Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vietnam: CURE holds 13th Review, Planning, and SC Meeting

Ninety-one representatives from ten countries in South and Southeast Asia participated in the 13th Review, Planning, and SC Meeting in Danang City, Vietnam on April 8-11, 2014. Organized by the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE), researchers and scientists of IRRI and partner institutions discussed milestones on rice varietal development and adoption in unfavorable areas. Capping the event was the announcement of the approval of the second phase CURE-IFAD funded project, entitled “Reducing Risks and Livelihoods in South-East Asia through the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments.”

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Nguyen Van Tuat, Vice-President of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science (VAAS), emphasized the anticipated negative effects of climate change on rice yields in Vietnam and stressed the importance of stress-tolerant rice varietal development work to help farmers cope with climate change to guarantee sustainable rice production.

To show how unfavorable environment would impact rice production, participants visited the salt-affected rice fields of Binh Giang commune, Thăng Bình district of Quang Nam province. During this visit, participants were able to dialogue   with the local farmers and hear their sentiments on rice crop diversification.
During the program, CURE also honored Dr. Ganesh Thapa, Senior Economist of IFAD-Asia Pacific Region for his strong support of CURE in the last nine years.  Giving the keynote address was Dr. Nguyen Nhu Cuong, Deputy Director of Sciences, Technology and Environment Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). His message hammered on Vietnam’s response to climate change by expanding the area for research on rice and other crops in unfavorable areas.

Back-to-back with the SC meeting was the IRRI Multi-Environment Testing (MET) meeting led by Dr. Edilberto Redoña.

CURE is a regional platform for partnerships among institutions from South and Southeast Asia. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as the host institution provides the coordination function. Scientists from IRRI and the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) of partner countries work together to help raise productivity and contribute to improved livelihoods in unfavorable rice environments.

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IRRI participates in 49th Annual Rice Research meetings in India

IRRI staff members led by DDG-R Matthew Morell attended the 49th Annual Rice Research Meetings held at the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, India, last 6-8 April. One important item on the agenda was to review the progress of the IRRI-India Work Plan (2013-16). IRRI researchers and their Indian counterparts joined in discussions on 24 projects across the six themes of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). More than 450 rice researchers from across India attended the three-day event and took the opportunity to interact with the visiting IRRI staff.

Attending his first DRR meeting, Dr. Morell summed up the experience as a very useful process, adding that he was pleased to see that many IRRI-India interactions are very strong, although there are some areas in which strengthening is needed. He thanked the DRR for sharing its research during the meetings and stated that he looks forward to continuous engagement over the next years of the current work plan.

The milestone 50th annual rice meeting will take place in April 2015 and IRRI plans to be a part of the DRR’s celebration by inviting to a special alumni reunion of all Indians who were or are IRRI staff members, scholars, or BOT members over the last half century.

Photos, clockwise starting in upper right: 1) Swapan Datta, deputy director general (crop science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and former IRRI tissue culture specialist and plant biotechnologist (1993-2005), welcomes the delegates on Sunday morning. 2) During a break, Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, IRRI GRC head, discusses the work plan with E.A. Siddiq, IRRI plant breeder based in Egypt (1983-86), DRR director (1987-94), and IRRI BOT member (2000-06).  3) During the work plan discussions, Dr. Morell makes a point with B.C. Viraktamath, DRR project director. 4) During a trip to nearby field plots, R.M. Sundaram, DRR senior scientist in biotechnology, presents his work on the development of biotic stress resistance in rice through marker assisted selection to (from left) Lanie Reyes, Rice Today managing editor; Dr. Sackville Hamilton; J.K. Ladha, principal scientist and IRRI representative (India and Nepal);
Dr. Morell; and Bas Bouman, GRiSP director.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

PRISM and RIICE: Back to back workshops in March

Three workshops namely, Philippine Rice Information SysteM (PRISM) Kickoff, PRISM Training of Crop Health Trainers,  and Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging Economies  (RIICE ) were held on 19-21 March, 25-28 March, and 24-26 March, respectively.

The PRISM kickoff workshop aimed to inform stakeholders, collaborators and relevant agencies about the PRISM project, address concerns, and identify potential opportunities to engage with other projects or programs.  More than 100 participants from DA and its regional offices, PhilRice, and IRRI went to SEARCA to attend the event on the first two days and about 25 at IRRI on the third day.

Regional directors were present during the first day. The second day was devoted to PRISM focal persons and PhilRice participants in defining regional agendas, planning for capacity building, and fieldwork activities with the help of DA-Phil Rice, IRRI, and the DA Regional Field Offices (RFOs). The third day was focused on the development of a 2014-2015 project roadmap together with DA-PhilRice and IRRI.

