Friday, March 27, 2015

IRRI-ESA regional coordinator joins the Young Researchers' Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch for March hosted Joseph Bigirimana, a plant pathologist and IRRI's regional coordinator for East and Southern Africa (ESA).

Dr. Bigirimana shared many stories and the lessons he learned with the young researchers. He emphasized the importance of networking in a scientist's career. “A meeting with the IRRI Director General when I was a visiting collaborator eventually led to the IRRI-Burundi partnership,” Dr. Bigirimana said. “Visitors could lead to helpful contacts later so meeting them is essential.”

While Dr. Bigirimana advocated an attitude of humility, and advised the young researchers to adapt to the local people and culture when they travel to work in a new place, he also told them not to hide their achievements.

Participants were Maria Stefanie Dwiyanti, Bryan Balajadia, Sabiha Parween, Bryce Blackman, Anny Ruth Pame, and Satyen Mondal. The lunch was held on 27 March 2015.

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28 new rice varieties released in 2014 as scientists ensure responsive breeding for the future

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners released at least twenty-eight new rice varieties to governments of eight countries in Asia and Africa in 2014.

These newly-released varieties possess high-yielding and stress-tolerance traits that can help farmers overcome challenges, such as the negative effects of climate change, in their rice growing ecosystems. Some of the varieties released are flood-tolerant (India), drought-tolerant for rainfed rice areas (Nepal), and salinity-tolerant (the Gambia and the Philippines).

IRRI has released more than a thousand modern rice varieties in 78 countries since its founding in 1960.

"The work never stops," said Eero Nissila, IRRI's head of breeding and leader of its global rice research partnership in varietal improvement. "New challenges arise due to climate change and decreasing resources, which is why we need to keep revisiting our agenda and stay responsive to the needs of our farmers and consumers."

Scientists implementing IRRI’s breeding agenda are sharing the latest in their varietal improvement work during IRRI Breeders' Week, happening now at IRRI, 23-27 March 2015.

Critical improvements are being made to IRRI’s breeding infrastructure, which needs to be more responsive to the requirements of current and future rice demand. Responsiveness requires increasing rice genetic gain in yield and pursuing an agenda that’s driven by what consumers need and prefer. Taken together, these improvements are called Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At Breeders' Week, several updates were presented, which include development of profiles of rice preferred in selected countries in Southeast Asia and Africa; market research on types of rice consumers prefer; updates on the irrigated variety development pipeline that now benefits from an expedited breeding process; breeding hubs in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; grain quality and how it integrates into the development of high-yielding rice varieties with desirable traits; managing information through bioinformatics; genotyping services; partnerships within the hybrid rice development program; and exploration of rice's diversity for breeding.

IRRI is part of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), a platform for impact-oriented rice research for development with more than 900 rice research and development partners worldwide.

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“We are interested in having a special relationship with IRRI because rice is important to us” – senior Indian official

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna - Hon. Shri R. Rajagopal, additional secretary of India’s Department of Agriculture, Research, and Education visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) earlier this week to explore further areas of collaboration between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and IRRI. Rajagopal was specifically interested in scientist and student exchange as well as reaching more farmers through extension activities. He also discussed issues related to climate change and diminishing natural resources.

“Our three-day visit has been extremely interactive and discussions focused on how we can improve cooperation between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and IRRI in terms of increasing production, improving the welfare of the rice farmers, and providing more emphasis on rice research,” said Rajagopal during his March 23-25 visit.

India, with its tremendous range of laboratories and institutes has an inherent strength in rice, according to Rajagopal. “We have a lot of rice scientists who will benefit from the interaction with IRRI scientists,” he said. “Likewise, IRRI scientists will benefit immensely, after visiting India, by understanding better the condition in farmers’ fields.”

According to Rajagopal, “We have core centers established for frontline extension activities in every district of the country. An extension activity can be outscaled straightaway to millions of rice farmers if we have the right mechanism... This will make a difference in the lives of millions of farmers if we are able to get across the technologies that IRRI has developed.”

Rajagopal also identified climate change is a major threat to rice production. He said developing climate-smart rice varieties with higher tolerance for salinity, flood, and drought, will help IRRI and ICAR work together in a much bigger way. He was also pleased to learn about IRRI’s alternate wetting and drying technology that can save up to 30%  of the water used in rice production.

When asked about the future, Rajagopal said “I was focusing on the sentimental attachment to rice in India, especially in the rice producing states, where young scientists soon after graduation will have a desire to do something significant for rice”.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

IRRI joins celebration of Women’s Month

The contribution of women in rice research and production was the focus of the 2015 celebrations of International Women’s Day (IWD) and Month (IWM) at the International Rice Research Institute.

