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International Rice Research Institute July-September 2009, Vol. 8, No. 3

Making rice less thirsty

Overcoming the toughest stress

Saving water with new technologies

The promise of Latin America
Uganda’s rice revolution
Challenges for IRRI in 2010

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Editorial................................................................. 4 Banking our rice knowledge........................ 36

Stressing the solutions A repository of “best practice” information about
rice farming, the Rice Knowledge Bank delivers
research solutions to extension workers and farmers
Hidden Treasure................................................... 5 worldwide, effectively and efficiently

News.......................................................................... 7
Media campaigns used to communicate with farmers The promise of Latin America........................ 38
The Rice Americas 2009 unveils Latin America as an
IRRI alumni homecoming emerging major rice exporter in the world
Filipino farmers welcome new rice varieties
RICE FACTS............................................................... 43
People....................................................................... 9 A look at India
Awards and recognition
Keeping up with IRRI staff
GRAIN OF TRUTH.................................................... 46
Doubled haploids: from laboratory to field
Making rice less thirsty.................................. 12
New drought-tolerant lines developed at IRRI give
hope to farmers in drought-prone areas in eastern
India and the Philippines

Every drop counts............................................ 16

Water scarcity is crippling the world’s food supply
balance. So, IRRI has developed water-saving
technologies to help farmers cope with the problem
and, more importantly, to sustain global rice
production Pioneer interviews............................................ 26
Challenges for IRRI: a cross-section of opinions
Working together to save grains............... 20
IRRI plays a crucial role in revitalizing global rice Overcoming the toughest stress in rice:
production by engaging the public and private drought............................................................ 30
sector in helping farmers reduce postharvest losses Efficient GM technologies and an innovative drought-
screening facility at IRRI increase the chances On the cover:
of discovering new candidate genes for the A boy harvests NERICA4 in Deve, Benin, West
UGANDA’S RICE REVOLUTION............................... 22 development of drought-tolerant rice
Sub-Saharan Africa’s “new kid on the block” positions Africa. Rice is generally grown by smallholders
itself as the rice granary of the region by adopting in Benin, which is a net importer of rice from
the right policies and appropriate technologies, MAPS........................................................................ 34 East Asia. Rice production, in particular upland
strengthening capacity building, and engaging Ecosystems services for biological control in tropical varieties grown on dry land, has been boosted by
both the public and private sector rice the introduction of NERICA varieties by the Africa
Rice Center.

Rice Today is published by The Rice Trader Inc. (TRT) in association with the International Rice Research Institute
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines
TRT, for 19 years, brought its subscribers crucial, up-to-the-minute information Web (IRRI): www.irri.org; www.irri.org/ricetoday
on rice trade through its weekly publication, The Rice Trader. Acknowledged as Web (Library): http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org
the only source of confidential information about the rice market, this weekly Web (Rice Knowledge Bank): www.knowledgebank.irri.org
summary of market data analysis has helped both the leading commercial rice
companies and regional government officials make informed decisions, which are Rice Today editorial
critical in today’s market. telephone: (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725; fax: (+63-2) 580-5699
IRRI is the world’s leading international rice research and training center. Based or (+63-2) 845-0606; email: mia.aureus@thericetrader.com, l.reyes@cgiar.org
in the Philippines and with offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous,
nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future cover photo R. Raman, Africa Rice Center
generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, publisher Jeremy Zwinger
while preserving natural resources. It is one of the 15 nonprofit international
associate publisher Duncan Macintosh
research centers supported, in part, by members of the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR – www.cgiar.org) and a range of other
managing editor V. Subramanian
funding agencies. editor Mia Aureus
Responsibility for this publication rests with TRT and IRRI. Designations used associate editor Lanie Reyes
in this publication should not be construed as expressing TRT or IRRI policy or contributing writers Gene Hettel, Sophie Clayton, Sam Mohanty, Leah Baroña-Cruz
opinion on the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or its authorities, Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra (Africa Rice Center – WARDA)
or the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. copy editor Bill Hardy
Rice Today welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. Rice Today art director Juan Lazaro IV
assumes no responsibility for loss of or damage to unsolicited submissions, which designer and production supervisor Grant Leceta
should be accompanied by sufficient return postage. photo editor Chris Quintana
The opinions expressed by columnists in Rice Today do not necessarily reflect photo researcher William Sta. Clara
the views of TRT or IRRI. advertising manager Logan Wilson
The Rice Trader Inc. circulation Lourdes Columbres
2707 Notre Dame Blvd., Chico, CA 95928 Web masters Forrest Orndorff, Serge Gregorio
Web: www.thericetrader.com printer DHL Global Mail (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.

Copyright International Rice Research Institute 2009

This magazine is copyrighted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License
(Unported). Unless otherwise noted, users are free to copy, duplicate, or reproduce, and distribute, display, or transmit any of the articles or portions of the articles, and to make translations,
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Rice Today July-September 2009 
Dear Mia, Dear Mr. Hettel,
I wish to congratulate you, Jeremy Zwinger, and all your colleagues for the outstanding It gives me great pleasure to inform you that I got a copy of Rice Today (Vol. 8, No. 2)
get-up and contents of Rice Today (Vol. 8, No. 2). I am happy to read your editorial, through a friend of mine from the International Rice Research Institute office in Delhi.
Reasons for Hope, and also Jeremy’s piece on Hidden Treasure. I am also happy that you
have highlighted the value of Scuba rice. Once again, I thank you for publishing my two-page interview in your globally
renowned magazine. Messages and telephone calls from old and new friends all over
I am glad that Gene Hettel has begun revisiting the outstanding farmers I had the world poured in like rain. You have made me very popular. My friends have observed
identified, with the help of the late Dr. Dioscoro Umali, for the 25th anniversary of the that my photograph with Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and Dr. Gurdev S. Khush is rare, and
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). As the then director general of IRRI, I felt they have advised me to take special care of it since such an event is unlikely to be
that an appropriate manner of commemorating the 25th anniversary was to honor 25 photographed again.
outstanding rice farmers in Asia (both men and women) and learn from their insights.
My wife, Mina, had arranged to interview all of them, and compiled these interviews As this issue of Rice Today is of great importance to me, I would like to request a few
into a book, which was published by IRRI under the title Insights of Outstanding Rice more copies for my library at home. I would gladly pay for these copies and other costs,
Farmers (http://snipurl.com/L1HDE). This book was also translated into Tagalog and if there are any.
several other languages. How about your visit to India in the near future? I am very eager to meet you again soon.
Mr. Hettel will do a great service by following the subsequent work of the other With best wishes and personal regards,
outstanding rice farmers of 1985. I was sorry that we could identify only 14 farmers.
We wanted to honor at least 25 farm women and men. J.S. Hara
I wish you continued success in making Rice Today the flagship of the movement for Ludhiana, India
rice for all and forever.
With warm personal regards. Dear Duncan,
Yours sincerely,
I just finished the April-June edition of Rice Today. Great job!
M.S. Swaminathan I skim a lot of center publications, but I actually read and enjoy Rice Today. The story on
Chennai, India rice-wheat was particularly interesting and informative.
Please send my congratulations to the team responsible for the publication’s production.
Letters should be sent with the writer's name, address, and e-mail address to
mia.aureus@thericetrader.com or l.reyes@cgiar.org. Letters may be edited for Edward W. Sulzberger
length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. All letters become the Galveston, Texas, USA
property of Rice Today.

1 2

1. Rice Today publisher, Jeremy

Zwinger (standing), shares
the magazine to participants
of the Rice Americas 2009
conference in Miami, Florida.
Others in the photo (from
left to right): Bob Papanos,
Thomas Wynn, and Ramiro

2. Kajisa Maharu, daughter

of IRRI senior scientist Kei
Kajisa, takes the magazine
to the Lion City (Singapore).

3. Rice Today at Batad Rice 3 4

Terraces, Philippines: (front
row, left to right) Corinta
Guerta, Vel Ilao, and Eric
Clutario; (back row, left to
right) Yeyet Enriquez, Zeny
Federico, and Mike Jackson.

4. Cambodian youths happily

read Rice Today.

 Rice Today July-September 2009

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Media campaigns used to communicate with farmers Filipino farmers welcome new
rice varieties

has won multiple

awards, including
most recently the
United Nations–
T hree new rice varieties designed
to help Filipino farmers grow
more rice in difficult conditions have
Habitat Dubai been officially recommended for
International Award approval for commercial cultivation
for Best Practices. in the Philippines and are expected
The new Five to help the Philippines become less
Reductions, One Must dependent on rice imports.
Do program adds Bred by the International Rice
recommendations on Research Institute (IRRI), one variety
reducing postharvest is flood-tolerant, one is drought-
losses and water use, tolerant, and one is salt-tolerant.
and timely use of “In the Philippines, about
fertilizers. The one 400,000 hectares of rice-growing
“must do” is to use land are affected by salinity, and

F ollowing the success of the

Three Reductions, Three Gains
(3R3G), or Ba Giam, Ba Tang,
certified seeds. An Giang Province
has become a national model for
implementing this program.
in any year up to 370,000 hectares
can be flood-affected,” said Dr.
David Mackill, program leader and
campaign in Vietnam, the An Giang In a similar project, IRRI, plant breeder at IRRI. “Both these
Department of Agriculture and as part of the Food Security for conditions can completely destroy a
Rural Development (DARD) and Sustainable Household Livelihoods rice crop or decrease yield.
IRRI, through the Irrigated Rice (FoSHoL) project funded by “Yield is also reduced by drought
Research Consortium (IRRC), are the European Commission, that occurs in upland and rainfed
working together to carry out the has produced an experimental areas where rice is not irrigated.
new campaign, Five Reductions, One drama series for television that Having rice varieties that can cope
Must Do, or Mot Phai, Nam Giam. is being aired in Bangladesh. with difficult growing conditions such
Three Reductions, Three Gains Jiboner Jolchobi will be used as flood, drought, and salinity will be
successfully used a radio drama, a to test the effectiveness of using particularly helpful for poor farmers
television drama, a 30-second TV a TV drama series as a means of who rely on marginal land to grow
commercial, posters, flyers, and communicating to Bangladeshi their rice.
extension efforts to encourage rice farmers and other stakeholders “Rice-growing land that has
farmers to reduce unnecessary messages related to agriculture limited productivity will become
insecticide, seed, and fertilizer use. and livelihoods. Jiboner Jolchobi more productive when these new rice
The reduced inputs resulted in similar is now airing on ATN Bangla every varieties are used, and this will help
or higher rice yields and net incomes. Wednesday, except on 15 July, at Filipino farmers produce more rice.”
Three Reductions, Three Gains 5:30 p.m. until 5 August 2009. “The Rice Technical Working
Group of the National Seed Industry
Council will now recommend the
IRRI alumni homecoming varieties for official approval, which
is expected to occur sometime in late

A s part of IRRI's 50th anniversary

celebrations, IRRI is hosting
an alumni homecoming. All past
Philippines, including Banaue,
Boracay, Batangas, and Palawan,
will also be included as options.
2009,” said Ms. Thelma Padolina,
NCT national coordinator at PhilRice.
moises john reyes

employees and those who have Photo exhibitions, opportunities

worked with IRRI in other ways, to meet the current batch of IRRI
as well as their families, are scientists, and Philippine cultural
invited to return to participate events—including food and dancing—
in two weeks of alumni activities are all on the program, making
from 18 April to 2 May 2010. the IRRI alumni homecoming an
There will be tours of local entertaining event not to be missed
sites, including the IRRI campus, by anyone with a connection with
IRRI staff housing, the University IRRI sometime in the past 50 years.
of the Philippines Los Baños,
and tourist sites in Laguna and For more information, visit www.
Tagaytay. Tours elsewhere in the irri.org/alumnihomecoming2010.

