Monday, December 21, 2015

IRRI welcomes new research chief

Los Baños, Philippines - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has appointed Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes as its eighth deputy director general for research. She will assume her duties on 30 March 2016. Jackie brings to IRRI a combination of agricultural research leadership and management expertise, with a career spanning more than three decades in Asia, Africa, and Europe. At IRRI, she will oversee the institute’s global research agenda in plant breeding, genetics, crop and environmental sciences, and the social sciences.

Jackie comes to IRRI from AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center in Taiwan, where she served for a decade as deputy director general for research. Before that, she spent more than 10 years at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture IITA) in Nigeria, taking on positions of progressive responsibility throughout her tenure. Jackie was also technical cooperation officer in virology at the Cocoa Research Institute in Ghana and higher scientific officer at the United Kingdom’s Institute of Horticultural Research. Her early career started with work as tropical root and tuber virologist at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute and research fellow in molecular virology at the University of Birmingham, both in the United Kingdom (UK).

IRRI’s new deputy director general has an extensive publication record in such areas as agricultural science, global nutrition, and climate change. She has held many prestigious board memberships and has been elected to various fellowships, including the Royal Society of Biology. Jackie received her Ph.D. in microbiology/virology and bachelor of science in agricultural botany from the University of Reading, UK. She succeeds Matthew Morell as IRRI’s research chief, who became IRRI's new director general on 19 December 2015.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

DA, IRRI, and SMART to boost farmers’ incomes through text messaging

Tarlac, Philippines – For two years, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have been collaborating on a decision tool that uses mobile devices and computers in providing recommendations to rice farmers to help them increase their yield.

Funded by the DA through the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), this decision tool called Rice Crop Manager (RCM), has posted positive results of increasing the yield and net income of farmers. Initial research shows that rice farmers in Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Oriental Mindoro, and Agusan del Norte increased their average yield by 300 kilograms and average net income by about PHP 4,000 per crop per hectare.

NFA and IRRI sign agreement to fast-track importation of rice varieties for research purposes

Quezon City, Philippines –  The National Food Authority (NFA) will soon grant a single certification, instead of multiple transport permits, for all rice varieties that will be brought into the country by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for purposes of experimentation and research.

The two agencies signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on 14 December 2015 at the NFA Central Office in Quezon City.

Rice Doctor for Bangladesh now being developed

Participants from IRRI and BRRI working on the Rice Doctor for Bangladesh.
Los Baños, Laguna – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in partnership with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), has started developing the Rice Doctor for Bangladesh in a workshop held on 16-18 December 2015 at the IRRI Training Center.

The main goal of the workshop was to prepare the initial structure and plans for a version of the Rice Doctor that would specifically cater to crop problems experienced in Bangladesh. Later on, the product would be translated to the local language, Bengali.

ADB and IRRI to strengthen partnership on shared food security goals

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are set on bringing their 40-year partnership to a new level.

“It is a good idea to formalize our partnership,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao, who was at IRRI yesterday (17 December 2015) with members of the bank’s leadership to visit experimental sites and discuss with IRRI management and scientists collaboration on agricultural development and food security across Asia.

ADB and IRRI have worked together since 1975, with ADB financing 33 projects involving USD 26 million in grants for research, capacity building, and infrastructure development.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Green Super Rice to focus on upscaling and reaching resource-poor farmers

Hyderabad, India - The Green Super Rice (GSR) project will be completing its second phase on 31 December 2015. The completion workshop for project partners in Asia was held on 21-23 November at the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) in Hyderabad, India.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Stress-tolerant variety Sahbhagi dhan gets nod from farmers, NGOs

Uttar Pradesh, India – A review of stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) was held in Lucknow in early November, with promising results. Drought-tolerant variety Sahbhagi dhan received good reviews from farmers as well as from NGOs.

IRRI leadership changes hands during stirring turnover ceremony

         Incoming Director General Matthew Morell proudly waves the IRRI flag after receiving it from outgoing
Director General Robert Zeigler and IRRI Board Chair Emerlinda Roman.  
In stirring rites held early Friday afternoon at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Matthew Morell took over the reins as the institute’s ninth director general (DG). Outgoing DG Robert Zeigler presented Morell with the IRRI charter and flag during the turnover ceremony.

