Friday, November 27, 2015

Trainees learn the basics of scientific writing and rice production

The IRRI Training Center, in collaboration with Project IPaD, conducted the Basic Scientific Writing Course (BSWC) on 16-20 November and the Basics of Rice Production Course (BRPC) on 25-27 November 2015 at the IRRI headquarters.

The BSWC is a five-day course intended to help scientists and researchers develop their skills in written communication, making them more effective in sharing knowledge and research results in the future. The course was attended by 17 scientists and researchers from IRRI, the Department of Agriculture, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños. The BSWC was facilitated by Ms. Teresita Rola and Ms. Majilene Marikit and coordinated by Ms. Maria Socorro Arboleda.

On the other hand, the BRPC is a three-day orientation on the whole process of rice production, from seed processing to postharvest management. The course is designed to update participants’ knowledge and skills on best practices and technologies associated in rice farming. This course gives participants a chance to get their feet wet in the mud, providing hands-on experience of actual field preparations. The course was attended by 25 young researchers from different Department of Agriculture offices throughout the Philippines. They were all supported by Project IPaD. The course was coordinated and facilitated by Engr. Eugene Castro, Jr., (see photo below) with Ms. Majilene Marikit as co-facilitator.

Project IPaD (Improving Technology Promotion and Delivery Project) is jointly led by PhilRice, the DA-Agricultural Training Institute, and IRRI. It aims to improve rice technology promotion and delivery by enhancing the capability of the next generation of extension professionals and other knowledge intermediaries. Project IPaD supported 12 participants for the BSWC and 25 participants for the BRPC.

Rice production, writing, and communication skills courses are scheduled to be offered again in 2016 at the IRRI Training Center.

For training dates and other information, please visit 

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

IRRI joins celebration of the National Biotechnology Week

Participants of the 7th National Biotechnology Education Center for Teachers (NBECT) coming from Metro Manila and nearby provinces visited IRRI as part of the National Biotechnology Week celebrations. Golden Rice network coordinator Violeta Villegas welcomed the group.

About 70 high school teachers attended the three symposia presented by BIOTECH-UPLB’s program leader Mannix Pedro, National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB)’s Assistant Professor Ma. Anita Bautista, and Museum of Natural History Director Juan Carlos Gonzales. Coinciding with this event, the National Biotechnology Quiz Contest was held at BIOTECH-UPLB with about 50 high school students participating.

The Philippines, through Presidential Proclamation No. 1414, celebrates the National Biotechnology Week (NBW) every year during the last week of November, in support of promoting the safe and responsible use of biotechnology and its products. This year’s celebration is led by DOST with the theme Bioteknolohiya: Kaagapay ng Mamamayan sa Pambansang Kaunlaran.

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Over 500 farmers in Odisha attend field day on flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1

Around 500 farmers, mostly women, attended the Field day on flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1, seed production, mechanical transplanting, and direct-seeded rice in Resinga Village, Puri District in Odisha on 20 November.

During the field day, IRRI scientists from the Cereal System Initiatives for South Asia (CSISA) project and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, experts from India’s Department of Agriculture, and the Association of Seed Certification Office in the country shared various technologies and knowledge with the farmers.

The field day also featured a question and answer (Q and A) session between IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler and the farmers. The topics discussed during the Q and A included adoption of flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1, improved farm practices, climate change, grain quality, and facilities for farmers to get the minimum support price. Some solutions to problems such as crop insurance, credit facilities, laser land levelling, use of hybrid rice, use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, most preferable crop after rice were also examined.

Zeigler cited the important role of farmers in Odisha in attaining global food security. “Once eastern India becomes food secure, it is possible to achieve food security worldwide,” he said. “Odisha farmers will be known internationally for being one of the first farmers who beat the odds of growing rice in harsh environments—areas that are prone to flood, drought, and even salinity.”

In the near future, IRRI would come up with a rice variety that can tolerate both flood and drought to solve problems brought by unpredictability of weather patterns because of climate change, Zeigler added. The Institute will also be part of “bringing the Green Revolution in eastern India,” which is both a goal and a policy in the country, in the same way IRRI contributed to the Green Revolution in India.

