Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Former IRRI scholar receives AAEA fellowship award

Dr. Jikun Huang has been awarded an Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Fellowship for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of agricultural or applied economics.

Huang was a PhD scholar in agricultural economics at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 1987 to 1990 while studying at the nearby University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Recognition as an AAEA Fellow is AAEA's most prestigious honor. Huang was recognized for his exceptional contributions through research, mentoring students, institution building, and impact on policy. His leadership in agricultural economics in China is unsurpassed and his research has made significant influence on China’s agricultural policies, according to the AAEA.

As a researcher, his work is widely known for being empirically based and rigorously analyzed.  Among his most significant contributions are his research on biotechnology impact assessment, food security and policy, and food supply/demand/trade simulation model.

Huang is the founder and director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also vice presidents of Chinese Association of Agricultural Economics and Chinese Association of Agro-Technology Economics. 

In 2010, he received IRRI’s Outstanding Alumni Award. “Dr. Jikun Huang is one of the most well-known agricultural economists in the world,” said then IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler during the awarding ceremony. “His publications have been widely cited in international journals. His work has also influenced China’s agricultural policy and development, including China’s rice policy.”

Huang also received the UPLB Distinguished Alumni Award during UPLB’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2008.

Huang discusses the importance of training the next generation of rice scientists, beginning at 1:34 into an IRRI video on the subject

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Latest STRASA Newsletter now out

The STRASA Newsletter (Vol. 9, No. 2) is now available at This issue features the strengthened collaboration with Nepal and Odisha State in India, the presentation of new stress-tolerant rice varieties at the Africa Rice Center station in  St. Louis, Senegal, and other STRASA activities. Also in this issue is the launch of Gender Corner, a new column that focuses on women's rights and gender equality in various countries involved in the STRASA project. The first installment of Gender Corner highlights the women farmers of eastern India as agents of change.

Download STRASA Newsletter.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Korea’s RDA appoints Hwang-keun Chung as new administrator

(Photo: RDA)

Mr. Hwang-keun Chung was appointed as the new administrator of Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA) on 17 August, succeeding Mr. Yang-Ho Lee. 

Mr. Chung has a B.A. in Agriculture from Seoul National University and has served as the deputy director of the Agriculture Policy Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; director general of both the Rural Policy Bureau and Agricultural Policy Bureau under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries; and secretary to the President for Agriculture, Livestock, and Food.

Mr. Chung will continue to pursue all opportunities to strengthen the collaborative relationship between RDA and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), according to Dr. Jeom-ho Lee, director, International Technology Cooperation Center, RDA. 

“Our partnership is of paramount importance under the present challenges facing international agricultural,” Lee wrote in a letter to IRRI Director General Matthew Morell. “Our collaboration will contribute much to the development of agricultural science and technology, and ultimately to the welfare of farmers around the globe. Undoubtedly, in the capable hands of the new RDA administrator, our cooperation will be further consolidated. We look forward to building a more fruitful and lasting R&D partnership with you.”

The Government of the Republic of Korea has been collaborating with IRRI through the RDA since the 1960s. The research partnership includes rice breeding using temperate japonica rice varieties and tropical indica varieties as parents. This produced the rice variety Tongil, which transformed the country from a rice importer to a self-sufficient producer.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Indonesia: Experts discuss strategy for adopting a web-based app for climate prediction in rainfed rice areas

Key stakeholders participated in the WeRise-RR focus group discussion and 1st CCADS-RR ARPM.

BOGOR, Indonesia, 15 August —A focus group discussion with key stakeholders was recently held to introduce the prototype of a seasonal climate prediction-based decision support system. The app, called WeRise-RR, is designed to improve rice-based cropping systems in Indonesia’s rainfed areas. The focus was on how to effectively disseminate the new technology by considering the viewpoint of farmers.

WeRise-RR is a new version of the web-based app originally developed in 2014. It provides rainfed rice farmers with crucial weather information such as the start and end of the rainy season and rainfall distribution. The app also gives farmers options on optimum sowing times, the variety to plant, and the timing of fertilizer application.

