Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nepal: IRRI signs 5-year rice research and development work plan with NARC

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC signed a 5-year work (2014-2019) plan to strengthen the country’s rice research and development program on 21 October in Kathmandu.

NARC-IRRI work plan 2014-2019 document was signed by Dil Bahadur Gurung, NARC executive director, and Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general-research, signed the plan in the presence of Bhartendu Mishra, Honorable Member in-charge for Agriculture, Science, and Labor in National Planning Commission.

Dr. Mishra, the chief guest of the function stressed the need for increased collaboration with IRRI because rice is the most important crop of Nepal. He acknowledged the role of IRRI in providing rice technologies and capacity building of research facilities, scientists and extension officers of Nepal.  Dr. Mishra said he will work with the Government of Nepal to make more resources available for rice research and development.

He also praised the contribution of scientists working on rice with very limited resources and advised them to continue to work on 14 collaborative projects identified and included in the current work plan. Dr. Mishra encouraged them to develop farmer-friendly rice technologies for easy adoption to enhance the productivity of rice in Nepal from the present levels of 3.2 tons per hectare.  He acknowledged that several climate resilient varieties have been developed jointly with IRRI by NARC scientists and these need to be made available to the farming communities by adopting faster dissemination methods.

Dr. Gurung expressed his gratitude for all the help IRRI has been providing Nepal in developing new rice varieties and technologies, and training for its scientists for over four decades. He said that the five year work plan is a very important and significant step that will further strengthen the ongoing collaborative rice research between Nepal and IRRI. He expressed full confidence that Nepal’s science community will make full use of IRRI’s global experience in addressing and overcoming local problems and impediments that hinder rice productivity. He also urged IRRI’s help in improving Nepal’s biotechnology and pathology facilities and hybrid rice development.

Dr. Gurung also acknowledge the guidance and leadership JK Ladha, IRRI representative for India and Nepal, has been providing to Nepal’s agricultural scientists during the past two decades through RWC, CSISA projects, and training of a new generation of rice scientists in the country.

Dr. Morell mentioned that, though IRRI HQ is located in the Philippines, the work it is doing is nothing but the sum of all the work carried out the collaborators across the rice growing world. He emphasized the Institute’s intent to work together and establish stronger partnership with national programs. He informed the gathering that the present work plan is just the start of building a systematic engagement in Nepal.

Dr. Ladha presented the Rice Research Strategy for Nepal, a document prepared by IRRI in collaboration with NARC, where the overall goal of the rice program is to increase rice yields by at least 3% per annum for the next two and a half decades. He highlighted the challenges rice cultivation facing and also provided a list of priority research portfolio for rice research and development.

Also present at the event were principle rice collaborators, directors and division heads of NARC. Dr. Bhaba Tripathi, senior associate scientist, IRRI Nepal Office facilitated proceedings. A detailed presentation of the 14 projects included in NARC-IRRI work plan was prepared by Mr. N. K. Yadav, rice coordinator and Mr. Ram Baran Yadav, NARC senior scientist.

IRRI and NARC launches the IRRI Nepal web site

Coinciding with the 5-year NARC-IRRI work plan signing, the two agencies launched the IRRI Nepal website on 21 October in Kathmandu. The website, designed developed by IRRI HQ and India IT teams,   contains information on IRRI collaborative work in Nepal and information on Nepal nationals who worked or are working in IRRI, Nepal scientists trained by IRRI, updates and IRRI events in Nepal. The web site was formally launched by Dr. Dil B. Gurung, NARC executive director, and Dr. Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general-research before NARES representatives and local media.

JK Ladha, IRRI representative for India and Nepal, demonstrated and navigated through the live website and explained contents and importance having the information accessible to the public. Dr. Ladha appealed to national partners to help make the web site a repository of knowledge on rice research in the country by contributing information from time to time.

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Science and policy snippets from IRC2014 (October 29)

Ebola disrupts distribution in the global rice market, experts say

The disruption caused by Ebola on the global rice market is mainly on logistics and distribution, increasing cost of inputs and the price of rice. This view was shared by experts during the Global Rice Market and Trade Summit (GRMTS).

The Ebola-affected countries—Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone—import 900,000 tons from Asia, mainly India, according to Sam Mohanty, IRRI senior economist. “The volume is only less than 7% of the African rice trade.” With higher shipping cost, the price of rice in these countries increased by US$30-40 per ton.

