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The DA-IRRI SERVE 2 project aims to continually strengthen and sustain the gains in capacity development and partnership in rice science between IRRI and DA.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) for the formal turnover of the Digital Training Module on Rice: Research to Production (RR2P) from IRRI to the DA-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI).

The ceremonial turnover marks the official transitioning of the Rice: Research to Production (RR2P) Online Training Program developed under the DA-IRRI “Strengthening the capability of national research for development and Extension partners for Research and development and Extension of information and technologies to improve productivity, competitiveness, and resilience of rice-based farming communities in the Philippines (DA-IRRI SERVE 2)” Project which ended last October 2023.

The DA-IRRI SERVE 2 project aims to continually strengthen and sustain the gains in capacity development and partnership in rice science between IRRI and DA through work packages that build on the successes and unify the capacity development initiatives of its predecessor projects, SERVE 1 and Enhancing the Research and Development Capacities (Skills, Competencies and Capabilities) and Formulation of the R&D Capacity Development Program of the Regional Rice and Rice-based Research and Development Network (ER4D). The SERVE 2 Project generally aims to provide a platform and enabling mechanisms to the national agricultural research and extension partners (NAREP) from the different DA Regional Field Offices and Attached Agencies, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and Local Government Units (LGUs).

Following its development in 2018, the project team implemented the RR2P Online Training Program in 2019 to educate and help build national capacity towards Agriculture 4.0. The program was adapted from the annual 3-week face-to-face RR2P course offered by IRRI’s capacity development arm, IRRI Education. The pilot implementation had a total of 115 completers, where 82 are from SUCs, 32 are from DA Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs) and Attached Agencies, and 1 from a Local Government Unit (LGU). This was done to ensure that the online learning modules are appropriate for its future target users and gather feedback to further enhance the content and its delivery.

After the pilot run, an improved version of the course utilizing a blended learning approach where participants will have both synchronous and asynchronous 5 to 9-week online training sessions and a 1-week face-to-face session was developed. The face-to-face session served as an integration platform and avenue to readily apply the skills acquired by the training participants and validate the knowledge gained through practical hands-on sessions, field exercises, problem-solving, and formulation of recommendations.

From 2021 to 2023, the DA-IRRI SERVE 2 Project Team was able to implement six (6) online rollouts and two (2) face-to-face RR2P Training. This resulted in 279 online completers where 159 are from DA-RFOs and Attached Agencies, 76 are from SUCs, and 44 are from LGUs. On the other hand, the two face-to-face programs had a total of 114 participants where 72 are from DA-RFOs and attached agencies, 32 are from SUCs, and 10 are from LGUs.

As the capacity builder, knowledge bank, and catalyst of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries extension system, the DA-ATI will finalize plans and preparations for the pilot implementation of the course outside of the project to ensure that the program will remain widely used by trained experts and sustained for implementation across the country.

Similar to the course implementation conducted by IRRI Education, the RR2P Course will have asynchronous and synchronous sessions for the online program with a five-day face-to-face component. The tentative implementation date for the online course is May 2024.

The DA-IRRI SERVE 2 project aims to

BASF and IRRI to study multiple options to enhance climate smart farming and improve carbon intensity in rice systems.

BASF and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have entered into a scientific collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from rice production. Running by the name “OPTIMA Rice” (Optimizing Management for Reduction of GHG in Rice), the collaboration with IRRI supports BASF’s commitment to enable the reduction of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions by 30 percent per ton of crop produced by 2030. The joint effort is planned for multiple rice seasons in the Philippines and will take place in Laguna, where both organizations maintain research centers for rice.

Rice is one of the five most widely produced cereal crops globally and is consumed by about three billion people every day. Although it is grown all over the world, Asia accounts for the largest share of its production. However, because of its geographic expansion and typical manner of wetland cultivation, worldwide paddy rice production contributes about 10 percent of total GHG emissions from the agricultural sector, mainly coming from continuously flooded wetland rice fields. Due to this large carbon footprint, it is estimated that rice production has the greatest potential within agricultural crop production to reduce GHG emissions.

BASF and IRRI therefore plan to explore multiple topics related to climate smart farming in rice. These include direct-seeded rice varieties, nitrogen stabilizers, nutrient and residue management, novel chemistry tailor-made for rice farmers, and water-saving technologies such as alternate wetting and drying management (AWD). In addition, IRRI has begun further improvements to its ecophysiological model ORYZA, to include new computation algorithms for estimating GHG emissions, for application to the project. BASF will use its AgBalance™ tool to estimate the GHG emission intensity and will work with IRRI on field tests of their products to obtain high-quality agronomic and GHG data. Both BASF and IRRI aim to further develop and apply models for improving scientific understanding on climate mitigation and adaptation options for rice in the Philippines and other rice growing areas in Asia. Ultimately, both BASF and IRRI aim to support farmers growing rice in de-carbonizing their production systems.