Rice Today July-September 2009 

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

World hunger 'hits one billion'

One billion people throughout the
world suffer from hunger, a figure
which has increased by 100 million
because of the global financial crisis,
says the UN. The UN's Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said
the figure was a record high.
Persistently high food prices have
also contributed to the hunger crisis.
Jacques Diouf, FAO director general,
said the level of hunger, one-sixth
of the world's population, posed a
"serious risk" to world peace and
The UN said almost all of the
world's undernourished live in
developing countries, with the most,
some 642 million people, living in the
Asia-Pacific region.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the next investments in agriculture and Southeast Asia, as it aims to make the
worst-hit region, the figure stands at research. sector world-class by 2020, said Pham
265 million. Just 15 million people are Source: www.g8agricultureministersmeeting. Van Toan, chief administrator of the
left hungry in the developed world. mipaaf.com/en/ Biotechnology Programme.
"We urgently need to forge a Based on the plan, new crop
broad consensus on the total and Global food supply better this year varieties developed by biotechnological
rapid eradication of hunger in the techniques will account for around 70%
With the second-highest global cereals
world and to take the necessary of cultivated area across the nation—
crop expected this year and stocks
actions," said Dr. Diouf. between 30% and 50% of which will be
replenished, the world food supply
Source: BBC News genetically modified plants.
appeared less vulnerable to [external] Source: Viet Nam News
shocks than it was during last year’s
food crisis, the Food and Agriculture
World far from halving poverty by Organization said in its Food Outlook Asian rice producers offer support
2015 report released in early June 2009. to double African rice output by
The world is far from reaching “International prices of most 2018
the 2000 Millennium Declaration agricultural commodities have fallen Five Southeast Asian rice-producing
of halving the proportion of the in 2009 from their 2008 heights, countries as well as Egypt and Brazil
world population facing poverty an indication that many markets offered their support for sub-Saharan
and undernourishment by 2015. are slowly returning to balance,” the Africa to achieve a goal of doubling
Such was the conclusion reached twice-yearly report said. annual rice output in the area by 2018
by the ministers of agriculture of In 2009-10, reductions were from the current level of about 14
the G8 countries when they met forecast for wheat and coarse grains, million tons, officials of Japan's aid
in Italy in April 2009 and received whereas the global rice crop may agency said.
“alarming data” provided by relevant register another marginal increase. Major rice producers Indonesia,
international bodies. Sizable increases were expected in rice the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand,
As part of their statement to output in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam highlighted their
world leaders, the ministers said the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and experience in developing the staple
that agriculture and food security Vietnam, the report said. food at a Tokyo meeting of the
are at the core of the international Source: www.hindu.com/2009/06/05/ international network, the ''Coalition
agenda. They called for increased stories/2009060560332400.htm for African Rice Development,” which
support and action to alleviate was set up in 2008 by Japanese
poverty and hunger, encourage Vietnam aims for biotech crops and international agencies to help
sustainable agriculture, avoid Vietnam strives to turn its agricultural African nations realize the target.
unfair competition, and increase biotechnology into one of the best in Source: MCOT English News

 Rice Today July-September 2009

Awards and recognition
Dr. Padolina (2nd from left)
receives the CEO Excel Award.

I RRI Director General Robert

Zeigler received the 2009 E.C.
Stakman Award from the University
of Minnesota Plant Pathology
Department. Created in 1955 by
E.C. Stakman, the award recognizes
individuals for outstanding
achievements in and contributions
to plant pathology in research,
teaching, outreach, international
development, or any combination of
these. Past award winners include
Norman Borlaug, George Harrar, E.J.
Wellhausen, Sanjaya Rajaram, and
Sir Bent Skovmand.
William Padolina, deputy
2008 IRRI NRS awardees
director general for operations
and support services, received the
2009 Communication Excellence
in Organization Award (academic,
research, and training category)
from the International Association
of Business Communicators. The
CEO Excel Award is given to senior
executives who have successfully used
communication for the goals of their
The 2008 IRRI Awards for
nationally recruited staff went to
associate scientists Anita Boling
and Alvaro Pamplona for their his 3-year term in January 2010. Dr. Kumar Chandna (remote sensing
outstanding scientific achievement, Baenziger is the primary small grains and GIS), Virender Kumar (co-
research technician Anicio Macahia breeder at UNL, where he has worked facilitator, Rice-Wheat Consortium),
for his outstanding research support, since 1986. He studied biochemical and Sharma Sheetal (soil health).
and the Program Planning and sciences and graduated magna cum Mr. Alfred Schmidley joined
Communications (PPC) team for its laude from Harvard University. IRRI as consultant on Grain Quality,
outstanding administrative support. He received his master’s and Ph.D. Nutrition, and Postharvest.
The PPC team members are Corinta degrees in plant breeding and genetics New senior associate scientists
Guerta, Zeny Federico, Velinda in corn from Purdue University. are Violeta Bartolome, Nancy
Ilao, Eric Clutario, Marileth Elizabeth Humphreys is now Castilla, Mary Jacqueline
Enriquez, and Sol Ogatis. a senior scientist (water management Dionora, Antonio Evangelista,
specialist) in the Crop and Alvaro Pamplona, Rodolfo
Environmental Sciences Division. She Toledo, and Joel Janiya; Ireneo
Keeping up with IRRI staff will lead IRRI’s field-scale research Pangga is a new associate scientist;
on water-saving irrigation techniques and Rowena Castillo and Arlene

N ew BOT member. P. Stephen

Baenziger, a professor at the
University of
and conservation agriculture systems,
with emphasis on South Asia and
China. Mahesh Kumar Gathala
Julia Malabayabas are new
assistant scientists.
Yashpal Saharawat, a new
Nebraska-Lincoln (research platform coordinator) of postdoctoral fellow based in New
(UNL) Department the IRRI India Office is also now Delhi, India, is working as part of
of Agronomy and a senior scientist. A new scientist the Cereal Systems Initiative for
Horticulture, has at IRRI headquarters is Jauhar South Asia.
been selected as a Ali, who is the regional project Moved on. IRRI bid farewell
member of the IRRI coordinator (Asia) for Developing to postdoctoral fellows Matthieu
Board of Trustees Green Super Rice. New scientists at Conte, Yann Chemin and Jacob
and he will begin the IRRI India Office are Parvesh van Etten.

Rice Today July-September 2009 

Rice Thesaurus now on the Web! TR AINING COURSES AT IRRI
Rice Breeding Course: Laying the Mixed Model Analysis Using CropStat

R ice scientists and students no longer

have to tediously flip through an
entire book when they do literature
Foundation for the Second Green
IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines,
5-9 October 2009
IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines,
research. Now available online is the IRRI This course is designed to help researchers
24 August-8 September 2009
Rice Thesaurus, a searchable electronic know when and how to perform mixed model
This course aims to develop the next analysis. It also introduces CropStat’s module
database of terms related to rice. It is
generation of rice breeders adept in using on Mixed Model Analysis using restricted
accessible at http://agclass.nal.usda.
modern tools for enhancing the precision and maximum likelihood (REML). It employs
gov/irri/rice_search.shtml. efficiency of their breeding programs. It will a combination of lectures, and hands-on
The Thesaurus, which went online provide the (a) theoretical background on exercises on CropStat.
in April 2009, contains more than modern breeding methods and techniques,
3,200 standard terms pertaining to Participants should be familiar with basic
including the use of biotechnology; (b)
statistical methods: computing descriptive
rice and other related subjects. It is planning and information management tools
statistics, hypothesis testing, and analysis
a controlled vocabulary source for and experimental techniques and software;
of variance. They should be familiar with
subject descriptions of books, journal (c) opportunity to share experiences with
Windows and must have experience in data
articles, conference papers, and other other rice breeders; and (d) latest updates
analysis using at least one statistical software.
information materials. The system also on areas relevant to rice breeding and the
worldwide exchange of rice genetic resources.
makes comprehensive searches possible Leadership Course for Asian Women in
The course is for breeders and agronomists
by providing the contexts or subjects in Agricultural R&D and Extension
working on variety development or testing in
which a term is used, and by including all IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines,
the public and private sector.
the other related terms as well. 12-23 October 2009
The International Rice Research Rice Technology Transfer Systems in Asia Topics include Asian women in the workplace;
Insitute’s (IRRI) Library and Documentation Rural Development Administration (RDA), mainstreaming gender concerns in the
Services (LDS) and Communication and Suwon, South Korea, 14-25 September 2009 workplace; leadership and management;
Publications Services (CPS) joined forces personality development; developing work-
This training workshop was developed
in December 2006 and worked for a year related knowledge and skills; and relating to
and implemented in view of the Rural
and a half to produce the Thesaurus. Since others.
Development Administration’s (RDA, Korea)
then, the team has continued to work and IRRI’s common interest in enhancing the
on its content development through Rice Post Production Course
capacity of developing countries to improve
IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines,
the funding support of CPS, which also their rice productivity and profitability
19-30 October 2009
funded the compilation of the initial through better technology transfer. The
volume. course will be held in Korea to showcase The course is action oriented and consists of
The publication of the Thesaurus is the country’s success in technology transfer. introductory lectures followed by hands-on
the product of an agreement between Workshop participants will see the model practices in which participants are assigned
first-hand, and that will help them better tasks to accomplish during the practice.
IRRI and the National Agricultural Library
understand the processes involved in Participants will be supported by Asian
(NAL) of the Agricultural Research Service,
successfully moving technology from its Development Bank (ADB) and Irrigated Rice
U.S. Department of Agriculture. LDS development, by researchers and successful Research Consortium (IRRC) projects. The
provides the content while NAL enables farmers, to its adoption by farmers. Moreover, course aims to cater to project counterparts
Web access, using servers in Beltsville, by being appraised of each other’s technology of the two projects and tries to get a mix of
Maryland. The collaboration came delivery systems, the participants will be participants from the public and private sector.
through the initiative of Ms. Lori Finch, able to identify success factors, compare
thesaurus coordinator of NAL, and Ms. results, and analyze their respective systems For more details, contact Dr. Noel Magor, head,
Mila Ramos, chief librarian of IRRI. and recommended ways to improve their IRRI Training Center (IRRITraining@cgiar.org)
effectiveness. or see www.training.irri.org.

The 3rd International Rice Congress (IRC2010), set for 9-12

November 2010, in Hanoi, Vietnam, is the world's largest
gathering of the rice industry. With the theme Rice for
Future Generations, it will include the 28th International
Rice Research Conference, the 3rd World Rice Commerce
Conference, the 3rd International Rice Technology and
Cultural Expo, and 50th anniversary activities of the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Watch for more
details in future issues of Rice Today.

10 Rice Today July-September 2009

Making rice
less thirsty by Lanie C. Reyes

New drought-tolerant lines developed at IRRI give hope to farmers in drought-prone

areas in eastern India and the Philippines

IRRI (2)

ince the dawn very happy to see the recent

of agriculture, advances and progress
drought has in developing drought-
been the bane of tolerant lines at IRRI.”
farmers, especially those Most farmers in
who grow rice, a crop rainfed/drought-prone
that has special water areas grow varieties bred
requirements. Drought for irrigated conditions
stress severely limits rice such as IR 36, IR64,
productivity in the rainfed Poornima, MTU1010,
ecosystem in which farmers Lalat, Swarna, and
often experience total crop Sambha Mahsuri, among
failure because of a lack of others. Unfortunately,
water at one critical plant these varieties are highly
growth stage or another, susceptible to drought.
according to Arvind Whenever a severe drought
Kumar, a plant breeder occurs, these irrigated
at the International Rice varieties suffer high losses
Research Institute (IRRI). and farmers are lucky to
Most rainfed areas harvest even half a ton
receive a reasonable per hectare from them.
amount of rainfall during “With the cultivation of
the growing season. the newly bred drought-
“However,” says Dr. Kumar, tolerant lines, in normal-
“its erratic distribution and rainfall years, farmers
shortage, particularly at flowering and scarcity, IRRI has bred several new will have the same high yield of
again at grain-filling, can seriously lines that are as high-yielding as irrigated varieties, and in drought
curtail productivity.” He adds that any normal varieties with sufficient years they can harvest 1.5 to 2 tons
Asia alone has around 23 million water. They have a 0.8 to 1 ton per from 1 hectare,” says Dr. Kumar.
hectares (20% of the total rice area) hectare yield advantage whenever IRRI works with the national
that are prone to drought under these drought occurs. Two of these drought- agricultural research and extension
conditions and where climate change tolerant breeding lines have been systems (NARES) for the evaluation
may make matters, particularly recommended for official release: of newly developed breeding lines.
water scarcity, only worse. IR74371-70-1-1 in India and its sister Before a breeding line is identified for
Without assured irrigation, line IR74371-54-1-1 in the Philippines. release, it undergoes testing in the
farmers are completely dependent “IRRI has intensified efforts national system and is recommended
on rainfall to water their crops. The to develop drought-tolerant and for release after its superior
possibility of drought has made rice aerobic cultivars to cope with this performance in the national trials.
farming a risky endeavor. Because of looming water shortage,” says David The newly developed drought-tolerant
the risk, farmers do not invest enough Mackill, leader for IRRI’s rainfed lines IR74371-70-1-1 and IR74371-54-
in inputs to increase rice production. program. “Drought has been a 1-1 outperformed the current varieties
To help farmers cope with water complex trait to improve, and I am in national trials in India and the

