Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Putting rice straw waste to good use

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines―A two-day workshop focusing on research-based, sustainable rice straw management initiatives and viable market prospects for rice straw was held at the IRRI Headquarters, 8-9 August. The event, titled "Putting Waste to Good Use: Sustainable Rice Straw Management in the Philippines," brought together researchers from Philippine government agencies and state universities and private sector entrepreneurs.  

A rice byproduct, rice straw can potentially be useful in several ways. However, in the Philippines, it is deemed to have little to no commercial value. Thus, it is usually burned or incorporated into the soil. Finding optimal uses for rice straw and determining how to manage it in an environmentally friendly way can increase farmers' income.

Friday, August 11, 2017

India: Season-long training on rice cultivation under way in Odisha

To further disseminate information and technologies on rice production across Odisha, India, season-long training sessions on using a mat-type nursery and mechanical transplanting and other aspects of cultivation have been under way since 14 July. The first session focused on raising healthy rice seedlings and preparing a mat nursery. 

Organized by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)-Bhadrak of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India) in collaboration with Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA), the program is composed of five training days for each session, which are covering each phase of rice cultivation. The other four sessions are tackling rice transplanting, weed management, pest and disease management, and harvesting.

Twenty village agricultural workers from the Department of Agriculture participated during the first training day. They were grouped into five, each of which was assigned a plot at the KVK experimental farm. This scenario allows them to conduct trials throughout the training period.

Dr. Aurovinda Das, senior scientist and program coordinator of KVK-Bhadrak, explained the objectives of the training program as well as its relevance in Bhadrak, Odisha. Scientists from CSISA and KVK discussed the technical aspects of the program and demonstrated the actual mat nursery preparation in the field.

Instructional leaflets containing guidelines on mat-type nursery management, manual transplanting, and best bet agronomy were distributed among trainees. All participants are expected to further train farmers, dealers, and members of NGOs in mat-type nursery management in Odisha, India. 

Establishing a modified mat nursery is the most popular training video that IRRI has ever produced with nearly 310,000 views.

Authors: Aurovinda Das, Debashis Nayak, Vivek Kumar, Panneerselvam Peramaiyan, and Ashok Kumar

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

IRRI bags Outstanding Research Award for biofortified indica rice study

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines ― IRRI's  Genetic Transformation Laboratory, headed by Dr. Inez Slamet-Loedin, was recognized at the Regional Science and Technology Week (RSTW) for its work on iron- and zinc-enriched indica rice. The study is regarded as a breakthrough in the battle against micronutrient deficiency.

IRRI's Genetic Transformation Laboratory Team receives an Outstanding Research Award from LBSCFI's PARRFI.

Titled "Biofortified Indica Rice Attains Iron and Zinc Nutrition Dietary Targets in the Field," the paper garnered the Outstanding Research and Development Award for the Research Category from the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc.'s (LBSCFI) Philippine Agriculture and Resource Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI). LBSCFI's PARRFI grants this award to agricultural, forestry, and environmental projects that contribute to national development. The study was also recently published at Nature's Scientific Reports.

"The team is really excited to learn that we won the award. We feel honored that our continuous and persistent effort all these years was greatly appreciated. This recognition would certainly encourage the team to work with more spirit and more focus on developing healthier rice varieties for rice consumers," said Norman Oliva, one of the researchers.

The study successfully verified the proof of concept on attaining Fe/Zn nutritional targets under flooded field conditions. Genetically engineered rice has raised the levels of iron (up to 15 micrograms) and zinc (up to 45.7 micrograms). Generally, polished rice grains contain only around 2 micrograms of iron and 16 micrograms of zinc.

