partnership of cooperation and collaboration that should grow in the future.”

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Local farmer technicians oriented with different ICT tools for rice

Farmer technicians, who play a big role as extension intermediaries, were introduced to different resources and tools in a recently concluded national convention for local farmer technicians (LFTs) at the Crown Regency Hotel, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, on 27-28 October 2015.

One of the tools presented to more than 1,300 LFTs was the Rice Doctor, a diagnostic tool on crop problems, pests, and diseases. Jerome Barradas and Majilene Marikit of IRRI’s Training Center introduced the Rice Doctor and led a step-by-step discussion on how it is used, including its features. One of those presented was the “reporting feature”, which was part of the tool’s latest software update.

The IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank, PhilRice’s Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank, MOET App, Text Center, and the Rice Crop Manager were also presented during the two-day conference.

For more information on the Rice Doctor and other ICT materials, please send an e-mail to

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IRRI rice breeder gives seminar on fighting hidden hunger with biofortified rice at University of Illinois

Rice is the major staple food crop for Asians and supplies 50 to 80% of their daily caloric intake. However, rice is low in essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc or vitamin A in its polished form. IRRI has been developing healthier rice varieties that contain more iron, zinc, and beta carotene (a source of vitamin A) to help reduce hidden hunger.

Russel Reinke, a rice breeder who focuses on developing rice varieties with high zinc and beta carotene, delivered a seminar Development of micronutrient-enriched rice for Asia at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He discussed a potential solution to fighting hidden hunger with the introduction of Golden Rice and high-zinc rice.

“Micronutrient deficiencies affect more than 3 billion people globally, causing nutritional health problems such as severe stunting, growth retardation, diarrhea, and impaired immune systems,” said Dr. Reinke. “Breeding rice varieties with high grain micronutrients is one of the sustainable, targeted, food-based and cost-effective approaches in ameliorating these micronutrient deficiencies.”

“Biofortification of rice using conventional breeding methods is being under taken at IRR with the objective of supplying increased zinc to the poor and malnourished people in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” he explained. “The development of Golden Rice requires a transgenic approach as there is no variation for beta-carotene in rice grains.”

Graduate fellows under the Lee Foundation Rice Scholarships had the privilege to attend Dr. Reinke’s seminar. In his visit, Dr, Reinke met with his supervisee Nirmal Sharma (Bangladesh) and his colleagues Pradeepa Hirannaiah (India), Lenie Quiatchon-Baeza (Philippines), Hung Bui (Vietnam), Parthiban Thathapalli Prakash (India) and Sampurna Saikia (India). He also had a meeting with UIUC’s Assistant Professor Erik Sacks who co-supervises Mr. Sharma’s PhD research project in Crop Science.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Rice Production Manual released by IRRI

IRRI has always been committed to nurturing the environment for a new generation of rice extension professionals through technical knowledge coupled with practical competency. With this in mind, IRRI has developed the Rice Production Manual. This first edition has seven modules that contain a total of 25 lessons, which provides a framework and a guide for upgrading the knowledge and skills of field extension agents from national systems, the private sector, and civil society organizations. This publication is also intended to be a practical guide for daily use in field work and training not only of extension professionals, but also of young men and women farmers, young researchers, research technicians, rice practitioners, and students.

Joe Rickman, senior engineer and agronomist, led the development of this manual, drawing from his extensive experience in Africa, Asia, and Australia. Wherever Joe has worked, he has given a high priority to practical training with sound technical and market understanding. Joe’s contributions have formed the bulk of the publication, whereas numerous others have added to sections or contributed to its editing and print design.

More training manuals for field-oriented professionals are expected in the future, such as in-depth or advanced modules on postharvest, seed production and management, and so on. IRRI is already working on these practical guides to support competency for safe and skilled use of farm machinery. This is a practical series and is anticipated to be available for e-learning in the future.

For more information, contact Jason Beebout through

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Ben Vergara (1934-2015): A life of promoting science in the Philippines

By Gene Hettel

It is with deep sadness that the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) announces the passing of Dr. Benito S. Vergara, 81, on Saturday afternoon (24 October). Ben had been ill for some time.

Born on 23 June 1934, Ben had a fruitful 38-year career at IRRI as associate plant physiologist (1 July 1961–31 December 1969); plant physiologist (1 January 1970–31 December 1983); head of the Agronomy, Physiology, and Agroecology Division (1 January 1984–30 November 1991); Director of Administration (1 December 1991–31 January 1996); and Consultant (1 February 1996–30 April 1998 and 1 September 1998–30 August 1999).