The field day was organized by CSISA team of the IRRI hub Odisha in collaboration with India’s Department of Agriculture.

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Odisha farmers benefit from flood-tolerant rice and improved farm practices

Swarna-Sub1, a flood-tolerant rice variety, and conservation agriculture-based technologies, such as mechanical rice transplanters,  are helping farmers in Odisha solve problems caused by flooding and labor shortage. This is the gist of the feedback from farmers as they shared their experiences in adopting these improved technologies during the visit of IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, scientists from the IRRI-India Office, and senior officials from Nepal to Puri District in Odisha, India on 20 November.

According to the farmers, Swarna-Sub1 allowed them to harvest more than 5 tons per hectare even under the adverse weather conditions of the current cropping season. They also emphasized the critical role of service providers of mechanical rice transplanters. These machines help farmers plant rice on time and reduce the cost of rice cultivation.

Many farmers using Swarna-Sub1 are keen on continuing the use of this variety. In fact, the demand for seeds of Swarna-Sub1 is high while the supply is limited. The farmers were so happy with the performance of the crop and the results of improved rice production technologies that they requested IRRI to expand its intervention to other districts in India.

These technologies reached the farmers in Odisha through the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project.

The projects made strategic efforts to demonstrate stress-tolerant rice varieties and associated technology options in Puri District so the farmers could observe the results themselves.

The mechanical rice transplanter is one of the conservation agriculture-based technologies under CSISA. Other technologies include direct-seeded rice (DSR) and laser land leveling. On the other hand, STRASA also develops and distributes drought- and salinity-tolerant rice varieties in addition to flood-tolerant rice.

During the visit, Zeigler and the farmers discussed labor displacement because of mechanization as well as alternative arrangements. Crop sharing, weed management, nutrient management, irrigation facilities, subsidies, business modules, and marketing of quality produce were among other topics raised by the farmers.

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National Academy of Agricultural Sciences names IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler as fellow

IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler was inducted into the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) in India. He received the award from Dr. S. Ayyappan, the president of the Academy, who is also an IRRI Board of Trustees member, on 23 November 2015 in New Delhi.

Dr. Zeigler earlier received the Fellowship in recognition of his outstanding global research leadership in the application of advanced techniques of molecular biology and biotechnology in crop improvement and for harnessing its benefits for smallholder farmers across the world. He started his service as NAAS fellow on 1 January 2015.

NAAS was established in India by agricultural scientists both within the country and abroad 25 years ago. The fellows of the academy are recognized for their contributions to science and are distinguished personalities in the field of agriculture and allied sciences that include World Food Laureates, Fellows of Royal Society, Third World Academy of Sciences, among others. The academy aims to provide a forum for agricultural scientists to deliberate on important issues in agricultural research, education, and extension; and to present views of the scientific community as policy inputs to planners and decision-makers at both national and international levels.

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APEC director discusses mechanization hub plan with rice experts

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – On November 20, in the middle of APEC 2015, Mr. Shigetoshi Aoyama, director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), took time to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters two hours south of Manila to learn about a proposal that seeks to speed up mechanization of rice farming in Asia.

Migration of rural laborers from farm to urban centers has created labor scarcity that is affecting agricultural production in many Asian countries, including Japan. Millions of smallholder farmers across Asia do not have the means to pay the high wages of workers to carry out labor-intensive farming activities. In India alone, labor shortage affects the farm operations of about 600 million smallholders.

Labor scarcity is an increasingly widespread problem that IRRI is trying to solve through mechanization, said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI.