12 Rice Today July-September 2009

gene hettel
Philippines and have Dozens of promising drought-tolerant
120 days to mature.
been recommended cultivars are being tested on the IRRI The new line yields
for release for farm in the Philippines. Here, Dr. Kumar an average of 4.5
shows drought-tolerant rice on his right
farmers’ cultivation. compared with a susceptible variety on his
tons per hectare.
The two breeding immediate left. Also, it is very
lines also performed resistant to pests
well under aerobic and diseases and, so
and alternate wetting far, farmers have not
and drying (AWD) experienced tungro
situations (see The big or any other disease.
squeeze, pages 21-31 Mr. Concepcion
of Rice Today Vol. 7, proudly announces
No. 2 and Every drop that the rice he
counts, pages 16-18). planted in February
IRRI’s System was harvested in
for Temperate and May. “Because of its
Tropical Aerobic shorter duration, it
Rice project under the Challenge in coordination with IRRI. They allows me to harvest not just two but
Program for Water and Food has been invited farmers, technicians, and three times a year,” he says. “And, as
building a network on participatory researchers during the PVS. this variety is tolerant of drought, I
varietal selection (PVS) testing During that PVS, one can plant the crop even during the dry
and evaluation since 2004. The impressed farmer eagerly asked, season without any fear of crop loss.”
project aims to develop prototype “Can I reproduce that line on my Since his farm is on higher
aerobic rice production systems farm?” That farmer was Nemencio ground, he needs to pump in water.
for water-scarce environments. Concepcion, 49, of San Ildefonso, With AWD technology, he is thankful
According to Ruben Lampayan, Bulacan. He became interested that he does not need to flood his
water management scientist in the drought-tolerant variety paddies. He pumps water only a
at IRRI, a major component of because it seemed tailor-made for few times a month and only when
the project was to identify rice his drought-prone upland area. necessary. “I save much on water and
varieties with high yield potential On his own initiative, he on gasoline for the pump, even during
under aerobic conditions from reproduced the line and was happy the dry season,” Mr. Concepcion says.
among IRRI’s advanced lines with the results. His neighboring His recent crop experienced
through PVS. They tapped their farmers were eager to try it on more than 2 weeks of drought. So,
project partners to collaborate in their farms. Eventually, the line he pumped water to his upland
implementing PVS with farmers. became popular among farmers, rice area. However, there was one
and is known among them as “5411” rice area where he was not able to
In the Philippines (instead of IR74371-54-1-1). pump water because of insufficient
Dr. Lampayan has found in Junel According to Dr. Soriano, 5411 available water. “I sacrificed that
B. Soriano, director for research, matures 2 weeks ahead of their area and accepted its fate because
extension, training, and production previously used variety, which takes the rice plants wilted already,” he
at Bulacan Agricultural stated. But, when rain
State College (BASC), the came, he was surprised
lanie c. Reyes

heart and passion to reach to see that his plants

Mr. Concepcion (right)— a
out to more partners and farmer in Bulacan, explains to Dr.
recovered from wilting.
stakeholders with aerobic Soriano of BASC, that this part of Although the rice that
rice and other water-saving his rice farm wilted because of recovered from drought is
drought. But, when rain came, it
technologies. Hence, in fully recovered.
expected to be harvested
the Philippines, IR74371- about 2 weeks later than
54-1-1 has been tested at the rest of the 5411, it is
BASC since 2004 and in still within an acceptable
farmers’ fields in Bulacan, duration. Above all, he is just
La Union, Bataan, and glad to be able to harvest
Palawan since 2006. rice despite the drought.
Dr. Soriano recalls (For drought-susceptible
a time during the dry varieties, more than 2
season of 2004 when a weeks of drought in upland
trial was conducted in a fields may yield almost
small testing plot at BASC nothing for farmers.)

Rice Today July-September 2009 13

Mr. Concepcion’s experience state universities such as Bataan better than any other entries of that
is consistent with what Dr. Kumar Polytechnic State University, Palawan duration, since then. “In 2007, we
says about the new drought-tolerant State University, and Mindanao started testing this variety in farmers’
lines: “They withstand drought at Foundation College, among others. fields in two villages near Hazaribag,”
any stage of the crop cycle. Moreover, he says.
they withstand drought even at the In eastern India Kailash Yadav, 34, and Naresh
reproductive stage, when the plant Similarly, in eastern India, IRRI Paswan, 38, of Mahesha, Hazaribag,
suffers more loss due to drought.” introduced a drought-tolerant Jharkhand, are two farmers who
“Since that line can be breeding line, IR74371-70-1-1, which had the opportunity to observe a
broadcast-seeded instead of has also consistently performed demonstration using Sahbhagi dhan
transplanted, I saved a lot on labor well both at research centers and in conducted by CRURRS and they
costs,” relates Mr. Concepcion. farmers’ fields. Since eastern India tried it on their respective farms.
“I don’t need to hire laborers to is one of the largest drought-affected As a result, they were delighted to
plant seedlings in the nursery, pull areas, a variety that can cope with a harvest 4.5 tons of rice per hectare
them from the seedbed, tie them dry spell is a welcome change in rice in a good monsoon year. Before
together, and transplant them.” farming. using the drought-tolerant variety,
Every harvest, Mr. Concepcion IR74371-70-1-1
earns around US$638 to $850 was initially tested
per hectare from his rice field under an India-IRRI Mr. Shashikant Yadav (left), CRURRS agricultural
(of 4 ha) planted with 5411. collaborative project, field assistant, interviews Mr. Naresh Paswan
(center) and Mr. Kailash Yadav (right), farmers who
Mr. Concepcion is indeed the Drought Breeding have tested Sahbhagi dhan on their farms.
one happy and satisfied farmer. Network (DBN),
His influence on other farmers to whose partners are
adopt 5411 reaches Nueva Ecija and the Central Rainfed
Pampanga provinces. Even if rice Upland Rice Research
fields in these areas are irrigated, Station (CRURRS)
there is no problem because 5411 in Hazaribag; Indira
still performs well in wet areas. Gandhi Krishi
According to Dr. Soriano, Vishwa Vidyalaya,
Mr. Concepcion is so effective in Raipur; Birsa
influencing other farmers to adopt Agricultural Univ.,
5411 and increase the productivity Ranchi; Narendra
of their lands that he considers Dev University
Mr. Concepcion not just a farmer of Agriculture

cooperator but a partner in BASC’s and Technology,

extension efforts. Faizabad; Tamil Nadu
Mr. Concepcion was one of the Agricultural University,
first 13 farmer cooperators in 2004. Coimbatore; University of Agricultural they harvested only 3 to 3.7 tons
They increased to 50 in 2005, to Sciences, Bangalore; and Barwale per hectare. They are also pleased
70 in 2006, and BASC now has Foundation, Hyderabad, India. with its traits such as the ability to
more than 100 farmer cooperators. Courtesy of the DBN, researchers have tolerate a month-long drought, early
According to Dr. Soriano, the success identified this entry as promising for maturity, and good eating quality.
of adoption can be attributed to the drought-prone ecosystem. Farmers in rainfed areas such
farmer-to-farmer influence and Since this line is a product of as Mr. Yadav and Mr. Paswan
support from the local government. a joint endeavor, the team from largely depend on rain for a good
Dr. Soriano is more than CRURRS suggested the name harvest. But, good years may be
encouraged in sharing the benefits Sahbhagi dhan, which means, in few and as unpredictable as the
of 5411 along with its management Hindi, "rice developed through onset of drought. If the rains are
technologies, the aerobic system, and collaboration." Recently, the poor, this can spell catastrophe for
the AWD system in the Philippines, Variety Identification Committee all. Mr. Yadav still remembers the
because he believes that more (VIC) recommended it for release 2006 drought that affected their
farmers can benefit from all this, to the Central Subcommittee on village. Without any income from
particularly those in rainfed areas. Crop Standards, Notification, farming, he somehow managed
He plans to expand extension and Release of Varieties. some earnings from his small
activities at BASC by involving Nimai P. Mandal, a plant breeder grocery store. But, many villagers
other state universities and colleges at CRURRS, tested Sahbhagi dhan migrated to town to work as daily
all over the country. He has during the wet season of 2004. It laborers. One was Mr. Paswan.
started to coordinate with other has consistently performed well, Though he describes the drought

14 Rice Today July-September 2009

as “not so severe,” it still affected Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation- physiologist involved in dissecting
the people of his village. Finances supported project on “Stress-tolerant the mechanisms of drought tolerance
were so difficult then that he needed rice for poor farmers in Africa and and its genetic variation in rice, says
to borrow money from another South Asia” and responsible for that combining high yield potential
farmer for his transportation. seed production and dissemination and drought tolerance through direct
Sahbhagi dhan gave the two of Sahbhagi dhan, plans to have selection for grain yield is one of
farmers opportunity and hope in large-scale seed multiplication the right approaches for developing
rice farming. “I have confidence that of this line in 2009 and produce drought-tolerant lines, in addition
this variety will be a blessing for 100 tons of seed to distribute to to marker-assisted selection (see On
farmers in drought-stress situations,” as many farmers as possible by your mark, get set, select on pages
says Mr. Paswan. “And, we can the next wet season in India. 28-29 of Rice Today Vol. 3 No. 3) and
manage the problem of drought National Food Security Mission GM (genetic modification) approaches
by growing this variety,” adds Mr. of India, National Seed Corporation, (see Overcoming the toughest stress
Yadav. Because both are impressed various public- and private-sector in rice: drought on page 30).
by the qualities of Sahbhagi dhan, seed corporations and companies, In the years before that,
they are going to recommend it research organizations, and NGOs scientists had been working on
are interested in improving the traits thought to be
reproducing and related to drought tolerance such
The soon-to-be-released drought-tolerant disseminating as leaf rolling, rooting depth, and
Sahbhagi dhan in eastern India thrives Sahbhagi dhan seeds. other traits. They believed that yield
under drought conditions. “Our purpose is to under drought could be increased by
take this variety improving these secondary traits.
to the maximum In 2004, IRRI breeders started to
number of farmers in work on direct selection for grain yield
the shortest possible under drought stress. At first, they
time,” says Dr. Singh. were not sure that this would show
As the scientist results. But, subsequent experiments
now responsible for confirmed that this approach worked.
developing drought- For a plant breeder like Dr.
tolerant varieties, Kumar, “developing drought-tolerant
Dr. Kumar says that cultivars is the most efficient way
he is very lucky to to stabilize rice production in
witness the success drought-prone areas.” Higher yield
of this teamwork. of drought-tolerant lines in drought
When asked years should encourage farmers to
whether this apply more inputs such as fertilizer
is his greatest that further raise the productivity of
and share it with their neighbors as accomplishment as a scientist, he the rainfed drought-prone system.
soon as they have sufficient seed. says, “This is IRRI’s achievement. Because of drought-tolerant lines,
“Drought-tolerant lines have Other scientists before me have been farmers will indeed lower their
received high farmers’ preference working for about 40 years to achieve risks of investing their money and
scores in both normal and drought this.” Dr. Brigitte Courtois attempted time in drought-prone areas.
trials and farmers look convinced the crosses, which had led to the Sahbhagi dhan and 5411 and
of adopting such superior varieties,” development of these two lines. And other similar drought-tolerant lines
says Dr. Stephan Haefele, IRRI soil it was Dr. Gary Atlin, who introduced that may be developed in the future
scientist and agronomist who is the concept, initiated and conducted will benefit and provide confidence to
responsible for testing the lines in experiments on direct selection rice farmers not just in India and the
farmers’ fields under PVS in India. for grain yield under drought Philippines but also in other drought-
More farmers besides Mr. Paswan stress. He combined high yield prone areas in Asia, Africa, and other
and Mr. Yadav will benefit from potential under irrigated situation parts of the world. In fact, a few other
Sahbhagi dhan. According to Dr. with good yield under drought. promising drought-tolerant lines
Mandal, the rainfed upland area in Forty years? What turning point and aerobic cultivars are now being
India occupies about 6 million hectares. along the way led to high-yielding tested in India, Bangladesh, Nepal,
But the target area for Sahbhagi dhan drought-tolerant rice? IRRI scientists and the Philippines under projects
could be more because it is also suitable started working in a different way: supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates
for drought-prone shallow lowlands. working directly on improving Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation,
U.S. Singh, the regional grain yield in rice under drought. Generation Challenge Program,
coordinator for South Asia of the Dr. Rachid Serraj, a drought and Asian Development Bank.