Ben received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees, respectively, at the University of the Philippines (1955), University of Hawaii (1959), and University of Chicago (1960). Prior to joining IRRI in 1961, he was a physiologist at the University of the Philippines at Diliman.

He is survived by his wife Lina, two sons, Sunny and Happy, a daughter, Joy, and four grandchildren. He married Lina Manalo at the guest house in IRRI staff housing on 22 September 1968. Lina was IRRI’s first head librarian and served in that post for 33 years (1961-92).

During his long career at IRRI, Ben was a great colleague and friend to many. He was named a Philippine National Scientist by the Agriculture Division of the National Academy of Science and Technology on 4 September 2001. At that time, Ben said, “The first time I really felt that I was on Cloud 9 was when I was nominated as a National Scientist. I blushed. I was not aware. Parang yung aking idea to devote my lucid years to the promotion of Philippine science was reinforced. Maybe it’s God’s will.”

Ben's IRRI publication A Farmer’s Primer on Growing Rice is a classic piece of agricultural literature (photo at left shows Ben going through the publication with a local farmer). Since IRRI first distributed the unique guide in 1982, it has been published in over 50 languages and, to this day, is in use around the world among agriculturists, extension workers, and farmers.

He published his last book in 2014. Church Among the Palms: Serving the Community, the Nation, and the World takes its readers on a journey spanning the church’s rich 100-year history.

Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, says of Ben, “I had the great pleasure and honor of working with Ben in the 1990s. In so many ways, he lived the life of a humanitarian scientist. His love of science was embodied in the demonstrable excellence of his work. His dedication to having excellent science make a difference in the lives of rice farmers is embodied in the creation of his Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice. His overall love of nature shown through in his love of plants, gardens, and the beauty they bring our lives. And his love for mankind was seen in his everyday dealings that were characterized by warmth, understanding, and humility. While we will miss Ben, his very life enriched all of us and made the lives of all he touched just a little bit better. In that sense, he does live on in us all.”

Ben received many awards over the years, including the Biology Teachers Association (BIOTA) Achievement Award (1980), Rizal Pro Patria Award (1980), Crop Science Society of the Philippines Award (1981), American Society of Agronomy Fellow (1986), Academician, National Academy of Science and Technology (1987), Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture—Honorary Fellow (1993), and Outstanding Citizen of Los Baños (2004).

Recently, Ben had embarked on selecting and breeding fruit trees of economic value. In collaboration with the Mama Sita Foundation, he had identified, bred, propagated, and promoted the Mama Sita Banana, the Luz calamansi, and the Mama Sita Macopa—all at his Los Baños farm.

The wake was held at Arlington Sta. Mesa through 26 October 2015, and then later at Church Among the Palms, Los Baños, 27-28 October. IRRI had a memorial service at the Church Among the Palms on 27 October. A state funeral for Dr. Vergara, organized by the Department of Science and Technology/National Academy of Science and Technology, was held on Thursday, 29 October, followed by burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery (Libingan ng mga Bayani).

Clarissa David, professor in the College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines at Diliman, recently wrote an in-depth feature about Ben and his achievements that appeared in the International Journal of Philippine Science and Technology.

Ben was treasurer of the Asia Rice Foundation. Donations may be made in his memory through the Asia Rice Foundation USA (ARFUSA).

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Friday, October 23, 2015

IRRI trustees seek solutions; meeting concludes with a Blessing

Los Baños, Philippines - The Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) this afternoon concluded a packed three-day agenda, again fulfilling its mandate of setting the strategic direction of the institute and securing the future of its mission.

IRRI chief Robert Zeigler said during the closing session that it was "an unbelievable honor to have known and worked with the board members through the years." This was Zeigler's 22nd, and last, board meeting after serving as director general and trustee for a full decade.

Zeigler shared that the "invaluable guidance IRRI senior management receives from the board is something most people don't see. Proposals are very thoughtfully vetted... and without exception, the product is better for it."

Board chair Emerlinda Roman reported to staff that IRRI's resource mobilization efforts will be brought into high gear to make up for significant reductions in funding to the CGIAR. 
She mentioned that, at the consortium level, changes in the governance structure will be implemented in 2016 and that a financing plan will seek to address funding shortfalls.

Roman announced that the board's priorities in this challenging environment are to protect IRRI's core activities and science quality, and that adequate reserves are maintained. She also said that the trustees "were very pleased with the presentations during the program committee sessions and noted the excellence, dedication, and enthusiasm of the IRRI staff and the impact of the research they are doing."