“We need more rice,” said Dr. Hasil Sembiring, director general of Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture Directorate of Food Crops. “We also need more innovations in order to increase our national rice production.”

“We hope that, by using WeRise-RR, farmers will be able to utilize their limited resources more efficiently through choosing a suitable variety, avoiding failure in crop establishment, and more effective fertilizer application,” said Dr. Edi Husen, deputy director for research collaboration and dissemination of the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development. “This would enable rainfed rice farmers to have surplus harvests more often—making farming more profitable—thereby stimulating investments and attracting young people to work in agriculture.”

Indonesians are among the world’s major rice consumers with an annual per capita consumption of around 127 kilograms. The country needs to increase its rice production by 8 million tons by 2019.

Indonesia, however, has been widely affected by climate anomalies, such as drought, over recent years that have caused substantial damage to rice production. Lack of rain during the monsoon season makes it challenging for the country to achieve its targeted rice production goal. Erratic rainfall has made it difficult for farmers to determine when to plant their crops.

So, the country's agricultural research and development programs have placed great importance on the rice sector, particularly through the framework of its national program for achieving self-sufficiency by increasing productivity and production of major food commodities.

WeRise-RR was developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-Japan collaborative research project (IJCRP) via its effort on Climate Change Adaptation through Development of a Decision Support Tool to Guide Rainfed Rice Production (CCADS-RR). It is aimed at contributing to the national rice program of Indonesia, the pilot country for testing this technology.

“This technology is for Indonesia and other countries that need to improve their rainfed rice production,” emphasized Dr. Keiichi Hayashi, CCADS-RR project coordinator and IRRI soil scientist. “While there are challenges, there are also opportunities. That’s why we are involving key stakeholders at this stage. Identifying a strategic adoption pathway is important.”

Nelly Florida Riama, acting director of the Agroclimate and Maritime Climate Information Division, Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi dan Geofisika (BMKG), expressed the importance of WeRise-RR in impact-based predictions.

Dr. Zulkifli Zaini, IRRI representative to Indonesia, recommended that key institutions develop a joint proposal to use current resources and maximize the capacities of the various institutions that will play key roles in the dissemination of WeRise-RR.

Key stakeholders who attended the focus group discussion to express their strong support were Dr. Suyamto Hardjosuwirjo, former director of the Indonesian Center for Food Crops Research and Development (ICFORD) and senior researcher at  the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT)-East Java; Dr. Widi Hardjono, director of the Agricultural Training Center; Dr. Prihasto Setyanto, head of the Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute; Nelly Florida Riama, acting director of BMKG; Dr. Andriko Noto Susanto, head of AIAT-North Sumatera; Dr. Saleh Mokhtar, head of AIAT-West Nusa Tenggara; Dr. Hasil Sembiring and Dr. Achmad Mudzakkir Fagi, former members of the IRRI Board of Trustees.

The focus group discussion was held back-to back with the CCADS-RR 1st annual review and planning meeting. The review focused on the progress of the collaborative work by project partners.

The presentations were made by Mrs. Nurwulan Agustiani, Indonesia Rice Research Institute (ICRR) researcher and CCADS-RR national project coordinator; Mrs. Sri Rustini, AIAT-Central Java researcher; Mr. Lalu Wirajaswadi, AIAT-West Nusa Tengara senior researcher; Mr. Yohannes Krisnadi, AIAT-East Java senior researcher; Mrs. Idri Hastuty Siregar, AIAT-North Sumatra senior researcher; Mr. Nasruddin Razak, AIAT-South Sulawesi senior researcher; Dr. Satoshi Uchida, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) Social Sciences Division head; Dr. Maria Excelsis Orden, Philippine Central Luzon State University professor and division chief; and Dr. Romeo Cabangon, IRRI associate scientist .

There were 37 participants who attended the back-to-back events co-organized by the office of Dr. Ali Jamil, ICFORD director and ICRR acting director.

