Thursday, February 11, 2016

Heirloom and stress-tolerant rice varieties presented at IFAD review

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Heirloom rice farmers of the Cordillera Administrative Region are now better linked with both local and international markets that will provide them with higher income opportunities.

This is one of the major project achievements for 2015 reported by Dr. Digna Manzanilla, coordinator of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE), and Annette Tobias, assistant scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), during the 8th Annual Country Programme Review by the International Fund for the Agricultural Development (IFAD). To support heirloom rice farmers within self-help groups, CURE through the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP), conducted a training on business planning .

Manzanilla (photo) highlighted other significant project accomplishments and activities such as testing and validating stress-tolerant rice varieties, local capacity enhancement, and knowledge management in partnership with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). The writeshops on upscaling innovations were also among CURE’s main accomplishments for 2015 that she presented.

With this year’s theme, Assessing the IFAD-PH Country Experience Towards Innovative Development Models, the event aimed at sharing the government’s expectations on the contribution of loans and projects towards realizing the Philippine Development Plan 2011-16. Present during the event, held on 26-28 January, were 47 representatives from 12 IFAD loan and project grants. Other participants came from government agencies such as the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Agrarian Reform.

Participants visited IFAD-funded project sites such as Cattubo and Abiang in Benguet under the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP2). During this guided field visit, the participants were able to interact with the implementers, partners, and project beneficiaries.

They also visited the rehabilitated Calasipan-Apanberang-Mongoto farm-to-market road, the organic garden of the livelihood investment groups, the reforestation and agroforestry site, and the coffee processing center of the Abiang Community Multipurpose Cooperative.

CURE, one of the projects funded by IFAD, aims to help 100 million poor farm households in Asia who depend on rice. CURE is coordinated by IRRI in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and PhilRice.

CHARMP2 works to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of rural communities in the highlands of the Cordillera Administrative Region through community mobilization, watershed conservation, agriculture and agribusiness development, promotion of income-generating activities, and the development of rural infrastructure. CHARMP2 forged a partnership with CURE to strengthen its development interventions and enable CURE to introduce and extend technological options over a wider area.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

India appoints new Agriculture Secretary

Mr. Shobhana K. Pattanayak has been appointed as the new Secretary of India’s Department of Agriculture, Cooperation, and Farmers Welfare with the retirement of the incumbent Mr. Siraj Hussain.

“Pattanayak’s outstanding record and dynamic leadership bodes well for the continued growth and development of India’s agriculture sector and for the welfare of all farmers and consumers,” said Matthew Morell, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

In his congratulatory letter to Pattanayak, Morell mentioned India and IRRI’s historical record in rice science for food security, which has been achieved in close collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Ministry of Agriculture, and numerous state agricultural departments and universities.

“These deep and long-running partnerships have fostered extraordinarily productive and successful collaborations that significantly enable India’s national developmental priorities and programs in research and rice-based food security and economic growth,” said Morell. “Indeed, our partnerships stand on a firm foundation for continued productivity toward mutually-held goals in national, regional, and global food security.”

Morell invited Pattanayak to visit IRRI headquarters in the Philippines. "Your visit will allow us to brief you on our current research accomplishments, our historical and current collaboration with India; and also solicit your input on how we can strengthen our working together for the benefit of farmers and consumers in India and South Asia," Morell concluded.

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Dutch ambassador lauds IRRI research

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – “I’ve always thought of the partnership between the Netherlands and IRRI as a long-term investment in rice research. But IRRI’s work is far broader than I anticipated,” said Marion Derckx, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Philippines, during her visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters on 3 February.

Derckx was impressed by the scope of IRRI's work, which includes not only breeding rice varieties but also running projects that align with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals on ending poverty and hunger and ensuring health for all. As such, Derckx commended IRRI for its accomplishments.

She also expressed the need for a stronger partnership between the Dutch government and IRRI, which started way back in 1971. Since then, the Netherlands has contributed more than USD 12 million in support of IRRI’s projects.

Derckx and party were received by Matthew Morell (at right in photo), IRRI director general, as well as Bas Bouman, director of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), and Marco van den Berg, chief information officer, both Dutch nationals in key leadership roles at the institute.

During their meeting, Morell gave the ambassador an overview of IRRI’s ongoing projects and showcased the Netherlands’ contribution to rice research. One project is Simulation and systems analysis for rice production (SARP). SARP established a network of national agricultural research centers and universities to build research capacity for systems analysis and simulation modeling in developing countries. It has been supported by IRRI, the Centre for Agrobiological Research, and the Wageningen Agricultural University.