Roman officially announced the transition from Zeigler to incoming director general and current deputy director general for research Matthew Morell in December. The board also approved the development of a new ten-year strategic plan (2016-2025), which Morell will lead.

Outgoing board members Robert Zeigler, P. Stephen Baenziger, Huqu Zhai, and Joyce Kikafunda were each acknowledged for their service and contribution to IRRI. Incoming trusteesKaren Moldenhauer, Bernadette Ndabinkunze, and Jiayang Liwere also announced. Akinori Noguchi, Tahlim Sudaryanto, and Suthad Setboonsarn have been reappointed to serve another six years on the board.

In her farewell message, Kikafunda said that she had learned much during her six-year "tour of duty" and urged IRRI staff to continue doing great science. She then asked her youngest daughter to join her up on stage and announced that Blessing, now three-and-a-half years old, "is an IRRI baby." 


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PhilRice holds second Lakbay Palay 2015 together with AgRiDOC training of trainers

For the second time this year, the bi-annual Lakbay Palay, a field day featuring the latest technologies in rice production, was organized by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) at their Central Experiment Station in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija on 13-16 October 2015. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) took part, along with the DA-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) and various other agricultural seed companies.  Booths were set up in which different ICT tools in rice farming were showcased for hundreds of farmers, agricultural technicians, and extension workers, who came mostly from municipalities of northern and central Luzon.

Jerome Barradas and Lauro Atienza of IRRI’s Training Center served as resource persons for the IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) and the Rice Doctor. An audiovisual presentation on the RKB was shown, which featured clips of farmers demonstrating how the RKB and other tools developed by IRRI helped them in their work. Demonstrations on the Rice Doctor were also conducted for farmers and extension workers.

In conjunction with the Lakbay Palay, the AgRiDOC (agricultural development officers of the community) National Training of Trainers (NToT) was also held on the first of the four-day event. Twenty-five participants were trained on using different ICT-based tools used in rice farming, such as the IRRI RKB, the Pinoy RKB, the Rice Doctor, ATI’s e-extension services, PhilRice’s MOET app, IRRI’s Rice Crop Manager, and the farmers’ text centers. At the end of the training session, the participants were given computer tablets to use for agricultural training in the community, courtesy of the Improving Technology Promotion and Delivery (IPaD) project. The IPaD project, jointly led by PhilRice, ATI, and IRRI, aims to improve rice technology promotion and delivery by enhancing the capability of the next generation of extension professionals and other knowledge intermediaries.

The first Lakbay Palay for 2015 was previously held on 14-15 April also at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station.

IRRI Training Center's Lauro Atienza shows Lakbay Palay attendees how the Rice Doctor is used.

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Taiwan funds collaborative multi-year research partnership on rice science

The Taiwan government has strengthened its commitment to global food security with its recent annual donation of USD 600,000 to support a collaborative program on rice research with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 2016 to 2019.

In an official letter addressed to IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, Minister Bao-ji Chen informed IRRI that the Council of Agriculture (COA) will provide a budget of around USD 500,000 per year until 2019 to fund the rice varietal development program, and the International Cooperation Development Fund (ICDF) will support a customized capacity building program for enhanced extension services and global collaboration with a budget of USD 100,000 a year.

Collaborative activities between Taiwan and IRRI are recent, but the country’s key contribution dates back to the development of IR8, also known as “miracle rice”. Through the agreement signed on 26 January 2015, IRRI formalized the strategic partnership with Taiwan in developing, evaluating, and disseminating new rice varieties.

IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, Bruce Tolentino, shares the significance of this collaboration. “Taiwan provided one of two parental lines of rice—Dee-geo-woo-gen—that was bred at IRRI to develop the first generation of high-yielding rice varieties, which sparked the first Green Revolution of the 1970s to 1980s,” he said. “Today, again in partnership with IRRI, Taiwan continues to help push the boundaries of science to ensure not only abundant, but also high-quality rice to ensure global food security and human health,” Dr. Tolentino added.

Other past collaborative activities have proven mutually beneficial among IRRI, the National Taiwan University (NTU), and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, Council of Agriculture of the Executive Yuan. These led to the promotion of research, training, integrated pest management, and rice germplasm improvement and conservation, among others. In October 2008, IRRI and NTU signed an agreement that established a partnership in rice research to boost global rice production.