Rice Today July-September 2009 15

Every dr p counts by Bas Bouman and Mia Aureus

Water scarcity is crippling the world’s food supply balance. So, IRRI has developed water-saving
technologies to help farmers cope with the problem and, more importantly, to sustain global rice

bas bouman (3)

ater makes irrigation water and

up 70% of need to be managed in
our planet. the most water-efficient
But in spite way. The causes for
of this vast availability, increasing water scarcity
our fresh water reserve are diverse and location-
is finite. Over the years, specific. They include
improper use has led many falling groundwater
to waste this precious tables, chemical pollution,
natural resource, unaware malfunctioning of
of its dire crippling effects irrigation systems, and
on the world’s food supply increased competition
balance, particularly for from other sectors such as
rice—the staple food of urban and industrial users.
about 3 billion people In the face of this
around the world. troubling reality, the
Like all other plants, International Rice
rice needs water to Research Institute (IRRI)
survive. However, unlike has developed several
most plants, it needs water-saving technologies
twice as much water to to help farmers cope
produce good yields. For better with water scarcity
1 kg of rough rice, for in their paddy fields.
example, an average of Farmers primarily need to
2,500 liters of water needs reduce the nonproductive
to be supplied by rainfall outflows (percolation,
and/or irrigation (see seepage, and evaporation),
How much water does An irrigation canal while maintaining
rice use? on pages 28-29 in northern China transpiration flows.
dries up because of
of Rice Today Vol. 8, No. water scarcity. This can be done during
1). About 1,400 liters are land preparation, crop
used up in evaporation establishment, and the
and transpiration, while actual crop growth period.
the remaining 1,100 liters are lost Growing water scarcity
by seepage and percolation. A Fresh water for agriculture around Get the basics right
farmer, then, constantly needs to the world, however, is becoming In preparing the land—the
ensure that sufficient irrigation increasingly scarce, thereby foundation of the whole cropping
water is provided (to complement threatening rice productivity and, season—it is crucial for farmers to
rainfall if that is insufficient) to consequently, the world’s food supply. “get the basics right.” To establish
match all these outflows. Note that In the next 25 years, some 15–20 good water management early on,
transpiration (the process by which million hectares of irrigated rice they need to properly build field
the rice plant absorbs water, takes are projected to suffer some degree channels, level the land, prepare solid
it up to bring essential nutrients of water scarcity, particularly the bunds, and effectively implement
from roots to leaves, then releases wet-season irrigated rice regions tillage operations (puddling).
it to the atmosphere) is the only of China, India, and Pakistan. In most irrigation systems in
productive water use, as it helps Dry-season irrigated rice areas Asia, water flows from one field
the plant stay alive and healthy. everywhere in Asia rely on expensive into another and there are no field

16 Rice Today July-September 2009

channels to convey irrigation water to,
and drainage water from, individual
Saving water: alternate
fields. So, farmers usually have a hard
time controlling the flow of water
in and out of the fields. Either the
wetting and drying
farm loses much of its water to other
Water scarcity A farmer can start AWD a few days
farms or it gets too flooded as water
Worldwide, water for agriculture is after transplanting (or with a 10-cm-tall
from other farms pours in. Water
becoming increasingly scarce. By 2025, crop in direct seeding). If there are too
that continuously flows through
15 to 20 million hectares of irrigated many weeds, AWD can be postponed
the rice fields may also remove
rice may suffer some degree of water for 2–3 weeks, until the ponded water
valuable nutrients. Constructing
scarcity. Interventions to respond to suppresses weed growth. Local fertilizer
separate channels to convey water
water scarcity are called “water savings” recommendations for flooded rice can
to and from each field will help
and imply a reduced be used. Apply nitrogen
improve individual control of water.
use of irrigation water. fertilizer preferably on

edna reyes (2)

This is the recommended practice
the dry soil just before
in any type of irrigation system.
What is AWD? irrigation.
Another prerequisite for good
Alternate wetting and
water management is a well-leveled
drying (AWD) is a water- Safe AWD
field. Logically, when fields are
saving technology that The threshold of 15
not even, water cannot be equally
lowland (paddy) rice cm is called Safe AWD
distributed. Some parts may suffer
farmers can apply to as this will not reduce
from water stagnation, while other
reduce their water use yields. In Safe AWD,
sections may become dry. This results
in irrigated fields. In water savings are on the
in uneven crop emergence, uneven
AWD, irrigation water order of 15–30%. Once
early growth, uneven fertilizer
is applied to flood the farmers feel confident
distribution, and weed problems.
field after a certain that Safe AWD will not
Most farmers puddle their fields
number of days have reduce their yields,
to prepare the land for transplanting A sample field water tube made from
passed following the they can try to drop
of seedlings. Puddling is the repeated polyvinyl chloride. Note the holes on
disappearance of all sides. the threshold level for
harrowing of the soil under flooded
ponded water. Hence, irrigation to 20 cm,
conditions and it results in a muddy
the field is alternately 25 cm, 30 cm, or even
layer 15–20 cm thick. Before puddling
flooded and not lower. This will help save
takes place, farmers need to soak the
flooded. The number more water, although
land at the end of the previous fallow
of days of nonflooded production may be
period. Sometimes, large and deep
soil in AWD in between slightly affected. This
cracks are present in the soil and a
irrigations can vary minor setback may be
lot of water is lost at soaking by water
from 1 day to more acceptable when the
flowing down these cracks. A shallow
than 10 days. price of water is high
tillage to fill the cracks before soaking
or when water is very
can greatly reduce this water loss.
How to implement scarce.
Puddling creates a so-called
plow layer of some 5-cm thickness
A practical way to The field water tube
just below the muddy layer. This
implement AWD is This tube can be made
plow layer is very compact and it
to monitor the depth of a 40-cm-long plastic
prevents water from percolating
of ponded water in a The soil inside the tube is removed
pipe or bamboo, with
downward, where the roots of
field using a field water after sticking it into the ground. a diameter of 15 cm or
the rice plants cannot reach it
tube. After irrigation, more, to allow farmers
anymore. Thorough puddling after
the depth of ponded to see and monitor the
soaking the field results in a more
water will gradually decrease. When water table. Put holes on all sides of
compacted soil. Puddling is especially
ponded water drops to 15 cm below the the tube. Stick the tube into the soil,
effective in clay soils that form
soil surface, irrigation should be applied but leave 15 cm above the soil surface.
cracks during the fallow period.
to re-flood the field up to 5 cm. From a Remove the soil inside the tube so that
Good bunds or paddy dikes
week before until a week after flowering, the bottom will be visible. Make sure
also help limit water losses by
ponded water should always be kept at that the water table inside the tube is
seepage and underbund flows. Bunds
5-cm depth. After flowering and during the same as that on the outside. The
should be well compacted. Any
grain filling and ripening, the water level tube can be placed in a flat part of the
rat holes should be plastered with
can be allowed to drop again to 15 cm field close to a bund so that it is easy to
mud at the beginning of the crop
below the surface before re-irrigation. monitor the depth of ponded water.
Rice Today July-September 2009 17
season. Farmers need to Farmers puddle their drained, nonpuddled,
also check for, and repair, fields to prepare the land and nonflooded soils.
for transplanting seedlings.
new rat holes, cracks, and With good management,
pores dug by earthworms aerobic rice can produce
throughout the growing up to 4–6 tons per hectare
season. Plastic sheets can while using less than
be used to fix permeable half the water required
sections of the bunds. in flooded paddy rice.
During the crop growth
period, farmers are best Every drop counts
advised to keep their Today’s problem of water
ponded water at a 5-cm scarcity reminds everyone
depth to minimize the loss of water’s finite nature.
of water by seepage and IRRI continues to further
percolation. This is also the develop and refine water-
advised level in another saving technologies to help
water-saving technology farmers cope. As water
called alternate wetting and scarcity increases and
drying (AWD) (see The big climate change aggravates
squeeze on pages 26-31 of the problem, IRRI is also
Rice Today Vol. 7, No. 2). stepping up its efforts
AWD, also known as in disseminating these
controlled irrigation, does technologies to farmers.
not require rice fields to Outreach efforts include an
be continuously flooded. array of training activities
Farmers flood the fields up and the production of
to 5 cm for a few information
days, and then Farmers must make sure that materials such as
let them dry to the bunds are well compacted leaflets, brochures,
a certain extent, to limit water loss. posters, manuals,
before re-flooding and eventually
them. This cycle e-learning courses
goes on throughout to reach out to
the season, but as many people
with a period of as possible. New
continuous flooding partnerships
during flowering are being forged
to prevent sterility among scientists,
from occurring. extension agencies,
In the practice of irrigation system
safe AWD, farmers managers, and
use a field tube farmers to jointly
to monitor the tackle the problem
underground water of water scarcity
level in the field: and implement
when the ponded solutions. To help
water has dropped the fate of water-
to 15–20 cm below scarce farmers and
the surface of the to ensure global
soil, it is time to food security, every
flood the field again. It was found that even intermittently flood the field drop of water counts.
this technology reduced the amount of such as in AWD, the system of
water required by a quarter and, more aerobic rice may be useful (see
importantly, it did not reduce yields. High and dry on pages 28-33 of
Rice Today Vol. 7, No. 2). Aerobic Dr. Bouman is a senior water
Aerobic rice rice is a production system in scientist and head of the Crop and
When water is really very scarce, which especially developed “aerobic Environmental Sciences Division at
and there is not enough water to rice” varieties are grown in well- IRRI.

18 Rice Today July-September 2009

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Rice v e rJuly-September
n m e n t 2009
S e r v i c e s & I n t e r n a t i o n a l T r a19
A low-cost, farm-level dryer is tested
at a farmer’s house in Savannakhet
Province, Lao PDR.

Working together
to save grains

Martin Gummert (2)

by Martin Gummert

IRRI plays a crucial role in revitalizing global rice production by engaging the public and
­private sector in helping farmers reduce postharvest losses

ven though rice prices have yield as low as 60%; and drastically research institutions and the private
come down considerably reduced head rice. sector—to develop and scale out these
since the food crisis in 2008, Moreover, grain quality is also technologies to farmers. Although
the fundamentals have not lowered, causing farmers to lose out there is no standard partnership
changed. The decline in yield on income because they have to sell recipe between the public and private
growth across Asian countries, their paddy at a 20–30% discount. sector, both can collaborate in many
continued population growth, and Additional income loss is incurred ways depending on their objectives
the conversion of prime rice land to from not adding value to the rice by and the type of technologies to be
other uses threaten the global rice selling in the off-season at a higher used. In recent years, IRRI has seen
supply. The immediate challenge is to price or by receiving a discounted three successful cases of public-
revitalize global rice production. An price because of low quality. private partnership, which involved
annual growth rate of 1.2% is needed Over the past 15 years, the joint storage technology development
to ensure food security. To further International Rice Research Institute and verification, a transfer of proven
boost production, farmers need to (IRRI) and its partners have developed drying technologies across countries,
reduce yield gaps and grain losses and evaluated numerous new harvest and collaboration for technology
that occur during harvest, storage, and postharvest technologies that are adaptation and extension.
and processing of rice. designed to reduce yield losses and
During postharvest, about improve grain and seed quality. These Joint storage technology
15–20% of the grains are lost because key technologies are a low-cost paddy development and verification
of delays in harvest; labor shortage; moisture meter, quality assessment In 2000, IRRI evaluated hermetic
unsuitable traditional sun-drying toolkits, mechanized harvesting storage cocoons with a 5-ton
practices, especially in the double- technologies, mechanical rice dryers, capacity in collaboration with the
cropping system in which one harvest and hermetic storage systems that Cambodian Agricultural Research
takes place in the wet season; pests; provide insect control without using and Development Institute. Results
moisture absorption in traditional pesticides. showed that hermetic or airtight
open-storage systems; outdated and IRRI works with national storage extends germination from
poorly maintained rice mills that postharvest stakeholders—national a few months to 9–12 months. This