Engr. Martin Gummert, senior scientist at IRRI’s Postharvest Unit, presented to Mr. Aoyama a proposal for a mechanization hub in which IRRI will be the center of a network that will facilitate transfer of mechanization technology and build capacity on the use of such technologies in target countries. The network will bring together countries such as Japan, China, and the US; the private sector; donor and funding agencies; and major rice-producing countries.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Next-Gen conducts year-end assessment and planning workshop

The Department of Agriculture’s National Rice Program (DA-NRP) project on Accelerating the Development and Adoption of Next-Generation Rice Varieties for the Major Ecosystems in the Philippines (Next-Gen Project) held its year-end assessment and planning workshop on 16-20 November 2015 in Dauis, Bohol. Participants included representatives from DA-NRP, IRRI, PhilRice, Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and the DA Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs).

The collaborative project, led by Dr. Georgina Vergara (IRRI) and Ms. Thelma Padolina (PhilRice), is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), PhilRice, and IRRI, in partnership with UPLB, the DA-RFOs, state colleges and universities, local government units (LGUs), and rice farmers. The project aims to mitigate the impact of climate change and achieve food security by fast-tracking the introduction and adoption of higher-yielding inbred and hybrid rice varieties resistant to major pests and diseases and tolerant of adverse environments.

During the 3-day workshop, DA-RFO representatives presented their accomplishments in 2015, as well as their physical targets and budget for the 2016 and 2017 activities. Issues and recommended strategies to address those were also discussed. The participants also visited PVS (participatory varietal selection) and NCT (national cooperative testing) sites in Ubay, Bohol. The lively interaction among participants resulted in a successful workshop where they shared ideas and strategies helpful in the improvement and conduct of different Next-Gen activities, which ultimately impact farmers’ productivity as they adapt to the effects of climate change.

Overall, the workshop strengthened collaboration between the partner institutions, which would help facilitate the development of improved varieties and increase rice productivity, helping farmers adapt to the effects of climate change.

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IRRI strengthens partnerships with Bay and Land Transportation Office-CALABARZON

As part of continuing efforts to strengthen partnership with its host community and government, IRRI donated a total of nine utility vehicles to the Municipality of Bay, Laguna and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) of the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (CALABARZON) region.

In a ceremonial turnover on 19 November 2015, Mr. Bruno Ramos, mayor of the Municipality of Bay, accepted seven vehicles, including two pickup trucks, from IRRI. The mayor expressed his appreciation to the institute, and announced the stewards and recipients of the donation:  (1) Bay District Hospital (formerly known as PPL, Pagamutang Pangmasa ng Laguna); (2) Bay Municipal Police; and  five out of 15 barangay or community village recipients—(3) Barangay Masaya, (4) Barangay Tranca, (5) Barangay Paciano Rizal, (6) Barangay Tagumpay, and (7) Barangay Santo Domingo.

During the vehicle turnover ceremony held in Bay, IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, Bruce Tolentino, mentioned that IRRI is supported by several governments, including the government of the Philippines. He emphasized that the municipality of Bay is home to many IRRI staff members. “Many employees at IRRI are residents of this town. To IRRI, Bay is not only a neighbor, but also a friend,” he adds.

Mr. Anselmo Pastidio, barangay captain of Santo Domingo, said that the donated vehicle will be helpful to citizens in the community, especially during disasters. Santo Domingo is  one of the economically fast-growing barangays in Bay, with an area covered by subdivisions, commercial buildings, and rice paddies. The barangay has around 8,000 inhabitants who are often affected by floods caused by overspill of waters from the nearby Laguna de Bay. “A ready means of transportation (service) is basic when typhoons strike. So we are grateful to IRRI for this pickup truck. It will serve our people well,” said the barangay captain.

LTO Region 4A
In another turnover ceremony to LTO CALABARZON held on 23 November 2015 at IRRI headquarters, LTO Regional Director Eric Lenard Tabaldo (top photo) thanked IRRI and said that the two vehicles they accepted will address a need for patrol vehicles in some locations where there are none. He added that his team looks forward to continuing the partnership with IRRI’s transport services in conducting a series of seminars for drivers. The most recent drivers’ seminar was held at IRRI in July 2015.

