Friday, August 28, 2015

IRRI chief at global health forum

IRRI chief Robert Zeigler joined experts to talk about smarter food production to address food insecurity at the COHRED Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015. In photo (from left): Roger Barroga, Philippine Rice Research Institute; William Dar, former director general, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics; Robert Zeigler; Karen Cooper, Nestle; Howarth Bouis, Harvest Plus; and Ellen Villate, IRRI.

"If you want to address poverty and malnutrition, you have to pay attention to rice,"  Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), told delegates of the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015.  

The forum, hosted by the Philippine government, was organized by the Council on Health Research for Development to identify innovative solutions to the world’s unmet health needs through research and innovation.

Malnutrition remains a huge health concern given the challenge of providing a growing global population with a stable supply of safe, affordable, and nutritious food while using less resources. More than half of the world’s population depends on rice as a major source of calories. Enhancing the nutrient content of rice can make a big difference, especially in developing countries that face the double burden of malnutrition in the rural areas and overnutrition in the urban areas. 

To this end, Zeigler explained IRRI’s work on developing healthier rice varieties. Rice biofortification is an innovation in staple crop improvement that has become a complementary strategy to help reach rice-eating communities with limited access to diverse diets.  In these areas, rice is crucially important because alternative foods may not be acceptable, available, or affordable. Nutrient supplementation alone may also be insufficient and unsustainable.

IRRI conducts biofortification to develop healthier rice varieties with enhanced beta carotene (pro-vitamin A), iron, and zinc content.  These nutrient-packed rice varieties can help address micronutrient deficiency that affects at least 2 billion people globally. 

For these healthier rice varieties to be successful, they should be recognized by farmers, consumers, and the rice sector as a potential complementary solution for micronutrient deficiency and for delivering clinically proven health benefits. Looking to the future, we can imagine combining traits for higher zinc, iron, and beta carotene with high yields, adaptability to a changing climate, and other traits that are attractive to farmers. These varieties must also pass regulatory muster in target countries. 

“Food security is not just about improved production, but improved quality of food’ said Zeigler. “Agriculture has a key role to play in improving nutrition, not just as a provider of calories but as a provider of nutritionally-enhanced foods.  Rice has an important role to play given its significance in the diet.” 

Zeigler also inspired researchers, health workers, and innovators wanting to make a significant social difference in a session on “Translating Research into Innovation.” 

Over 4,000 delegates from 72 countries attended the forum held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila on 24-27 August. The event attracted the participation of public, private, and nonprofit health and innovation stakeholders.

COHRED’s partners in the Philippines are the Department of Science and TechnologyDepartment of Health, and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. IRRI is a proud content partner of the Global Forum 2015.

View the Global Forum eBulletin here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indonesia and IRRI to revolutionize rice technology for swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan

The Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) is aiming to modernize the technology for growing rice in the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice producer and also one of the world’s biggest rice consumers. With its increasing domestic production and declining dependence on imports, the government is aiming to attain self-sufficiency in rice within the next 3 years.  Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces could play major roles in helping Indonesia reach this goal.  The government expects South Kalimantan to maintain its projected surplus rice production this year despite the current El Niño that has caused harvest failure in a number of rice-growing areas in Indonesia. The resiliency of the province’s rice production is credited to its swampy areas that provide a stable source of water for irrigation.

The Indonesian Swampland Agriculture Research Institute (ISARI) and the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) conducted a workshop on Developing Best-bet Management Practices (BMP) Specific for Swampy Rice Environment to take full advantage of the potential of the country’s swampy areas.

Indonesia has around 33.4 million hectares of swampy areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua, and the Sulawesi islands, collectively. However, only 1.3 million hectares of these have been reclaimed by the government, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. Swampy areas also have various rice production constraints including flash flooding, stagnant flooding, acid sulfate soils, pest, diseases, and weeds. Droughts also often occur in the upper portion of the swamps.

“These factors hamper the sustainable reclamation and development of Indonesian swampy lands,” said Ms. Rina Dirgahayuningsih, a researcher from the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) of South Kalimantan Province.

“The good news is ICRR recently released several rice varieties suitable for the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan,” said ICRR scientist Dr. Indrastuti Rumanti, “These varieties are tolerant of flooding, salinity, acid sulfate soil, tungro and blast diseases.  Now, we need to integrate all the technology components from land preparation to post harvest as farmer-friendly products, in order for the new technology and rice varieties to be easily adopted by smallholder farmers living in marginal areas.”