The IJCRP on CCADS-RR, which was implemented on 1 October 2015 and will end on 30 September 2020, is funded by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and JIRCAS.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Food festival at IRRI features 40 culinary delicacies from 15 countries

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Nothing bridges cultures across the world like good food. This resonated during the annual International Food Festival held recently at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Around 40 culinary delights were prepared by IRRI scholars, trainees, scientists, and staff.

Organized by the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees and Residents of IRRI (AFSTRI), the festival attracted a big crowd of food lovers within the community and outside guests on 12 August (photos).

Dishes sampled by the eager crowd came from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Vietnam. The festival also highlighted five local restaurants: Bonitos, Dal Cielo’s, Phuong’s Vietnamese Restaurant, and Bean Hub and Berris Food Services at IRRI.

The preparation for the festival provided an opportunity to have fun, be creative, and bond according to the participants. “It is very nice to see so many dishes served by representatives from different countries,” said AFSTRI President Prasad Senadheera. “The Food Festival is a very important event for us to experience and enjoy the world's different cultures.”

“While cooking, we celebrate together and we get to know each other,” shared Smita Joshi from Team India, the largest participating group who also sold the most food.

The excitement wasn’t limited to tasting exotic dishes. The festival was also a highly anticipated food competition. This year’s winners for the best dishes were Bangladesh for rice (Vuna Khichuri), China and India for vegetable (Sliced potato and onion with cumin and Bread chop, respectively), Vietnam for nonvegetable (stir-fried chicken noodles), and Indonesia for dessert (Klepon). India won the prize for the most popular food stall.

“Our team is very proud and happy to win in the best rice dish category,” said Satyen Mondal from Team Bangladesh. “We didn’t plan to get an award, but we did a lot of work together, planning for about 10 days on how to present our dish. Our objective was to make the event more festive.” The classic Vuna Khichuri is considered the ultimate comfort food for Bengalis particularly on rainy days. The ingredients for this winning entry are basmati rice, chicken, peas, and spices.

Thuong and Nhien Hieu from Team Vietnam shared the same sentiments. “We had no aspiration to win an award but we wanted to contribute to make the food festival more interesting,” they said. “We wanted everyone to have a taste of Vietnamese cuisine.”

When asked if they want to join the contest again next year, both scholars answered, “Absolutely!” Nhien Hieu was quick to add, “Hopefully, we can cook an even better dish next time.”

View 23 more photos on flickr by Isagani Serrano, IRRI. Video by Christopher Gapuz, IRRI. 

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JICA representatives in the Philippines briefed on partnership projects with IRRI

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines, 15 August—Representatives in the Philippines for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) were recently briefed on collaborative projects with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

JICA reps Morita and Ito with Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director
general for communication and partnerships.
Isusumu Ito (center in photo) and Takahiro Morita (left in photo), chief and senior JICA reps, respectively, received updates on the Wonder Rice Initiative for Food Security and Health (WISH) project and training activities with IRRI.

Under WISH, scientists from JICA, Nagoya University, and IRRI have teamed up to raise rice production by developing new disease-resistant, high-yielding rice varieties. With conventional cross breeding, the scientists are using a rice improvement technique in which desired traits from specific rice varieties are marked for transfer to identified Asian and African varieties that are preferred by farmers.

The representatives also reviewed the capacity-building workshops conducted by the IRRI Training Center under the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD). JICA has been working with IRRI in Africa since the launch of CARD in 2008. Through the support of JICA and IRRI—in partnership with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)—training has involved rice production techniques, season-long courses for extension agronomists, and producing quality breeder and foundation seed.

“The presentations confirmed the good progress of the projects,” said Ito. “IRRI is a center of excellence and JICA is the largest bilateral development organizations in the world. Our institutions work well together. We find our collaboration excellent.”

Significantly, these activities are the first to receive direct funding from JICA, according to Corinta Guerta, director for external relations at IRRI.  “This is the first time JICA has provided funding to a nongovernment organization such as IRRI,” she said. “Under this new funding model, JICA, IRRI, and PhilRice are able to work closely and our progress and accomplishments are directly monitored by JICA. I think it will be a very useful model for future collaboration.”

Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI's Training Center, commended the direct relationship between JICA and IRRI. “The training program for the 23 CARD countries would have not been possible if the project was not a direct agreement between JICA and IRRI,” he said.

Aside from these two activities, IRRI and JICA are now actively discussing training for extension workers in Afghanistan.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

15 climate-smart rice varieties transferred to PhilRice for dissemination to farmers

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Better access to improved, quality rice seed is essential for farmers to raise their productivity, particularly under unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change.

On 12 August, the Next-Gen ProjectAccelerating the development and adoption of next-generation rice varieties for the major ecosystems in the Philippines, turned over the seed of 15 climate-smart rice varieties to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). These included 1,005 kg of foundation seed of 14 varieties suitable for irrigated, rainfed, submergence, saline, and upland ecosystems.

Also transferred were 10 kg of NSIC Rc222 breeder seed to replace the current stock at PhilRice. NSIC Rc222 is a popular high-yielding variety developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The seed will be used for producing registered seeds to speed up introduction of the newly released climate-smart rice varieties in targeted environments, including marginal areas, to raise farmers’ yield. 

Dr. Georgina Vergara (left in photo), Next-Gen Project lead and scientist at IRRI, handed over the seed to Ms. Thelma Padolina of PhilRice. 

The Next-Gen Project is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program of the Philippine Department of Agriculture. It utilizes advances in plant breeding methodologies and stratified multi-environment testing to speed up the development and field testing of new high-yielding inbred and hybrid rice varieties with multiple resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Through high-quality seed production, the good quality seed is multiplied and immediately made available to farmers.

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Youth delegates learn valuable insights about IRRI’s goals

Dr. Tolentino briefs the APYE delegates on IRRI's research
activities aimed at ending global hunger and ensuring
sustainable rice production.
LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—A delegation from the 2nd Asia-Pacific Youth Exchange (APYE) visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on 5 August to get an overview of current research activities aimed at ending global hunger and ensuring sustainable rice production.

“APYE brings together young people so they can brainstorm on ideas that are more implementable,” said Savinda Rathanuga, regional director for AISEC, an international nongovernmental and nonprofit organization that provides young people with leadership development and cross-cultural internship and volunteer exchange experiences across the globe. “A visit to IRRI was suggested because rice plays such a major role in Asia.”

The 20-person delegation was introduced to IRRI’s initiatives toward meeting the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SGD) on hunger and responsible food consumption and production. The APYE delegates were briefed by Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director for Communication and Partnerships; Dr. Rosa Paula Cuevas, a scientist at IRRI’s Grain Quality and Nutrition Center; and Dr. Maricar Alberto, climate change expert.

“We try to understand these initiatives and how we can provide solutions or ideas to communities,” Rathanuga said. “We are not trying to formulate national policies but use the bottom-up approach on how can we turn these ideas into practice. We want to better understand how rice production and consumption can be sustainable for the demands of the future.”

The program is designed to aid in formulating solutions that will ease the problem of labor shortages that are affecting food production as well as unemployment among youth.

“Rice production is a major job opportunity,” Rathanuga said. “We try to engage young people and encourage them to consider agriculture since many of them already are entering the service industries and high-tech jobs.”

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Plant genetics specialist joins IRRI's Young Researcher’s Lunch

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines, 11 AugustThe Young Researchers' Lunch recently hosted John McKay (center in photo), associate professor of plant genetics at Colorado State University. Dr. McKay, who is at IRRI to serve as a resource person for the ongoing 2016 Rice Research to Production Course, is also the principal investigator at The McKay Lab. His research interest is to gain an understanding of the traits and genes of plants involved in adaptation to particular stresses such as drought.

The group discussed making comparisons between working with model plant species such as Arabidopsis spp. and crops such as rice. Dr. McKay also provided some perspectives on the current funding situation at U.S. universities that affects the enrollment of potential graduate students.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

IRRI donates office furniture to local public school library

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—IRRI, through the Society of IRRI Non-research Professionals (SINOP), has donated cabinets, tables, and chairs for the Eva Corazon Library of the Bagong Silang Elementary School (BSES). Ms. Corazon is SINoP’s late former president.