Photos, ceremonial turnover: LTO CALABARZON  | Municipality of Bay

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Young Researchers' Lunch hosts breeding informatics instructor at Cornell University

The Young Researchers' Lunch for November hosted  Star Yanxin Gao, a Breeding Informatics Instructor at Cornell University, USA. Dr. Gao visited IRRI as part of the Genomic Open Source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  GOBII is a collaboration of software engineers, geneticists, and plant breeders at  CGIAR centers in Mexico, India, and the Philippines.  Together they will develop databases and software tools for breeders to use genomic information for  identifying diverse farmers’ needs, developing analytical tools to help breeders make selections among breeding lines, and integrating the new tools into existing information systems used by each CGIAR center.

The group discussed different perspectives about support to breeding work, as well as general questions about graduate school and career paths.  “Career paths don't have to be a straight line,” said Dr. Gao. “Sometimes you might realize that you are climbing the wrong mountain, so it's ok to go back down and stroll along the beach for a while before starting to climb again.”

Dr. Gao (third from the right in photo) also emphasized the importance of  taking care of both work and personal relationships. She said that even though it's important to work hard at our careers, we should always prioritize our relationships with other people both at work and in our personal lives because that is what can keep us happy over the long term.

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First national convention for PRISM held

The Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project held its first National Convention from 9-12 November 2015 at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City. The national convention, which was jointly organized by the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the Department of Agriculture National Rice Program, and the International Rice Research Institute, was attended by partners from all the participating regions in the country, as well as partners from the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The week-long event had three components: (1) presentation of the overall outputs and accomplishments of the project, (2) assessment of project implementation, (3) and a planning workshop for the activities and financial requirements in the following years. The outputs, which include rice area maps, yield estimates, damage assessments, production situation, and incidence of pests and diseases, were presented by Ms. Mary Rose Mabalay (PhilRice) and Mr. Edwin Martin (PhilRice).

The assessment part was participatory. The participants were asked to identify issues and propose strategies to address those issues. The planning workshop was a special component of the convention and was organized to finalize the sustainability plan of each region.

Jojo Lapitan and Edmund Sana, FSSP project consultants, provided guidance to the participants as they prepared the plan for their region.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

RMQA delivers final RDM 101 for 2015

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Risk Management and Quality Assurance-Research Data Management (RMQA-RDM) training team conducted its Research Data Management (RDM) 101 course on 17-19 November at the Institute’s headquarters.

RDM 101 covers various areas of data management including research data planning; data collection, authentication and analysis; data storage, backup, and security; and data archival and sharing. The training team also discussed and demonstrated file management tools and software including Beyond Compare, Cobian Backup, WinDirStat, Mendeley, Labfolder, Google Drive, and the IRRI Dataverse, an online repository for data archiving and sharing. Lea delos Reyes of the Library and Documentation Services and Rogelio Alvarez of the Information Technology Services delivered lectures on open access/open data and data backup, security, and storage, respectively.

Elizabeth Alcachupas, Bui Phuoc Tam, Enrykie Fortajada, Jeric Gado, Benedict Jardinero, Dorothy Onyango (CESD), Cindy Llorente (GQNC), Vitaliano Lopena (PBGB), Maureen Muñoz, Ayessa Ocampo (DA-RFO III), Maria Corazon Palileo (DA-RFO VII), and Stoix Nebin Pascua (UPLB-CPAf) attended the two-and-a-half-day training course.

The training team is headed by IRRI-RMQA Senior Manager Menchu Bernardo with Enrico Francisco Mercado, senior specialist, Research Data Management.

This is the final RDM 101 course for the year. The course is conducted quarterly.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

30 participants from 7 countries complete training on ecological management of rice pests

Participants learned how to identify the types of weeds and how to effectively manage them. 
Participants have expressed their enthusiasm for applying their newly gained knowledge on the ecological management of some of the most destructive pests that Asian rice farmers face.

Thirty participants from the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam underwent intensive two-week training on the management of rodents, insects, and weeds in rice- based farming system at IRRI Headquarters on 2-13 November. The activities included lectures on the principles of integrated and sustainable management of insects, weeds, and rodents. Guided by IRRI’s pool of experts, participants identified common rice insect pests and their natural enemies, and conducted weed identification and screenhouse trials. They also had a participatory half-day session on population modeling.