During their visit, the Dutch delegation had a chance to tour the International Rice Genebank and interact with IRRI scientists.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Imperial Couple's visit underscores Japan's commitment to world food security

Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
at the LTCCE view deck with IRRI scientist Yoichiro
Kato,  (Photo: IRRI/Isagani Serrano)
LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko received an overview of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the institute’s vibrant partnership with Japan during a short visit to the IRRI headquarters on Friday afternoon (29 January).

IRRI Director General Matthew Morell presented the institute's goals, financial supporters, and some prominent Japanese scientists who have been associated with the institute.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were briefed by V. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships, on some of the improved rice varieties developed at IRRI. "Their Majesties expressed special interest in IRRI's work on climate-ready rice, particularly submergence-tolerant rice," Tolentino reported. "They also seemed pleased about the long-term relationship IRRI has had with the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), and that the institute has always had a Japanese national on its board of trustees since its founding in 1960."

JIRCAS has through the years sent several Japanese scientists to work on collaborative projects at IRRI, under a special contribution from the Japanese government.

Japanese scientists on the IRRI staff interacted with the Imperial Couple.

Takashi Yamano discussed the institute’s contributions to the Green Revolution. “They asked many questions about rice production and our contribution to increasing rice seeds and reducing rice prices,” Yamano said. “They were very interested in our work.” 

The Japanese Imperial Couple at IRRI.
(Photo: IRRI/Isagani Serrano)
Keiichi Hayashi showcased Japan’s contributions to IRRI over the past decades. “They were curious about various stresses being caused by climate change that affect rice,” Hayashi said.

The Imperial Couple visited the Long-term Continuous Cropping Experiment (LTCCE) where Yoichiro Kato explained the importance of the world's longest-running rice research project. “They were quite surprised that we have been planting rice at the LTCCE three times a year,” Kato said. “In Japan, farmers usually plant only one crop a year. They were very interested in the different effects of fertilizer and pests on rice plants. Her Majesty was particularly keen on salt-tolerant rice."

Rice played a significant role in the creation of Japan. According to Japanese mythology, Amaterasu, a major deity of the Shinto religion and the Sun Goddess and the universe gifted one of her descendants with rice. That descendant was Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan. Emperor Jinmu was tasked with turning Japan into a land of rice.

Japan’s creation myths were about “the transformation of a wilderness into a land of abundant rice at the command of the Sun Goddess, whose descendants, the emperors, rule the country by officiating at rice rituals,” said Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, a Japanese anthropologist and authority on its rice. Japan’s emperors became priest-kings whose functions revolved around the rice crop.

As Jinmu's 125th direct heir, Emperor Akihito is currently Japan's rice-farmer-in-chief, according to Ohnuki-Tierney. Emperor Akihito has maintained his ties to rice. Every year, he plants and harvests rice at the paddy on the Imperial Palace grounds, a tradition started by his late father, Emperor Showa, in 1927.

The Japan-IRRI partnership dates back to 1960 when IRRI was established. Since then, Japan has provided leadership to IRRI with a representative on the IRRI board of trustees. The government of Japan has been one of IRRI’s most generous financial supporters, having given a total of more than USD 211 million since 1971.

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Agri students inspired to be modern day heroes

Jerome Barradas of the IRRI Training Center speaks to CMU faculty and
students about different ICT tools for farmers.
BUKIDNON, Philippines – “In agriculture, everyone can be a hero.” This is the catchphrase of Why AgRiCOOLture?, a series of knowledge-sharing and -learning (KSL) activities organized by Project IPaD in Philippine agricultural universities and rice farming communities this year. The recent KSL activity was conducted on 28-29 January at the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Maramag, Bukidnon.

The 2-day activity gathered hundreds of faculty and students of agriculture in the university town to encourage their commitment in helping the country’s rice farmers. Through this event, the participants were introduced to different information and communication technology (ICT) tools such as the IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank, the Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank, the e-ExtensionPortal, and different farmer text centers. Demonstrations on several farming decision tools, such as the Rice Doctor, Rice Crop Manager, the Minus One Element Technique and App, and the Weed ID were also conducted.

These ICT tools were developed by the International RiceResearch Institute (IRRI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the DA-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI).

Thelma Padolina, one of PhilRice’s accomplished plant breeders, gave a talk on recent achievements in rice breeding. She inspired the students to be “heroes” for agriculture in their own way.

The series ended with a commitment ceremony. Participants were asked to access the social media and, using the hashtags #RiceUpPH and #ProjectIPaD, to post statements about how they could be heroes for agriculture. In addition, a commitment wall was set up, on which the students were encouraged to post their plans of action to help the cause.

The Why AgRiCOOLture? series was organized by Project IPaD, in collaboration with the CMU Plant Breeding and Agronomy Students Society, with help from the CMU International Relations Office.