At the workshop, a total of 17 scientists and researchers from ISARI, ICRR, AIAT-South Kalimantan, AIAT-South Sumatra, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) discussed the current constraints and opportunities for rice technology innovation. And these experts from diverse fields—soil and water management, landscape management, crop management, rice breeding, and crop protection—jointly prepared the best-bet management options for swampy rice areas.

“The multi-disciplinary work on technology development is always challenging, but we can learn many things from each other,” said Dr. Yoichiro Kato, IRRI’s rainfed lowland agronomist.

The participants also visited the farmers’ fields in South Kalimantan’s swampy and tidal areas, and discussed with farmers their practices and problems. This allowed them to compare their prepared management recommendations with farmers’ practices. These recommendations will be reviewed by scientists and extensionists working in the swampy rice areas at a national workshop at ICRR in September.

“The attempt to develop an integrated approach to managing rice is an important point for helping extensionists transfer the applied technology to farmers, and we hope the partnership between our Indonesian institutes and IRRI will get stronger in the future,” said Dr. Herman Subagio, ISARI director. He was also thankful to the support from the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments, which is funded by the International Funds for Agricultural Development, and Give2Asia project.

The workshop was held in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan Province on August 18-21.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rice research featured in ASEAN ministers meeting

IRRI showcased its rice research during the Special Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the 36th ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) meeting and the 14th AMAF Plus Three meeting in Horizon Lake View Resort, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, on 12–14 August 2015.

In his opening speech, Agriculture and Irrigation Minister U Myint Hlaing thanked IRRI for training future rice scientists.

The exhibit featured the various projects and products of the Institute in the country as well as a live display of IRRI-improved varieties tolerant of flooding, drought, and saltwater intrusion released through a close collaboration with the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI), particularly the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR). This has been the second straight year that IRRI was invited by the government of Myanmar, as host of the SOM- AMAF meetings, to participate in an exhibit featuring agricultural research in the country. 

Several high-profile guests visited the exhibit and found the live plant display very interesting. The booth was organized by Dr. Romeo Labios, IRRI scientist and acting IRRI Representative to Myanmar, and were manned by local project staff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Asian Youth Forum delegates want to improve conditions of young agriculture workers

Dr. Bruce Tolentino talks with participants of the 3rd Asian Youth Forum during their visit to IRRI on 14 August 2015.

Around 120 young people from around the world visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as part of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 3rd Asian Youth Forum (AYF3) to get an overview of agriculture and IRRI’s contribution to the sector. This year’s AYF3 called on stakeholders “to harness the demographic dividend in Asia through youth participation and engagement in generating and up-scaling of solutions for youth employment” through the theme, Investing in Youth: Engagement, Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship.

“Looking at youth employment, most young people working in the agriculture sector earn less than USD 1.25,” said Ponce Samaniego, lead youth coordinator for ADB.  “We wanted to look at that dimension of youth in agriculture and how we can improve their conditions.”

IRRI’s Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, Dr. Bruce Tolentino, welcomed the participants, presented some of IRRI’s work, and led an open discussion. The participants, whose ages ranged between 15 and 30, also toured the Riceworld Museum to learn more about rice, its history, culture, and products.

The AYF3 participants were generally impressed with what IRRI does and now have a better understanding of its efforts for food security.

“I was really impressed by the technology input that IRRI is actually giving farmers,” said 19-year-old Anand from Bangalore, India.

Ms. Ham Sae Rom from South Korea was equally impressed. “I’d like to give my warmest thanks to the scientists at IRRI who participate in creating solutions for food security and the food crisis in the world.”

As for what the youth can contribute to the rice sector strategy, Anand phrased it rather well. “A huge way that we can influence the rice output and food security in our country is by creating awareness that agriculture is a vital field for the survival of our planet,” he said. “Everyone relies on farmers. By raising awareness about the issues that we have with food security, I think we would take the first step toward actually obtaining food security.”

ADB’s 3rd AsianYouth Forum was held on 12-13 August in celebration of the 2015 UN International Youth Day. They visited IRRI on 14 August. ADB is partnering with IRRI to develop and disseminate climate-resilient rice varieties and promote water-saving technologies in rice cultivation for drought-prone areas in Asia.

Learn more about IRRI ( or follow us on the social media and networks (all links down the right column).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Next phase of GRiSP is focus of 2015 meeting of Asia rice research body

Dr. Mat Syukur, assistant to the Minister of Agriculture for Innovation and Technology, strikes the gong to ceremonially open the CORRA event as IRRI DDG-R Dr. Matthew Morell and IAARD Executive Secretary Dr. Agung Hendriadi look on. 
Bekasi, Indonesia – Leaders and representatives of national agricultural research institutions from 18 Asian countries gathered for the 19th annual meeting of the Council for Partnerships on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) to discuss the second phase of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). Participants also examined the relevance of GRiSP to the national rice research and development priorities of member countries and the national rice programs of member countries Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The event concluded with a formal declaration of CORRA’s support for GRiSP Phase 2. The declaration also included a pledge to promote the development of the next generation of rice scientists by encouraging national governments through the ministries of agriculture to fund relevant international programs.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. Agung Hendriadi, executive secretary of Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD). IRRI was represented by Dr. Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research, who also co-chaired the meeting.

