Friday, May 22, 2015

GQNSL receives recommendation for renewal of its 2015-2020 ISO accreditation

The Grain Quality and Nutrition Services Laboratory (GQNSL) successfully passed the assessment by the Philippine Accreditation Bureau (PAB)  for the renewal of its PNS ISO/IEC accreditation for another 5 years.

The two-day audit of GQNSL and all its analytical and grain quality evaluation tests was conducted by Ms. Fe Consuelo Natarte from Supra Management System Consulting, and Mr. Christian John Rodly Navarro and Ms. Maria Soledad Distor from Systems Technology Institute. The evaluation was conducted on 11-12 May.

The new certificate for GQNSL’s PNS ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for 2015-2020 will be issued by PAB by the 3rd quarter of 2015.

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Indonesia: Extensionists and researchers discuss strategy for promoting weather info app to farmers

Developers behind an innovative app for increasing rice production by providing farmers with accurate weather prediction met with researchers and extensionists in Ungaran, Pati, and Rembang to discuss the best way of disseminating the technology.

The Weather-Rice-Nutrient integrated Decision Support System (WeRise) is a seasonal weather forecast–based decision support system for intensifying rainfed rice production in Southeast Asia.  WeRise could help farmers in their crop production decisions by providing crucial weather information such as the start and end of the rainy season and distribution of rainfall during a cropping season. It also gives advisories on the best time to sow and transplant, what appropriate rice varieties to plant, and efficient application fertilizer and other inputs efficiently.

The meetings were also an opportunity to introduce the apps to new users and get feedback from pilot users for further improvements taking into account the local context. Local extensionists recognized sowing timing as one of the crucial information lacking in the current system. They found WeRise a promising tool because it can also predict rice yield based on sowing date and variety used. Aside from being easy to use and understand, extensionists found it easy to explain to local farmers.

The International Rice Research Institute-Japan Collaborative Research Project on Climate Change Adaptation in Rainfed Rice Areas (CCARA) in cooperation with the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) Central Java, Indonesia conducted the meetings on 21-23 April 2015.

Dr. Keiichi Hayashi, CCARA project coordinator presented an overview of the CCARA project and facilitated the discussions. Ms. Sri Rustini, Researcher at AIAT Central Java discussed the objectives of the meeting and mechanics of the discussions and demonstrated how to navigate WeRise.

A total of 45 extensionists and 6 researchers from AIAT Central Java, Agricultural and Livestock Agency of Pati, and Food Security Agency and Office of Implementing Extension for Agricultural, Fisheries, and Forestry of Rembang District participated in the meetings.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

University of Illinois plant geneticist joins the Young Researchers' Lunch

The Young Researchers' Lunch for May hosted Patrick Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, USA. Dr. Brown works in plant breeding and genetics and his research areas include genotyping-by-sequencing, genetic improvement of sorghum as a bioenergy crop, genetic architecture of complex traits in sorghum, and  phenotypic diversity in maize ears. Dr. Brown is visiting the Philippines as part of a delegation from the University of Illinois.

The group discussed different aspects of genotyping and phenotyping, especially the challenges of ozone research and how it might be applied to other stresses, and the differences in genotyping strategies between rice and other crops such as maize and sorghum.

Maricel Corpuz,  Anshuman Singh, Kimberly Ponce, Nitika Sandhu, Erwin Tandayu, and Christine Jade Dilla-Ermita participated in the event.

The Young Researchers Lunch is a monthly meeting for NRS and AFSTRI scientists who are in the early stages of their career. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for discussions with senior scientists on a range of topics including science and career paths.

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Philippines: Agriculture scholars honored for academic achievements

Seven scholars of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) earned their various agriculture-related degrees with honors.  The Gawad Patnubay College Scholarship Program provides underprivileged but deserving students and dependents of agrarian reform beneficiaries and LBP cooperative members who want to specialize in agriculture and fisheries.

The scholars awarded for academic excellence are Vergel Jungco (magna cum laude, BS AgricBusiness of the University of Southern Mindanao), Jess Bryan Alvariño (cum laude, BS Agriculture of the University of Southern Mindanao),  Royette Santos (cum laude, BS Agriculture of the Central Luzon State University), Francis Lutao Jr. (cum laude, BS AgriBusiness of the Visayas State University), Cesar Pabia Jr. (cum laude, BS AgriBusiness of the Visayas State University) , Jay Carl Cacerez (cum laude, BS Agricultural Chemistry of the Visayas State University), and Roda Capacao (cum laude, BS Agriculture of the Visayas State University) .

The other scholars who graduated this year are Samantha Alcantara (BS Agriculture of the Central Luzon State University), Christian Lacanilao (BS Agriculture of the Central State University), Kristine Joy Reyes (BS Agriculture of the Central Luzon State University), Excel Ariola (BS AgriBusiness of the Central Mindanao University),and Jovel Grand Marquez (BS AgriBusiness of the Central Mindanao University).

The scholarship grants 100% tuition fee subsidy, monthly stipend, and book and a uniform allowance. As part of the program, the scholars will undergo a two-month review for the Agriculturist Licensure Board Examinations in  July 15. They will also participate in an eight-month intensive internship employment program with LBP and its partner institutions.

The Gawad Patnubay College Scholarship Program was launched in 2013, in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute, to address the decline in enrolment in agriculture. The program also aims to develop skills in modern agriculture, renew enthusiasm for the agricultural sector, promote sustainable development, and reduce poverty in the countryside. It is is a nationwide undertaking that will benefit college students who wish to pursue (or are pursuing) Bachelor of Science in Agriculture or agriculture-related courses. To date, 28 scholarships have been awarded to students from five universities.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

University of Illinois at IRRI for exchange on various research initiatives

A delegation from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science (ACES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to share their various research projects.