“This training is very useful for my job as a researcher,” Ruwanthi Mandanayake shared. “In Sri Lanka, the Rice Research Development Institute is actively promoting sustainably produced agricultural crops, like rice. I have learned about practical management of rodent population, which I found very interesting.”

Budi Raharjo, postharvest and mechanization researcher at the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) in South Sumatra, Indonesia, said he gained a deeper appreciation and understanding about better pest management approaches that could help Indonesia produce environmentally sustainable rice. “The training furnished me with new knowledge on managing pests in tidal swamps in Indonesia, like South Sumatra,” Rhajaro said.  “The principles also complement the Integrated Crop Management promoted in Indonesia. This will ensure that we, in the AIAT, can provide up-to-date recommendations of best management practices in rice production to the farmers.”  
For Arriz Cabigting, a rice technician from the Philippines, the course gave him a new perspective on pest control.  “The ecological approach helped broaden my knowledge in increasing biodiversity in rice fields, while managing the pests in farmers’ field in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Aung Myo Thant, IRRI assistant scientist in Myanmar, shared his thoughts on how the course will help ramp up sustainable farming in Myanmar. “This course taught us that you don’t need to spray a lot of chemicals to control insects, weeds or rodents. Using the right technique at the right growth stage of rice is more effective than spraying a huge amount of chemicals to control pest population.”

“Understanding the nature of the pests and the ecosystem surrounding it is important before you apply your measure of control,” said Grant Singleton, training organizer and project leader of Closing Rice Yield Gaps with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP). “The participants will go back to their countries armed with sound pest management techniques and tools to facilitate collective action from the farming community.  Through this course, we hope that they would help their respective countries promote rice production that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.”

The CORIGAP project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the IRRI Training Center organized the training. IRRI’s partner agencies including the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development and the Philippine Department of Agriculture through its Food Staples Sufficiency Program, also provided financial support for the short-term course.

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Innovative rice technologies for climate change adaptation attract farmers in Ilocos Norte field day

Unpredictable or erratic rainfall patterns are among the consequences of climate change that greatly affect lowland rice farmers in the Philippines. Its effect is deeply felt particularly by farmers in the Ilocos Region, where majority hold less than a hectare of rice land. Because of this, farmers are seeking for drought-adaptive technology.

To help address this need, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Batac, Ilocos Norte organized a Grand Field Day on 10 November 2015, showcasing innovative and relevant rice farming technologies to help farmers cope with the effects of climate change. Among those who attended were more than 700 farmers, local extension staff, and agricultural college students from four provinces: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, and La Union. Senator Cynthia Villar, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, and Batac City Mayor Jeffrey Jubal Nalupta graced the occasion.

PhilRice and IRRI displayed new drought-tolerant rice varieties (Sahod Ulan series) and small farm machinery (seed drill for direct seeding) with the support of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the DA-BAR funded Associated Technologies project under the Food Self-Sufficiency Program (FSSP). In her keynote speech, Hon. Cynthia Villar emphasized diversified cropping systems as an important strategy to cope with climate change. According to her, we could achieve this through the use of climate-resilient varieties, making educated loans from legitimate socialized credit, and farm mechanization. On the other hand, Hon. Imee Marcos highlighted the importance of agriculture in the province and her support on the ongoing activities to lessen the damaging effects of climate change.

The farmers, on their part, showed interest in obtaining climate-resilient varieties. They believe that the mechanized direct-seeding technology would enable them to plant rice without standing water in the field, and save time for crop establishment.

PhilRice Executive Director, Dr. Calixto Protacio, in his closing remarks, said, “We need to be more resourceful, especially in unfavorable areas, and we need to be prepared in relation to the effects of climate change.” Such preparedness includes developing varieties that can withstand El Niño and flooding.

