Friday, July 25, 2014

Temperate rice on the global stage

Photo by Russell Reinke. Seed increase of temperate rice near Yanco, NSW, Australia.

Calling all temperate rice researchers!

Temperate rice—or rice that grows in cold climates—will figure prominently at the 4th International Rice Congress (IRC2014) in two events—the 5th Temperate Rice Conference, or TRC5, and the annual meeting of the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC). IRC2014 will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 27 October 27-1 November 2014.

“This year’s conference will mark the 20th year since the series began, the first of which was held in Australia in 1994 with 200 attendees from around the world” said Russell Reinke, TRRC Coordinator and co-organizer of the TRC.

Temperate rice is grown in higher latitudes, where temperatures are generally lower. In these regions, the days are longer during the summer growing season, improving the chances of better crop growth and yield.

Because of more sunlight hours, temperate rice yields about 10 tons of paddy per hectare—almost double the tropical average. Thus, despite a far smaller total temperate rice area compared to its tropical counterpart—and the fact that only one crop a year is possible—temperate rice accounts for about 20% of global rice production.

Rice-growing in temperate regions comes with its own set of concerns. One of these is blast, a fungal disease that thrives better in the cold and, thus, causes more damage. Blast damage is compounded by the effect of extreme temperatures at critical points in the growth of the rice plant. In response to these specific problems, research on temperate rice has been growing and is expected to gain more traction during the Bangkok congress, bringing together scientists and research networks to focus the spotlight on temperate rice.

“Problems specific to temperate rice can be overcome more effectively with the free flow of information, seeds, and technology among researchers, and the annual consortium meetings and temperate rice conferences are ideal for aligning research initiatives” said Russell Ford, manager of Rice Research Australia and current Chairman of the TRRC Steering Committee.

Such networks include the Fund for Rice in Latin America, or FLAR, that links public- and private-sector stakeholders throughout South America; and the Rice Technical Working Group (RTWG), a forum that gathers rice researchers every two years in the United States. TRC5 and the annual meeting of the TRRC aim to place in sharp relief the most recent advances in rice research from various temperate locations all over the world.

Temperate rice is grown in geographically diverse areas, such as Australia, Chile, northwest China, Egypt, North Korea, Russia, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and some parts of the United States.

Register via to attend this year’s International Rice Congress in Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Asia Rice Foundation USA announces 2014 Travel and Study Award Winners

During their15th annual meeting, held on 5 July at U.C. Davis, the trustees of the Asia Rice Foundation USA (ARFUSA) announced two 2014 winners of the organization’s Travel and Study Award Program. Ana Maria Bossa Castro and Haley Sater will each receive a $3,500 travel grant to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines in the coming months.

Ms. Bossa Castro, a native of Colombia, is a second-year PhD student at Colorado State University (CSU). Her research project, Defeating Bacterial Diseases of Rice: Novel Resistance Sources for Rice Crops in Africa and Latin America, is a collaborative project among CSU, IRRI, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia.

At IRRI, she will participate in the Institute’s 3-week international course, Rice: Research to Production in 2015. The course will provide her with a unique opportunity to learn from experts about the latest rice research, as well as the most efficient production techniques. She will also meet with IRRI scientists collaborating with her to update them about her bacterial disease research and to discuss future experiments.

Ms. Bossa Castro has also received funding for her PhD research from the Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program.

Ms. Sater, a Minnesota native, is working on her master’s degree at the University of Arkansas. Her research involves obtaining better abiotic stress tolerance in rice. These stresses, especially drought and salinity, limit rice production all over the world.

Her time at IRRI will involve a 3-month research project with Glenn Gregorio and other breeders to help close the information gap regarding dual drought and salinity tolerance in rice. She will help develop a method for phenotypic evaluation of the two stresses. This preliminary study will provide a foundation for future research into the mechanism for dual stress resistance. It may also be used to help breeders determine which lines might be useful to incorporate into crosses to achieve hardier plant types for growing in drought- and salinity-afflicted areas.

ARFUSA is made up primarily of U.S.-based former IRRI staff members who have all worked and lived in countries where rice is vital for food and to earn a livelihood. They started the foundation to support activities that help contribute toward a world that can feed itself, treasure the rich heritage of rice cultures, and value rice- growing land as a precious resource to be shared with future generations. The foundation is particularly interested in cultivating the next generation of rice scientists through its Travel and Study Awards to young scholars.

Applications for 2015 Travel and Study Awards are now being accepted. The deadline is 1 June 2015. More details can be found at

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Gender workshop showcases efforts to mainstream women contribution in rice farming

The IRRI Gender Research Team organized the GRiSP Gender Research Network workshop to showcase a wide variety of GRiSP research and outreach activities in Asia and Africa. National and international scientists from IRRI headquarters, IRRI-India, IRRI-Bangladesh, and representatives from Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Philippine Rice Research Institute, and Africa Rice Center attended the event held at IRRI Headquarters, Philippines on 25−27 June.

In his opening speech, Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy-director general for research, discussed how research on gender can influence the adoption and impact of rice knowledge and technologies, and help in developing policies and strategies for the implementation of programs.

“All our research must be directly targeted to making a significant measurable difference,” Dr. Morell said.
In her keynote speech Gelia Castillio, rural sociologist and IRRI consultant, emphasized the need to give women a face and an identity instead of being treated as data and statistics. She recommended undertaking research projects to follow-up the current status of the women who have benefitted from past GRiSP projects.

Dr. Hope Webber, IRRI monitoring and evaluation specialist, stressed the need for collecting sex-disaggregated data to facilitate project evaluation. Dr. Sonia Akter, IRRI gender specialist, discussed the CGIAR recommended minimum standard guidelines for sex-aggregated data collection.