BASF and IRRI to study multiple options

Speed breeding protocol can develop new high-yielding and climate-resilient rice varieties in a much shorter duration.

Scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) successfully developed a robust, first-of-its-kind speed breeding protocol that reduces the generation times required in a year for growing indica and japonica rice.

The current rate of genetic gain attained in rice crops through breeding is inadequate to meet the increasing future rice demand of a growing population. The development of new varieties is further hindered by longer generation times and seasonal constraints.

Through the SpeedFlower protocol, these factors will no longer impact the acceleration of varietal development, by reducing generation times by almost half which allows growing four to five generations of indica and japonica rice in a year.

“We can now develop new high-yielding, climate-resilient, and nutritionally superior rice varieties in a much shorter duration. This is a major scientific step toward significantly boosting genetic gain in rice, ultimately contributing to global food security,” said program lead Drs Vikas Kumar Singh, Uma Maheshwar Singh and Pallavi Sinha.

The Speed Breeding technique

The Speed Breeding (SB) technique has been introduced to effectively manage environmental factors and is suitable for short- and long-day crops, allowing it to be utilized throughout the year. As a result, SB has gained popularity as a method for advancing multiple generations per year.

Using SB in glasshouses and controlled chambers has the potential to enhance breeding outputs for both short- and long-day crops. This is achieved by providing more controlled growth conditions, which work more uniformly for diverse germplasm and breeding materials compared to field conditions.

The success of SB in various crops has led to the establishment of a state-of-the-art SpeedBreed facility at the ISARC in Varanasi, India. To achieve SB in rice, the facility has been customized with controlled growth parameters using fully enclosed walk-in growth chambers designed to optimize the SB protocol for all types of rice varieties without the need for tedious embryo rescue techniques and tiller removal.

“SpeedFlower demonstrates a remarkable impact of SB on crop research. With this protocol, we can expedite crossing and inbreeding activities, completing them within 1.5–2 years instead of the usual 6–7 years required in the field,” said ISARC Director, Dr Sudhanshu Singh.

A significant leap in rice breeding

The SpeedFlower protocol significantly expedites the development of mapping populations, enabling rapid mapping of crucial traits. It revolutionises breeding programs, allowing completion of breeding cycle in about 1.5 years.

The protocol focuses on optimizing light spectrum, intensity, photoperiod, temperature, humidity, nutrient levels and hormonal regulation to expedite growth, flowering and maturity in rice. It has demonstrated flowering within just 60 days for tested rice varieties and achieved a 50 per cent reduction in seed maturity time, irrespective of their natural flowering durations.

The SpeedBreed Facility and the innovative SpeedFlower protocol mark a significant leap in rice breeding, addressing generation time and seasonal constraints. The optimized protocol works for all the maturity durations (early, medium and late) of indica and japonica rice and enables synchronous flowering.

“The SB technique is still in its early stages, and there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with its implementation that require further research. That said, this protocol has the potential to make a significant impact on global food security by rapidly developing improved rice varieties,” said Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, IRRI Rice Breeding Innovations Director.

Partnerships for SpeedBreed and SpeedFlower

Considered as a model facility for speed breeding in rice, IRRI plans to establish a consortium to offer support services to National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) and private companies on establishing and operating speed breeding facilities.

The protocol will be further refined for enhanced output and comprehensive testing will be done to a broader range of rice genotypes. The program proponents aim to further collaborate with NARES, including other centers under the CGIAR, to leverage shared knowledge and expertise toward optimizing the protocol for other crops.

“We continue to push research boundaries to develop innovations that are urgently needed in light of a growing food and climate crises. This breakthrough sets the new standard toward accelerating genetic gains for global food security,” said IRRI Interim Director General, Dr Ajay Kohli.

The study behind the protocol was led by Drs. Vikas Kumar Singh, Uma Maheshwar Singh, and Pallavi Sinha and was developed with funding support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India. The research has been conducted as part of the collaborative research project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Speed breeding protocol can develop new high-yielding

The IRRI-PhilRice-PCIC tripartite partnership will bring innovative crop insurance products to improve the resilience of Filipino farmers to climatic risks.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice), and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) are collaborating on the development of an area-based yield index insurance for rice based on satellite data. This will help improve Filipino farmers’ resilience to climatic risks.