A recent research collaboration between Taiwan and IRRI centers on the need to jointly tackle the problems brought about by extreme climates. Plant pathologist and project coordinator Hei Leung expressed thanks for the financial support for this research endeavor. “IRRI is most grateful to the Taiwanese government for providing a new grant to support the discovery of new rice genes and traits that can tolerate the negative effects of climate change and to strengthen the collaboration between Taiwan institutions and IRRI. This will allow IRRI to fully explore the genetic treasures hidden in the International Rice Genebank, a legacy of world-renowned Taiwanese scientist, T.T. Chang, who pioneered its establishment in the 1960s,” he stated.

COA is the authority on agriculture, forestry, fishery, animal husbandry, and food affairs in Taiwan. Representatives from the Council will be coming to IRRI to finalize the project workplan on 27-29 October 2015.

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GRiSP2 proposal favorably reviewed

The recently proposed Rice Agri-Food Systems (RAFS) or GRiSP2 proposal has been favorably reviewed by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) of the CGIAR, said Bas Bouman, Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) leader, during his report to the IRRI Board of Trustees on 21 October.

“No CRP ranked higher than GRiSP; and compared with nearly all other proposals, the RAFS CRP had significantly fewer weaknesses pointed out by the reviewers,” added Bouman. Although the proposal needs to address some areas in future steps in the application process, the new CRP proposal has cleared a significant hurdle.”

Generally, the RAFS CRP moves its focus from commodity-based CRP to the value chain directions; it also underscores the development of more “co-farmer solutions.” Kay Basford, a member of the IRRI Board of Trustees, was glad to know that the proposal captures seven out of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. “If we can achieve a good part of these goals the global level, the better,” she added.

According to Bouman, most of the recommendations of the ISPC for the RAFS proposal are already in the document. What the proponents need to do now is to include more details in the proposal. The two main recommendations are: 1) while the preproposal establishes the global importance of rice, it should include more scenario analyses regarding projected changes in future rice consumption; and 2, internal synergies and corresponding management options need to be optimized for Eastern Africa to maximize opportunities for impact at scale. 

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New threshers available at the IRRI Experiment Station

Five brand new threshers are available at the IRRI Experiment Station. Check out the following types for your threshing needs! Thresh, de-awn, and clean without breakage, loss of seed, or mixing!

1. The Hege 16 panicle thresher
  • For threshing and cleaning panicles of single plants
  • Guarantees protection of grain quality
  • Optimum grain cleaning
  • 10-second cycle time per handful feeding
  • Easy-to-use, easy-to-open, easy-to-clean
  • Easy retrieval of chaff and unfilled grains
The Hege 16 panicle thresher at the IRRI Experiment Station.

2. The LD 350 panicle thresher
  • For threshing and cleaning single plants and small plots
  • Guarantees protection of grain quality
  • Optimum grain cleaning
  • 20-second cycle time per handful feeding
  • Easy-to-use, easy-to-open, easy-to-clean
  • Easy retrieval of chaff and unfilled grains
The LD 350 panicle thresher.

3. The Classic ST computerized thresher
        Do it all in 2 minutes for up to 240 samples per day!
  • Threshing
  • Cleaning 
  • Weighing
  • Moisture reading
  • Sticker labeling
  • Bagging
  • Automated data collection
The computerized stationary thresher.

Contact Princess Dela Cruz ( or James Quilty ( for more information.

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IRRI employees' cooperative sponsors livelihood training for women in host communities

Ganda Mo, Hanapbuhay Ko (GMHK) 2014
The Institute strives to develop positive, productive and collaborative projects on education, livelihood and health and nutrition to serve our host communities beyond our rice research.

Since 2005, IRRI provides livelihood training programs for women residing in Los Baños and Bay, the two host towns of the Institute.  On its 10th year, IRRI Partnerships Office continuous its strong partnership with Ang-Hortaleza Foundation, Inc. (AHFI) in conducting Ganda Mo, Hanapbuhay Ko (GMHK), an annual 5-day livelihood training course.  The project has since graduated 232 women on basic cosmetology course on hair styling and nail care.

The IRRI Employees Credit and Development Cooperative (ECDC) donated six thousand pesos (Php 6,000.00) for the GMHK training. "The ECDC is more than happy to support IRRI's programs that aim to help the local community,” said  Patria Gonzales, member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Social Advocacy Committee of the ECDC. “The cooperative is happy to sponsor IRRI's initiative to help women generate income and contribute to their communities. It is a privilege and joy for the cooperative to be a part of programs that empower women.”