The PRISM Training of Crop Health Trainers workshop was conducted to teach participants from Philippine Regional Department of Agriculture offices the methods used for crop health data collection as a part of the Crop Health Monitoring portion of PRISM. Forty-three individuals from seven regions (CAR, Region III, Region IV-A, Region IV-B, Region V, Region VI, Region VII, Region VIII, and IRRI as well as PhilRice) were involved.

The first two days covered how to accurately diagnose and identify rice diseases, weeds and insect injuries, and how to use the IRRI Crop Health Survey Portfolio followed by identification tests using live plants. The third day covered the use of electronic gadgets to collect in-field information for the Survey Portfolio with an in-field exercise conducting the IRRI Crop Health Survey. On Friday, the last day, participants practiced delivering the presentations that were used in the training so that they canbecome more familiar with the materials that they will be using to train the field observers that will be collecting data in their respective regions.

The  RIICE workshop was held in IRRI with the following objectives: 1) for national partners to present their work to date and share experiences, including presentations from each partner, journal publication planning, and trouble-shooting sessions on key technologies in the RIICE project, 2) develop country specific work plans for monitoring, field activities and training in 2014/15, 3) brainstorm and plan for 2014 in-country workshops to present RIICE to key government stakeholders and obtain government level support for RIICE, and 4) identify possible opportunities to collaborate with other agencies or key stakeholders, in all RIICE countries using examples from Thailand (GISTDA) and the Philippines (IRRI/GIZ/Philippines).
Each partner was requested to provide and present their 2013 field monitoring data, rice mapping and accuracy assessment results to the project.

Participants from Cambodia (Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute),  India (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Agricultural Insurance Company of India) , Indonesia (Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development), Philippines (Philippine Rice Research Institute, and Philippine Crop Insurance corporation), Thailand (Thailand Rice Department), and Vietnam (Can Tho University and  Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology & Environment) were joined by participants from Sarmap, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and IRRI.

These workshops were facilitated by Andy Nelson (RIICE) and Adam Sparks (PRISM).


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CSISA and FtF Innovations Lab join hands in Bangladesh for promoting drying technology

On 22 March 2014, a “Miller’s Workshop on Flatbed Drying of Parboiled Paddy” was held in Jessore, Bangladesh.  The event was co-sponsored by two US-AID-funded initiatives, the CSISA Project and the FtF Innovations Lab Project with supporting partners, IRRI, WorldFish, Practical Action, and ADMI.

The stakeholder workshop sought to test and demonstrate newly piloted flat bed drying technology with village millers and other stakeholders for drying of high-moisture freshly parboiled paddy – a new application under evaluation in Bangladesh.  This can potentially remove labor bottlenecks and drudgery in the processing of parboiled rice that is commonly eaten throughout South Asian countries.

Currently village millers sun-dry parboiled paddy on large concrete platforms.  While the sun is “free”, the platforms are expensive and take land out of production.  Moreover, the sun is not available for sufficient periods during cooler, cloudy winter months, or during the rainy season.  This produces delays in processing and a major bottleneck for farmers, millers, and other actors in the chain.

As a result of this workshop, 4 additional pilots will be established in new locations with new stakeholders who agreed to invest in the technology for the upcoming Boro season.  “Through such learning events, private sector millers and processors are convinced to directly invest in this technology, while projects such as CSISA and the FtF Innovations Lab ensure technical support and training early on for successful entry,” explains Alfred Schmidley, IRRI’s Postharvest Value Chain Specialist.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

IRRI engages in Asian Development Bank’s initiatives in Myanmar

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) organized a joint knowledge event with the theme “Managing Natural Capital to Ensure Food, Energy and Water Security" on 25-26 March 2014 at Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw.

The event was composed of plenary presentations and annual meetings of the Working Group on Agriculture (WGA) and the Working Group on Environment (WGE) as well as a market place exhibition.

Over one hundred participants from six Greater Mekong Sub-region member countries (Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam). Environmental Operations Center (EOC) representatives, senior agriculture and environment officials and energy sector officials, donors and development organizations attended the event. During the WGA working group meeting, Dr. Madonna Casimero talked about the research and development activities of IRRI and identified areas where IRRI, MoAI and ADB can collaborate in Myanmar.

The IRRI Myanmar office also participated in the market place exhibition by showcasing unmilled and milled grain samples of new stress-tolerant, high yielding rice varieties. These varieties were selected by farmers during the participatory variety selection activities for three seasons (two monsoons and one summer) in 2012-2014 in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta.

Publications, videos, and posters depicting IRRI’s activities in Myanmar were also put on display.
Dr. Madonna Casimero (IRRI Representative, Myanmar) and Ms May Nwe Soe (Assistant Scientist) participated in the joint knowledge event.

