Of Rice and Men: Cultivating the Next Green Revolution

Yogendra Sahoo makes all of his income from cultivating rice in his 5-acre farm in the Jajpur District of Odisha, India. His village is situated a bit above the coast, and every year Sahoo’s crops face rain, water scarcity, and damage from submergence. In 2015, he was the first farmer in his village to grow BINA Dhan 11, a submergence-tolerant rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Philippines. While most farmers faced a yield of 1,700 kg per acre for different varieties, Sahoo gained 1,200 kg per half an acre.

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CRISPR-Cas system: Revolutionizing the genetic blueprint of rice

One of the most discussed scientific events in today’s world is the discovery and application of the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) system in genome editing. CRISPR is simply a specialized bacterial immune system that scientists have modified into a tool for eliminating or manipulating the set of genetic instructions in animals, plants, and even humans. This tool is easy to use and cheap, which adds more value for this technology for rice scientists working on eliminating or modifying unwanted traits and inserting new traits to improve the crop’s yield, resistance to diseases, and ability to thrive under harsh environmental conditions.

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Global rice program to explore boosting Asia’s rice-based agriculture through crop diversification

BANGKOK, Thailand—The CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on rice agri-food systems (RICE) is developing a framework for partnerships that will work to intensify and diversify Asia’s rice-based farming systems.

Under its Sustainable Farming Systems project, RICE will develop and deliver options that will improve farm livelihoods and rural diets while minimizing the environmental footprint of rice-based farming systems in potential target regions across Asia. To achieve this, the program held a workshop on 28-29 March in Bangkok to develop a framework for partnerships with other agri-food system CRPs, CGIAR Centers, and national and international institutes to improve farm livelihoods and rural diets, while minimizing their environmental footprint, through novel rice-based farming systems . Potential target regions are eastern India, Myanmar, southern Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The workshop was attended by scientists and experts representing Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, World Vegetable Center, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Participants from national agricultural research and extension systems of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Thailand also joined the event.

Among the outputs of this activity include identifying the main challenges and opportunities in crop diversification, developing conceptual model systems for specific environments and countries, developing research methodologies and work plans for possible funding, and exploring options to create a consortium on rice-fallow systems in Asia.

Dr. Bas Bouman, RICE Director, and Dr. David Johnson, Head of the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (IRRI) led the workshop.

-Published in IRRI’s website.  See original article link here.

Climate-smart rice helps farmers face climate change

Stress-tolerant rice varieties can help farmers face the challenges of climate change, according to Matthew Morell, Director General of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Morell stressed this during his Millenium Lecture at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India on February 10, 2017. Furthermore, he labeled rice as “the engine of food security” since more than half of the world’s population consider rice as their daily staple food. Thus, the efforts of rice scientists to improve rice are vital in addressing hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.

Morell also discussed the climate change-ready rice varieties developed by IRRI and its partners, which produce high yields and at the same time tolerant to flooding, drought, and saline soils.

Read the news article from IRRI.

-Published in ISAAA’s Crop Biotech Update.  See original article link here.

Climate-smart rice key to farmer resilience, says IRRI head

CHENNAI, India – Stress-tolerant rice varieties can help make farmers more resilient against the increasingly destructive effects of climate change, said Matthew Morell, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Delivering the Millenium Lecture at the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai on 10 February,  Morell described rice as “the engine of food security,” citing that more than half of the world’s population—or nearly four billion people—eat rice as their daily staple.

IRRI’s research activities, conducted in collaboration with national governments, have resulted in high-yielding improved varieties that saved Asia from famines in the 1960s and 70s.

More recently, with the onslaught of climate change, IRRI and its partners have developed high-yielding rice varieties tolerant of environmental stresses such as flooding, drought, and soil salinity. Morell called the “climate change-ready rice varieties,” which have been deployed in stress-prone areas of India, as an important part of helping farmers become more resilient.

The MSSRF is a nonprofit trust founded by M.S. Swaminathan, World Food Prize awardee in 1987 and former IRRI director general. It serves as a research center on sustainable agriculture and rural development.

-Published in IRRI.  See original article link here.

PHL tackles food security through UK’s Newton Fund

Rice researchers, scientists and funding partners from the Philippines and the United Kingdom, along with those from China, Thailand and Vietnam, converged early this month at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Baños, to collaborate and share issues in sustainable rice production.