The PO partners with AHFI, which will provide beauty care training consultants and materials for the course. More than sixty  women have registered for the livelihood program that will be held on 26-30 October.  All participants will receive beauty starter kit from the AHFI to help get them started.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Myanmar recognizes IRRI’s contribution to the country’s rice sector development

The Republic of Union of Myanmar cited IRRI for its significant contribution and continuous support to sustainable food security and nutrition through Rice Sector Development in Myanmar.

The award was conferred by the Honorable President of the Republic of Union of Myanmar, H.E. U Thein Sein at the Convocation Hall, Yezin Agricultural University (YAU), Nay Pyi Taw on 16 October.

IRRI representative in Myanmar To Phuc Tuong received the award on behalf of IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler. In his message, Dr. Zeigler expressed his thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation for recognizing IRRI's contributions.

The ceremony was held on World Food Day, a global movement committed o eradicating hunger in our lifetime. The World Food day event also showcased IRRI activities in Myanmar and Asia, including IRRI rice lines and newly released varieties in Myanmar.

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PRISM conducts training on assessing impact of pest and disease damage on rice production

A study conducted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)  found that, on average, farmers lose 37% of their rice yield to pests and diseases, and that these losses can range between 24% and 41% depending on the production situation. Although researchers have a good idea of what pests and diseases affect rice, they do not always have a clear picture of where individual or groups of pests and diseases occur and how much effect they have on rice yield.

The Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) is a rice monitoring system to enhance rice production in the Philippines under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Food Staples Sufficiency Program. The 4-year project provides accurate and timely information on Philippine rice production. This information comes in the form of maps, statistics, and reports, and covers rice production area, crop health, crop losses due to natural calamities, and assessment of and extent of pest damage. These are derived from data collected through remote-sensing technology, crop modeling, and field and farmer surveys and are available through a web-based interface.

The Crop Health Component of PRISM conducts activities to provide information on pest risks and pest management strategies. Under this component, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and IRRI have been organizing national and regional training workshops to build the capacity of partners in the identification of pest injuries and use of the survey procedure.

Recently, PRISM held the National Training and Assessment on Crop Health for its regional partners from the DA and local government units. Approximately 100 participants from 16 regions in the Philippines attended the workshop. They were trained in conducting surveys to assess injuries caused by pests and diseases, characterize production situation, and quantify yield in representative farmers’ fields using a standardized procedure developed by IRRI. In addition, the training activity covered conducting effective training programs on crop health, management of the most common pests and diseases in the Philippines, basic principles in data presentation, and identification of pest injuries.  The training workshop also assessed the progress of activities in the regions and discussed plans for 2016.

The workshop was jointly organized by the Philippine Rice Research Institute, IRRI, and the DA Regional Field Office in Region VI.  It was held at Diversion 21 Hotel in Iloilo City on 19-22 October.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Training course conducted for IRRI Experiment Station staff

Doing WOGAM (water, oil, grease, air, and miscellaneous)  check on the CLAAS Crop Tiger combine.

The IRRI Training Center and Postharvest Unit conducted a three-day training course on Farm Machinery Safety and Operation for the mechanics, operators, and field supervisors of IRRI’s Experiment Station (ES) on 14-16 October 2015. The training served to update the skills and knowledge of ES staff in the safe operation and maintenance of the machines being used in IRRI’s experimental fields and facilities.  Joseph Rickman, mechanization and production systems specialist; Martin Gummert, head of the Postharvest Unit; and Carlito Balingbing, senior associate scientist, facilitated the training.

“This program will instill good practice in maintenance and confidence in the operation of farm machinery at ES,” Rickman said.

Front Row (sitting, L-R): Ric Hernandez, Mark Lester Alajar, and Caling Balingbing; Second Row (standing, L-R): Bruce Liwanagan, John Mark Mamiit, Joe Rickman, Martin Gummert, Jun Correa, and Sherwin Malabrigo Back row: James Quilty On-board the Crop Tiger (L-R): John Henry Ibarde, John Carlo Rivera, and John Patrick Magsino

Nine ES staff, including the farm manager, field operations manager, supervisors, and technicians (operators and mechanics), attended the training course. On the first day, the trainees were asked to survey the different hazards and dangers across the ES that might impede safe and smooth machinery operations. Rickman emphasized the importance of having a safe environment and properly maintained equipment to reduce risk and improve efficiency. He also highlighted the importance of maintaining an accurate and comprehensive inventory of the status of all the equipment and machines, and keeping record of hazards, accidents, near misses, and machinery defects. Having regularly maintained equipment and well-oriented operators helps ensure that the mechanized field activities of the ES are efficient, effective, and safe.