The RSTW, themed Science for the People: S&T in Harmony with Biodiversity, was organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Region IV and featured back-to-back activities with the LBSCFI.  Highlight of the celebration was the Syensaya's Wonderama, which showcased interactive urban-, marine-, agriculture-, and environment-related exhibits. Simultaneously, fora were also conducted, including the DOST CALABARZON Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology Forum and LBSCFI's Technology Forum on Water Security. The event was held on August 2-4.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gelia T. Castillo (1928-2017): Helping science to serve a human purpose

                                                                                         Photos by Gene Hettel
By Gene Hettel

It is with deep sadness that the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) announces the passing of Dr. Gelia Tagumpay Castillo, 89, on Saturday, 5 August. Gelia, who was a Philippine National Scientist and long-time IRRI consultant, had been ill for some time.

Born on 3 March 1928 in Pagsanjan, Laguna, Philippines, she was an internationally respected rural sociologist. Her outstanding publications are major and definitive works on Philippine agricultural and rural development.

Her books include All in a Grain of Rice, known to be the first book written by a Filipino about the Filipino farmer's response to new technology, and Beyond Manila, cited as an in-depth and analytical study of the actual problems and needs of the rural areas in relation to countryside development. These works gave Filipinos insight on their own rural development efforts and their attempt to reach the farmer and the rural poor. Throughout her professional life, she was guided by the precept that “science must serve a human purpose.”

Gelia earned her AB (psychology), MS (rural sociology), and PhD (rural sociology) degrees, respectively, at the University of the Philippines (1948), Pennsylvania State University (1958), and Cornell University (1960).

She began her professional career as an instructor in psychology and sociology in the Department of Agricultural Education, College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines (UP, 1953-57). She went on to become an assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor of rural sociology at the UP College of Agriculture, respectively, 1960-66, 1966-72, and 1972-88). In 1988, she was appointed to the highest rank of university professor (one of the first six appointees to such a position at UP, which she held until her retirement in 1993). On 3 March 1993, she was appointed as professor emeritus.

In 1999, she was conferred the rank and title of National Scientist by the President of the Philippines. She also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the UP Alumni Association (1975), the Rizal Pro Patria Award (1976), and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the UP College of Agriculture (1979).

Outside the Philippines, she was a teaching and research assistant and visiting professor in the Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, 1958-60 and 1966-67, respectively.

Gelia makes a point during IRRI's 2010 science review. 
At IRRI, she served as a visiting scientist in the Social Science Division during the mid-1980s and was a consultant to the Institute beginning in 1994 through to 2013. Recently made an IRRI scientist emeritus, she was truly the grande dame of the Institute community.

She was contributing her social science expertise to the early efforts of the Institute’s fledgling Agricultural Economics Department as far back as the 1960s. More than half a century later, she was still asking piercing questions at Thursday seminars and making pithy on-the-mark observations during IRRI’s annual scientific reviews, like this synopsis given at the conclusion of the 2010 review when she emphasized the importance of the Global Rice Science Partnership.

Her 2009 IRRI Pioneer Interview (depicted in the photo montage at the top) displayed her great enthusiasm, zest, and love for rice, rural sociology, and life itself.

IRRI Director General Matthew Morell noted: “Over recent years, Gelia continued to regularly attend events at IRRI and, despite her declining health, provided us with vibrant examples of intellectual vitality, lifelong curiosity, and passion for knowledge. She was a truly remarkable person.”

IRRI Director General Emeritus Robert Zeigler, who worked closely with Gelia during her final years at IRRI, recently stated, “She was a tireless champion for our relations with the national agricultural research systems. She always reminded me of how important training was and is for IRRI to remain relevant.”

Gelia is survived by three children, Evello (Bobby) Castillo, Gertrudes Castillo Holder, and Nina T. Castillo-Caradang; six grandchildren; and one great grandchild. She was preceded in death by her husband, Leopoldo S. Castillo, who was professor emeritus at the UP Institute of Animal Science.

In lieu of flowers, colleagues and friends may give a donation in honor of Gelia to the Philippine Sociological Society.

Listen to some of the speakers at a memorial service for Gelia attended by IRRI colleagues held on 9 August 2017 at the Resurrection Chapel of St. Therese on the UPLB campus in Los Baños, Laguna.

Other reports: GMA News | Philippine Sociological Society

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