“After our back-to-school activity to bring books and inaugurate the library in June, we noticed that the furniture and fixtures at the library were already dilapidated,” said Miriam Telosa, SINOP president. “They needed new ones to secure and safeguard the books and materials that were given to them.

SINOP endorsed the donation to Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, who supported and approved request.

“These donations will also help the students enjoy using their library and enhance their learning experience,” Telosa added. 

Ms. Romelda de Jose, BSES principal, received the donations from Mr. Lito Platon, IRRI’s Community Project officer, during a turnover ceremony on 28 July.  

“On behalf of BSES teachers, parents, and pupils, please accept our sincerest thanks,” de Jose said.  “Your donations will allow us to complete the facilities of our library and they will be of great help to the students and teachers as well. We are so lucky to have your organization as a partner.” 

Members of the organization attended the turnover ceremony (photo)..  

BSES is an adopted school of SINoP and some of its deserving students are supported by its scholarship program. 

(This article was written by Gina Zarsadias, IRRI.)

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Paul Marcotte, former IRRI Training Center head, passes away

Dr. Paul Marcotte (at right in photo), who headed the Training Center of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at the turn of the century, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday (7 August) in Parkdale, Oregon, 3 weeks short of his 70th birthday.

He died peacefully in his sleep after a weekend full of fun and adventure on the farm in Parkdale and cycling in the Columbia Gorge with family and friends—his favorite retirement activities.

In the photo, taken at IRRI in 2000, Marcotte confers on delivering new rice technology to farmers with Mark Bell, then head of IRRI’s International Programs Management Office.

In 2000-02, Marcotte began a revolutionary effort to revitalize and streamline IRRI’s Training Center. He led the development of a strategic plan for the institute's training activities, which conceptualized the Knowledge Pathways Initiative. This resulted in the harnessing of new modes of delivery for training materials in the digital age—ultimately leading to today’s Rice Knowledge Bank.

As head of the IRRI Training Center, he was eager to create a “university without walls” to deliver rice information to a far wider range of students, extension personnel, and farmers. In IRRI’s 2001 annual report, Marcotte lamented, “I can’t personally reach every farmer in Asia, but I can get to anyone who owns or can beg, hire, or borrow a personal computer with Internet access. We’re not bound by the walls of a classroom anymore.”

Marcotte, who worked at the University of California, Davis, from 1994 to 2011, had a masters degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University and a PhD in rural sociology and international development from the University of Kentucky. At U.C. Davis, he taught in the International Agriculture Development (IAD) and Community Development (CD) programs, directed international programs, and was an academic administrator for both the Chancellor’s Office of University Outreach and International Programs and the Dean’s Office of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He had been selected as “Teacher of the Year” for both the IAD and CD programs.

While at U.C. Davis, he was also the chair and vice chair of the IAD Graduate Group, director of the Humphrey Fellows Program, and director of the Indian TNAU/UC Davis Scientific Exchange Program.

In addition to his work at U.C. Davis and time at IRRI (2000-02 and 2004), Marcotte was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, a Rockefeller Fellow, and head of training at the International Service to National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) in The Netherlands. He also taught field courses in Thailand, India, Panama, and Mexico.

Those who have a favorite photo or memory involving Marcotte are welcome to post it on the Facebook page of the Humphrey Fellows Program. The material will be forwarded to his family.

Condolence messages may also be sent to Paul Marcotte's family, via his nephew, Joe Marcotte, at or to Joe at 7735 Baseline Rd. Mount Hood Parkdale, OR 97041.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ifugao heirloom rice displays its colorful versatility at Filipino gourmet food festival

Blue paella by Chef Jaja Andal
TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines, 2 August—The Ifugao heirloom rice variety Dona-al was recently featured with other Filipino gourmet foods at the media launch of Discovery Country Suites’ Feast of ColoursThe main event will be on 13-14 August. 