James Quilty, head of ES, is very supportive of this initiative and intends to include this training and certification program as an annual activity, with the aim of continuing to improve safety and efficiency standards. To successfully run this program, agricultural engineers from the Postharvest Unit will serve as evaluators in the accreditation of the technical and operation skills of ES equipment operators and mechanics. Martin Gummert also expressed his interest in this type of arrangement with the ES in order to keep staff members updated and well-versed on the mechanization program of IRRI.

“This is the first step in developing training courses and in-house certification for operators of agricultural machinery at IRRI. We are planning to expand this basic course on safety, operation, and maintenance of tractors and combine harvesters, and develop additional training modules on tractor implements and field operation. These courses can then also be adapted for our country programs to supplement training already provided by our NARES partners,” Gummert concluded.

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Another World Food Prize winner has an IRRI connection

World Food Day is a day of action against hunger. Every year, on October 16, people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime. In the lead-up to this international event, the annual winner of the World Food Prize is feted in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of Brac, the largest non-governmental organisation on the planet, has been awarded the 2015 World Food prize for his “unparalleled work on reducing poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries.

Sir Fazle served on the IRRI Board of Trustees from 2001 through 2006.  “I think IRRI has a lot to do in the future," he said in his Pioneer interview in 2006 during the 2nd International Rice Congress in New Delhi. "It met challenges in the first 50 years, but it will have even greater challenges in the next 50, including climate change and water shortages, which are going to affect agriculture, rice cultivation, and food production in our society.”

Sir Fazle received the Prize at a ceremony held earlier this week at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. The event was the centerpiece of a three-day international symposium entitled the Borlaug Dialogue, which drew more than 1,200 people from 65 countries to discuss cutting-edge issues in global food security.

IRRI and the World Food Prize have a historic bond. Read about nine other WFP laureates with IRRI connections in Gene Hettel's October IRRI History blog.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Partnerships, key to farmer technology adoption and improved productivity

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The rising demand for rice in the Southeast Asian region puts mounting pressure on the rice value chain stakeholders, especially on smallholder farmers, to increase yield and improve farm productivity.

With this in mind, the ASEAN Rice Future Forum, organized by Bayer CropScience, in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Vietnam Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD), brought together more than 100 policymakers and rice experts from across the ASEAN countries to discuss how public-private and value chain partnerships are essential in encouraging the adoption of farming technologies, and thus, improving food security.

IRRI projects that the current rice production, which is more than 700 million tons annually, will not be sufficient to meet future demands. Over the next 10 years, rice production will need to increase by 80 million tons.

At the forum, Bas Bouman, director of the IRRI-led Global Rice Science Partnership, said that the challenges experienced by the rice-farming sector should be viewed as opportunities to channel impact in the right direction. “If we do it right, it will lead toward land consolidation, mechanization, and labor productivity increase. Farmers can have a decent income from farming while, at the same time, we can keep the price of rice affordable for the poorest consumers,” he explained.

The forum, held on 14-16 October 2015, aims to continue the constructive dialogue that stemmed from the 2013 Rice Future Forum in India and the 2014 International Rice Congress in Thailand.

MARD Deputy Minister Le Quoc Doanh said that collaborative efforts and partnerships formed by the Vietnamese government have helped advance the rice sector in the country. Sascha Israel, Head of Bayer CropScience in the Asia Pacific Region, emphasized the importance of collaboration between public and private sectors across the value chain to enhance rice technology adoption.

Speaking on the economic transition and demographic changes in the ASEAN region, Sam Mohanty, IRRI Social Sciences Division head, said that IRRI has a significant role to play in shaping the future of the rice value chain. “IRRI’s breeding program will be more demand-driven; we understand what is needed in the value chain, so we can produce the variety or management practice that suits the market,” he added.

“Engaging with the public and private sectors can bring energy, know-how, and financing. It could help us better leverage the technologies that IRRI has in the marketplace for the benefit of smallholder farmers and the entire rice ecosystem,” said Remy Bitoun, IRRI's head of Public-Private Engagement.

The institute featured its work on rice innovations during the marketplace session while engaging with various government officials, media, and private companies from across the Southeast Asian region. Aside from the forum, Bayer CropScience also organized a trip to its various field demonstration sites outside Ho Chi Minh City.