The weeklong visit kicked off on 11 May with an overview of IRRI presented by Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships Bruce Tolentino. The professors also met with IRRI scientists and visited IRRI research facilities.

The highlight of the visit was a lecture series on 13 May where the professors presented their research projects. One of the guests, associate professor and director of the Agricultural Communications program Lulu Rodriguez, presented her work on connecting peoples and institutions while fostering dialogues through stories about science.

“Scientists should stick to their key message—the importance and potential impact of their scientific endeavors,” she said on how scientists should manage media queries. Dr. Rodriguez also expressed her pleasure at the opportunity to return to her roots. A graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, she pursued her MS degree at Cornell University and PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

ACES pursues research, education, and outreach around the world to promote food and water security and to positively impact human lives, livelihoods, and the world’s environment. The college maintains a strong international presence by fostering activities among faculty through its Academy for Global Engagement to build capacity for international engagement.  ACES is presently hosting 6 IRRI scholars of the Lee Foundations Rice Scholarship Program.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Thailand: Agriculture staff learn laser leveling of rice fields

Twenty-three participants from the Thailand Rice Department, Agricultural Engineering Department, and CTA-Trimble attended training on using laser land leveling technology. Laser leveling precisely level fields and has been demonstrated to improve the use of water and allow farmers to reduce seeding by 50% in rain-fed rice fields and increase yield by 15-20%.

Participants learned how to survey fields, use laser-controlled leveling equipment and tractors as well as cost benefit analysis for land leveling. Fields were surveyed using standard laser equipment as well as the latest in vehicle mounted computer controlled GPS systems supplied by CTA-Trimble. The GPS equipment is already being used for sugar cane production in Thailand but not yet for rice, according to  Mr. Thanach Songmetahakrit from CTA-Trimble.

“This was the first skill-based training course on laser leveling given within the department,” Mr. Boondit from the Thai Rice Department said. Large-scale trials and demonstrations will now be conducted on research stations and farmers’ fields in the northeast  and central plains areas of Thailand later this year.

Joe Rickman, an expert on mechanization and production systems from the International Rice Research Institute, headed the training. The course was held at the Roi-Et Rice Research Center and Land Development Station in North East Thailand on 11 to 14 May.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Rice farmers in China use less fertilizer, increase yield

Dr. Xuhua Zhong shows a rice plot that uses the "three controls technology" in Gaoyao county, Guangdong, China

Guangdong, China- “Rice farmers can decrease their nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide use by around 20%, and increase their yield by 10% by using the ‘three controls technology’ (3CT),” says Dr. Xuhua Zhong, crop physiologist at the Rice Research Institute of the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences (GDRRI).  The meaning of “three controls” is controlling the amount of fertilizer, unproductive tillers, and diseases and insects. “This technology is now being used by around 40% of farmers in Guangdong Province in China,” says Zhong.

In 3CT, Zhong recommends the “4-2-3-1 principle,” an easier way for farmers to remember the proportion of nitrogen fertilizer to be applied at different growth stages of the plant.  It means 40% of nitrogen fertilizer is applied during the basal stage, 20% at midtillering stage, 30% at panicle initiation, and 10% at heading.

“And another way for farmers to remember, I told them the ‘one-half, one, and two,’ in which nitrogen fertilizer is applied at basal, then a half month after, then one month after, and lastly, two months after transplanting,” says Zhong.

Zhong explains that “the core change in farmers’ practices, aside from the reduction of nitrogen fertilizer input, is that the 3CT postpones fertilizer application from the early growth stage to the middle and late growth stages.”

“With less use of fertilizer, the rice plant is sturdy, does not lodge, and is less prone to diseases such as sheath blight so use of pesticide is reduced,” says Zhong. “Thus, farmers can save on the costs of fertilizer, pesticide, and labor.”

Moreover, the 10%-increase in yield is significant as it is equivalent to an average of 0.6 tons per hectare.

The 3CT technology could help China increase rice production in the face of multiple challenges. Since the 1990s, China has experienced low and unstable yields, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, environment pollution, and low profits, according to Dr. Zongyong Jiang, president of the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “These problems have been increasingly serious,” Jiang says.

In 2012, 3CT was recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture of China (MOA) for use in rice farming. It is now aligned with the program of MOA to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“It is now widely adopted by rice farmers,” attests Jiang. “Indeed, the three controls technology helps farmers save fertilizer input, increase grain yield, and achieve more profit,” says Jiang. “Due to 3CT’s significant contribution, the research team, headed by Xuhua Zhong, was awarded the first-class Science and Technology Prize by the Guangdong provincial government.”

“In recent years, GDRRI has been working with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to develop a low-carbon and high-yielding technology, which aims to further reduce fertilizer use,” says Jiang. “The new technology is expected to lessen water use and greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Indeed, the project, Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP), has been an excellent platform for the collaboration between GDRRI and IRRI,” states Jiang.

“The extension of 3CT through partnerships under CORIGAP has been instrumental in reducing the yield gap in rice production from 39% to 21%. Most importantly, this increase in rice production is not only more profitable for farmers, the reduction in fertilizer and pesticide use is also an important plus for the environment,” reports Dr. Grant Singleton, IRRI principal scientist and CORIGAP coordinator.

“It is good to see the progress that they have done in China,” comments Dr. Carmen Thönnissen, senior advisor, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. “It is great to see more and more the integration of yield and sustainability, and finding ways of optimizing the whole production system in order to reduce the ecological footprint of rice as much as possible.”

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