Friday, May 12, 2017

IRRI participates in workshop on improving small farmers' postharvest practices

Field visit to Florenden Farms in NE Arkansas. UARPP workshop participants pose in front of storage silos for rice. (L-R): Kate Wilkes (University of Arkansas), Dr. Michele Reba (USDA-Agricultural Research Service), Zarini Tahir (Kellogg Company), Caling Balingbing (IRRI), Dr. Alicia Perdon (Kellogg Company), Martin Gummert (IRRI), Dr. Terry Siebenmorgen (University of Arkansas),  Sangeeta Mukhopadhyay (Univ. of Arkansas), Mike Sullivan (Florenden Farms), Dr. Bhagwati Prakash (Univ. of Arkansas), and Zeph Odek (Univ. of Arkansas). Photo by Miriam Gummert.

ARKANSAS, USA—To exchange knowledge on state-of-the-art quality research and identify potentials for cooperation on grain quality improvements, two IRRI staff from the Postharvest and Mechanization Unit (PMU) participated in the Rice Postharvest Processing and Management Workshop sponsored by Kellogg’s and hosted by the University of Arkansas Rice Processing Program (UARPP), USA, last 3-4 April 2017. This was followed by a field trip to rice farmers, food processors, and support service providers from 5-7 April.

UARPP director Prof. Terry Siebenmorgen, the workshop organizer and one of the pioneering researchers on postharvest management and its effect on grain quality, emphasized the importance of understanding the causes of postharvest losses to optimize rice milling yield and bring out the best quality of rice to processors and consumers.

Martin Gummert, IRRI senior scientist and PMU head, delivered a keynote seminar at the University of Arkansas Global Food Opportunities Seminar, speaking about small-scale farming in Southeast Asia and South Asia and opportunities to reduce postharvest losses and add value to farmers’ yield for a more sustainable rice production. “The trend in Southeast Asia’s small-scale rice farming is towards increased farm sizes that favor mechanization and provide young people income opportunities from rice farming. We promote viable business models for mechanized rice production, such as the ‘small farmers, large fields’ scheme, in Vietnam where farmers synchronize their cropping in order to resolve issues on field operations and use of different varieties,” explained Gummert. According to him, there is a growing trend in Southeast Asia towards vertically integrated value chains as a basis for increasing inputs and benefits for farmers and to improve grain quality.”

Caling Balingbing, IRRI senior associate scientist, presented research updates of IRRI and Kellogg’s Postharvest Loss Reduction project in Thailand. In collaboration with Kellogg’s, IRRI-PMU is assessing the postharvest processing of medium-grain rice from harvesting to milling to optimize processing, reduce postharvest losses, and improve milling yields. The Thai medium-grain rice variety RD63 was identified to be suitable for processing into Rice Krispies®, a major rice-based product of Kellogg’s.

Aside from IRRI staff, researchers from the University of Arkansas and staff from Kellogg’s attended the workshops. Kellogg’s, a major food manufacturing company based in the USA, is interested in sourcing high-quality rice for its rice-based products from Thailand.

The workshop highlighted the ongoing rice postharvest research of students of the UOA’s Food Science Department on simulation and modeling of drying and its effect on grain quality, fortification through parboiling, and x-ray detection of fissures in rice kernels. Several areas of potential cooperation were identified for transferring some of the learnings from the more advanced rice production and postharvest systems of Arkansas to IRRI’s programs in Asia.

After the workshop, the participants visited the USDA Delta Water Management Unit (DWMU), headquartered on the campus of Arkansas State University.  The DWMU is led by Dr. Michele Reba of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, with key research being conducted by Dr. Arlene Adviento-Borbe, Research Agronomist at DWMU/USDA-ARS, and a former IRRI researcher.  Dr. Reba discussed her  work on preserving water quantity and quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, which includes research on alternative wetting and drying, a water-saving technology that has been co-developed by IRRI.

Dr. Karen Moldenhauer, IRRI Board of Trustees member, and rice breeder with the University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center, briefed the participants on grain quality issues in Arkansas’ breeding programs.

Industry visits included the fully mechanized 12,000-acre Florenden Farms in Northeast Arkansas; the storage and milling complex of Windmill Rice at Jonesboro, AR; and the Agri Process Innovations company of Stuttgart, AR, which provides sensors for silos and cloud-based silo management solutions for conditioning the stored product, including in-store drying. The trip ended with a visit organized by Alicia Perdon from Kellogg’s to the Kellogg’s plant in Memphis, Tennessee, where Rice Krispies®, among other products, are produced. 

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