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Green Super Rice Phase 2 highlights achievements in Africa

Green Super Rice (GSR) Phase 2 project highlighted its achievements for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) during a workshop in Uganda. One of these was the release of Okile (GSR I0057=ZGY1) variety in Uganda. GSR is a mix of more than 250 different rice varieties developed to perform well in the toughest conditions where the poorest farmers grow rice. The long-term objective of the project is to boost rice productivity by 20% to benefit some 20 million poor rice farmers in the target countries.

During the workshop participants from Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Mozambique presented the progress made in their respective countries. Achievements in GSR breeding in IRRI Hubs in Burundi, Tanzania, and countries in West Africa were also presented. Other GSR varieties released in ESA are the weed-tolerant Hua 565, Simiao, and Buryohe.

Resource poor farmers in Africa and Asia can benefit from the project because this technology requires less input without sacrificing yield, said Dr. Zhikang Li, project director and chief scientist of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Li said that next phase of the project will focus on seed upscaling and the release of new GSR varieties. To meet that goal, the project workshop developed the seed road map and seed upscale strategy for each country in ESA.

Careful planning for seed upscale in countries where the GSR varieties were released will be the priority as well as identifying local seed producers and key stakeholders to mobilize the resources for proper seed upscale of promising GSR released varieties, according to Dr. Jauhar Ali, IRRI-GSR project leader and coordinator for Asia and ESA, and Dr. Jimmy Lamo, project coordinator in Uganda.

 “The GSR project has set up a very good opportunity for a vital role of collaboration,” Li added.

Ambrose Agona, director general of the  National Agricultural Research Organisation, agreed. “Partnership is a very important element for any project to succeed,” he emphasized. He challenged the participants to come up with a strategy for awareness and promotion such varieties so that people, especially the farmers can really benefit from the project. He also expressed his gratitude to the project for choosing Uganda as one of its target countries.

Green Super Rice project aims to reduce poverty and hunger and increase food and income security of resource-poor farmers in Africa and Asia through the development and dissemination of  GSR varieties that give high and stable yield without requiring heavy inputs. The African component of the project is coordinated by Africa Rice Center and in partnership with IRRI, national programs of target countries, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ associations and the private sector.

The workshop was held at Hotel Africana in Kampala, Uganda on 3-5 November.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

IRRI, National Museum share treasures with the world

MANILA, Philippines – The late National Artist Vicente Manansala must have been smiling last night. Jointly organized by the National Museum of the Philippines and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Sharing the Harvest featured the public unveiling of IRRI’s three Manansala studies in the museum’s IRRI hall as well as the launch of the Guide to the birds of Philippine rice fields, and the 2016 Heirloom Rice Recipes calendar.

IRRI deputy director general Bruce Tolentino welcomed high-level Philippine government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and special guests and dignitaries to the "trifecta of events only made possible by the the strength of partnerships."

Indian Institute of Rice Research appoints new director

Babu RT

HYDERABAD, India - V. Ravindra Babu, rice breeder and academic leader at the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), has been appointed as the institute's director effective 9 November 2015. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Babu was acting director since 1 September 2014.

IIRR, formerly the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), is a premier rice research institute under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mayor of Cheongdo County in South Korea visits the “birthplace” of Tong-il rice

Tong-il, Korea’s “miracle rice,” with its yield potential of 5 tons per hectare, played a major role in enabling the country to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production in the 1970s. (Photo: Moises John Reyes)
Seong-Yool Lee, mayor of Cheongdo County, South Korea, visited IRRI on 11 November 2015 to learn about the historical relationship between Korea and the Institute. The Government of the Republic of Korea has been working with IRRI since 1964. The collaborative research between the Rural Development Administration (RDA) and IRRI resulted in the development of Tong-il rice varieties.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Supporting food security from space

The Sentinel-1A mosaic stretches from Pakistan to the Philippines, with green areas showing vegetation, including rice (SAR imagery from ESA: Sentinel-1A © Copernicus data (2015). Background from Google Earth © Google Inc. Sentinel 1A mosaic created by sarmap and IRRI using Mapscape-RICE).