The memorandum of agreement was signed during the 6th International Rice Congress on 19 October 2023 at the Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC), Pasay City, Philippines.

This partnership builds upon an earlier collaboration between IRRI and PhilRice that developed and operationalized a satellite-based rice mapping and monitoring system called PRISM (Philippine Rice Information System). Operational since 2018, PRISM uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite images and a smart detection system to map rice planting areas and planting dates. Using crop growth simulation modelling, it provides timely yield forecasts and end-of-season rice yields.

PRISM data will be used in designing and testing an Area-Based Yield (ARBY) index insurance for rice. ARBY is a type of crop insurance that provides coverage based on historical average yield of a specific geographic area, rather than individual farmer’s yields, to determine payouts in the event of crop losses.

“The fusion of satellite technology and advanced modelling is revolutionizing how we can insure rice crops. With timely insights into yield forecasts and end-of-season yields, satellite-based ARBY index insurance for rice can help simplify the much-needed coverage for smallholder farmers, paving the way for a more resilient and sustainable future for agriculture,” said Dr Ajay Kohli, Interim Director-General of IRRI.

The agreement seeks to help make crop insurance products available to some 2.4 million rice farmers in the Philippines who constantly have to face the risks of losing their yields due to calamities such as tropical cyclones, droughts, and floods. On average, the country experiences around 20 cyclones every year, with at least eight making landfalls. Climate change also poses a significant threat as it makes the impact of calamities like floods and droughts more severe.

“This partnership is a step toward making insurance protection available to Filipino farmers at a crucial time when we are facing severe weather challenges such as droughts and floods, intensified by climate change. We welcome this collaboration as it aligns with our mission to improve the well-being of rice-farming communities in the country,” said Dr John de Leon, Executive Director of PhilRice.

“At PCIC, we appreciate these innovative solutions that can bring about greater efficiencies in our operations compared to the traditional indemnity-based crop insurance model which involves manual visits and verifications for each claim. By leveraging modern technologies, we can provide better insurance products and services to farmers,” said Atty. Jovy Bernabe, President of PCIC.

This collaboration is supported by the CGIAR initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR) which aims to transform the climate adaptation capacity and increase the resilience of smallholder production systems to withstand severe climate change effects in six countries including the Philippines.

The IRRI-PhilRice-PCIC tripartite partnership will bring innovative

Researchers of International Rice Genebank (IRG) aim to apply a combination of AI and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to assess the IRG rice collection’s tolerance to abiotic stresses.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is receiving 2 million USD in grant funding from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to harness the power of Artificial intelligence (AI) towards fast-tracking the development and deployment of high-yielding, climate-resilient rice varieties to sustain and increase rice production in the face of climate change.

Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has set up this competitive grant to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Through this grant, the researchers from IRRI’s Fit-for-Future Genetic Resources unit that steward the International Rice Genebank (IRG) aim to apply a combination of AI and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to assess the IRG rice collection’s tolerance to abiotic stresses such as flooding, drought, and salinity – making a laborious, costly, and time-consuming process more efficient. This will also promote the enhanced utilization of the genebank’s resources.

“IRRI’s genebank is the world’s largest rice gene bank and holds, in trust, over 132,000 varieties originating from 132 countries. This rich resource is used for breeding to develop new and better rice varieties. At present, only five percent of this resource is used due to limited information on its collections, as we lack appropriate, cost-effective, and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies. AI will undoubtedly unlock the genebank’s full potential in helping address these critical food security challenges,” said IRG Head, Dr. Venuprasad Ramaiah.

Google.org’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge is part of Google’s company-wide commitment to help accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. IRRI is one of 15 organizations receiving support through the $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use AI to accelerate progress towards these goals. Out of many submitted proposals, 15 were selected for funding. Importantly, all of the projects will be open-sourced so other organizations can build upon the work.

“Each of the 15 selected organizations share our vision for using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organization brings their own expertise to help move the needle,” said James Manyika, Google’s SVP of Research, Technology & Society. “We are inspired by the possibilities they see for how AI can be harnessed to help people solve societal problems, and are excited about the collective impact they will have over the next three years.”

Based on projections, the IRRI team foresees economic returns of at least 30 billion USD from the project’s implementation after five years from release. The project also presents an opportunity for the capacity strengthening of national research institutions’ staff, which will bring further long term benefits.