“Trade has not taken a serious view of Ebola except on the largest single problem of shipping,” said Rajeev Raina, senior vice-president and global head on farming of Olam International, Ltd. He added that that the numbers are not yet big enough to have an impact on consumption or harvests.

Mapping rice

Information gaps in research and policy can be addressed by accurate depictions of rice growing activities around the globe through maps using remote-sensing (RS) technology.

At GRMTS, Andy Nelson, head of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Laboratory at IRRI spoke about the potentials of the technology in providing accurate and real-time information on rice.

"Remote-sensing has a role to play in assessing the vulnerability of the crop,” said Nelson.  By providing more accurate information on rice-growing areas and expected yields, maps generated through the technology can help governments manage domestic rice production and distribution, both during the normal growing cycle as well as after disasters.

Rice fields are regularly monitored using data obtained by satellite-borne radar sensors, which can observe vegetation growth regardless of cloud coverage. The maps are products of the integration of RS technology and crop modeling software, Oryza.

Transforming IRRI’s breeding agenda

Targeting a 2% genetic gain in rice yield will help the world meet the world's future rice requirement. To do that, IRRI's breeding program is implementing Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB), a project that reexamines breeding objectives, methods, and operations, and realigns pipelines to be more efficient and targeted. Key implementers of the transformation talked about steps being taken to facilitate the transition.

Glenn Gregorio described the establishment of centralized, cross-cutting breeding processes and services at IRRI’s Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division. The new system sees trait development teams supporting varietal development across all its programs. Bertrand Collard talked about transforming the IRRI irrigated breeding program, which includes establishing a revamped multi-location testing system, a precursor for multi-environmental trials and implementing modern designs and methods for data analysis, including mechanization for field nurseries and trials. Michael Thomson talked about upgrading and implementing high-throughput marker genotyping and supporting high volume information system needs of the breeders through Breeding4Rice, a new breeding information management system.

Grounded on the principles of demand-driven research, the new breeding structure is complemented by breeding hubs in South Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa.

Breaking new yield ceilings

In another session at IRC2014, scientists Pravat Mohapatra, Michael Dingkuhn, and Tanguy Lafarge, who was also the moderator for the session, discussed increasing the yield potential of rice. A constant focus of rice research, work in this area has moved from exploiting physiological processes to a technique called ideotyping. An ideotype is a model plant that denotes certain desired characteristics. During this session, scientists discussed the design of high-yielding ideotypes and how they might be evaluated.


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Conserving diversity, conserving options

Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), said that rescuing and conserving crop genetic diversity means giving our generation, and the next, the means to protect our sources of food.

“Genetic diversity is the prerequisite to food security. It is where the traits that help agriculture adapt to challenges of the future will be coming from,” said Haga.

Haga was the first plenary speaker at the ongoing 4th International Rice Congress, which has gathered 1,500 participants from 69 countries, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Continued partnerships key to success of agricultural research

“There couldn’t be a better career than one in agricultural research if you want to make a difference in the world,” said Matthew Morell, IRRI’s deputy director general for research.

Morell said this during a forum with international donors from the public and private sectors, research organizations, and other stakeholders of rice research and industry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

India: IRRI research head meets with research partners

Matthew Morell, deputy director general-research of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), toured in India to review on-going IRRI collaborative activities and projects with Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), IRRI’s South Asia Breeding Hub at ICRISAT, and Bihar Agricultural University (BAU) on 12-20 October 2014. Dr. Morell was accompanied by Drs. Arvind Kumar, Sudhanshu Singh, Sudhir Yadav and Manzoor Dar.

GSR Project holds workshop on its progress and a planning meeting for phase III

The Green Super Rice (GSR) Project conducted a 3-day workshop on the progress of phase II and a planning meeting for phase III of the project on 23-25 October at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters, Philippines.

IRRI offers 'honest broker' role in global rice market

BANGKOK, Thailand - Equitable food security demands that the land produce enough, farmers profit, and the poor do not go hungry.

Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), added that well-informed governments will be in a better position to secure the food supply and to protect farmers and consumers in times of crises.

“We still feel the shocks of the 2007-08 rice price crisis, and the problems then were issues of a lack of transparency and accurate information,” Zeigler said.