Just prior to handing over the tokens of leadership to his successor, Zeigler said (video clip), “My special thanks goes to IRRI staff  all around the world for their tremendous dedication and contribution to what IRRI does, what IRRI is, and how IRRI is seen. It makes me tremendously proud to reflect on what it has meant to me to have the great fortune of being at the helm as director general.”

Zeigler went on to say that “as the world changes, challenges change, opportunities change, and leaders change. An institution such as IRRI, which is driven by a clear vision and mandate and retains its value, will continue to grow and develop—and that is what change is all about. I am absolutely certain that Matthew is the right person for the job as he understands and fully absorbs the importance of what we do.”

Following the turnover, Morell said (video clip), “We stand on the shoulders of giants, so when you reflect on the directors general of IRRI—from Robert Chandler, Jr. (1960-72) to Robert Zeigler—it is striking how each director general took an individual approach to leading the development of the organization and shepherding the delivery of its mandate through their terms. I want to pay particular tribute to Bob for being at the helm during one of the most successful periods in IRRI’s history.”

“IRRI has a mandate that is completely compelling; that is, improving a product—rice—that is not only a commodity but a way of life,” Morell continued. “We are not just on a journey of technology, but of humanity. Whatever role you play at IRRI, it is an unbelievable honor and privilege to be an integral part of the delivery of rice science for a better world.”

Zeigler, an internationally respected plant pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in agricultural research in the developing world, was IRRI’s DG for a little more than 10 years—the second longest tenure after the institute’s founding DG, Chandler.

As DG, Zeigler set the institute’s strategic direction and was a passionate spokesperson on a wide range of issues that affect rice growers and consumers worldwide.

Morell, who has been IRRI’s deputy director general for research since February 2014, has shown effective strategic leadership of the institute. He brings to IRRI decades of experience, driven by great enthusiasm for scientific excellence and a sound capacity for stakeholder engagement. Prior to his arrival at IRRI, Morell worked for 16 years at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Also sharing their thoughts and hopes during the turnover were Emerlinda Roman, chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees; J.K. Ladha, representing IRRI’s senior scientists; Amelia Henry, representing IRRI’s young scientists; Joseph Sandro, representing the IRRI Filipino Scientists Association; Casiano Estrella, Jr., representing rice farmers around the world; Councilor Jaime Jimenez, representing the local government of Bay; and Serlie Jamias, vice chancellor for community affairs of the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Following the ceremony at the Havener Auditorium in IRRI, the audience of visiting dignitaries and IRRI staff moved across the street to a newly constructed observation deck overlooking the institute’s 209-hectare experiment station. In a brief dedication ceremony (video above), the expanse was dedicated as the Zeigler Experiment Station. A plaque stating such was unveiled in front of a surprised and visibly touched Zeigler by his wife Crissan, and BOT Chair Roman.

Access 17-video playlist of the day's speakers and events on YouTube.

     Flanked by Roman (left) and Morell, Zeigler and wife Crissan look at their personal version of
the plaque designating the IRRI  research farm as the Zeigler Experiment Station. 

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Experts urge Philippine rice industry to be more productive and competitive

DA Sec believes Filipino farmers can be more productive and competitive with the right public and private sector support
Makati City, Philippines - By 2017, the domestic rice market could be flooded with imports from other ASEAN countries. Under the ASEAN Integration 2015, the region will be transformed into a single market. There will be free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and capital among ASEAN nations to help the region compete in the global market.

Under the agreement, many industries, including agriculture “shall be open and national treatment granted to investors” both at the pre- and post-establishment stages. Restrictions on imported rice will be gradually lifted over a 5-year term.

This could hurt local rice industries and farmers if measures are not taken to help them become more competitive.

