Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thailand: CORIGAP team conducts workshop on the environmental footprint of rice production

The Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) project conducted a Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (PIPA) workshop for 30 participants from 12 different Thai organizations in Bangkok, Thailand on 8-9 September. The workshop is aligned with CORIGAP’s objective to measure environmental footprint rice farming using ecological indicators.

The PIPA workshop is a starting tool to guide the participants in identifying the changes needed to achieve shared goals.  Group exercises were conducted to gain a deeper understanding of how various stakeholders are linked (or not) in the collection of data on ecological indicators, what data they need to collect, and where the project could provide support.  The group formed a learning alliance and identified topics of interest to be discussed and implemented in 2015.

By bringing varied stakeholders together, CORIGAP aims to facilitate coordinated collection of data that can be used to develop policies on optimizing productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice production systems.

“We need to gather ecological indicators to help us identify rice farming practices that are environmentally safe and profitable,” said Mr. Chanpithya Shimphalee, the director general of the Thailand Rice Department.

“It is important to start thinking about sustainability and ecological indicators,” said Dr. Sombat Thiratrakoolchai from the Thai Chamber of Commerce. “Some companies will do everything to meet the demands of foreign markets. We could wait for foreign markets to force us, or we could plan ahead.”

The PIPA workshop was facilitated by Engr. Martin Gummert, Dr. Sarah Beebout, Ms. Reianne Quilloy, and Ms. Rica Flor.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet the IRC2014 Young Rice Scientists awardees

Rice scientists all around the world submitted more than 700 abstracts for just over 140 oral paper slots in the IRC2014 program. Papers were selected on merit, and among them were 29 papers whose lead authors are Young Rice Scientists (YRS).

In the blog about the Young Rice Scientists, four recent posts feature the awardees:

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IRRI celebrates the future leaders in rice research at the first Scholars’ Day

IRRI celebrated the first Scholars’ Day on 10 September in honor of the 192 undergraduate and graduate scholars who came to the Institute to work on their MS or PhD degrees. Every year, Scholars’ Day will provide IRRI scholars with the opportunity to develop rapport with fellow scholars and enjoy the friendships, diversity, and the living and learning experience during their stay.

IRRI’s Training Center hosted the day-long event that started with breakfast with Director General Robert Zeigler and other officials of the Institute. “IRRI is on the right track in attaining the desired number of scholars this year that would significantly contribute to IRRI in achieving its goals,” said Dr. Noel Magor, head of IRRI’s Training Center, as welcomed the group.

“IRRI scholars have an important role in making new discoveries and improving the livelihood of rice farmers,” said Dr. Zeigler. He also expressed his respect to the scholars and acknowledged the personal sacrifices they made in order to pursue their advanced education.

Meanwhile, Dr. Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research, emphasized the need for scholars to enhance their communication skills. “This will help engage people into their work and help understand the challenges they are facing,” Dr. Morell said.

Other activities include a workshop on basic leadership skills conducted by The Center for Leadership and Change; a basic training on presentation skills facilitated by Ms. Ma. Socorro Arboleda, Training Center’s senior specialist; and building online social networks presented by Mr. Gerardo LaviƱa , Communication’s senior specialist on web architecture and design. Scholars’ Day also featured fun games, dinner, and socials.

Since 1964, over 15,000 scientists have been trained to conduct rice research. IRRI scholars have become ministers, secretaries, and heads within the national research and extension systems. Many have also become leading scientists all over Asia.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dr. Grant Singleton receives lifetime recognition for his work on rodent management in Southeast Asia

By Trina Leah Mendoza

Grant Singleton, IRRI principal scientist, was awarded with the Lifetime Recognition of Excellence during the 5th International Conference for Rodent Biology and Management (ICRBM) on 25-29 August in Henan, China. This special honor was given to Dr. Singleton in recognition of his international scientific leadership in rodent biology and his untiring efforts in promoting the ICRBM around the world.

According to ICRBM, Dr. Singleton “has made major advances in the management of rat damage to rice crops in Southeast Asia, and has championed the need for ecologically based management of pest problems based on good ecological science.”

Dr. Singleton presented two papers at the event, reviewing 15 years of ecologically based rodent management and rodent impacts on food security in Southeast Asia. Together with world-renowned ecologist Prof. Charles Krebs, he also delivered the closing remarks where he cited the important issues in rodent biology and management under global change.

"The conference highlight was the exceptional quality of the seven plenary talks from world leaders in their respective fields. Emerging topics are the importance of rodent borne diseases in agricultural and peri-urban communities, the use of tools from behavioral ecology to assist in developing more effective management of rodent pests, and that food security demands a resilient agricultural system, which can be facilitated by ‘re-wilding’ crop margins and better preservation of biodiversity in patches of forest in an agricultural landscape," he concluded in his speech.

As the current coordinator of the Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) Project, Dr. Singleton continues advancing ecologically based pest management through his work at IRRI.

Other CORIGAP scientists and national partners also presented papers and posters in the conference. They were Dr. Alex Stuart (CORIGAP postdoctoral fellow), Dr. Nyo Me Htwe (postdoctoral fellow, Myanmar), Dr. Sudarmaji and Arlyna Budi Pustika (Indonesian collaborators), and Dr. Nguyen Thi My Phung (CORIGAP consultant, Vietnam).

Around 165 delegates from 25 countries attended the event that convenes every 4 years. This provides the international community the opportunity to exchange information, discuss interdisciplinary studies and promote international collaboration in scientific research on rodent biology and management. The conference was hosted by the International Society of Zoological Sciences.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Partners convene to steer climate change activities to next level

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partner institutes in the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in Irrigated Rice Paddies in Southeast Asia (MIRSA-2 Project) and the Paddy Rice Research Group (PRRG) of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) held their annual meetings at IRRI headquarters on August 18-19 and 21, respectively, to discuss their climate change agendas for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses that cause climate change.