20 Rice Today July-September 2009

IRRI teamed up with the postharvest in Vietnam. When he went back to
group of Dr. Phan Hieu Hien of Myanmar, he led MRPTA’s impressive
Long Nam University in Ho Chi awareness campaign on postharvest
Minh City, Vietnam, and organized losses and stressed the significance
training on dryers for manufacturers of increasing rice quality as a basis
and postharvest technicians from for improved milling yields; capacity
Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar building for farmers, millers, and
in Vietnam in 2006. The course extension workers on postharvest
focused on simple but appropriate management; and promotion of
flat-bed dryers with a 4-ton capacity newly introduced dryers. Many
and included field trips to successful of the association’s activities were
dryer users in the Mekong Delta. conducted in close cooperation with
When they returned to their home public-sector institutions such as
countries, the dryer manufacturers the Plant Protection Division of the
A traditional way of milling built prototypes for demonstration Myanmar Agriculture Service.
rice in the Philippines. and subsequently released models for This case shows that private-
commercial use. Now, more than 48 sector stakeholders can be good
allows farmers enough time to dryers are installed in rice mills and partners in technology development
prepare for the next year’s planting used by farmers’ groups in Myanmar, as they can provide extension services
season. The evaluation, however, along with 22 in Laos and 7 in to farmers that complement those
found out that the cocoons were Cambodia. By working directly with that the public sector has (see Ripple,
too expensive and that farmers manufacturers from the beginning, August 2006, page 8).2
preferred individual storage rather and by providing additional technical Building on these and IRRI’s
than group storage. IRRI then assistance for modifications to the experiences with the Postproduction
started working with Grainpro dryers based on users’ needs, the Work Group of the IRRC and the
(the manufacturer of hermetic public sector made a sustainable project3 Bringing about a Sustainable
storage systems) in 2004 to develop introduction of the technology with Agronomic Revolution in Rice
the “Super bag,” a hermetically the help of the private sector (see Production in Asia by Reducing
lined bag for a traditional bag- page 6 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 1). Preventable Pre- and Postharvest
handling system that can store up Losses, multistakeholder platforms
to 50 kilograms of seeds or grains. Collaboration for technology take the form of learning alliances that
Successive participatory technology adaptation and extension include public and private players.
verification with farmers in villages Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw, secretary general
in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, of the Myanmar Rice and Paddy
and Lao PDR demonstrated that Traders’ Association (MRPTA), Dr. Gummert is a postharvest
farmers can reduce their seed rate by participated in the dryer training specialist at IRRI.
up to one-third by using the Super
bag. In the meantime, commercial
seed producers use Super bags (see A modern rice mill in Long An Province, Vietnam.
Seal of approval on pages 36-37
of Rice Today Vol. 8, No. 1).

Transfer of proven drying

technologies across countries
Research institutions across
Southeast Asia have a long history
in developing rice dryers—only
a few of which were successfully
commercialized. Instead of
re-inventing existing drying
technologies, the Postproduction
Work Group of the Irrigated Rice
Research Consortium (IRRC)1
The IRRC is funded by the Swiss Agency for
Development and Cooperation.
IRRC Newsletter: http://snipurl.com/kz86s.
This project is funded by the Asian Develop-
ment Bank.

Rice Today July-September 2009 21

Tareke Berhe, Sasakawa-Global 2000 (3)

A NERICA4 seed multiplication field in

Namutumba District, eastern Uganda.

rice revolution by Savitri Mohapatra

Sub-Saharan Africa’s “new kid on the block” positions itself as the rice granary of the region by
adopting the right policies and appropriate technologies, strengthening capacity building, and
engaging both the public and private sector

ompared with other West was estimated to be 180,000 tons, • Rice breeding, varietal
African countries such which was 11% more than in 2007. release procedures, and
as Mali and Senegal, Moreover, records from the seed production systems
which have been growing Uganda National Agricultural • Crop production and
rice for centuries, Uganda is Research Organization showed postharvest practices
just “a new kid on the block.” that Uganda’s rice imports dropped • The rice value chain and
Yet, in 2008, when the from 60,000 tons in 2005 to 35,000 agricultural policy
government of Mali was desperately tons in 2007. This is a remarkable • Improving rice production
trying to procure for its farmers achievement, considering that 40% of at the village level
large quantities of seeds of the sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) demand • Capacity building related to
New Rice for Africa (NERICA ®) for rice is met by imports, which rice production, processing,
varieties developed by the Africa cost about US$3.6 billion in 2008. and marketing
Rice Center (WARDA), it was Uganda is so keen to boost
Uganda that offered to supply Mali. its rice sector that it became the Today, Uganda is fast positioning
Not bad for a country where, only first country from eastern Africa itself as a potential rice granary of the
15 years ago, rice was considered to join WARDA as a member in subregion, as its traders have started
a special dish for Christmas. 2007. Uganda is also one of the selling home-grown rice to Congolese,
According to the Ministry of focal countries of the new East Kenyan, and Sudanese markets.
Trade, rice production in Uganda and Southern Africa Rice Program In early 2009, the government of
has increased 2.5 times since (ESARP), a partnership between Uganda and the Japan International
2004. In 2008, the country’s IRRI and WARDA. ESARP started Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed
paddy (unmilled rice) production in 2009 and it focuses on an agreement to establish a national

22 Rice Today July-September 2009

rice research center. The center is children to school, and buy four use of agricultural machinery; and
expected to become a key partner in cows. The Ugandan Daily Monitor postharvest handling techniques.
the ESARP. reports that NERICA varieties Extension manuals on
have turned many local rice upland rice were produced and
Right policies and appropriate farmers into “USh millionaires.” disseminated. Rice farmer learning
technologies videos produced by WARDA and
Ever since 2004, when President Public-private partnerships its partners were widely used. In
Yoweri Museveni launched the and capacity building northern Uganda, for instance, APEP
Upland Rice Project, rice cultivation One of the outstanding factors showed the videos to 7,000 farmers
has boomed in Uganda. At the behind the rice success story of the living in refugee camps to revive
core of this project are upland rice country is the role of public-private agriculture in war-torn villages.
varieties, particularly NERICA partnerships. The National Cooperative
upland varieties, which Vice Key partners of the national Business Association, in
President Professor Gilbert Bukenya agricultural research and extension partnership with APEP, also
has actively promoted throughout system include JICA, which has been provided training to rice farmers
the country as a means to reduce at the forefront of rice promotion in and processors in organizational,
poverty. NERICA4 was released in SSA; USAID-funded nongovernment financial, and marketing skills.
2002 and NERICA1 and NERICA10 organizations such as the Investment The importance of capacity
were released in 2007. “We promote in Developing Export Agriculture building in Uganda is confirmed
rice as something that brings (IDEA) and the Agricultural by the article How revolutionary
food and also money,” he said. Productivity Enhancement Program is the “NERICA revolution”?
The Food and Agriculture (APEP); Sasakawa-Global 2000; Evidence from Uganda (published
Organization of the United Nations FAO; Alliance for a Green Revolution in 2006). “Strengthening training,
(FAO) attributes Uganda’s rice in Africa; and companies such extension, and other supporting
success to the re-introduction of as Tilda Uganda and Nalweyo systems is the key to the success
a 75% import duty under the East Seed Company (NASECO). of the NERICA revolution in
Africa Community common external The potential of rice as a cash Uganda,” the article stated.
tariff, and to the dissemination crop quickly captured the attention Public-private partnership
of NERICA varieties. These of Uganda’s seed companies, such also helped provide credit to
measures have fostered large private as NASECO, which has been an farmers, linked them to input and
investment by the rice industry, integral part of the nation’s rice output markets, and encouraged
including millers and traders, and success story. Another rice company them to form cooperatives so
have also encouraged many local that has become well known is that they could have stronger
farmers to take up rice cultivation. Tilda Uganda, which sells rice in bargaining power. It facilitated
For Henry Kaddu, a Ugandan the subregion under its brand. the establishment of rice mills and
rice farmer, the main reason is the In partnership with the introduced agricultural machinery.
premium price that rice fetches. government agencies, Sasakawa- According to Robert Anyang, rice
In fact, some farmers have already Global 2000, IDEA, and APEP have seed systems consultant at WARDA
switched from tobacco to rice, as focused on the capacity building of who was formerly with APEP, all
they realized that growing rice young scientists, field technicians, these efforts have paid rich dividends.
was more profitable. Kaddu said extension agents, farmers, and By early 2007, 36,000 organized
that profits from the sale of his processors. Areas covered are rice farmers were linked to nine
NERICA rice harvests have enabled improved seed production; crop, medium-capacity rice processors.
him to build two houses, send his soil, and water management; the For the government of Uganda,
however, this achievement
Mze Williams Sentogo, an Sentogo’s family in the NERICA4 field. is not enough. Its ultimate
81-year old rice farmer, shows aim is to ensure that
the NERICA4 rice planted in rice becomes not only a
his field in Nakaseke District,
central Uganda. foreign exchange saver but
also a foreign exchange
earner by capitalizing on
the country’s excellent
agroecological conditions.

Ugandan shilling.

Rice Today July-September 2009 23

Gonzalo Zorilla

Rice is a very important crop in Uruguay. Around

170,000 hectares of the country’s land are planted with
rice every year. This aerial view shows a typical rice
farm in Treinta y Tres, in eastern Uruguay, where
more than 70% of the rice area is located. The levees
constructed within the fields for irrigation make a
beautiful and artistic pattern. See The promise of Latin
America on pages 38-41.

Today July-September 2009, Vol. 8, No. 3
Rice Today July-September 2009
Rice Today July-September 2009 25
The irri pioneer interviews Conducted by Gene Hettel

Barker Brady Cantrell Gomez

g. hettel/j. ibabao (12)

Challenges for IRRI:

a cross-section of opinions
In a departure from presenting excerpts of a single pioneer interview, this installment presents a diverse
cross-section of responses to one question: As IRRI approaches its 50th anniversary in 2010, what do you
see as the Institute’s greatest challenge? Interviews were conducted between June 2006 and June 2009.
More will be added online as interviews continue

Randy Barker, IRRI agricul- ability to transfer some other such centers
tural economist and head, of that biotechnology should and could go.
Economics Department, expertise and focus it IRRI must
1966-78; acting head, Social on those areas that also continue
Sciences Division, 2007-08 will complement what to push what it
When I first came to IRRI in the NARES [national has been doing
1966 just before IR8, people at agricultural research lately—more
that time looked at IRRI and said, and extension after I left
“that’s a nice set of buildings,” but systems] are doing. than when I
they didn’t think the Institute would Nyle C. Brady, IRRI was there—to
ever produce anything. There was director general, 1973-81 recognize the
a real skepticism about whether I think IRRI needs to make consequences of
IRRI would ever amount to much. effective use of biotechnology and what we do to the environment in
Joining IRRI was like buying into a other modern research tools to help terms of pesticide use—and fertilizer
stock that all of a sudden took off. the plant breeders develop rice lines use, that is, nitrogen getting into
In the early days, the IRRI that efficiently utilize plant nutrients, the water causing troubles later on.
mandate was fairly simple and that tolerate adverse conditions such This is being done, but I think even
straightforward, increase rice as drought, and that are resistant more can be done. I think this is an
production in Asia, and so the focus to insects and diseases, thereby opportunity for IRRI to develop high
and the priorities were there. Since reducing the need for pesticides. yields of quality rice in such a way
that time, we’ve gone from food To do this, IRRI must have that the soil, water, and atmosphere
security to environment and poverty linkages with scientists in both the will not be adversely affected.
and other areas. So, in many ways, developing and the more developed Ronald Cantrell, IRRI
the mandates of IRRI and of the countries. This is an advice which the director general, 1998-2004
other centers tended to expand. whole CGIAR [Consultative Group on Clearly, it is the funding issue.
The real challenge now is being International Agricultural Research] What comes with the funding
sure that IRRI operates in the area system could accept. I recognize the uncertainty is creating some difficulty
where it has the greatest comparative political reasons why this is difficult in hiring staff. IRRI has been able to
advantage. For example, the challenge because some countries don’t want continue to hire good international
for upstream work is to have the biotechnology to be used for this staff. But there is uncertainty caused
appropriate connections with the purpose. But the developing countries by restricted core funding and
advanced institutions for developing need the improved crops much more the threat of the loss of all USAID
biotechnology research. When going than we do in the U.S. So, I think this funding [in July 2008]. If you are
downstream, this means, in part, the is the direction in which IRRI and a bright young scientist just out of