Food connoisseurs and bloggers got the chance to relish an array of delectable Filipino dishes, among which is Chef Jaja Andal’s Blue paella, a stimulating combination of seafood and Dona-al, a traditional rice unique to Ifugao Province. Chef Jaja dyed the heirloom rice using pea flower, an herb that also has therapeutic effects, to give it a delicate blue hue that added an extraordinary visual impact to her creation.

The flower from the blue ternate was used as colorant to the Blue Paella, using the variety Dona-al as main ingredient 
Dona-al (a sub-variant of Tinawon) can better absorb the blue hue from the pea flower and is therefore an apt choice for the blue paella recipe, noted Dr. Rochie Cuevas, a grain quality specialist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The idea behind Feast of Colours is derived from the vibrant colors and vigor of Tagaytay City’s lush landscapes. Conceptualized by Discovery Country Suites’ Chefs Anthony Raymond and Rhea Sycip, in collaboration with guest Chefs Nancy Reyes-Lumen and Jaja Andal, the Feast of Colours highlights home cooking as an integral part of Filipino customs and traditions and accentuates the Philippines’ colorful array of delicacies.
Chefs Jaja Andal, Rhea Sycip, Anthony Raymond, and Nancy Reyes-Lumen 

Having the heirloom rice recipes from the Cordillera Region in Discovery Country Suites’ Feast of Colours speaks of the successful collaboration of the Heirloom Rice Project with the players in the burgeoning niche market for these varieties.

IRRI and the Department of Agriculture (DA) are always on the lookout for partners to ensure the survival of the region's rice culture and the revered terraces, in this case, through restaurants that offer heirloom rice. The DA-IRRI Heirloom Rice Project also safeguards the link between end-users and the farmers as demand for this specialty rice is expected to increase over time.

A plate of colors: blue paella, duck adobo, crispy lapu-lapu, seafood bicol express, and muffin for dessert

The Blue paella was complemented with an equally delicious entrée from Discovery Suites’ roster of excellent chefs to create a feast of colors on the plate. Chef Anthony Raymond prepared hearty well-loved viands such as Seafood Bicol express, Crispy whole lapu-lapu, Duck adobo, and his take on Oysters Rockefeller for appetizers.

Guest Chef Nancy Reyes-Lumen cooked Mechado paprika and Rodrigo’s roast, a recipe from the well-celebrated The Adobo Book that she co-authored. Aside from the paella, Chef Jaja also served a salad of Tagaytay flowers and greens, and crab paté. The desserts by Chef Rhea included Amadeo muffins and Avocado sponge cake

Heirloom rice varieties are already a big favorite among the clients and customers of Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay City. In its Restaurant Verbena, Chef Celmar Ambida uses aromatic red-grained Imbuucan to produce Arroz loco, a paella-like creation that fuses the flavors of the heirloom rice, lobster oil with tiger prawns, clams, herb-baked oysters, sausages, crab roe, crispy chicken thighs, barbecued red-braised pork belly, salted duck egg, shaved queso de bola, and chicken fat croutons. 

Drs. Casiana Vera Cruz, Digna Manzanilla, Rochie Cuevas, Cyril Domingo, and Anne Marie Eligio from the Heirloom Rice Project attended the food festival media launch. The team mingled with the creators of the innovative heirloom rice recipes and shared information about the varieties.

Arroz Loco paired with heirloom rice

Lechon Roll is served with heirloom rice and dipping sauces
A Lechon roll is also available from the restaurant’s menu. Their version of the classic lechon kawali is served with Dona-al and with three different dipping sauces: pork liver, spiced vinegar, and pickled papaya.

