Friday, October 27, 2017

IRRI joins PhilRice Los Banos Station's "Lakbay Palay"

To celebrate Farmer’s Day, IRRI joined Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Los BaƱos Station’s 2017 Wet Season Lakbay Palay last 18 October. Bearing the theme “Binhing Sapat at Angkop, Itaguyod Natin”, the event aimed to teach farmers about new and appropriate rice technologies that they can adopt for a more sustainable rice production.

390 farmers from the CALABARZON region attended this bi-annual gathering. Various rice-related technologies were showcased in the exhibits, including hybrid and inbred seed production. IRRI in particular, highlighted hybrid rice technology, heirloom, and next generation (Next-Gen) rice varieties developed for major ecosystems in the Philippines.

A Technology Forum was held as part of the event. Keynote speakers discussed the importance of public hybrid seeds and its role in increasing agricultural yield.

As a token for the event, IRRI gave farmers some samples of improved irrigated and rainfed rice seeds.

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Understanding and assessing rice seed systems: A training collaboration of IRRI and CIAT/FLAR

Quality seed production and ensuring delivery of quality seeds to farmers are significant challenges for national seed systems around the globe.  To address these challenges, IRRI Education, together with with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR), conducted a two-week training on seed production and understanding of seed systems.

Entitled Understanding and Assessing Rice Seed Systems, the training which ran from October 17 to 27 was attended by 20 delegates from four Latin American countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Panama, in addition to Taiwan and Japan. The first leg of the training was held at CIAT headquarters near Cali, Colombia while its second leg was held in Ibague City, Colombia, hosted by the Rice Producers Federation of Colombia.

The second leg of the training included sessions about seed systems by Dr. Silmar Peske, seed expert from Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and editor of SeedNews bulletin. Tours were also conducted to provide a context of rice and seed production in Colombia.

"This training has been a great opportunity to provide capacity building for FLAR partner countries.   There is plenty of excitement among participants to learn from experts as well as each other about how to address the many challenges of producing quality seed and understanding seed systems,” shared FLAR Executive Director, Eduardo Graterol. 

"The training participants have varied roles across the seed production chain, coming from both the public and private sectors and ICDF as a rural development organization,” added Dr. Ana Laura Pereira, seed production specialist from the National Institute of Agricultural Research in Uruguay. Dr. Pereira provided an excellent review of seed production techniques during the training.

"This training brought a lot of different aspects together," said Jason Beebout, IRRI Education training designer.  "Aside from this first-time partnership between IRRI and CIAT/FLAR for capacity building, it brings a diversity of participants and resource persons together”.

Taiwan’s International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF), an international organization that supports smallholder farmers globally, worked with IRRI and CIAT to sponsor this capacity building initiative. Following up from last year’s two-week Seed and Extension capacity training at the IRRI Headquarters, this initiative also widened the reach of IRRI Education.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

IRRI, BRRI discuss policies on adopting farm mechanization and AWD technology in Bangladesh

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) are jointly spearheading the adoption of climate-smart technologies for agriculture in Bangladesh through the project, “Climate-smart practices and varieties for intensive rice-based systems in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh is prone to various natural disasters, such as severe flooding and pest onslaught, that cause significant damage to rice-based systems. The project’s aim is to test, validate, and outscale technologies and practices, such as the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation method, diversified rice-based cropping systems, and new rice varieties, to cope with the adverse effects of climate change in the country.

To discuss strategies to help improve the lives and livelihoods of the rice farmers, a policy dialogue meeting on the constraints to the large-scale adoption of farm mechanization and AWD technology and the required policy measures in Eastern Bangladesh was held at the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) last 19 October 2017.

This project, funded by the Asian Development Bank, is implemented at the Muhuri Irrigation Project area in Feni District, Bangladesh.  It also seeks to address limitations in technology and identify required policy measures for scaling the climate-smart agricultural technologies.

High-level officials and delegates from the academe, government, and private agencies were present during the event. Among them are policymakers, academicians, researchers, agricultural scientists, development workers, private sector representatives, and farmers.