Thirteen projects funded through the Newton Fund UK-Philippines-China-Thailand-Vietnam Sustainable Rice Programme presented the current outputs of their research which address real-world problems as varied as lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for rice consumers, to increasing rice plant drought tolerance.

The three-year research projects began in 2016 and will continue until 2019. The Newton Fund Sustainable Rice Programme showcases an innovative mix of regional and country approaches that aim to help solve core challenges in global food security.

About 60 researchers, joined by representatives from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and each of the country’s funding partners came together to explore ways to collaborate further, including sharing resources, lessons learned and data that can add value to their current projects and strengthen links with their counterparts from participating countries.

Deputy Ambassador to the Philippines Nigel Boud, in his welcome remarks to the delegates, said: “This is the first regional research program that we are running under the Newton Fund and it brings together countries to collaborate on work that is so important, like the sustainable production of rice. It demonstrates the kind of work that we want to be doing in the Newton Programme in the years ahead.”

Together with Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general of IRRI, the delegates noted the significance of rice research to the country and the region, noting the importance of rice and the regional collaboration being achieved through the projects.

Of the 13 projects, four involve scientists from the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Two projects are working on improving the nutritional quality of rice and the other two focus on creating greater resilience of the rice plant to diseases and environmental stresses due to climate change.

One PhilRice researcher involved in the projects, Dr. Riza G. Abilgos-Ramos, said: “Our work will help to provide part of the solution in preventing type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, by increasing dietary fiber and enhancing rice-grain properties that would help to manage or prevent spikes in blood sugar increase after meals.

“The Newton Fund gives us the chance to do this with experts from different countries and allow us to expand our network in the UK and Southeast Asia.” Ramos is a supervising science research specialist in the Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division of PhilRice. The IRRI visit was highlighted by a tour of the research facilities, group presentations, poster-sharing sessions and clinic sessions.

Representatives from partners DA-PhilRice, Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Science, and Thailand National Science and Technology Development Agency were among the delegates.

The Newton Fund builds scientific and innovation partnerships with 16 partner-countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.

In the Philippines the program is known as the Newton Agham (Science) Programme to reflect the collaboration between the UK and the Philippines in science, research and innovation.

The UK delivery partners and the UK government, through its embassy, works with Philippine science and innovation institutions and funders, such as the DOST and the Commission on Higher Education, to codevelop and implement program that strengthen science and innovation capacity and create solutions to development challenges in the Philippines and in the region.

– Published in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.

British agency taps IRRI to develop rice seeds

The United Kingdom-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has tapped the expertise of Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for six projects aiming to develop rice seeds, including the country’s indigenous heirloom rice.

“Several research projects that ensure the long-term sustainable production of rice, one of the world’s most important food crops, received financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council [BBSRC],” the Irri said in a statement.

“The projects cover a wide range of important issues, including rice quality; resource use and photosynthetic efficiency; resilience to pests, diseases and environmental stresses; and novel research tool and technology development,” it added added.

The Newton Fund’s Sustainable Rice Programme will fund the 13 identified projects by the BBSRC, in collaboration with research teams in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Irri. Six of 13 identified projects will be undertaken in collaboration with the Irri.

The total funding for the six rice-focused researches is £3.417 million, or around P179.193 million, according to BBSRC.

The amount will fund these projects:

  • Molecular characterization and genetic analysis of nutritional components of Philippine indigenous pigmented rice germplasm (£644,834);
  • Real-time deployment of pathogen resistance genes in rice (£479,403);
  • Enhanced Rice quality for Health (EnRicH) (£493,525); Rhizo-Rice: a novel ideotype for deeper roots and improved drought tolerance (£325,299);
  • Developing rice with increased resistance to salinity and drought (£684,773) and climate-ready rice; and
  • Optimizing transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses (£789,275).

“In the context of meeting the global sustainable development goals, it is crucial to accelerate science and explore possible innovations from sharing of resources, data and information,” said Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted Research director and former deputy director general for research at IRRI.

BBSRC is one of seven research councils that work together as Research Councils UK and provides a range of funding opportunities to enable individuals and groups to pursue world-class bioscience research, according to the IRRI.

In 2015 and 2016, it invested £473 million in bioscience, people and research infrastructure.

-Written by Jasper Arcalas in BusinessMirror.  See original article link here.