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PBGB risks reviewed and plans ahead

The Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division Risk Management and Quality Assurance (PBGB RMQA) team held a review and planning workshop on 20-21 March 2014 at Surga, Majayjay Laguna. The team was composed of the RMQA officers and representatives from each of the 35 groups/units within the division.  The IRRI RMQA unit facilitated the activities.

With the aim of enhancing risk awareness and and of continuously promoting the risk management culture in PBGB, the group reviewed the division’s Risk Register and its Business Continuity and Recovery Plan, and devised various strategies and approaches on how to better manage the risks the division is exposed to.

The plans will be approved by the Division Head, Eero Nissila, and Deputy Division Head/RMQA IRS, Glenn Gregorio. Specifically, the proposal to establish an off-site back-up seed storage facility at PhilRice for the elite breeding lines was discussed and will be initiated soon.  The participants also reviewed existing guidelines/policies such as (1) the IRRI review and publications guidelines, (2) the OU internal clearance, (3) the use of the IRRI Research Notebook and, (4) the PBGB Operations Manual and Guidelines.

The RMQA-Research Data Management (RDM) team reported on the status of the division’s network repository. The Biosafety Officer gave an overview of their role and function and updated the group on issues and some policies regarding transgenics.

The PBGB RMQA Officers include: Glenn Gregorio, Vit Lopena, Norman Oliva, Joie Ramos, and Mayee Reveche. RMQA unit is composed of Menchu Bernardo (Senior Manager), Rizza Mendoza (Manager, Biosafety Office), Icoy Mercado and Dec Arreza (Research Data Management).

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Nepal: 3-day rice tech transfer training workshop held

IRRI, in collaboration with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), organized a 3-day international training workshop on “Rice technology transfer systems (RTTS) for stress-prone environments in South Asia” at Pokhara, Nepal from the 20th to the 22nd of March 2014. The workshop was supported by the EC-IFAD funded project “Improved rice crop management for raising productivity in the submergence-prone and salt-affected rainfed lowlands in South Asia” and STRASA (Stress tolerant rice for Africa and South Asia).

Thirty researchers and extension workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, and India participated in this event. The focus of the training was to share the knowledge and experiences of successful rice technology transfer models and research-extension linkages as practiced in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal and to strengthen the technology promotion and delivery system.

Dr. A. K. Agnihotri, senior associate scientist, IRRI India welcomed the chief guest Dr. Ram Chandra Adhikari, regional director of the Regional Agricultural Research Station of NARC, Lumle, and participants from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. He talked about harnessing the productivity potential of Himalayan and Tarai regions of Nepal through introduction of suitable stress tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) and improved management practices. These practices can help augment food grain production in the regions. Dr. Adhikari applauded the continuous support of IRRI in improving the rice productivity.

“70% of the total rice area in Nepal is rainfed and prone to frequent drought, submergence and cold stresses due to climate change. There is an urgent need to offer sustainable solution to mitigate these challenges that could be achieved only through strengthening the NARC partnership with IRRI,” Dr. Adhikari said.

Mr. Julian Lapitan, senior manager, National Programs Relations, IRRI, Philippines pointed out that agriculture is facing challenges of dwindling land area, the aging of farmers, aversion of youth to practice agriculture, and the declining interest of students in the discipline of agriculture. There is a need to popularize and transfer relevant affordable and sustainable technologies to farmers to increase productivity and improve their livelihood to accelerate the dissemination efforts, he added. Dr. Bhaba Prasad Tripathi  highlighted the overwhelming success of Swarna-Sub1, Samba Mahsuri-Sub1 in Nepal and the recent release of drought tolerant rice varieties Sukha Dhan 4, 5 & 6.

Mr. Lapitan facilitated the training and demonstrated how business management practices and leadership development improve the technology transfer system. Dr. R.M. Kathresan, Dean, Annamalai University, India delivered a lecture on farming systems research options and highlighted the successful crop diversification interventions in Tamil Nadu State of India.

Mr. T.C. Dhoundiyal, project manager, STRASA South Asia talked about how project management practices and tools can be used in agriculture extension system for transfer of technologies.

The project partners from India, Bangladesh and Nepal shared their experiences and lessons learned from the outcomes of the EC-IFAD and STRASA projects. These useful deliberations helped get the participants acquainted with new advancement in the agricultural research, extension and development.

A field visit to RARS, Lumle was organized for the participants. Dr. R.C. Adhikari, along with ateam of scientists and officials welcomed the participants and presented the overview of research and extension works of the station. RARS Lumle is mandated for generating suitable technologies for Western Development Region including screening and evaluation of new rice germplasm. Dr. Adhikari sought a collaboration with IRRI in developing cold tolerant rice varieties suitable for the region.

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