Dr. Shahjahan Kabir, Director General of BRRI, led the meeting, and Dr. Md. Abdur Rouf, Joint Secretary for Policy Planning of the Ministry of Agriculture, was the chief guest.

The participants also outlined the next steps in promoting rice transplanting and harvesting machines, and AWD methods in eastern Bangladesh. Dr. Arvind Kumar, IRRI Senior Scientist, and Dr. Abul Basher, ADB’s representative, gave keynote presentations that provided an array of information about the new technologies.

Attendees expressed their appreciation for the event as it gave them a platform to discuss critical issues in Bangladesh’s rice industry. To ensure continuity of the project’s success, stakeholders may expect similar policy dialogues in the future.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Climate-smart rice project shortlisted in 2017 Newton Prize

The project Climate-ready rice: Optimizing transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses, led by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with Kasetsart University in Bangkok and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been shortlisted in the 2017 Newton Prize. The Prize is part of the Newton Fund initiative and supports exceptional research and innovation in partner countries in Asia, where production of better rice varieties have social and economic importance.

“We are honored and delighted that we were shortlisted. It is indeed good news because this recognizes our excellent work in rice research and collaboration with our international partners,” said Dr. W. Paul Quick, IRRI Principal Scientist and the lead project coordinator at IRRI’s C4 Rice Center.

This international collaborative project aims to enhance the heat and drought tolerance of rice plants while decreasing water loss and increasing water-use efficiency. In turn, this will make the crop survive and produce yield even in dry conditions. The success of this project would benefit farmers and improve food security in Asia.

The Newton Prize winners will be announced at celebratory award ceremonies held in each of the partner countries in November 2017. 

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

IRRI, GrainPro introduce advanced hermetic rice storage tech in Vietnam

In Vietnam, it is crucial that rice producers and traders learn more about effective rice storage techniques to preserve rice quality and increase its market value. One significant challenge among Vietnam farmers is proper rice storage and management to maintain its prime condition. Mismanagement of storage can lead to rice loss due to birds, rodents, and other animals, as well as grain quality deterioration. On the other hand, storing rice properly helps preserve its high quality while reducing its negative effects in the environment. It also enables farmers to gain a bigger profit margin.

To build awareness on effective and sustainable rice storage techniques, GrainPro and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) introduced the Ultra Hermetic Storage technology in Vietnam through a workshop titled "The Ultra Hermetic Storage: A seminar-workshop for ensuring Vietnam's rice quality". It was attended by government agencies, NGOs, and private sector representatives from big rice producers in the country.

Hermetic storage is a postharvest technology that is being used in many countries for the past 20 years. Because of the air-tight enclosure, it can reduce loss and preserve grain quality. It can also be operated without power, and does not require pesticides for fumigation.

“This workshop helped us understand best practices in storage management and gives us more options for our rice processing and business”, said Gentraco Corporation representative, Ho Chi Cong. Du Ngoc Bao Anh from the Loc Van Company added, “this new technology should be introduced to start-up business models supported by Vietnamese Government”.

Promoting this postharvest technology among Vietnam's rice farmers can allow them to store rice that are of export quality. But to make this possible, the Ultra Hermetic Storage technology must be disseminated broadly. To this end, the workshop provided an opportunity to identify potential collaborations for wide-scale distribution, as it gathered private companies and government staff in Vietnam.

The workshop was co-organized by Martin Gummert and Nguyen Van Hung of IRRI, Tom de Bruin of GrainPro, and Dr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi of Nong Lam University. It was held last 28 September at Nong Lam University, Ho Chi Minh.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Myanmar signs Seed Sharing Protocol Agreement

Myanmar has become the latest country to sign the Seed Sharing Protocol Agreement. The nation joined Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in this initiative that allows signatories to rapidly distribute modern rice varieties across their borders. This will enable new, climate-resilient seed varieties to reach the fields of the farmers in a shorter amount of time, which in turn will secure their food supply and increase their income.