In the Philippines, Nueva Ecija is the gold standard when it comes to the country’s rice production. However, compared to similarly intensively cultivated sites such as Can Tho in Vietnam, Suphan Buri in Thailand, Tamil Nadu in India, Zhe Jiang in China, and West Java in Indonesia, Nueva Ecija still has much room for improvement.

"Aside from being in the list of top ten rice-producing countries in the world, the selected sites have more or less similar climatic conditions,” explained Piedad Moya, co-project leader of a study on Philippine rice economy relative to its neighboring countries. “All of them are irrigated, and can plant at least two rice crops a year."

The study, Benchmarking Philippine rice economy relative to major rice-producing countries in Asia, is funded by the Department of Agriculture (DA),  and undertaken in close collaboration with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). 

Although production costs in Nueva Ecija may be lower (Php12.41) than other rice importers, such as China (Php14.07) and Indonesia (Php15.77), it is still significantly higher compared with exporters such as India (Php8.87), Thailand (Php9.46), or Vietnam (Php6.53) per kilogram of dry paddy.

The high cost of producing a kilogram of paddy in Nueva Ecija is due to the huge labor requirement during manual transplanting (25 man-days) and harvesting or threshing (21 man-days). Vietnam, on the other hand, which has the lowest production cost, uses direct seeding (2 man-days) and combine harvesters (2 man-days) resulting in increased productivity and higher efficiency. 

The study also noted higher milling efficiency in almost all rice-exporting countries that leads to fewer broken grains and higher milling recovery. This is attributed to rice varieties that have similar grain shape and length. Moreover, farmers in rice-exporting countries have better bargaining power.

However, experts from PhilRice and IRRI believe that Filipino rice farmers can be more competitive by following suit.

"In the context of the ASEAN economic community, and in anticipation of the free flow of goods among member countries, enhancing competitiveness cannot be just a soundbite,” DA Secretary Proceso Alcala remarked. “We must translate competitiveness into practical interventions that lead to the capacity of farmers to compete and expand their engagement in agribusiness opportunities."

Madonna Casimero, senior scientist and IRRI’s Philippine research and development coordinator, agrees.

"As the Honorable Secretary stated, the Filipino farmer is at the center of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP),” she said. "Hence, IRRI and the DA are implementing seven flagship FSSP initiatives, including the benchmarking study, aimed at helping our Filipino farmers."

The 3rd research seminar of the Benchmarking Philippine rice economy relative to major rice-producing countries in Asia was held in Makati City on 03 December.


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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Young Researchers' Lunch hosts AfricaRice deputy director general

Los Baños, Philippines - The Young Researchers' Lunch for December hosted Marco Wopereis. Wopereis is currently Deputy Director General and Director of Research for Development of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), positions he has held since November 2007. He is succeeding J.D.H Keatinge as  Director General of AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center in Taiwan.

Wopereis has extensive experience in research for development related to integrated natural resources management, and rice in particular. He served as AfricaRice’s irrigated rice agronomist in Senegal from 1994-2000. He also worked for IRRI (1989-1994) and the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (2002-2005) in Togo.

“He has indeed made very significant contributions to AfricaRice, more especially in terms of the establishment of a solid scientific direction and foundation,” Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice director general, said in a press statement. “He has certainly played a highly significant role in leading the implementation of the research for development program, which has ensured a sound scientific position for AfricaRice in the global rice research arena and the achievement of important successes.”

In describing his career path, Wopereis emphasized the importance of having a supportive partner and making family decisions when changing posts. He encouraged young researchers to work in Africa, which described as “an exciting challenge” and “something different” from working at IRRI in the Philippines.

Participants were Maria Dwiyanti, Sung Ryul Kim, Rebecca Laza, Crisanta Bueno, Manuel Marcaida, and Majid Mortazavi.

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


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Safe use of farm machinery a priority for IRRI Experiment Station

Los Baños, Philippines -The objective of continuous improvement in farm operations of the Experiment Station is top priority for James Quilty, head of the Experiment Station (ES). In collaboration with the IRRI Training Center and the Postharvest Unit, nine staff members of the IRRI Experiment Station consisting of mechanics, operators, and field supervisors, attended the second batch of a three-day training course on Farm Machinery Safety and Operation on 1-3 December 2015 at the IRRI Training Center.