“The project is expected to bring a significant impact on food security and biodiversity conservation while promoting social, nutritional, gender, equity, and entrepreneurship benefits, and building the resilience of rice-growing and consuming countries to climate change. We thank Google for their support in this meaningful initiative,” said IRRI Interim Director General, Dr. Ajay Kohli.

Researchers of International Rice Genebank (IRG) aim

This project will engage IRRI, DA&FE and Odisha State Disaster Management Agency in a triangular partnership to support the overall drought mitigation strategy in the state.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment (DA & FE), Government of Odisha signed a bilateral Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on 29 August 2023 in Bhubaneswar to understand the dynamics of drought in Odisha and its impact and identify the mitigation options for smallholder farmers through a new pilot project launched.

The agreement was signed between Prem Charan Chaudhary, Director, Agriculture and Food Production, Odisha on behalf of the DA & FE and Dr Swati Nayak, Scientist and South Asia Lead – Seed Systems and Principal Investigator of this initiative, on behalf of Director General, IRRI.

Bolangir, Kalahandi, and Mayurbhanj are among the drought-prone districts in Odisha as identified by the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA). The project will be piloted in these three districts. If successful, the model(s) employed for drought mitigation in the three districts can be a template for the deployment of the model across Odisha as well as in other states that share similar sociological and agro-ecological environments.

IRRI has been associated with the Government of Odisha through multiple path- breaking initiatives in the past decade and continues to do so. “Supporting the government’s vision to promote, scale climate resilient varieties and a resilient agricultural system in the state has been one of our key approaches. Participatory planning, brainstorming with leading policy makers, agriculture functionaries, think tanks and researchers in state has been IRRI’s way of work all these years.  The successful engagements with the state are envisaged to reach a new milestone with this new project focused on small and marginal farmers in drought prone and drought affected districts in Odisha,” said Nayak.

This project will engage IRRI, DA&FE and Odisha State Disaster Management Agency in a triangular partnership to support the overall drought mitigation strategy in the state. Through this project, a comprehensive research and pilot experiments will be conducted to introduce, evaluate and scale drought-resilient germplasm/varieties in the state through robust community-led models and public-private partnership in seed chain. In addition, comprehensive targeting and evaluation will be done with piloted drought-resilient village clusters by integrating varietal interventions and other climate smart technologies.

After signing the MoA, Director Agriculture, Prem Charan Chaudhary while congratulating the team, stated that the new project begins a new era focusing exclusively on the state’s priority for drought mitigation and IRRI will be first among several partners to initiate this effort on ground.

This project will engage IRRI, DA&FE and

IRRI-ISARC proposes to extend its research and development with the aim to accelerate the equitable development of sustainable and inclusive rice-based systems across India

A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between the Department of Agriculture & Farmer Welfare (DA&FW) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on commencement of Phase -2 activities of IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) to scale up the existing partnership for food and nutrition security in the South Asian region. The Agreement was signed by Manoj Ahuja, Secretary, DA&FW and Dr Jean Balié, Director General, IRRI in the presence of the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar.

In the second present phase of the agreement, ISARC proposes to extend its research and development with the aim to accelerate the equitable development of sustainable and inclusive rice-based systems across India and South Asia to meet the producers’ and consumers’ demand. ISARC also plans to facilitate further improvement of system productivity and farmers’ income through digital agriculture, agro-advisory services, knowledge sharing and capacity development that will promote sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture through business models that attract the youth back into agri-entrepreneurship.

The ISARC was established following the Union Cabinet approval five years ago. ISARC also set up a Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) that includes a modern and sophisticated laboratory with capacity to determine quality and status of heavy metals in grain and straw.

In his brief remarks, Ahuja said the Agreement will pave the way for undertaking further work towards the improvement of the welfare of farmers and ensuring food and nutrition security in India and the rest of South Asia. IRRI, especially ISARC, has long been an ally of the Indian government in addressing the most pressing issues concerning the agrifood sector, he said.

 Dr. Balié said the ISARC is the first and biggest research Centre of the IRRI across the world outside Philippines. He said the continuation of the Agreement will help the capacity of rice-growing countries in South Asia, including India, and Africa in crop production, seed quality, and to enhance farmers’ income. It will also mitigate environment and climate change challenges in rice cultivation, help fight global hunger and eradicate poverty, he added.

Activities toward meeting the objectives of the 2nd Phase will be carried out through a trans disciplinary approach and leveraging cutting-edge technologies in three thematic areas over 5 years viz., (1) Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA); (2) Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture (CESA) and (3) Center for Education in Innovation and Research for Development (CEIRD).

IRRI-ISARC proposes to extend its research and