Los Baños, Philippines and Purasca, Switzerland Standing rice crops in some parts of the world are routinely devastated by storms and extreme weather events, threatening the food security and livelihood of half of humanity. “sarmap and IRRI have developed tools that bring more transparency and accurate information to those who manage rice production, which is certainly important in general, and absolutely crucial for meaningful and targeted disaster response,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “Decision-makers need to know when and where rice is planted and harvested.”

Vietnam: CURE and MARD plan upscaling innovation for upland rice environments

The Consortium for Unfavourable Rice Environments (CURE), Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) organized a consultation workshop on technology transfer for the mountainous and unfavorable rice areas in Central and Northern Vietnam. The activity identified technologies and best management practices that are ready for dissemination and discussed ways to bring them to a greater number of farmers.

Technical innovations for sustainable rice production in upland areas derived from CURE and other national and provincial programs were also discussed. The activity focused on strategies for successful promotion of these technologies among the wide range of stakeholders; issues affecting the seed system particularly on the community-based seed production; and identification of national, regional, and provincial programs for upscaling and outscaling innovations.

"It is not enough that we generate technologies,” said Digna Manzanilla, CURE coordinator and organizer of the effort. Dr. Manzanilla underscored the importance of partnerships among groups to widen the reach of the technologies. “We need to define the partners and specific mechanisms for sharing these knowledge and resources."

Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general commended the group for bringing attention to problems confronting the upland rice communities and for identifying critical steps to provide livelihoods for uplands. Dr. Zeigler encouraged market- and culture- oriented ice production innovations as well.
It was also an opportune time to identify areas of complementation between CURE, an International Fund for Agricultural Development grant, and relevant investment projects in Vietnam.

Joining this effort are 59 participants from different research institutions of MARD, Center for Technology Development and Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Science Institute of Northern Central Vietnam, Agricultural Science Institute for Southern Central Coast of Vietnam, Fertilizer Research Institute, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Province. Representatives from extension centers, seed companies, and farmers’ seed groups also joined the consultation-workshop.

The workshop was held at the Flower Garden Hotel, Hanoi on 9-10 November.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Participants from Asian countries attend training on ecological management of rice pests

Participants were taught techniques on how and where to set up rodent traps along the grassy area of the lowland rice plots at IRRI, Los Baños. 

Los Baños, Laguna -- A two-week training course on the ecological management of rodents, insects, and weeds in agro-ecosystems is being held at IRRI headquarters on 2-13 November.

Thirty participants from the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the training to gain and apply their knowledge of the ecology of rice pests for better rice farm management at a landscape level. They were trained in using decision tools to analyze pest problems and determine processes and factors that influence farmers’ decisions;  applying field protocols for monitoring insects, rodent and weeds; simple computer models; and the principles for effective transfer of knowledge to  extension officers, policymakers, and farmers.

IRRI and the National Museum feature the genius of Manansala, the heritage of Cordillera rice farmers, and nearly 100 wild bird species

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the National Museum will hold a trifecta of grand events celebrating the genius of National Artist Vicente Manansala, heirloom rice treasures of the Cordilleras interpreted for the palate by the country’s top chefs, and the breathtaking natural beauty and awe of wild bird diversity in the Philippines.

Sharing the harvest, on 12 November 2015, at 6:30 pm at the National Museum, spotlights the original studies (rendered in watercolor) of the two large Manansala paintings that opened for public viewing in the museum’s IRRI Hall on 14 May 2015. Another study of the artist’s oil painting Prayer Before Meal will also be on display for the first time.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Vietnam agriculture ministry and CGIAR align development agenda

MARD Deputy Minister Le Quoc Doanh and IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler,
during the opening of the 1st MARD-CGIAR Coordination Meeting in Hanoi (6 November 2015).

HANOI, Vietnam – Seeking stronger complementarity in their joint research for development programs, leaders of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) of Vietnam and the 10 CGIAR centers operating in the country, as well as other national partners, sat together on 6 November 2015 for the 1st MARD-CGIAR Coordination Meeting.