The training activity was designed to hone the skills and knowledge of ES staff in the safe operation and maintenance of machines used in IRRI’s experimental fields and facilities. The training was facilitated by Joseph Rickman, Martin Gummert, Nguyen Van Hung, and Carlito Balingbing from the Postharvest Unit. Safety was highlighted, as well as the important role of communication between the operators, the mechanics, and the warehouse staff in keeping the tractor fleet and equipment functioning efficiently and safely on the farm. “Everybody’s got to work together. It’s not just the operators’ job. The operator should remind the mechanic what’s not working and the warehouse must provide the needed parts,” Rickman said.

During the three-day course, participants updated their theoretical knowledge via classroom discussion and their practical skills in appropriate maintenance and operation of farm equipment, which includes tractors with implements (i.e., rotovator, mower, and baler) and combine harvesters. Roger Elbo, a senior Trained Crop and Pesticide Application (TCPA) technician, appreciated the training because, on top of learning how to drive and park machines correctly, which he learned from fellow technicians, his basic skills in preparing equipment through proper hitching (and unhitching) and maintenance checks through WOGAM (water, oil, gas, air, and miscellaneous) were also reinforced. At the end of the training course, participants were given an exam (both theoretical and practical) to assess what they had learned. The results will be the basis for issuing certificates and accreditation to operators of farm machinery at ES.

James Quilty is keen on instituting the certification of all equipment operators and mechanics at ES to ensure safety and that farm machinery are taken care of and properly maintained. The agricultural engineers of the Postharvest Unit will be the ones giving accreditation exams to farm equipment operators based on the needs of ES. Martin Gummert, head of the Postharvest Unit, expressed his support for the collaboration, which is a step forward in IRRI’s R&D mechanization strategy.


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IRRI appoints new partnerships and development head

Los Baños, Philippines - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Michele Weldon as head of partnerships and development.

In this role, Weldon will work with the Partnerships Office and relevant IRRI staff in strengthening the institute’s relations with the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) of partner countries. Together with the Donor Relations and Project Coordination (DRPC) Unit, Weldon will also help bolster IRRI’s capacity to identify and develop funding partnerships with key philanthropic institutions.

Weldon brings more than twenty years of experience in managing development and environmental programs with think tanks, the private sector, nongovernment organizations, and the United Nations (UN). She has a wide range of experience across many countries, including Spain, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, and India. Prior to joining IRRI, Weldon has worked for the World Health Organization and UN Women.

Weldon looks forward to working with colleagues and partners to expand IRRI's excellent work. “I am honored to join IRRI in its 55th year,” she stated. “I also feel fortunate to be working in South and Southeast Asia where I have lived and worked for over 30 years.”

Weldon assumed her role on 23 November 2015. She will be working at the IRRI India office in New Delhi until July 2016 to initially focus on South Asia. In the meantime, she will be traveling to and from the Philippines before she settles in Los Baños from then onward. 


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Friday, December 4, 2015

External reviewer lauds CORIGAP's transdisciplinary approach

Los Baños, Laguna – An external review of CORIGAP—a project working on closing rice yield gaps through environmentally sustainable means—evaluated the key outcomes and the quality, relevance, and effectiveness of its research and collaboration in six Southeast Asian countries during the first 3 years of implementation.

According to Ian Willet, one of the evaluators and an expert in soil, water, and agricultural development, “The transdisciplinary approach of the project was very well executed. It is important to keep an eye on targets, and we will later discuss how to fine tune and suggest ways of doing things.”

The first phase assessment of CORIGAP (Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint) was commissioned by IRRI’s office of the Deputy Director General for Research. Specifically, the review focused on progress made in developing best management practices that increase yield and productivity using less input, while reducing the environmental footprint of rice production.

The project is implemented in six major rice-growing countries—China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and is aimed at ensuring food security and gender equity, and alleviating poverty through optimized productivity and environmental sustainability of irrigated rice production systems.