Signed on 10 October during a meeting of IRRI’s Board of Trustees in Myanmar, the agreement will establish common parameters for varietal release. Modern, climate-resilient rice varieties that withstand drought or salinity help vulnerable farmers establish a secure food supply for their families as well as added income that they can invest in their own future.

Standard regulatory systems for new rice varieties require multi-season testing to ensure performance, pest and disease resistance and consumption quality. While these processes are important for quality assurance, it is typically conducted independently by each country. As such, a variety released in one country is still required to go through a similar vetting process in a neighboring country, increasing the time to market these new rice varieties.

The expansion of the regional seed-sharing agreement to include Myanmar builds on the success of the existing South Asia Regional Seed Policy Agreement, which was signed in 2014 by the governments of Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. In its first 3 years, this agreement has enabled eight rice varieties to be released and shared across three countries.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Myanmar Department of Agriculture Research hosts IRRI Board meetings

On 10 October, Dr. Aung Thu, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation in Myanmar, joined the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and senior leaders alongside members of the donor community to witness Myanmar becoming a signatory to the Seed Sharing Protocol Agreement.

The signing took place as part of a day-long set of activities co-hosted by the Myanmar Department of Agriculture Research (DAR) and IRRI in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

The Seed Sharing Protocol was first signed in Siem Reap in June, 2017 by the agriculture ministries of Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The protocol enables signatories to drastically speed up the distribution of modern rice varieties across their borders allowing new and better seeds to reach the hands and fields of farmers more rapidly. In just 3 years, eight rice varieties have already been released and shared across the three original member country signatories - Bangladesh, Nepal, and India.

The protocol signing ceremony was followed by a Donor Roundtable discussion. Attended by U Naing Kyi Win, Director General of Department of Agricultural Research as well as representatives from USAID, the Asian Development Bank, ACIAR, the Chinese Embassy, JICA and the World Bank, the session featured a series of presentations on donor strategies for agriculture in Myanmar.

U Kyaw Swe Linn, Deputy Director General of the Department of Agricultural Planning opened the session with a presentation on the goals and objectives for the agriculture sector of the Myanmar government.

“One of the key thrusts of the new IRRI Strategic Plan is a commitment to greater regionalization and actually embedding global expertise, locally so that researchers are able to work more closely with national partners and respond to local challenges,”  said Jim Godfrey, Chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees. He went on to say, “This session was very enlightening because it helped us to better understand the challenges and the opportunities that exist to support the Myanmar government closely as it strives to double its rice exports by 2020 and return to its preeminent position in the world’s rice trade.”

Earlier in the day, IRRI Trustees and senior leadership spent the morning at the Department of Agriculture Research where they were treated to a variety of traditional Myanmar rice-based delicacies. Information booths and a small demonstration of the sandalwood Thanaka were also available for those who wished to take advantage of the natural Myanmar sunscreen. The group then proceeded to view the DAR experimental rice fields where they were able to see several varieties selected and released by DAR including high zinc lines, IRRI variety trials, and the excellent farm management and support of IRRI’s field work.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

IRRI Molecular biology staff receives award at 2017 functional genomics symposium

Mr. Dhananjay Gotarkar in front of the winning poster for
upstream category
Suwon, Korea -- During the International Symposium of Rice Functional Genomics, held last 25-28 September, staff members from the Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), headed by Dr. Ajay Kohli, received an award for a poster presented in the upstream category.

Entitled “The Rice guanine deaminase negatively regulates a positive trait: evolutionary selection for root architecture,” the poster was presented by IRRI PhD scholar Dhananjay Gotarkar. He co-authored it with Dr. Kholi and their teammates Toshisangba Logkumer, Dhananjay Gotarkar, Kenneth Olsen, and Amrit Nanda.