Chef Celmar makes use of Tinawon varieties for his varied heirloom rice recipes at the Discovery Suites Restaurant Verbena

Guests from the media and the DA-IRRI HRP team with Chefs Jaja Andal and Nancy Reyes-Lumen, Rhea
Sycip and Anthony Raymond

HRP Project Leader Casiana Vera-Cruz and Co-Project Leader Digna Manzanilla enjoy the blue-dyed
Dona-al, cooked paella-style by Chef Jaja Andal

Talangka paté by Chef Jaja Andal

Rodrigo’s roast by Chef Nancy Reyes-Lumen from the Adobo Book

Mechado paprika by Chef Nancy Reyes-Lumen

Seafood Bicol express by Chef Anthony Raymond
A salad of colorful flowers and greens of Tagaytay

Pinoy baked rockefeller by Chef Anthony Raymond

Avocado sponge cake by Chef Rhea Sycip

Photo credits: Anne Marie Eligio, Discovery Suites, Cyril Domingo

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Philippine Rice Information System wins research award

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – The Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) has won the 2016 Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI) Research and Development Award. PRISM received  the recognition during the recently concluded Syensaya, a series of activities and events held every year for National Science and Technology Week (NSTW).

Syensaya is an initiative of the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. in solidarity with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in its annual celebration of NSTW.

The award recognized research work conducted under PRISM as documented in the paper, Mapping and monitoring rice areas in the Philippines: The PRISM Project experience. The paper described collaborative work among the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), sarmap, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The effort is integrating data from remote sensing, crop modeling, and smartphone-based surveys to deliver accurate, timely, and actionable information on rice crop seasonality, area, yield, damage due to flood and drought, and crop health.

PRISM is funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the DA (DA-BAR). Watch the 16-minute video above for an in-depth overview of the project. In 2015, the PRISM team developed the first high-resolution maps of rice areas in the Philippines. The maps have an overall accuracy of 85% based on more than 2,200 ground observations and agreement with provincial-level official yield statistics.

Since the launch of the PRISM website in June, the project has made information on Philippine rice production more accessible. This information is available to the DA and other decision makers to guide them in planning or creating policy to improve Philippine rice production and in responding to needs that arise during and after disasters.

“The hard work and strong collaboration among PRISM team members from DA, PhilRice, sarmap, and IRRI has led to the team's early successes,” said Alice Laborte, who is the PRISM project leader and GIS and market research specialist at IRRI. “This award will surely inspire the team to work harder and contribute more toward making essential information on rice available to those who need it.”

Eduardo Jimmy Quilang, PRISM project leader at PhilRice, sent his gratitude to the DA and project team members: “I congratulate the PRISM team for this award. Truly, they deserve this as one of the fruits of their hard work and sacrifices. I also commend the DA for their full support, and look forward to more from this project as it is very timely and of great significance to the country."

Representatives from PRISM partner agencies who attended the awarding were, from IRRI, Laborte, Nancy Castilla, Arnel Rala, Joselito Villa, Emma Quicho, Ruvicyn Bayot, Jeny Raviz, Abel Callejo, and John Bethany Macasero; from PhilRice, Leonardo Marquez, Arturo Arocena Jr., Jesiree Elena Ann Bibar, Henry Cayaban, Michael Barroga, Janica Gan, and James Elwyn Leyte; from DA, Ronald Roces; and from DA-BAR Raymond Patrick Cabrera.

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Cambodian farmers adopting climate-smart rice and technologies

by Maria Rowena M. Baltazar

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 28 July—Cambodian farmers are steadily adopting new climate-smart rice varieties and associated technologies. This was revealed during the annual review and planning workshop of the project, Accelerating the Adoption of Stress-tolerant Rice Varieties by Smallholder Farmers in Nepal and Cambodia (ASTV), attracting around 75 participants (photo above).

The review and planning of the Cambodian phase of the ASTV project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), took place the day after an observance of the 30-year partnership between the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Representing the Cambodian government during the ASTV project review were H.E. Secretary of State Ty Sokhun and Deputy Director General Mak Soeun, on behalf of H.E. So Khan Rithykun, director general for the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA).

“I am pleased that the ASTV project is focusing on developing and deploying high-yielding, stress-tolerant varieties to increase farm productivity and resilience to climate change,” said Sokhun. He also commended the strengthening of the local seed systems in Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, and Pursat provinces in the Tonle Sap Region under the Feed the Future (FtF) Program. FtF is a global hunger and food security initiative of the U.S. Government.