26 Rice Today July-September 2009

Coffman Swaminathan Hargrove Khush

graduate school, do you want to take a on a strategy and work plan that will more and faster—that portends
chance on starting your career there? put them out of their jobs tomorrow? a real crisis in rice cultivation.
“There” meaning not necessarily Nobody, of course! I myself had M.S. Swaminathan, IRRI
IRRI but “there” meaning in that worked closely with the first IRRI director general, 1982-88;
kind of system. So, unless there are strategic plan; I should know. currently chairman of the
some things that will stabilize the Ronnie Coffman, IRRI plant M.S. Swaminathan Research
funding, it may create some problems breeder, 1971-81; currently chair, Foundation
for IRRI in the future of being able to Department of Plant Breeding There are challenges and I’m
hire international staff. I think that & Genetics, and director of sure IRRI is aware of them as it
is the greatest challenge that IRRI International Programs, Cornell modifies its mandate. During its first
will face. The culture of the Institute University decade [1960s], IRRI’s challenge
is rich; it’s great. I just think it needs Global warming and the rise was to improve productivity. The
to have a more stable environment. of sea level could prove to be the second decade had the challenge of
Kwanchai Gomez, IRRI head greatest challenges for IRRI, for putting it into a farming systems
statistician, 1968-93; liaison for plant breeding, and for rice science background. During my decade, we
coordination and planning, 1993- in general because, as you know, had the challenge of mainstreaming
96; consultant, 1997-98 the majority of rice is found in the considerations of ecology and equity
I think IRRI’s greatest challenge large low-lying river deltas of Asia. in technology development and
is to define clearly the kind of The Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the dissemination and also building
contributions it still can make to Irrawaddy, the Mekong, all those national rice research institutions,
the rice world. IRRI cannot just big deltas are, in some cases, only including one in the Philippines.
keep doing the same things it did a few inches above sea level. So, IRRI’s greatest challenges
at the start. IRRI has come a long right now, the minimum prediction today are against the backdrop of
way [47 years as of the time of the for sea-level rise is a conservative globalization. The UN Millennium
interview] and the rice problems of projection of 38 inches by the Development Goals (MDGs) present
the world have changed drastically. middle of this century. This will a challenge for IRRI because, for
IRRI must define what its present obliterate places like Bangladesh, 40% of the world’s population, rice
goals are; who are its clients and West Bengal, and the Mekong Delta. is a staple. So, the very first MDG,
what are their expectations? What This is huge. So, what will reducing hunger and reducing
does the rice world need and what happen, slowly, or maybe not so poverty, depends greatly on IRRI’s
and how can IRRI contribute? slowly, is that brackish water will get work, along with its national
It’s true that IRRI is an aging pushed up the rivers and affect the partners. So, there is a great
institution, and it may not be easy to growth of the rice. And you get less responsibility. Then, of course, MDG
re-define its goal, its mandate, and and less fresh water coming down number 3 is gender equality and
adapt new strategies and directions because glaciers are melting in the empowerment of women, where
at this point in time. But, unlike old Himalaya at the rate that people again IRRI has been the flagship
people, it is still easier to revive and can't believe. So, you're going to get of the gender equity movement
renew an old institution. And I think a scarcity of fresh water and then in the world, the first scientific
IRRI should be able to find the way. the rising sea level that pushes in the institution, which started strong
IRRI has a new strategic plan, brackish water. That's going to push gender mainstreaming of its work. I
Bringing hope, improving lives. the cultivation of rice way back in a would say the number-one challenge
Some see it simply as a patch- gradual, or maybe not so gradual, is this new vision for IRRI, which
up job of what it is doing now or manner. So, salinity tolerance might places poverty alleviation and hunger
maintaining a status quo. Whenever offer some help. But I think the elimination at the top of its agenda.
a strategic plan is developed purely global warming and the resulting Another challenge is dealing with
by the people from inside the rise in sea levels—and remember the public/private partnerships in
institution, it carries too much that 38 inches is the minimum an IPR [intellectual property rights]
baggage; it’s heavy. Who will work prediction; others are predicting environment. As they commonly

Rice Today July-September 2009 27

say, the “Green Revolution” was years ago, had to pay twice what incorporate all these techniques into
a public-sector enterprise, while a farmer in Iowa has to pay for a breeding approaches. This should lead
the “Gene Revolution” is a private- kilogram of urea. Now, with the price to rice improvement efforts that focus
sector enterprise. So, how are of fertilizer doubling, tripling in on increasing the yield potential and
we going to develop this new the United States, I think it’s going developing varieties with novel traits.
kind of partnership between the to be almost impossible in Africa. S.K. De Datta, IRRI principal
public and private sector without This could be one of IRRI’s greatest scientist and head, Department
compromising IRRI’s commitment to challenges in Africa if indeed there’s of Agronomy, 1964-92; currently
help poor farmers? Social inclusion to be an African Green Revolution. associate vice president for
for access to new technologies Gurdev Khush, IRRI rice international affairs and director
should be the bottom line of IRRI’s breeder and principal scientist, of the Office of International
technology dissemination policy. 1967-2001; currently adjunct Research, Education, and
Tom Hargrove, IRRI editor professor, University of Development at Virginia
and later head, Communication California, Davis Polytechnic Institute and State
and Publications Services, As the national programs University
1973-91; most recently have become stronger, IRRI has When I was at IRRI, I didn’t
coordinator of information and started putting emphasis on certain realize until I left how inward-
communications, International areas where it has a comparative looking we were. Somehow, we
Center for Soil Fertility and advantage, such as in molecular felt that our donors will continue
Agricultural Development biology and biotechnology. IRRI to support us no matter what we
IRRI’s greatest challenge is to stopped naming varieties because do. I think IRRI scientists have
continue to do the work it is doing the national programs have become to go beyond the inward-looking
and keep the money coming in so strong enough so we only need to posture to communicate and
that it is able to carry out the plan. supply them with germplasm. The network with the best minds all
The world is changing so much right challenge will continue for IRRI over the world and to collaborate
now that we don’t have any idea of to find new techniques, which can much more aggressively. Otherwise,
what really is going to happen. There’s help the national programs. down the road, I can see that we’ll
obviously not just a food crisis, which In breeding, I think we have have problems garnering funds.
has been building up for a long time. to continue to find approaches What I have noticed over the last
Then, these different factors hit all to increase yield potential and to 5–6 years is that IRRI is not making
at once: a decrease in funding for identify new sources of disease and headlines in the United States,
research and the demand for food and insect resistance so that they can be when, 5, 10, or 15 years back, IRRI
fuel with 30% of the U.S. corn crop supplied to the national programs. news was major news here in the
going into ethanol. At the same time, Also, IRRI needs to use the new Washington Post and the New York
Indians and Chinese are achieving genetic engineering technology. Times. I don’t see any breakthroughs
higher incomes and they want to The environment for accepting coming out, which are hitting
drive cars too and, as incomes rise, genetically modified crops is not as the headlines. [At the time of the
they eat less rice and want more meat. good as it should be, but eventually, interview on 25 June 2006, this
Of course, fertilizer (nitrogen, I think, in a few years, the national was perhaps true, but now, in 2009,
potassium, and phosphorus) is programs, the farmers, and the IRRI is routinely making headlines
essential to the nutrient production NGOs will start accepting genetically in the U.S. and around the world;
needed to make the ethanol and to modified materials. Molecular see irri.org/media/articles.all.asp.]
feed the livestock to accommodate biology techniques to use include We need to generate more relevant
the changing food habits of China molecular marker-aided selection knowledge and technology and to
and India. All of these things are and identifying QTLs [quantitative communicate with the U.S. and
coming together. A farmer in Togo trait loci] for difficult traits, such other industrial nations so they feel
or Mali in West Africa who grows as drought. So, the challenge is to excited about IRRI’s research and
rice or any other crop, a couple of work with national programs to support it on a sustained basis.

De Datta Herdt Lampe Toenniessen

28 Rice Today July-September 2009

IRRI must communicate its new developed in 1994, with the title Gary Toenniessen, managing
knowledge and technology, which IRRI towards 2050. It was rejected director, The Rockefeller
will help the next generation of food in the committee and by the board Foundation, and long-time IRRI
producers and consumers around because the horizon was seen to be collaborator
the world. The primary beneficiaries by far too long. Of course, nobody The biggest challenge for IRRI
are the developing regions, but knew if IRRI would exist in 2050. today is that many of the national
let’s not forget that the developed However, in my view, there are programs that it is assisting are
regions are our partners and we need five functions, which I stressed at that also becoming very strong. IRRI
to do a better job communicating time and still valid for IRRI in 2050: needs to really find its niche in Asian
with them as to why they need to (1) to house the base collection of the situations, in which the national
support IRRI and other CGIAR world’s rice germplasm and to perform programs are now quite capable as
centers. So, I consider that as a big, the many evaluation, research, well. I think there really is a niche
big challenge because resources preservation, and service functions for IRRI. It’s doing those kinds of
are shrinking all over the world. that this responsibility entails; (2) to things that can be shared across all
Robert Herdt, IRRI collect, evaluate, select, and make of the rice research institutions in
economist, 1973-83, head of the accessible information on current rice Asia or worldwide and that wouldn’t
Economics Department, 1978- research and development programs, likely be done by a national program
83; later director, agricultural rice and rice-related research, and or, if they were, that they wouldn’t
sciences, and vice president, global rice research resources— get shared. IRRI needs to be a
The Rockefeller Foundation; human, financial, and physical; (3) coordinator, a source of knowledge
currently adjunct international to retain a response capability, which or information, and continually
professor of applied economics can catalyze the use of those resources a source of breeding lines, which
and management, Cornell through internationally recruited have traits that have been generated
University teams working on topics of supra- through advanced science done
I think IRRI’s greatest challenge national importance; (4) to organize throughout the world that no national
is how to turn over management and and convene conferences, task forces, program can probably access.
responsibility to the Asian countries seminars, and meetings to facilitate the The new Sub1 lines that have
that are the primary beneficiaries. exchange of information and to focus submergence tolerance are a good
There are many hundreds of millions the application of knowledge on the example. The initial real work on
of people in Asia who are still in need resolution of emerging problems; and that was done at the University of
of the benefits of new technology and (5) to define research needs that can California, Davis. Not only was the
higher productivity, but there are also be taken care of by existing research technology transferred, but the person
hundreds of millions in other countries centers worldwide, promote funding, who did the work, David Mackill
in the world who are in a lot worse and harmonize the implementation. [IRRI senior scientist; see Scuba rice:
shape. Rice research is at a high level of Given its mandate, IRRI’s future, stemming the tide in flood-prone
development in Asia. This is something its lifetime, will largely depend on South Asia on pages 26-31 of Rice
that Asian countries should take more its successful search for excellence Today Vol. 8, No. 2], was transferred
responsibility for. If they don’t feel like in all aspects of its endeavors: as well from California to IRRI. And
there is enough value to them having excellence in research planning and so, the next phase in that process was
a regional research institute, then I implementation; excellence in human done at IRRI and all submergence-
personally don’t believe the rest of the resource management, cooperation, tolerant materials are now being
world should be supporting the whole and collaboration; excellence in shared with the national programs. I
thing. So, that’s the biggest challenge. efficiency and effectiveness at all really do think there’s an important
Klaus Lampe, IRRI director levels; and excellence in its financial role for IRRI to be the conduit by
general, 1988-95 resource management and not to which and through which the best
I guessed that you might ask forget in public awareness, creating science in the world gets applied to
such a question. I recall the very conducive donor-, partner-, client-, rice research and then shared with
first draft of a new strategic plan, and target-group relationships. the national programs in Asia.