The meeting, convened by MARD with the help of the IRRI Vietnam office, was headlined by MARD Minister Cao Duc Phat and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Director General Robert Zeigler. Minister Phat and Deputy Minister Le Quoc Doanh co-chaired the afternoon and morning sessions, respectively, with Dr. Zeigler.

Los Baños LGU, HealthServ, and IRRI team up to give free medical services for seniors

IRRI, in partnership with the HealthServ Medical Center, and the Municipality of Los Baños provided free medical service for residents of Los Baños who are 60 and over.

One hundred fifty seniors from 14 barangays received free medicine, vitamins, laboratory tests (urinalysis, bone scanning, cholesterol scanning, and random blood sampling), and health care counseling from volunteer physicians. In addition, the IRRI Employees' Credit Development Cooperative provided free snacks.

The free healthcare service, held on 5 November, is one of IRRI's regular community engagement programs to increase the wellness of senior citizens and help reduce the incidence of common medical problems in its host community.

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IRRI donates vehicles to research partners DA-BAR and PhilRice

IRRI, through its partnerships and transport offices, turned over three vehicles to the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and a car to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

DA-BAR Administrative and Finance Division Head Roberto S. Quing, Jr. and PhilRice Acting Branch Director Diego Ramos visited IRRI to accept the vehicles. IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships Bruce Tolentino and Property and Transport Services Head Arman Mohammad conveyed IRRI's support for its government agency partners during the turnover ceremony held at IRRI HQ on 6 November.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

120 extension professionals trained to use ICT tools for rice farming

Agricultural extension workers (AEWs) who help in the delivery of research results to farmers were trained to use different knowledge resources in rice farming in a seminar held at the Provincial Capitol of La Union, San Fernando City on 3 November 2015.

IRRI Training Center’s Lauro Atienza gave a presentation on the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) and Rice Doctor (RD). RKB is an online source of information on rice farming, from pre-planting to post-production. Rice Doctor is a diagnostic tool on crop problems, pests, and diseases. Both of these tools are available online through and They also have offline versions that can be downloaded through the Google Play Store.

In the seminar, representatives from the Department of Agriculture and from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) also presented other tools such as the Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank, MOET App, PhilRice Text Center, and the Rice Crop Manager.

The seminar was attended by around 80 AEWs from different cities and municipalities of the province of La Union. It was organized by graduates of the first batch of the AgriDOC (Agricultural Development Officers of the Community) training given by the IPaD Project.

In addition, a group of 40 farmer technicians and extension workers from the province of Davao were also introduced to the RKB and RD during their visit to IRRI also on 3 November. Jerome Barradas of IRRI’s Training Center led the presentation and discussion.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bob Zeigler with young researchers

The Young Researchers' Lunch for October hosted Robert Zeigler. Zeigler has been the director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the last 10+ years—the second longest tenure after Robert Chandler. As DG, he sets the institute’s strategic direction and he has also been a passionate spokesperson on a wide range of issues that affect rice growers and consumers worldwide.

Zeigler, who is retiring at the end of the year, shared stories about his career trajectory as well as amusing anecdotes about quirky colleagues and exotic food. He said an early opportunity to attend a training course on management was important in helping him understand other people's perspectives, giving him an advantage in his leadership roles.

His message to the group, "Enjoy what you do, and do something that is meaningful to you."

“The IRRI experience is number one in my career—without a doubt,” Zeigler said in his Pioneer Interview for Rice Today. “The job as IRRI director general is unlike any other job you can ever possibly want. Science, its value in human terms, the impact you can have positively on the environment—you can transform the way the whole planet will function decades from now, a century from now. What happens at IRRI is relevant."

The participants were Abraham Darius Llave, Terry Velasco, Manas Ranjan Prusty, Renee Lorica, Majid Mortazavi, and Hongyan Liu.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for scientists who are in the early stages of their career, with the purpose of providing mentorship opportunities with senior scientists on a range of topics, including research and career paths.

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