The paper, from which the poster is based, covered the characterization of an amidohydrolase. It is a target gene of the NAM transcription factor, which is part of regulon-like QTL, DTY12.1-, which is a QTL for grain yield under drought. The amidohydrolase was found to be a guanine deaminase (GDA). This gene has not been characterized in plants until now and this discovery makes it the first reported Guanine deaminase in plants.

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IRRI presents climate-smart solutions for rice growers at Philippine-France Forum

Manila -- Climate change poses a risk to the agricultural sector, threatening food security and farmers well-being. Against this backdrop, the Philippine-France Forum on Agriculture on 26 September provided a venue for sharing of scientific and environmentally efficient strategies to address the effects of climate change.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) presented its projects that benefit rice farmers and consumers.  Matty Demont (photo), IRRI senior scientist and leader of the market research team, shared research being done on upgrading the rice value chain in the Philippines.

“Rice breeders need to tailor rice varieties to both market trends and the climate change. We also need to help rice farmers become more climate-resilient and competitive,” Demont said.

IRRI has developed and released climate-smart rice varieties that are drought-, flood-, and salt-tolerant to help farmers and communities cope with the adverse effects of climate change. Relevant and timely information on rice production is also important to boost productivity. IRRI works on widening farmers’ access to useful data through the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project.

PRISM uses remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), crop modeling, smart phone-based surveys, and cloud computing to generate information on where, when, and how much rice is grown in the country and assess crop health and damages caused by flood and drought. IRRI’s scientist Alice Laborte and the project leader noted that involving the right partners is very crucial to this initiative’s success.

The Forum on Agriculture, held at the New World Manila Bay Hotel, was part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of France and Philippines diplomatic relations. IRRI’s used the occasion as part of its commitment to share expertise to achieve food and nutrition security, improve the quality of life in rice-related communities, and protect the rice-growing environment for future generations.

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Rice industry stakeholders in Thailand learn about better postharvest management

On September 26-29, IRRI postharvest experts held training sessions in Chainat and Uttaradit provinces in Thailand. This training sought to improve rice quality through better postharvest technologies and practices. Participants were contract growers, rice mill owners, and machine operators.

Engineers Caling Balingbing and Joseph Sandro, IRRI mechanization and postharvest experts, conducted a 4-day training course for key stakeholders of the Kellogg’s-funded postharvest loss reduction project. This initiative aims to ensure high-quality rice for use in the company’s products. Techniques in rice harvesting systems were relayed through lectures and hands-on exercises, including basic operation and setting up the combine harvester to get an efficient output. Factors that affect the drying process were also discussed.

Engr. Balingbing showed the participants how to operate combine harvesters and explained the importance of correct machine settings in achieving the desired output. He also taught them how to measure losses from combine harvesting by using grain loss collection pads in the field.

“We hope that this training will equip the participants with the necessary skills and knowledge about the important principles of postharvest management of rice, particularly on combine harvesting and dryer operation," he noted. "This knowledge will help avoid huge losses of rice along the value chain. It will also help maintain the quality of milled rice products that reach the market, especially Kellogg’s customers.

Engr. Sandro discussed drying principles and talked about technical and environmental factors that affect drying. He also conducted a simple experiment that illustrated how different drying conditions affect rice quality.

Noppadol Saenpo, managing director of Asia Seed and Grain Production Co. Ltd., expressed his appreciation for the knowledge they gained and emphasized its role in enabling his staff to apply techniques in harvesting rice and minimizing losses in the field. “This training complements what the Thai Rice Department conducts whenever we have new staff ," he said.

The owner of Korat Yongsanguan Rice Mill remarked, “I am very much delighted upon knowing the process and conditions as to temperature and humidity to dry paddy with mechanical dryer to attain best quality of paddy for milling and storage.” He added that the knowledge he gained will be cascaded to his staff that are involved in rice mill operations.

In November and December, IRRI’s Mechanization and Postharvest Team will conduct two more training courses on storage and milling.

For more information about this initiative, contact the Mechanization and Postharvest Team at

Authors: Reianne Quilloy and Caling Balingbing

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