IPaD is a collaborative project among PhilRice, DA-ATI, and IRRI, with funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR). It aims to improve promotion and delivery of rice technologies by enhancing the capability of the next generation of extension professionals and other knowledge intermediaries.
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GRiSP strengthens impact delivery via RICE proposal

Members of the GRiSP oversight committee and program planning
and management team.
LOS BAÑOS, Philippines - The CGIAR Research Program on Rice (RICE) has adopted a new structure that will strengthen its impact delivery beginning with its proposed second phase in 2017. 

This week at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), during its annual meeting, the oversight committee of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) provided insightful recommendations for the second phase of RICE. 

“RICE is the main vehicle for CGIAR’s contribution to GRiSP,” says GRiSP Director Bas Bouman, “and its second phase (2017-22) will continue to play a pivotal role in global research and development efforts in the rice sector. Phase 2 will greatly expand the research portfolio across the entire rice value chain and rice-based agrifood systems.” 

According to Matthew Morell, IRRI director general, RICE will contribute to increased global food security and reduced poverty, while at the same time reducing the environmental footprint of the rice sector. 

“RICE proposes a strong and integrated research program, with a focus on the grand challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, gender inequities, and environmental degradation,” Morell says. “It actively links research to programs strengthening the enabling environment for impact through capacity development, partnerships, and novel approaches to scaling out of its technologies.” 

“The main focus of RICE is impact,” says Harold Roy-Macauley, director general of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and member of the oversight committee. “The committee believes that RICE’s proposed research and development agenda is well framed to achieve greater impact.”  

“AfricaRice, IRRI, and their partners will collaborate under a common Africa Rice Strategy, which aims to boost the continent’s rice sector. By 2020, African countries aim to achieve 90% rice self-sufficiency.” Roy-Macauley is convinced of the crucial role that rice research needs to play in support of this objective.

Based on the committee’s recommendations, RICE’s phase 2 proposal will be further developed and then submitted for funding on 30 March 2016 to CGIAR Consortium. Approval is expected toward the end of 2016 so that phase 2 can seamlessly start in January 2017.

Chaired by Pascal Kosuth of the Agropolis Foundation, members of the GRiSP oversight committee include Masa Iwanaga, AfricaRice board of trustees (BOT), Lala Razafinjara (AfricaRice BOT), Rita Sharma (IRRI BOT), Kaye Basford (IRRI BOT), John Hamer (CIAT BOT), Kei Otsuka, (GRIPS), Luciano Nass (Embrapa, Brazil), Jan Leach (Colorado State University, USA), Ambrose Agona (NARO, Uganda), Shaobing Peng (Huazhong Agricultural University, China), Trilochan Mohapatra (IARI, India), Roy-Macauley (AfricaRice director general), and Morell (IRRI director general).

The GRiSP program planning and management team is composed of Bouman, Abdelbagi Ismail (IRRI), Marco Wopereis (AfricaRice), Joe Tohme (CIAT), Nour Ahmadi (Cirad), Alain Ghesquiere (IRD), and Osamu Koyama (JIRCAS).

CIAT = International Center for Tropical Agriculture; Cirad = Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement, France; Embrapa = the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation; IARI = Indian Agricultural Research Institute; IRD = Institut de recherche pour le développement, France;JIRCAS = Japan International Research Center For Agricultural Sciences; NARO = National Agricultural Research Organisation. 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Africa needs a Green Revolution in rice, says expert

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines - “Just by improving management practices, the productivity of rice in Africa can be increased by as much as 50%,” said Keijiro Otsuka, an expert in agricultural development in both Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
A Green Revolution is needed in Africa, particularly for rice, which has become very important on the continent. In fact, an African now eats 25 kilograms of rice annually, compared with only 10 kilograms 30 years ago. This was brought about by rice imported from Asia. Imported Asian rice accounts for more than one third of African consumption. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, consumption has been rising faster than production, according to Otsuka, who spoke during the regular Thursday seminar at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“An African Green Revolution in rice is feasible as the crop is the most promising one for raising food productivity on small farms in SSA because of the high transferability of Asian rice technologies,” he said. 

His study showed that many areas in SSA have attained high yields by adopting Asian-type technologies and improved management practices. “In other words, a Green Revolution in rice has already been taking place in some SSA locations.”

Otsuka expressed his appreciation of IRRI’s work in training and educating young African scientists over the years. For him, training programs are vital in introducing improved technology and management practices for rice in Africa. “A Green Revolution in rice is possible if sufficient resources are allocated to capacity building for effective extension systems,” he concluded.

Otsuka is professor of development economics at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan, and a former chair of IRRI's board of trustees (2004-07). His presentation was based on In Pursuit of an African Green Revolution, a book he edited with Donald F. Larson, senior economist at the World Bank. 

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