The external reviewers, composed of Willet, and Karen Barroga, a development communication expert, met with key CORIGAP researchers and scientists to (1) assess the key outputs and future direction of the CORIGAP project; (2) identify areas to strengthen, modify, and refocus activities and outputs; (3) assess relevance and quality of research and extension approaches of the project; and, (4) review the effectiveness of collaboration for sustaining research and extension partnerships in the countries. 

Grant Singleton, CORIGAP coordinator, provided an overview of the multi-disciplinary project that focuses on sustainable intensification of rice production in major rice bowls in the six Asian countries. He highlighted effective partnerships with national agencies and an active advisory committee, which ensures that the CORIGAP research is well aligned with national rice program initiatives.  He also reported on strong progress in building the capacity of the next generation of rice scientists.

“I am delighted to see the progress of how CORIGAP took off from the initiatives of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium,” Barroga said. “The new research fields made the work more interesting and integrative. The challenge is to communicate the research outcomes well, considering the complexity of the project,” she added.

Aside from providing country progress reports, CORIGAP scientists discussed progress of research on ecological indicators (Sarah Beebout), field calculators (Ando Radanielson), biodiversity (Buyung Hadi), postharvest (Martin Gummert), women in rice farming (Pieter Rutsaert), yield gaps (Alex Stuart), entry points for sustainability and value chains (Matty Demont), and learning alliances and communication (Reianne Quilloy).

After the progress reports and field visits, reviewers will assess the current setup of CORIGAP and, if a second phase is warranted, will give recommendations on the direction of the next phase. The project’s second phase is expected to commence in 2017 and run for 4 years. 

CORIGAP began in January 2013 and the first phase of this USD5.2 million-project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation concludes in December 2016.


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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Satellite-based rice forecasting to help the Philippines in disaster preparation

Makati City, Philippines - Rice farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, are vulnerable to the risks of drought, flooding, and pest outbreaks. Generating rice production forecasts, assessing the impact of disasters on the rice crop, and revealing the incidence of pests and disease are immensely valuable in planning mitigation and intervention strategies for supporting food security in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change.

These are the key points made by Dr. Alice Laborte, IRRI geographical information system specialist, at the forum on forecast-based emergency preparedness for climate risks. The forum is the first conference of the FoRECAST (Food Resilency in Emergencies and Climate Change Adaptation Systems Tracking) project of the World Food Programme (WFP)-Philippines.

“Accurate, timely, and detailed information enables policymakers, disaster response teams, crop insurance providers, researchers, and other stakeholders to assess the current and forthcoming status of the rice crop,” explained Laborte, who also leads the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project at IRRI. PRISM is a joint project of the Philippine Department of Agriculture, Philippine Rice Research Institute, sarmap, and IRRI.

“They need this information to act and adjust accordingly,”  Laborte said. In fact, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala recently sought the assistance of PRISM in assessing rice fields affected by Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) using satellite images over Central Luzon.

Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging economies (RIICE), another project at IRRI, also uses radar-based remote sensing technologies for observation and forecasting in selected parts of Asia to provide governments and other organizations with timely information on rice crop area and production for planning and responding to natural catastrophes. RIICE, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, is a collaborative initiative of IRRI, sarmap, Allianz, and GIZ.

“This forum is a venue for sharing scientific data, policies, and models for climate change adaptation, disaster resilience, and food and nutrition security, as well as understanding capacities and links between local and national early warning systems,” explained Praveen Agrawal, representative and country director of UN WFP-Philippines.  

The forum was held on 26 November in Makati City. It was attended by representatives from Philippine national and regional line agencies, academic and scientific/research institutions that can provide technical knowledge on forecasting and early warning systems, and provincial governments involved in the development and implementation of early warning standard operating procedures. 

Tanzania and IRRI strengthen partnership

L-R: Marco Martin Mwendo, Charles Chuwa, Bruce Tolentino, Corinta Guerta, and Abdelbagi Ismail 
Tanzania and IRRI have committed to doing more collaborative work. Marco Martin Mwendo, plant breeder and seed scientist from Tanzania's Agricultural Seed Agency, and Charles Chuwa, plant pathologist from Dakawa Agricultural Research Institute, learned more about IRRI’s research work and facilities during their four-day visit. The officials from the East African country visited the institute on 21-26 November.