The MIRSA-2 Project
Launched in 2013, MIRSA-2 is a 5-year research project that aims to develop an improved water management in rice-cropping systems in Southeast Asia using the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology.  Researches in several Asian countries have shown that AWD can reduce the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas, from irrigated rice paddies by 30% compared with the conventional farming practice. The National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, Japan oversees the overall execution of the MIRSA-2 project, while IRRI provides technical support and synthesis of data.

Concurrent with the AsiaFlux Workshop 2014, the project highlighted the results and lessons learned from the first season AWD experimental field trials in four MIRSA sites. Additionally, a proposal for a structured MIRSA database system and formulation of guidelines for measurement, reporting and verification of GHG emission reductions with the adoption of AWD in irrigated paddies were discussed. Ultimately, the MIRSA-2 Project aims to create an implementation guideline on techniques to reduce GHG emissions from irrigated paddy rice fields and set up an information infrastructure to share the findings of participating members.

Kazuyuki Inubushi, the designated adviser of the MIRSA project by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan, represented the project donor. Dr. Inubushi met with delegates from the project’s partner research and academic institutions including Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam; Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research  Institute (IAERI), Indonesia; Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment/King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand; Prachin Buri Rice Research Center, Thailand, and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

The Global Research Alliance
In the same week GRA held a meeting to discuss the five action plans set by PRRG.
The action plan includes hastening efforts to: 1) standardize measurement techniques; 2) create a database of publications and experts; 3) increase country participation; 4) set-up a pilot multi-country experiment; and 5) build a network for mitigation and adaptation synergies.

Research activity reports were presented by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Chiba University, IAERI, and IRRI. IRRI is a collaborative partner in the Alliance’s PPRG which focuses on reducing the GHG emissions of paddy rice cultivation systems while improving efficiency production. Ms. Deborah Knox, GRA secretariat, also presented an overview of the Alliance, while Dr. Kazuyuki Yagi, co-chair of the PRRG, presented an overview of the PRRG.

The 2014 Asia sub-group meeting of the PRRG was attended by representatives from Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Vietnam as well as representatives from member countries in Latin America.

Launched in 2009, the GRA brings more than 30 member countries from all regions of the world together to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cyber Village project workshop shares successes and learnings

A workshop for the second phase of Enhancing knowledge exchange and decision-making among rice stakeholders through the development and promotion of location-specific Rice Knowledge products and delivery system was held on 19-21 August in Zambales to evaluate the successes, challenges, and insights gained from eight pilot sites of the Cyber Village, a project on communicating rice-based technologies using information and communications technologies (ICTs) to farmers across the Philippines.

Results of baseline survey on farm production costs, farmers’ socio-demographic characteristics, and attitudes towards ICTs for extension were presented at the workshop. Participants also presented the results of the follow-up survey on farmers’ use of and opinions about fertilizer guidelines derived from the Nutrient Manager for Rice (now Rice Crop Manager)— an ICT-based decision tool for farmers developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Dr. Karen Barroga, project leader of the Improving Promotion and Delivery (IPAD) encouraged participants from the local government units  agencies under the Department of Agriculture, state universities and colleges, and non-government organizations to sustain and integrate the gains of the project into the agriculture programs of each  municipalities.

Roger Barroga, FutureRice program leader at the Philippine Rice Research Institute and lead developer of the Online Public Academy for Philippine Agriculture, cited the PhilCECnet roadmap—a national program that aims to integrate ICT use, not only in agriculture, but also in e-governance, disaster management, distance education among others— as “the way forward.”

Jojo Lapitan, Cyber Village project coordinator and head of IRRI's Partnerships office, encouraged the group to scale-up ICTs in provinces and avail of opportunities provided by the IPAD project for the transformation of communities. Mr. Lapitan also urged participants to continue their relationships with the Cyber Village groups. He plans to invite key farmer-cooperators to IRRI to share their experiences with media exposure and panel discussions.

Gelia Castillo, National Scientist and IRRI Consultant, noted that the limitations of the technical infrastructure/ administrative aspects of ICT at the village level are still far from being solved. But she cited the Cyber Village project can be used as stimulus for acquiring connectivity that would allow ICT-based agricultural technologies to reach farmers and other community stakeholders.Dr. Castillo also added that the Cyber Village participants must form a collective group (social mobilization) and lobby to seek government support to provide internet connectivity in villages. She concluded that the project could offer opportunities in introducing a tech-savvy agriculture to entice the youth to rice science.

Partners who were instrumental to the implementation of the project were recognized during the workshop with plaques of appreciation.

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IRRI holds weather database management system training in Myanmar

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) conducted training on weather data retrieving, processing, and management using an automatic weather observation station (AWOS) on 22-23 August in Myanmar.

IRRI provided and installed the AWOS in an irrigated rice field inside the Department of Agricultural Research. Installed before the actual training session, the instrument includes sensors for weather elements, which affects rice growth including temperature, solar radiation, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and direction. The Institute also provided two tablets for downloading the data from the AWOS.

Thirty-two staff from the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), two from the Yezin Agricultural University, and six from the IRRI-Myanmar office in Yangon, participated in the event.

The participants greatly appreciated the training since the country has several extreme environments, where analysis of weather data would be useful, according to Ms. Helen Grace Centeno, coordinator of the Climate Unit at IRRI, and Ms. Justine Bonifacio, researcher at IRRI's Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology division.  Myanmar’s coastal areas get inundated from time to time while some inland areas are also prone to drought.

The 2-day training was sponsored by the IRRI-LIFT (Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund) project that aims to improve livelihoods of rice-based rural households in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady delta.

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