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IRRI Trustees to discuss key challenges

The members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will gather at IRRI headquarters on 21-23 October for their regular meeting. On their agenda are several major topics, including the transition in directors-general. Robert Zeigler will complete his second and final term as DG in mid-December 2015. Matthew Morell, currently IRRI’s deputy director general for research, has been selected by the Board as the incoming DG, effective mid-December 2015. 

“The BOT will also discuss the challenge posed by the current flux in the CGIAR Consortium,” said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships. “A result of the uncertainty in the CGIAR is the significant drop in donor contributions channeled through the CG system. Thus IRRI has to revitalize its linkages with the supporters of international agricultural research. The Trustees will assess and consider some options, taking care to ensure minimal negative impacts on personnel and ongoing scientific research,” Tolentino added. The board is composed of 15 members who are world leaders in their respective scientific disciplines. The current Chair is

Emerlinda R. Roman, former President of the University of the Philippines. The board meets twice a year to review IRRI's research priorities, its allocation of resources, and to set the institute's scientific direction and decide on supporting policies and strategies.

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IRRI to reduce risks and increase safety in its farm operations

The Experiment Station (ES) at the IRRI Headquarters is undertaking stricter measures for safer farm and machinery operations after completing its risk analysis with the Risk Management Quality Assurance (RMQA) unit.  The five teams under ES--BioEnvironment, field operations, mechshop and warehouse, crop pesticides applicators, and rice mill and crop production--participated in identifying occupational risks, the severity of each, and corresponding steps for mitigation.

Risk awareness and capacity building
Four machinery operators and two members of the ES management team are now certified through a Philippine Department of Agriculture and TESDA program. In addition, all ES staff have completed first aid training with IRRI’s Safety and Security Services.

New safety equipment
ES has acquired new safety equipment, including a radio transmitter, which provides coverage across the farm, and a protective safety barrier for the combine harvester.

In-house training
The machinery operation certification program, developed collaboratively between the Training Center (TC), ES, and Postharvest started on 14 October. All equipment operators and mechanics are expected to complete this ongoing program before the end of the year. This certification program will be held annually and evaluated and updated on a regular basis.

The integrated pest management and agro-chemical safety training and certification program is designed for the crop production team responsible for pest and disease management. The program was developed in collaboration with TC and will start in November. The team is also undergoing training on pest and disease identification and management with the CESD entomology and plant pathology groups.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

UPLB celebrates its 97th Loyalty Day

IRRI joins the celebration 

“IRRI is part of UPLB, UPLB is part of IRRI” said UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez during the groundbreaking of IRRI's new plant growth facility a few months ago.  His words have captured the essence of the long-standing collaboration between the two institutions. For more than five decades, the UPLB and IRRI partnership has contributed significantly to Philippine development, and beyond, through advances in agricultural science.

Last October 10, IRRI participated in the annual celebration of UPLB’s 97th Loyalty Day with Agro-Industrial Innovations and Entrepreneurship for Inclusive Growth as this year’s theme. In line with the theme, IRRI showcased the Rice Research and Development Component of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program, which it implements with the Department of Agriculture.

One of the highlights of the event is the traditional parade of students and alumni, members of different organizations, and  employees from different offices in and around the University.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bayer CropScience hosts 2nd ASEAN Rice Future Forum in Vietnam: Fostering closer collaboration across the rice value chain

 (Bayer media release)

- Policy makers and rice experts call for action to increase rice productivity sustainably
- Public-private partnerships essential to encourage adoption of farming technologies

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 14 October 2015  – With increasing challenges in agriculture and 2015 in particular being a difficult year for farmers in ASEAN, rice farmers need access to technologies to help them increase yields and efficiency. From October 14 to 16, over 100 policymakers and rice experts from across ASEAN countries are gathering at the ASEAN Rice Future Forum in Vietnam to discuss how public-private and value chain partnerships are essential to the adoption of farming technologies, in light of the fact that the majority of rice farmers in these countries are smallholders.

The Forum is organized by Bayer CropScience, in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Vietnam Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD). It aims to continue the constructive dialogue from the 2013 Rice Future Forum in India and the International Rice Congress 2014 in Thailand.

Casting the spotlight on ASEAN this year, where rice is the key crop grown by mostly smallholder farmers, the conference includes keynote addresses and panel discussions on several pertinent and relevant topics, including the need for capacity building and efficiency in sustainable rice production, the adoption and access to technologies and innovations in rice farming, and the need for closer collaboration throughout the rice value chain as well as more private-public partnerships.