Abdelbagi Ismail, overall project leader of the STRASA (Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia) project and IRRI principal scientist gave a tour of the different scientific facilities and field experiments featuring research on abiotic stresses.

Possible areas of collaboration were discussed during the visitors’ meetings with Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, Corinta Guerta, director for external relations,  and several IRRI senior scientists and management staff. IRRI will work with Tanzania on building the knowledge and skills of Tanzanian rice breeders and scientists, including learning to use geographical information systems and identifying suitable stress-tolerant rice varieties for farmer selection and adoption.

The Tanzanian officials also met Noel Magor and the Training Center team; Tobias Kretzschmar of the Genotyping Laboratory Services; Prabhjit Chadha-Mohanty of the Genetic Transformation Laboratory; Mallikarjuna Swamy and Rafiqul Islam on rice biofortification—high-zinc rice and stress-tolerant rice, respectively; Nese Sreenivasulu on grain quality and nutrition; and James Quilty on ecological intensification and seed processing.

Marco and Charles also visited the neighboring University of the Philippines Los Baños, and the SL Agritech farm in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, to learn how a private company conducts seed production.

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Philippine vice president supports farmers gaining access to best IRRI technologies

Los Baños, Philippines - Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay visited IRRI headquarters earlier today for a briefing on rice science and food security. The vice president and his party were welcomed by IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler and the institute's senior leaders.

Deputy Director General Bruce Tolentino presented an overview of IRRI's research agenda and its partnership with the Philippine government through the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP).

FSSP objectives include bolstering national resilience to impacts of climate change, increasing adoption of yield-enhancing technologies, and conserving traditional rice varieties.

In response, the vice president emphatically stated that he would like to "focus on modernizing agriculture, ensuring all farmers gain access to the best technology, especially those developed at IRRI since the institute is located in the Philippines."

The vice president also visited the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment, and the International Rice Genebank, which holds in trust for the world 127,000 different rice varieties.


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Nyle Brady, former IRRI director general and giant in soil science research, passes away

Dr. Nyle C. Brady, the third director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and long-time professor and leader in soil science at Cornell University in the United States, passed away on 24 November in Colorado at age 95.

After 26 years at Cornell, Brady became IRRI’s director general in 1973. During 8 years at the helm, he pioneered new cooperative relationships between the Institute and the national agricultural research systems in Asia.

In October 1976, Dr. Brady (front row center in photo) led an IRRI group of scientists on a historic 3-week trip to China where they visited most of the
institutions conducting rice research, as well as rice-growing communes where they interacted with farmers (a rare circumstance in 1976). Brady had previously provided China with seeds of IRRI-developed varieties, which jumpstarted the Institute’s formal scientific collaboration that facilitated the development of the country's rice economy. The October 1976 trip marked the beginning of dramatic changes in China and of a close relationship between China and IRRI that has resulted in major achievements in rice research.

In a 2006 interview (video at right), Dr. Brady said, “My IRRI experience ranks very high. I had three careers: one at Cornell as a professor and a teacher, one at IRRI, and then one in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID; as senior assistant administrator for science and technology, 1981-89), the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), and The World Bank.

I won’t say which one was the more critical. I will say that my experience at IRRI, not only for me but for my wife and family, was a highlight because we were involved in something that would help humanity. I felt I was working with a group of individuals, men and women, who wanted to improve the lot of people. They were not there just to do research and write papers; they were there to solve problems.”

"Nyle Brady led IRRI into a tremendous period of growth in the 1970s, through which some of its greatest achievements came to fruition," said Robert Zeigler, IRRI's current director general. "Even after he left IRRI to join USAID, and through his retirement, he was always looking out for IRRI's best interest. He understood the power of what IRRI had to offer some of the world's least advantaged people and did what he could to help us realize our full potential. IRRI and the world are better places for having had Nyle at the helm for so many productive years."