“IRRI is committed and engaged with the Cambodian Government to improve the rice sector and the well-being of Cambodian rice farmers,” said Matthew Morell, IRRI director general. He highlighted the impact in South Asia of recently IRRI-developed stress-tolerant varieties, which are now being delivered for evaluation and commercial use in Cambodia “We will ensure these varieties are made available to those who need them the most,” assured Morell.

An overview of the project’s progress in Cambodia was presented by Dr. Uch Chantol, IRRI ASTV scientist in Cambodia, and Dr. Uma Shankar Singh, ASTV project coordinator in Nepal and IRRI representative for India and Nepal.

Plans and activities for 2016-17 were reviewed after partners presented updates on their activities during the first year. Reports on rice-based management systems for stress-tolerant rice in Cambodia, geographic information system (GIS), baseline and market studies, and monitoring and evaluation progress were presented by IRRI scientists Yoichi Kato, Nasreen Khan, Alice Laborte, and Srey Sinath, respectively.

Activity reports were also presented by Director Ngin Chhay, Directorate for Rice Crops under the GDA, the Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA) in the four provinces; and by Mr. Seang Lay Heng, deputy head, Plant Breeding Division, on behalf of Director Ouk Makara of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

The occasion was also graced by Dr. Sang Lee, USAID Mission representative to Cambodia. Lee took part in the workshop along with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, GDA, CARDI, PDA offices, seed companies, and development agencies.

L-R: Dir. Ngin Chhay, Acting GDA DG Mak Soeun, and IRRI
scientists,Abdel Ismail, Umesh Singh, and Uch Chantol.
Abdelbagi Ismail, the overall ASTV project leader, thanked the participants from Cambodia, Nepal, and IRRI for successfully implementing the project. He was also pleased to announce that GDA has agreed to provide the IRRI-Cambodia office with more office space in the newly renovated GDA Building in Phnom Penh (photo at right). 

Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships, and Ngin Chhay, DRC director, lauded the strong partnership between IRRI and Cambodia and how the two are working together for the benefit of farmers and rice industry. Likewise, Mr. Julian Lapitan, IRRI consultant, thanked and acknowledged the active and immediate response of the institute’s Cambodian partners.

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Pili Drive to undergo major renovation: wider, safer, and bike-friendly

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—In a major renovation, Pili Drive (photos), the panoramic and historic road that stretches through a portion of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) campus to the entrance of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters, will soon have new bike and pedestrian lanes.

The project is spearheaded by Dr. Marish Madlangbayan, vice chancellor for Planning and Development, under the oversight of UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, Jr.

Under the road widening project of UPLB, IRRI, and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), full-width lanes will be constructed on both sides of Pili Drive, turning the current thoroughfare into a center lane.

"This will help reduce bike-related accidents," said Glenn Enriquez, head of IRRI's Security Office, who is part of the UPLB-IRRI management committee that is overseeing the project. Pili Drive is also a popular place for joggers, which adds a dangerous mix to the cars and bikes that use the road.

"The plan will also preserve and protect the famous trees that line the drive," explained Enriquez. The road is named for the Pili trees planted along both sides. Some of the older trees were planted more than half a century ago.

"While construction of the new car, bike, and pedestrian lanes is under way, the existing road will still be used," Enriquez assured.

"Moreover, our information and technology team have already looked into the existing placement of IRRI's fiber optic cables near UPLB,” he added. “We've reported the location of the cables to both DPWH and UPLB so that they won't be damaged during construction."

In addition to the full-width roads and separate lanes for bikers and pedestrians, a rotunda will be constructed on one end of Pili Drive near the UPLB Chemical Engineering complex. The rotunda will  be connected to the abandoned pedestrian “hanging bridge” where a new bridge will be constructed to provide an alternative route to the university’s main gate.

The DPWH is financing the project for which construction will start sometime later this year. The project is estimated to take around seven months to complete.

(Article by Paul Bianca Ferrer. Photos by Gene Hettel.)

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