Adoption of technologies key to increase yields and efficiency in rice production
Rice is a key crop and a staple in most diets in ASEAN, with ASEAN countries accounting for 25 per cent of the global rice production, and 22 per cent of the global rice consumption. Thailand and Vietnam are the key exporting countries for rice in the region, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of global rice exports, while on the other end of the spectrum, countries like Indonesia and Philippines are striving for self-sufficiency in rice production and are the top rice importers in the region.

According to estimates by the United Nations, the world will grow to 9.7 billion people by the year 2050. In addition, due to a rising middle class and a shift in dietary preferences especially in emerging countries, the projected nearly 10 billion people could eat as much food as required for an astounding 13 billion. IRRI projects that the current rice productionat over 700 million tonnes per annumwill not be sufficient to meet demand. Rice production will need to rise by 80 million tonnes in the next 10 years.

With increasing challenges faced in agriculture and rice farming, including limited arable land, impact of climate change, labour shortage and limited resources, this growth must be achieved in a sustainable manner through harnessing innovative solutions and farming technologies.

“Agriculture is exposed to a plentitude of challenges such as limited arable land and natural resources, a shortage or rising cost of labor, increased market volatility, limits to credit availability for smallholder farmers, resistance issues and an ongoing quest for further increasing sustainability – to name only a few,” said Dr. Sascha Israel, Head Region Asia Pacific, Bayer CropScience.

“This means we need to learn to farm even better and harvest more from the land that we have available. At Bayer CropScience, we are committed to support growers in their daily operations with innovative products and on-farm advice to tackle these challenges and support a sustainable intensification of rice farming. We collaborate along the entire value chain to achieve even better results.”

“We have made some headways in the area of public-private and value chain partnerships in rice and have started seeing positive results from the projects that we are undertaking. Going forward, we believe we can continue to contribute to the development of rice farming in ASEAN through continuing and strengthening these partnerships, with a focus on enhancing the adoption of technologies by smallholder farmers,” he added.

Joining hands to foster dialogue across the rice value chain
Stressing the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors and across the rice value chain, the ASEAN Rice Future Forum this year is organized in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). The event also features prominent speakers from companies and associations such as the IRRI-led Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA), as well as government officials and policymakers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.

“IRRI is pleased to partner with Bayer and MARD to foster dialogue through the ASEAN Rice Future Forum 2015 in Vietnam. This is yet another extension of our ongoing partnership since the 2013 inaugural Rice Future Forum. Bayer was also a platinum sponsor during the 2014 International Rice Congress, hosted by the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand,” said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships at IRRI. “Given the global scope of food security challenges, IRRI supports national systems in the rice-producing worldVietnam and MARD being critical partners in the region. We also work with research and non-profit organizations, and the private sector, including Bayer, to improve rice production through better use of rice genetic diversity for crop improvement, disease and pest management, more sustainable and profitable farming, and capacity building for young rice scientists.”

For example, Bayer CropScience has a long-standing partnership with IRRI to work together to expand the rice database and provide the impetus for breeding new high-yielding rice varieties, as well as enabling access to the many benefits of hybrid rice for farmers and rice communities.

About Bayer CropScience
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience, the subgroup of Bayer AG responsible for the agricultural business, has annual sales of EUR 9,494 million (2014) and is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control. The company offers an outstanding range of products including high value seeds, innovative crop protection solutions based on chemical and biological modes of action as well as an extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture. In the area of non-agricultural applications, Bayer CropScience has a broad portfolio of products and services to control pests from home and garden to forestry applications. The company has a global workforce of 23,100 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at:

About the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
IRRI, or the International Rice Research Institute, is a nonprofit independent research and training organization. IRRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. IRRI develops new rice varieties and rice crop management techniques that help rice farmers improve the yield and quality of their rice in an environmentally sustainable way. It works with public and private sector partners in national agricultural research and extension systems in major rice-growing countries to do research, training, and knowledge transfer. Its social and economic research also informs governments to help them formulate policy to improve the equitable supply of rice.

About the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD)
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is a government ministry responsible for rural development and the governance, promotion and nurturing of agriculture and the agricultural industry in Vietnam. The purview of the Ministry includes forestry, aquaculture, irrigation and the salt industry; it is also involved in water management and flood control. The Ministry maintains 63 provincial department offices throughout Vietnam, and is itself located in Hanoi.

Asia: Lynn Ong
 +65 6496 1797
 +65 9834 2351

Other regions: Jenny Schroeter
 +49 2173 38-3544

Forward-Looking Statements
This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer Group or subgroup management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.

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