Born in Colorado in the U.S., he earned his B.S. in chemistry from Brigham Young University in 1941 and his PhD in soil science from North Carolina State University in 1947. An emeritus professor at Cornell, he was the co-author (with Ray R. Weil) of the classic textbook, The nature and properties of soils, now in its 14th edition. “He was a giant in soil science and agriculture, and left an important legacy in many ways,” said Weil, professor of environmental science and technology at the University of Maryland.

“Brady was one of the giants of our field, and yet known for his personable approach to students and colleagues,” said Pedro Sanchez, director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center and senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, whom Brady mentored.

Brady was a founding donor of the Asia Rice Foundation USA (ARFUSA), a group of former IRRI staff members who have all worked and lived in countries where rice is vital for food and livelihood, and who are interested in assisting young scholars in advancing their careers in rice science. Memorial donations to ARFUSA may be made to honor his memory.

Brady is survived by his wife Martha; son Donald; two daughters, Dorothy and Carol; a sister June Hunter of La Hara, Colorado; 22 grandchildren; and 90 great grandchildren. His oldest son Robert preceded him in death. Click here to place an online tribute.

Related links:
Three video clips from an IRRI Pioneer interview
Excerpts of his pioneer interview published in Rice Today magazine
Cornell University obit

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IRRI donates vehicle to PHSA

The International Rice Research Institute turned over an AUV to the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) on 1 December 2015. Representing the two organizations during the vehicle turnover were Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General and Vim Nadera, director of PHSA.

With PSHA’s various projects, programs, and activities, including performances and outreach to different parts of the country, this car donation will contribute to the school’s transportation needs.

The Philippine High School for the Arts is a government-run secondary school for artistically gifted and talented individuals. It was founded on 11 June 1977 and established by Presidential Decree (PD) 1287 on 20 January 1978. It is located at the National Arts Center (NAC), Los Baños, Laguna, and is presently under the Department of Education (DepEd).

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IRRI director general inaugurates IRRI-OUAT analytical lab

Odisha, India - IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler officially opened the Analytical Laboratory at Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) on 21 November 2015. The IRRI-OUAT laboratory will be used for soil and plant analyses by postgraduate agriculture students and university and IRRI scientists.

OUAT Vice Chancellor Manoranjan Kar, College of Agriculture Dean L.M. Garnaik, Professor C.M. Khanda, faculty, and students attended the event. Also at the inauguration were IRRI scientists, including J.K. Ladha, U.S. Singh, Samarendu Mohanty, Sudhanshu Singh, and Manzoor Dar.

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IRRI director general honored at the International Rice Symposium in India

Hyderabad, India - IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler received an award for his contributions to rice research and development globally, and especially in India. Hon. Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister for Labor and Employment, presented the award to Zeigler at the International Rice Symposium

Zeigler was one of the guests of honor along with Dr. David Bergvinson, the director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics; R Rajagopal, additional secretary India's e Department of Agriculture and secretary of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research; and A. Padma Raju, vice-chancellor of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU).

This year's International Rice Symposium had as its theme Rice Science for Global Food and Nutritional Security and was attended by about 700 rice scientists, policymakers, industry representatives, and farmers from around the world. Genetic gain, genomics, resource management, soil and crop health, biotic stress management, policy, technology transfer, postharvest technologies, and value addition were some of the topics discussed during the symposium.

The event was held on 18-20 November in Hyderabad. It was organized by the Indian Institute of Rice Research, the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack, Professor Jayshakar Telangana Agricultural University, IRRI, ANGRAU, and the Society for Advancement of Rice Research in Hyderabad.
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IRRI director general receives honorary degree from Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology

Odisha, India - IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree (honoris causa) by the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) for his outstanding contributions to global agriculture. Zeigler was also honored for his contributions to rice research in India.

During his tenure as IRRI director general, Zeigler also strengthened the partnership between OUAT, the Department of Agriculture, and other organizations in Odisha for improving the quality of rice research and development to improve the lives of farming communities in the face of a changing climate.

Zeigler received the degree from Vice Chancellor Manoranjan Kar on 21 November 2015.