To read further comments and additional background

via hotlinks and video clips from these and at least 13
other pioneers, go to the Rice Today Web site at

Rice Today July-September 2009 29

Overcoming the toughest stress in rice:

by Lanie C. Reyes

Efficient GM technologies and an innovative drought-screening facility at IRRI increase the

chances of discovering new candidate genes for the development of drought-tolerant rice

william sta. clara (4)

rought brings to mind negative Making rice less
images of wide expanses of dry thirsty on pages
and parched lands. It is often 12-14). For them, the
associated with abject poverty, challenge is clear―
distraught farmers, hungry children, increase rice yield
sickness, and sometimes hopelessness despite drought.
(see Dreams beyond drought, pages One potential
15-21 of Rice Today Vol. 4 No. 2). solution for better
According to the International understanding
Rice Research Institute (IRRI), about drought complexities
38% of the world area—home to 70% is through genetic
of the total population and source modification
of 70% of global food production— (GM, also called
suffers from drought. The effects transgenics,
of this problem are massive and uses modern Dr. Rachid Serraj Dr. Inez Slamet-Loedin
devastating for the rice farmers who biotechnology
need to plant the crop that feeds half techniques to change
the world's people. the genes of an organism). between 2007 and 2008, the area
Drought is a formidable foe, Coincidentally, scientists have grown to GM crops rose by 9.4%
which IRRI fights untiringly through been using genetic modification in or 10.7 million hectares, totaling
rice research. Most scientists agree some forms for years. In fact, all more than 120 million hectares. An
that it is one of the most complex and crops have been genetically improved increasing number of people consider
toughest stresses to overcome when (modified) for millennia by selection GM as a potential source for more
compared with other constraints by farmers and by breeding in the benefits in agriculture, for example,
such as salinity, flooding, pests, and past hundred years. In addition, for a rice variety tolerant to drought.
diseases. the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Research groups at IRRI, led by
Considering that rice is a water- concluded in 1999 that genetic Drs. Rachid Serraj, crop physiologist,
adapted plant grown in flooded fields, engineering could be considered and Inez H. Slamet-Loedin, cell
helping it cope with water stress and as natural as conventional plant biologist, are currently working on
enabling it to produce economically breeding.3 drought-tolerant varieties using GM.
good yields under drought is a great For farmers, GM crops are no (For a general idea about this process,
challenge. longer a novelty. The International see Tool box for making GM rice.).
But, this does not stop IRRI Service for the Acquisition of Agri- “Current GM technologies at IRRI
scientists from finding answers biotech Applications (ISAAA) are very efficient for both indica and
and new solutions for breeding new reported in 2008 that 25 countries japonica rice cultivars, and there
varieties and from understanding cultivated GM crops, including the is no major technical bottleneck in
the effects of drought on rice at the developing countries Egypt and producing a large number of ‘events’
genetic and molecular level (see Burkina Faso. ISAAA reported that (independent plants generated from

See Economic costs of drought and rice farmers’ coping mechanisms, edited by S. Pandey, H. Bhandari, and B. Hardy, 2007.
See Redesigning rice photosynthesis to increase yield, edited by J.E. Sheehy, P.L. Mitchell, and B. Hardy, 2000.

30 Rice Today July-September 2009

a GM cell) as long as there is space to transgene on plant growth and yield it is crucial for scientists to measure
plant and characterize them,” said Dr. performance,” Dr. Serraj said. biomass accumulation (weight or
Slamet-Loedin. “Since IRRI is able to generate total quantity of the plant) and yield
A new drought-screening facility large numbers of transgenic events, it performance that would result from
and a protocol that mimics drought is more efficient to select and discard modifying a gene.
conditions in the lowland rice plants from the early steps, and “At an early step of the
ecosystem have been established at keep only those showing promising evaluation, we assess the impact of
IRRI to support, enhance, and expand responses,” he added. The rice plants water deficit on plant growth and
the scientists’ work on developing a can be robustly and comprehensively use nondestructive measurements
drought-tolerant crop. Unlike in the selected based on their phenotypes to analyze crop performance,” Dr.
past, when GM drought-tolerant crops (physical attributes) and yield Serraj said. “Plant phenology (the
were mostly tested under artificial characteristics. plant’s biological stage, that is,
conditions using pots, the new facility Rice farmers, however, are often flowering, tillering, grain formation,
allows scientists to better predict the not interested in the significance of etc.), growth, transpiration, canopy
crop’s yield, which previously was having a drought-tolerant crop per se, temperature, photosynthesis, leaf
difficult to estimate. since they are more concerned about rolling, tillering ability, root biomass,
“The new drought-screening whether the crop will produce a good and spikelet fertility are among the
facility can assess a bigger population and sustainable yield. An improved parameters to be measured for a large
of plants to take into account the crop could survive drought stress, yet number of plants.”4
possible variation in the effects of a not produce a harvestable yield. So, Moreover, Dr. Dong Jin Kang,

See Drought frontiers in rice: crop improvement for increased rainfed production, edited by R. Serraj, J. Bennett, and B. Hardy, 2008.

Rice Today July-September 2009 31

an IRRI postdoctoral fellow,
explained (with reference to
the samples in the drought-
screening facility), “Plants
that grow and produce well
in this condition are selected
as candidates for drought
tolerance.” The facility also
contains a flooded control plot
of GM rice. Scientists compare
the performance of the tested
varieties under different
conditions, to make sure that
any selected material would
be able to perform well under
a variety of environments.
Dr. Slamet-Loedin said Nancy Sadiasa, Evelyn Liwanag, and Flor Montecillo, research
that the performance of GM technicians; Malen Estrada, assistant scientist (front row);
rice is tested under drought Dr. Rachid Serraj, crop physiologist, and Dr. Dong Jin Kang, a
postdoctoral fellow (at the back) at IRRI, inside the drought-
and irrigated conditions to screening facility.
identify transgenic events in
both conditions since drought
may not occur in each planting ruin these experiments, the scientists screening experiment using the
season. placed a 1-meter-deep physical barrier facility was carried out to test the
Sometimes, the transgenic plant around the plots to prevent water effects of a gene for drought tolerance
performs better than the wild-type seepage and percolation from adjacent provided by the Japan International
counterpart in drought conditions, but flooded plots. The bed under the Research Center for Agricultural
may yield less in normal conditions. drought treatment, on the other hand, Sciences. The scientists were pleased
This is a crucial factor and the reason is equipped with a drainage system in to observe that the data on yield under
candidate genes tested at IRRI are which water gravitationally flows and irrigated and drought conditions
designed to be activated by drought gradually reduces the soil moisture of inside the drought-screening facility
(making the expression of the drought the topsoil. were similar to the ones obtained
tolerance gene inducible by drought) Moreover, to maintain the from non-transgenic field experiments
to avoid any yield penalty in normal precision of soil drying, scientists at IRRI.
conditions. constantly monitor the amount of “We are making progress
To further ensure that no moisture and water tension in the soil, and we have already identified a
uncontrolled water will enter and as well as the air temperature, relative few promising lines,” Dr. Serraj
humidity, and vapor-pressure deficit. confidently stated. “These, however,
Agrobacterium tumefaciens “Periods of managed water will need further testing and
containing a binary vector deficits are imposed with precise validation. The drought-screening
is dispensed on immature
parameters of stress timing, facility greatly helped in our
duration, and severity,” Dr. transgenic research, so we plan to
Serraj explained. “Soil water is establish a similar and bigger facility
gradually reduced a few weeks after in the future. This will allow us to test
transplanting until the flowering more gene candidates.”
and grain-setting stages, with soil Not leaving any stone unturned,
moisture decreasing from fully IRRI scientists intend to find more
saturated to minimal,” he added. ways to help farmers cope with
The facility also has a double- drought. With advances in technology,
layered mesh on the ceiling and things are definitely looking up for
the surrounding divider to satisfy both scientists and farmers. Drought-
biosafety requirements. “Without tolerant varieties are developed and
protection, flying insects could enter enhanced by the integration of GM
the facility,“ Dr. Kang explained. approaches into breeding programs,
The drought-screening facility has as well as the by the use of this new
been successful in creating realistic facility that enhances precision and
drought conditions. During the dry effectiveness in delivering new and
season of 2007, the first drought- improved genetic lines.

32 Rice Today July-September 2009


Rice Today July-September 2009 33


Ecosystem services
Sword-tailed cricket Wolf spider

for biological control

in tropical rice by K.L. Heong, R. Hijmans, J. Catindig, and S. Villareal
predators and pa

ice is produced in landscapes population rather quickly. Their
At least 200 species that range from extreme natural enemies, however, tend to
monocultures to highly diverse prevent their exponential growth.
of parasitoids and 150 areas. Tropical rice fields often When rice is harvested, these
have a great diversity of naturally natural enemies take refuge
species of predators occurring arthropod groups that in other habitats surrounding
function as predators and parasitoids the rice fields. But, as soon
live in tropical rice (see photos above). At least 200 as a new crop is established,
fields. Their diversity species of parasitoids and 150 species
of predators live in this environment.
they too swarm the fields
again. Generalist predators,
and abundance are the Their diversity and abundance are however, such as spiders and
the key indicators of the degree of crickets, are less mobile.
key indicators of the biological control services present Based on this, factors
in an ecosystem, such as resisting such as landscape structure,
degree of biological pest invasion and regulating pests. habitat diversity, cropping
Since rice is grown in seasons, patterns, and farmers’ crop
control services present and so does not provide a permanent management practices can greatly
habitat for pests, most of them affect these groups and the services
in an ecosystem, such as come and infest fields when rice they provide. These relationships are Fig. 1
resisting pest invasion is planted. They multiply their often scarcely studied and quantified.

and regulating pests

Fig. 3. Parasitoids.

34 Rice Today July-September 2009

Ichneumonid wasp Our maps show some of the
preliminary results culled from
an assessment of predators and
parasitoids in rice fields of Luzon
Island in the Philippines (Fig.
1). We obtained 3,050 net sweep
samples from 61 sites. These sites
were selected using remote sensing-
derived land-cover data to ensure
that the sampling covered a range
of landscapes representative of the
fraction of land used for agriculture
(Fig. 2). We caught 11,041 predators
IRRI (3)

that represent 109 species (81 genera),

and 6,682 parasitoids that come
from 156 species (87 genera). Note,
however, that we could not determine
the species level of all the insects
The number of insects caught
at different sites was from 37 to
2,518, with a median of 209. The
number of species, on the other
hand, was from 11 to 79, with
a median of 36. There was a Fig. 2
spatial clustering of abundance
(expressed as n), species
richness (expressed as Sobs),
and biodiversity (expressed as of more association with local variables suggest that
alpha) in parasitoids (Fig. 3) and either larger scale processes shape ecosystem services
predators (Fig. 4). Associations for biological control or that our results are strongly
between species diversity and influenced by sampling artifacts (sampling time,
habitat and crop management agronomic practices, and regions are confounded).
were very weak and, in most cases, Although parasitoid and predator biodiversity is
statistically insignificant. The relative clearly closely related to land-use patterns, there is still
strength of spatial autocorrelation a need to establish direct linkages between diversity
between sites and the weakness indicators and biological control services. Of particular
interest is the effect of agronomic
practices such as pesticide use on
biological control; the influence of
selected vegetation that provides
food resources to parasitoids, such
as nectar-producing flowers; and
the use of ecological engineering
methods to design more effective
habitat mixes. Further research
should answer these questions.

Dr. Heong is a senior scientist in

entomology and a specialist on
integrated pest management, while
Dr. Hijmans is a GIS specialist at
IRRI. Ms. Catindig, an assistant
scientist, and Ms. Villareal, a
researcher, work in IRRI’s Crop
and Environmental Sciences
Fig. 4. Predators. Division.