The lessons learned from technology dissemination, status of women's empowerment, as well as the impact of climate change and male out-migration on women’s changing role in agriculture were among those highlighted and discussed.

Workshop participants made a commitment to continue high-quality, policy-relevant, action-oriented research activities to foster gender-equity and enhance women's empowerment across the globe.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Vietnamese officials visit IRRI for a closer look at its activities in Vietnam

Thirty-two officials from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Petrovietnam Fertilizer and Chemical Corporation visited IRRI on 11 June to learn more about the Institute’s research activities, particularly  the Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint (CORIGAP). CORIGAP, a project under the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, aims to optimize productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice production systems in several Asian countries including Vietnam.

The delegates were briefed by Dr. Grant Singleton, CORIGAP coordinator, on the activities of both IRRC and CORIGAP in Vietnam. Dr. Bjoern Ole Sander, climate change specialist, presented his team’s research on climate change while Dr. Roland Buresh, soil scientist, discussed site-specific nutrient management. IRRC developed the principles for site-specific nutrient management which has evolved into the Rice Crop Manager decision-support tool.

The visit was arranged by Dr. Pham Van Du, deputy director general of the Department of Crop Production, Vietnam, in coordination with the project office of CORIGAP.

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Vietnam: IRRI heads workshop on the future of the rice industry in the Mekong Delta

Written by Trina Leah Mendoza, Pieter Rutsaert, and Matty Demont

Key stakeholders of the Vietnamese rice sector gathered to discuss strategies towards a sustainable rice value chain in the Mekong Delta on 5-6 June in Ho Chi Minh City.

The workshop aimed to engage participants in a multistakeholder discussion about the future of the Vietnamese rice industry. IRRI organized the event with support from Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint (CORIGAP), a project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Agriculture Competitiveness Project funded by the World Bank.

Participants included representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, research institutes, and the private sector including exporters, farmer cooperatives, and the food industry. Indonesian and Thai partners from the CORIGAP project also attended the workshop as a learning experience to reproduce the exercise in their respective countries.

A SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats) combined with a strategic orientation round (SOR) was used to engage discussion among stakeholders. The theory and procedure was developed and instructed by Dr. Pieter Rutsaert, CORIGAP postdoctoral fellow, while Dr. Matty Demont, IRRI senior economist and market research and value chain specialist, framed the analysis around the concept of sustainable food value chain development. The framework covered the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Participants were guided through several collective tasks to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the Vietnamese rice sector to become more sustainable, and the opportunities and threats that the sector faces. Participants then individually quantified the relationships between internal and external drivers of the sector. These results will enable CORIGAP scientists to develop an overall strategy for sustainable development of Vietnamese rice value chains. 

The stakeholders perceive the sector’s capability to grasp opportunities (including growing export and domestic markets) to be higher than its resilience to potential threats (including more stringent food safety regulations and global warming). This finding is important for policymakers who are currently repositioning Vietnam on the international rice market.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

IRRI-Bangladesh gets the ball rolling on new project for reducing postharvest losses

Written by Alfred Schmidley 

IRRI-Bangladesh kicked off the Innovations Lab for Reduction of Postharvest Loss, a new project that aims to enhance food security in Bangladesh by reducing postharvest losses and recovering more rice from farmers’ harvests, at the BRAC Center in Dhaka on 3 June.  The 5-year project is funded by USAID, under the Feed the Future initiative, and will be implemented by IRRI–Bangladesh with support from Kansas State University and  the University of Illinois.

The event included learning activities in identifying postharvest needs for research and technologies. It also focused on improving the processing of both paddy and seed through multi-stakeholder partnerships, including farmers and women Self-Help Groups. Participating organizations included international NGOs, universities and government research institutions, community-based organizations, and other postharvest stakeholders. Dr. M.A. Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor and current professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University, Dr. Shahidur Rahman Bhuiyan, USAID senior agricultural and food policy advisor, and Dr. Paul Fox, IRRI representative for Bangladesh, were the featured speakers.

As part of its next step, Innovations Lab for Reduction of Postharvest Loss will engage local partner networks for assessing needs for training and piloting of awareness-raising of options that suit to local actors needs.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

IRRI celebrates the 116th Philippine independence

By Gina Zarsadias


IRRI’s sectoral organizations AIRESS, AISAS, IFSA, and SINOP led a flag raising ceremony on June 11 commemorating the 116th anniversary of Philippine Independence on June 12.

This year’s theme, set by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, Kalayaan 2014: Pagsunod sa yapak ng mga dakilang Pilipino tungo sa malawakan at permanenteng pagbabago, was chosen to remind IRRI staff of the bravery of Filipino heroes that helped win the country’s independence as well as to inspire them to use their skills and talents to help alleviate poverty, and become instruments for economic growth.

Mr. Carlos Huelma gave the invocation, Mr. Tony Lambino, head of communication, led the Philippine National Anthem, Mr. Manuel Marcaida led the pledge of allegiance to the Filipino flag, and  Atty. Eugeniano  Perez III, IRRI's legal counsel and Dr. Glenn Gregorio, senior scientist, gave their respective messages. Ms. Jenny Jarlego rendered Bayan Ko as balloons were released to symbolize the unity of Filipino employees of IRRI.

Also in attendance were Philippine National Scientist Dr. Gelia Castillo, Mr. George Cinconiegue,  Mr. Glenn Enriquez,  Mr. Hiram Gomez,  and Ms. Flora de Guzman.

Ms. Iris Bugayong and Mr. Mico DueƱas served as the emcees during the event.

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