IRRI’s own studies have documented the various important roles women have in different farming scenarios across countries, as well as changes in the farm—such as migration of labor to urban areas—that affect these roles and, hence, the whole rice production chain.

Once a year, IRRI honors the role of women in rice production and research, and in the efforts that support these two endeavors, in a series of activities held in March, IWM.

This year’s IWD theme, “Make it Happen,” was also the title of the photo exhibit at IRRI Headquarters that featured women staff members, including some from the Institute’s country offices.

Other highlights were a special seminar by Liz Humphreys, senior water scientist, and a freedom wall on which IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler scribbled, “Our power derives from our women, without whom our vision would be an unfulfilled dream.”

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IARI agriculture fair showcases STRASA, CSISA and IRRI technologies

By Mayank Sharma & Manzoor H. Dar

Thousands of farmers, researchers, scientists, and government officials attended the annual Kisan Mela (agricultural fair) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute  (IARI) campus in New Delhi, on 10-12 March.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) hosted an exhibit booth featuring technologies developed by the Stress-tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project and Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). The booth also displayed IRRI technologies and products including the manual transplanter, the community mat nursery, and performance charts of stress-tolerant rice varieties, in partnership with Improved Rice-based Rain-fed Agricultural Systems (IRRAS) and the National Food Security Mission (NFSM). Various literatures on stress-tolerant rice management, seed production, and postharvest techniques were also distributed to farmers and extension workers.

Thousands of farmers from different states visited the IRRI booth  and enquired about the latest technologies developed by the Institute. Many also shared their experiences using IRRI technologies.

Mr. Ram Raji from Madhubani, who has been cultivating Swarna-Sub1, a flood-tolerant rice variety for three years,  was awarded by the Government of Bihar for getting highest paddy yield in the district in 2011.

This year’s Kisan Mela was inaugurated by Dr. J. S. Sandhu, deputy director general (Crop Science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The representatives from IRRI-India  who attended the event included Dr. Sheetal Sharma, Dr. Sarvesh Shukla, Mr. Mayank Sharma, Mr. Bhanu Bhadauria, Mr. Girija Swain, Dr. Maneesh Dwivedi, Ms. Poornima, Ms. Ishika Gupta, Ms. Mamta Mehar and Mr. Shriram Manogaram.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hokkaido Univ's Research Faculty of Agriculture strengthens collaboration on rice research and education with IRRI

The Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University (RFAAHU) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) signed Memorandum of Agreement strengthening cooperation between the rice scientists of the two institutes. According to the agreement, the two institutes will undertake exchange of organization members and research fellows; joint supervision of students conducting research, thesis, and fieldwork; exchange of academic materials, publications, and information; and conduct joint research projects and organize symposiums.

Representatives from the two institutes also discussed mutual areas of interests.  Chaired by Prof. Yuji Kishima of RFAHU, participants from IRRI included Dr.Noel Magor, Dr. II Ryong Choi, Dr. Russell Reinke, Dr. Takashi Yamano, and Ms. Anilyn Maningas.

IRRI External Relations Director Corinta Guerta and RFAAHU Dean Prof. Tomomi Marutani signed the agreement on 10 March.

RFAAHU was inaugurated in 1876 and was the first academic institute in Japan to award bachelor degrees. Today, it remains at the forefront of research on food security, bio-resource management, biomass energy supply, and environmental conservation through restructuring of systematized agriculture. 

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Friday, March 20, 2015

RMQA-RDM training team concludes this year’s 1st RDM 101

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Risk Management and Quality Assurance Research Data Management (RMQA-RDM) training team concluded this year’s first Research Data Management (RDM) 101 course.

Thirteen participants completed the three-day training course: three from IRRI-India country office (CSISA); internal IRRI staff include five from Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB), four from Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD); one from Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (GQNC); and one from Genetic Resources Center (GRC). It was held on 17-19 March 2015 at the IT Learning Center in the IRRI Headquarters.

The course covered all areas of data management: data management planning; data documentation; data collection and pre-analysis of statistical software (using MS Access for data transformation as pre-analysis in statistical software); data validation and quality control; using bar codes in experiments; using  mobile devices in collecting data; data storage backup, and security; and data archival and sharing. Moreover, the training team also discussed and demonstrated file management tools/software that include: Beyond Compare, Cobian, Mendeley, and the IRRI Dataverse (an online repository for data archiving and sharing).

The training team, managed by IRRI-RMQA Senior Manager Menchu Bernardo, is composed of Enrico Mercado and Deacart Arreza. Mr. Rogelio Alvarez of Information Technology Services (ITS) provided a lecture on data backup, security and storage.

RDM 101 is conducted quarterly.

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