CORRA is composed of heads of national research institutions from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, plus IRRI. IRRI is also the secretariat of CORRA.

This year’s meeting was held on 3-4 August in Bekasi, Indonesia and hosted by IAARD.

Learn more about IRRI ( or follow us on the social media and networks (all links down the right column).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Role of rice research in feeding half the world’s population in global forum on health

How can rice research help feed 7 billion people? What are the promising innovations for sustainable food production?

The answers to these will be discussed by Robert S. Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), when he addresses delegates to the smarter food production session of the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health (Forum 2015) on 26 August at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila.

IRRI aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure the environmental sustainability of rice farming. As such, IRRI’s research programs directly contribute to providing the world’s growing population with sustainable, nutritious, and high-quality rice varieties while using less land and with lower inputs amidst the challenges of changing climate and limited resources. 

Dr. Zeigler will highlight the role of research and innovation, particularly in rice, which is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, in achieving food and nutrition safety and security. In particular, IRRI is developing healthier rice varieties that have enriched nutrient-content to help address malnutrition problems in developing countries.

The forum, which will run from 24-27 August, carries the theme People at the Centre of Research and Innovation for Health. Almost 3,000 delegates from 50 countries are expected to participate in more than 70 conference sessions on increasing effectiveness of health research and innovation through social accountability, increasing investments, and country-driven capacity building, and role of research and innovation in improving food and nutrition safety and security, health in mega-cities, and disaster risk reduction. This event is organized by the Council on Health Research for Development, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Health. It will bring together health professionals, policymakers, researchers, academics, and students.

In advance of the global forum, IRRI senior scientist Inez Slamet-Loedin will join a panel of new leaders for health on 23 August , also at the PICC. Dr. Slamet-Loedin will address an audience of young professionals to inspire them to take on careers in science and health.

Other fun and exciting activities including  IT4Health: innovations for global health; a film festival; global health debates, a photo exhibit; and a networking party are also being organized for the participants.

Registration is still ongoing at

For more information, please contact 
Ms. Ladylove May B. Baurile
Tel: (632) 837-7534 

Learn more about IRRI ( or follow us on the social media and networks (all links down the right column).

Outstanding projects on organic vegetable production awarded at SyenSaya 2015

The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) announced the outstanding agricultural research and development (R&D) projects at SyenSaya 2015.

The winners are projects that focused on improving production of organic vegetables. The University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) project on variety evaluation, on-farm trials and seed production of organic vegetables in Southern Luzon won in the research category,  and the Bureau of Plant Industry- Los Baños National Crop Research, Development and Production Support Center (BPI-LBNCRDPSC) project on the development of organic seed production system of lowland vegetables and legumes, and strengthening partnership in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Bicol Region won in the development category.

Recognition was given to Dr. Rodel G. Maghirang and Dr. Herminigilda A. Gabertan and their respective teams during the awarding and closing ceremony on 14 August at the SEARCA Umali Auditorium in Los Baños.

A highlight of the closing ceremony was the keynote address of Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo, 2015 Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology, professor and scientist at the UPLB-Institute of Biological Sciences. Dr. Dupo shared how the Los Baños science community  has served as a nurturing environment in shaping the minds of scientists like her. She emphasized the importance of  the role of the family, school, peers, or a "village" such as the LBSCFI that looks after future thinkers and innovators. "That is what we have done this week in SyenSaya, we sow seeds, and what we reap are our future scientists."

With this year’s theme, Los Baños Science Community: SyenSaya at Kabataan: #WOWTLG! (TLG stands for Technology Leads to Globalization), the 3-day event featured fun programs, a technoforum, and Wonderama exhibit on basic science principles and science appreciation, and application modules on food and agriculture, technology, development, and environment. "One of the major goals of this science community is to inspire the youth to excel in science and technology," said Dr. Casiano S. Abrigo Jr., president of LBSCFI.

LBSCFI celebrates the National Science and Technology week through SyenSaya, the Los Baños Science Festival, which provides a venue for the Los Baños community, especially the youth, to appreciate and understand the role of science in everyday life.

Learn more about IRRI ( or follow us on the social media and networks (all links down the right column).