Monday, April 22, 2024

Faster breeding and addressing climate risks prioritized during the South Asia Advancement meetings

By Maria Rowena M. Baltazar

INDIAN INSTITUTE of RICE RESEARCH, Hyderabad (02 April 2024) – The South Asia Advancement meetings, RBI’s annual initiative where scientists come together and select rice lines to be used for recycling as parents or for product development, released one rice line and six others for AICRPR (All India Coordinated Research Project on Rice) testing and amplification in 2024 wet season, respectively, with several more undergoing continuous deliberations for release before the end of April. The advancement of these rice lines will ensure rice production increases in the region at a shorter period tolerant of climate changes.

 Through this activity, RBI was able to promote a collaborative means for developing and deploying innovative breeding strategies, tools, and technologies with the NARES partners to sustainably enhance the genetic potential of rice for higher yield and improved traits. Activities for the next period, as in previous years, include continuing trials of rice lines from Stage 1 to Stage 2 and the selection of lines from Stage 2 for improvement and nomination to the AICRPR.

Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, RBI Head

Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, research director and head of RBI, who led a robust team from IRRI Headquarters, congratulated the South Asia regional partners and IRRI-RBI delegation for the successful outcomes of the 2023 undertakings. In particular, he thanked >50 NARES partners joining the meeting either personally or virtually, especially the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) hosting the event for a great start of the newly launched two new breeding pipelines (LaSF-I and TMeMF-I) to capture the medium/late maturity market segments of South India.  With the addition of these breeding pipelines, IRRI’s breeding capacity will cover about 60 million hectares of rice globally.

Dr. Vikas Kumar Singh, IRRI South Asia Region Breeding Lead

The group of participants from NARES partners from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other parts of India and IRRI teams from these countries received reports of the move from a country-specific advancement meeting to region-specific meetings, for a more enhanced collaboration of the countries in the region and the NARES taking leadership initiatives, according to Dr. Vikas Kumar Singh, IRRI regional breeding lead for the South Asia hub. Dr. Singh thanked the IRRI leadership with the presence of Dr. Ajay Kohli, interim director general (IDG), and the senior national partners from the regions for their continuing strong support and active engagement in these activities.

Dr. R.M. Sundaram, IIRR Director

Similarly, Dr. R.M. Sundaram, IIRR director, informed the team of how the direct-seeded rice (DSR) initiative immensely achieved upscaling as a new method to save water and reduce drudgery, labor costs, and greenhouse gas emissions, attaining 45 M INR support for its intensified dissemination this year, for which he seeks further support and guidance from IRRI. 

For his report on IRRI’s research priorities for the CG and the NARES, IRRI IDG Kohli reinforced the IRRI core strengths with the imperatives of sustained focus on breeding, agronomy, and training amidst the evolving digital universe, addressing climate and environment change, health and nutrition, and farmers’ welfare. He added inclusivity of gender, youth, and marginal communities as addressed by innovations.

Dr. Ajay Kohli, IRRI Interim DG

IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) achievements and Centre focus emphasized the 60 years of partnership with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) gaining strength with a renewal of a five-year (2023–2027) work plan, as stated by ISARC Director Sudhanshu Singh.  He also mentioned the five broader thematic areas, as prioritized by the ICAR and IRRI in rice research, namely, market-oriented new varieties, integrated direct-seeded rice systems, rice-based health and nutrition, climate-resilient rice, and integrated capacity building.

The four-day event concluded with a way forward discussed by Dr. Sankalp Bhosale, RBI deputy head, for these advancement meetings, where partnerships of IRRI with the ICAR and national partners have come a long way in speeding up efforts in breeding, genomics, agronomy, and all related activities to deliver superior rice varieties to the farmers in the region and worldwide in a short period. As the One IRRI-NARES Breeding Network evolves into an agnostic project, the breeding cycle will continue to focus on early maturity, medium-maturity, and late-maturity rice varieties’ advancements coinciding with the AICRPR on the coming years.

Dr. Giovanny Covarrubias Pazaran, unit head of IRRI-RBI’s Biometrics Breeding Analytics, Data Management, and Software Development

An analytics tool demo/workshop on the Biometrical Genetics Workflow formally began the four-day event, facilitated by Dr. Giovanny Covarrubias Pazaran, unit head of IRRI-RBI’s Biometrics Breeding Analytics, Data Management, and Software Development, and IRRI scientists, Ms. Leilani Nora and Ms. Zhella Morantte. Other activities included progress summaries on ongoing product development and varietal replacement, seed systems, gender intentionality for South Asia, trait deployment and pre-breeding, biotic and abiotic stress updates, grain quality and nutrition, and IRRI regional research on day 2, breeding pipelines/maturity groups’ parallel sessions in day 3, and the Hybrid Rice Adoption Strategy workshop in day 4.

Ms. Leilani Nora, IRRI Scientist  and co-trainer for the Biometrics Analytical method


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