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Chefs bring flavors of heirloom rice alive in family farming confab

"I think nothing can get more original or local as Philippine heirloom rice. It's something that we should be proud of, and it deserves a place in international kitchens," said Ken Dacanay, a sous chef of Cyma and Green Pastures restaurants after quickly demonstrating one of their two popular heirloom rice recipes at the 9th Knowledge Learning Market and Policy Engagement (KLM-PE) event last 25-26 November.

KLM-PE was organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Philippine Office, in coordination with the Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Agrarian Reform (DAR), with support from various civil society organizations that recognize the value of smallholder farmers and family farming in the country.

Seen as a viable model for sustainable agricultural development, family farming found favor with many participants of the KLM-PE that not only included groups of smallholder farmers, but also fisherfolk and producers of poultry, livestock, dairy, and other agricultural products.

IRRI is currently supporting many smallholder farmers in the Cordillera region of the Philippines through its Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) with the DA and an IFAD grant called the Cordillera Highlands Agricultural Resources Management Project. The project had previously been under the technical innovation services component of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE).

“We’ve adopted the so-called value chain approach with the HRP,” explained Dr. Digna Manzanilla, CURE coordinator and IRRI social science expert. “That is,” she continued, “we’re helping farmers with the production system -- from improving the product, to processing, then analyzing preferences of the consumers, to promoting the heirloom rice varieties themselves.
“And one of the ways by which we do this is through partnerships with some well-known chefs in the country,” she explained. A total of 11 farmers’ organizations are currently involved with the HRP, most of which have been exporting their heirloom rice varieties, she added.

"For this year, the [cooking] demonstrations are something different at the KLM-PE because we had always focused on discussions about policy, good practices, and others. But, I'm so happy with the case of heirloom rice because it's been able to link a product to markets such as restaurants," remarked Yolando Arban of the IFAD country program office in the Philippines.

"So there is value adding in terms of developing these products. I was just joking a few minutes ago that I'd only be able to cook a simple arroz caldo [rice porridge] but with this, rice gets a special twist. So this is very important and very good," he added.

"Our heirloom rice is really quite versatile. So we thought, 'Why not use them for dishes that are even popular outside of the country?'" asked fellow sous Chef Marvin Paul Catalan of Cyma and Green Pastures restaurants.

He explained that, arroz con pollo, for instance, uses arborio rice from Spain, the same kind used in making risotto. But they found out that tinawon, a type of heirloom rice, also shared similar characteristics with arborio so they decided to try it for their dish. The result was quite good.

"Plus, we were able to support local farmers and help our local market because we're using what's available locally and don't need to import from other countries," he explained.

Apart from heirloom rice, about 92 farmer-participants of the KLM-PE were also able to get climate-smart rice seeds for free through IRRI's Next Generation project with the DA.

KLM-PE was held at the Convention Hall of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management in Quezon City, Philippines.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Award-winning Bangladeshi journalist and activist explores collaboration with IRRI Communication

Shykh Seraj is a Bangladeshi journalist, media personality, and agricultural development activist who has been promoting agricultural development in Bangladesh through electronic and print media for over 30 years. Seraj is credited with revolutionizing the agricultural sector of Bangladesh through television. He is also the founder of the first-ever Bengali satellite television station in Bangladesh.  

Seraj has received numerous accolades for his work, including the prestigious A.H. Boerma award from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for his outstanding development journalism in the field of agriculture.

Seraj and other journalists from his network visited IRRI on 26 November to discuss possible collaborative media activities with the institute's communication unit.  

Seraj acknowledged what IRRI has done for the farmers of Bangladesh and offered to contribute to Rice Today magazine. 

Seraj also shared his strategy for popularizing developmental journalism in Bangladesh, including the use of social media. “Farmers are human beings so we make various programs for them that cover entertainment, health, culture, festivals, and others,” he said. 

During their visit, Seraj and his fellow journalists interviewed IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, and Noel Magor, head of the Training Center, and Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the T.T. Chang Genetics Resources Center and the International Rice Genebank.

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