Rice Today July-September 2009 35

our rice
knowledge by Sophie Clayton

A repository of “best practice” information about rice farming,

the Rice Knowledge Bank delivers research solutions to extension
workers and farmers worldwide, effectively and efficiently

enerating relevant and shop on the Internet and on CD. suite of face-to-face and online/
useful research solutions The RKB covers the whole CD training programs that IRRI
to agricultural problems seed-to-market cycle of rice runs for extension officers.
is only half way to production that includes seeds, “We train extension officers
improving farm productivity and land preparation and crop and others worldwide to teach
sustainability, and helping raise establishment, water management, them the latest best practices in a
farmers out of poverty. These integrated nutrient management, range of rice-related topics,” Dr.
solutions need to get to farmers, integrated pest management, Magor said. “When these people
who, in turn, learn and adopt them harvesting and threshing, drying, head back to their home countries
to realize their full potential benefit. storage, milling, processing, and and start providing training and
economics and marketing. information to rice farmers, they can
Extending rice research Moreover, the RKB presents draw upon the resources of the Rice
In 2002, the International Rice information in the form of fact Knowledge Bank to support them.
Research Institute (IRRI) discovered sheets, which can easily be printed “This is the real power of the
that, while it had vast amounts of out. It also prepares online training Rice Knowledge Bank—helping
valuable rice-farming knowledge, the courses designed with nonscientists provide information to rice farmers
information was not really accessible in mind, to ensure effective through established local extension
to the wider extension community communication with users. mechanisms and information
of government and nongovernment Aside from providing practical delivery routes,” he added.
organizations, universities, and the information on rice, the RKB
private sector. To bridge this gap, the also offers information that aims Getting local
Institute formed the Rice Knowledge to build the skills of extension Stage one of the RKB focuses on
Bank (RKB; www.knowledgebank. workers and help them improve providing information exclusively
irri.org/Rice/Ricedefault.htm), which their capacity to teach farmers. generated from IRRI research.
brought together all of IRRI’s current Noel Magor, head of the Training Although considered high-quality,
validated rice-farming knowledge Center at IRRI and one of the leaders current, and scientifically credible,
relevant to the extension community, in developing the RKB, explains IRRI’s research is recognized as
and made it available in a one-stop that the RKB complements the only part of a bigger picture, because

36 Rice Today July-September 2009

courtesy of crkb
two important ingredients are RKB meetings and improving
included: national research the general knowledge of
results and indigenous farmers about computers.
knowledge. This feedback will be used to
In 2005, IRRI started further improve the extension
to work with its partners of the RKB program.
in the national agricultural In Vietnam, farmers,
research and extension systems extension practitioners, and
(NARES) and planned country- other users appreciate the
based versions of the RKB to Vietnam RKB because, for the
complement the overarching first time, they have a bank
IRRI research component. Dr. Noel Magor, head of the International Rice of comprehensive, up-to-
This effort has since Research Institute’s (IRRI) Training Center, date, and easily understood
distributes CDs of the Cambodia Rice Knowledge
culminated in the launching Bank to IRRI’s project partner in Pursat Province.
rice knowledge, which was
of the country-based RKBs previously scattered across
for all the major rice-growing various sources. With the
countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, for the RKB is Africa. Rice is Vietnam RKB available online,
Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao becoming a major crop for eastern extension staff can access and select
PDR, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and southern Africa, with regional the updated information from their
the Philippines, and Indonesia. demand growing at 6% every year. RKB to develop training materials
The team has also started to apply In 2009, in collaboration with the and handouts for their work. More
the RKB concept in India. Each Africa Rice Center (WARDA), the than 500,000 people accessed the
national RKB is translated into RKB concept is being introduced to Vietnam RKB online in its first 4
the country’s respective language, six rice-growing African countries. months of operation. Where the
and is developed and managed by More countries are expected to Internet is unavailable, users can
the pertinent local authority to follow shortly. This will form part access the Vietnam RKB by using CDs
include validated information that of WARDA’s grand plan to develop a that are reproduced for distribution.
is locally relevant and owned. Rice Information Gateway for Africa. Furthermore, the Cambodian
For example, the Bangladesh RKB was officially launched by the
Rice Knowledge Bank (BRKB) was The impact Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry,
established in 2004. Since then, 76 More than just a Web site or CD, the and Fisheries. The event was
government and nongovernment RKB is a gateway to information followed by training activities in 15
extension providers have been trained and resources to help improve the target provinces. According to Mr.
how to use it, 3,860 participants knowledge and capacity of extension Ty Channa, head of the Training
in 95 rice production training officers, who, in turn, can tailor the and Information Center at the
courses have been informed about delivery of information to their local Cambodian Agricultural Research
it, 900 CDs have been distributed, farming communities. National and Development Institute (CARDI),
and more than 20,000 people RKBs have also greatly improved the Cambodian RKB has provided
have visited the BRKB Web site the use of national research, making effective support for field-level
(www.knowledgebank-brri.org). the best knowledge readily available demonstrations for farmers. CARDI’s
“The Bangladesh Rice Knowledge to the extension community. efforts in the development of new
Bank is a one-stop repository of rice In Thailand, an evaluation of rice varieties have been strengthened
information including a training the RKB has shown that extension by the Cambodian RKB. Cambodian
module, rice production handbook, officers saved, on average, about farmers are now using new rice
and flip charts,” said Dr. Jahirul US$2,500 a year each when they varieties on 48% and 87% of the total
Islam, chief scientific officer and used the RKB. This is based on cultivated areas in the wet and dry
head of the Training Division at the the time they saved searching for season, respectively.
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. information and revisiting farmers, With such demonstrated
“It is well accepted and used and on the costs they saved on successes, the RKB concept is now
by the rice community as it is photocopying. More importantly, also being used as a model for other
reader-friendly,” he added. “The Thai farmers who used the RKB had crops and livestock. Particularly,
government is also planning to use fewer costs and higher revenue. They the International Maize and Wheat
it through telecenters at the farm had a total net income of $60 per Improvement Center (CIMMYT),
level, to improve the country’s rice hectare more than non-RKB users. based in Mexico, is partnering with
production. The Bangladesh Rice The evaluation also gave IRRI to build upon the successes of
Knowledge Bank is a cost-effective suggestions on how to increase the the RKB with other cereals, and to
new route toward food security.” use of RKB information, including jointly launch the Cereal Knowledge
After Asia, the next frontier encouraging farmers to participate in Bank.

Rice Today July-September 2009 37

the promise of
The Rice Americas 2009 unveils Latin America as an
emerging major rice exporter in the world
by V. Subramanian

he Rice Trader Rice aimed at alleviating poverty, feeding only highlighted at the event, but that
Americas 2009 Conference the world, and sustainably producing were also subjects representing their
held last 12-14 May in food are the elements crucial to lifetime passion and work in the rice
Miami, Florida (USA), the global rice market. The rice industry.
revealed key concerns of the rice industry has found itself vulnerable Interestingly, the conference
industry and some valuable updates to volatility from supply shocks, revealed South America’s own export
on progress made in food security. after more than 10 years of yield ambitions. Argentina, Brazil, and
About 300 industry members growth being unable to keep up with Uruguay reported on their exports
from North, South, and Central population growth and demand. to key African markets that used
America, the Caribbean, and even Former U.S. Secretary of to be the domain of Asian and
Asia attended the event, as these Agriculture Ed Schafer received The U.S. exporters. The three Latin
regions scrambled to plant more Rice Trader Market Achievement American speakers discussed the
rice and to take a closer look at farm Award for his contributions to food region’s potential as a major rice
management and varietal needs to security by being a faithful steward of exporter—supporting the points
keep rice affordable and available to relevant policies related to food in the raised by the International Rice
meet the world’s growing demand. U.S. and key regional markets that Research Institute’s Social Sciences
Traders fretted over the recent depend on food from the country. Division Head, Samarendu Mohanty,
fall in rice prices. This concern was The three authors of the following in his previous Rice Facts article
compounded by a tough business features on Latin America were (see Global rice trade: What does it
environment, which saw credit lines speakers at the conference. Their mean for future food security? on
cut and high-priced inventory create articles examine topics that were not pages 44-45 of Rice Today Vol. 8,
anguish among many No. 2). He had called
unprepared businesses. for more production
Mr. Zwinger (7th from left) with
Moreover, as the threat some of the Rice Americas 2009 initiatives to develop
of an Indian return to Conference participants. new international rice
the export market was suppliers or new sources
felt as far away as Latin for rice.
America, the conference Rice Today’s
identified research, publisher, Jeremy
investments in research, Zwinger, and its
and farm management associate publisher,
as the key building Duncan Macintosh,
blocks of future rice were also presenters
production. at the event. Both
Representatives emphasized the
from research and short-term business
academic fields as well and longer term
v. subramanian

as experts from the humanitarian ambitions

public and private sector of the global rice
agreed that efforts industry.

38 Rice Today July-September 2009

Marketing for a cause Promotional vehicles
are used in Mexico
and Central America to
by Dwight Roberts bring awareness about
the nutrition programs.

R ice farmers throughout the Western

Hemisphere learned long ago that their
climates and soils would produce profitable
With the vast
majority of the
population living
yields, and that, over time, thanks to the on a low income, it
efforts of research, improved seed, and did not take long
technology, their crop would prove to be an for the rice industry
essential part of the daily diet. In Brazil, Peru, to realize that it had
Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, missed the most
and a few other countries, rice has its spot on important consumer
the dinner table. The phrase “if we do not eat group in the region.
rice, then we do not eat” is common in these The industry forgot

cultures. But, although rice is grown from as that the poor
far north as the U.S. state of Missouri to as must eat. Further
far south as Argentina, some countries lag analysis led to the development of cause as it built and strengthened positive relations
behind others in consumption, even though marketing in Mexico and Central America. It between countries and communities, and
rice is affordable to all social classes. is also gaining popularity in other countries between cultures and customs.
In Mexico, a country with an estimated throughout South America. In Central and South America, cause
total population of 108 million, beans and Cause marketing or cause-related marketing targeted the school nutrition
maize are the basic commodities of people’s marketing is a strategy that involves programs and community development
diet. Yet, in 2008, the country imported more cooperative efforts for mutual benefit. This activities in poor rural and urban areas.
than 800,000 tons of rough rice to fill in the term is sometimes used more broadly and As a result, it boosted rice consumption
gap of local production and meet domestic generally to refer to a marketing tactic that of consumers as they learned more
needs. However, per capita consumption aids social and other charitable causes. economical and nutritious ways to feed
is still well under 13 kilos per person. This The Famous Amos Cookie in the United their families without raising the cost of
is in a country where more than 80% of States is one of the first examples of a their meal budgets. The versatile use of rice
the population is considered low-income cause-related marketing campaign done and the cereal’s health benefits are the key
consumers. They can afford to purchase rice, in the late 1970s. Wally Amos became the components of this educational process.
but many still do not know how to cook it spokesperson for the Literacy Volunteers of In Central America particularly, the school
and are unaware of its diverse benefits. America and he was credited with alerting nutrition program not only increased rice
Moreover, in the extreme southern more people about the problem of illiteracy use between 20% and 66% in the areas
part of the Western Hemisphere, Argentina than any person in history. Soon after, this where the promotion was conducted but
and Uruguay are two large rice-exporting approach gained tremendous popularity also provided nutritious meals to school
countries. Both have considerable Italian in the markets of Costa Rica, El Salvador, children and helped improve their school
influence, so it is more common to find pasta Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua attendance.
on the table than rice. through the teamwork of local governments, With creative educational efforts, the
In between these two geographic nonprofit organizations, the local rice benefits are shared by rice farmers, rice
extremes, there is a world of opportunity for industry, and trade organizations. It resulted millers, and rice consumers. Viva el arroz!
the rice industry to educate consumers on in not just an increase in the volume of rice
the benefits and advantages of consuming sold in a particular area of the market, but it Mr. Roberts is the president/CEO of US Rice
rice on a daily basis. also served as a great humanitarian gesture, Producers Association.

Rice Today July-September 2009 39

FLAR synergy FLAR members in LAC

by Gonzalo Zorilla

L atin America and the Caribbean

(LAC) represent only 4% of world rice
production. Despite its small share on
a global scale, however, rice is the most
important crop in the region as it is the
staple food of a majority of LAC’s population.
Moreover, diverse agroecosystems
characterize this region, and irrigated rice
accounts for 70% of its total crop production.
Rice farmers are mostly commercial
producers and, even if the region, as a whole,
is a net importer, several countries are active
players in the international market.

FLAR at a glance
During the past 20 years, international
cooperation has been changing its
strategies, and one of the clear trends
is the focus on Africa and some parts of
Asia. Consequently, efforts in other places
in the world have decreased, especially
in Latin America. This shift prompted the
establishment of the Latin American Fund
for Irrigated Rice (FLAR).
In January 1995, the International
Center for Tropical Agriculture’s (CIAT)
irrigated rice program experienced a lack of
funding. A few local institutions allied with
CIAT tried to save the program from closing
by establishing FLAR. This initial impulse has
subsequently evolved over the years into
a new form of regional cooperation, which
has taken up the challenge of creating a
South-South alliance for rice research and
FLAR is an association of public and
private institutions from 15 LAC countries
(see figure) that are directly linked to the rice
sector and that invest part of their resources
in this joint regional effort. Producers,
national research institutions, seed
companies, and rice industry players serve
as members of FLAR. They participate in the
management of the Fund (see table) and
ensure that the objectives of the association
are defined by demand.
Furthermore, with its roots tied to CIAT, irrigated rice—the one that IRRI supported and selection, and in which local institutions
FLAR takes full advantage of CIAT’s scientific and that later on sparked the region’s own are responsible for the evaluation, final
capacity, infrastructure, legal representation, Green Revolution. This project introduced selection, and the release of new varieties.
and its direct link with the International semidwarf varieties to LAC, and then soon Thirteen commercial varieties have already
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the after released hundreds of new varieties that been distributed to farmers and many of
entire Consultative Group on International have become essential to rice production. them are now the most planted ones in the
Agricultural Research system. FLAR soon developed an entirely new farmers’ respective countries. Several new
breeding program with one subprogram varieties are in the pipeline, indicating the
FLAR in action focused on the tropics and another on program’s successful development.
Since the beginning, FLAR’s priority has been the temperate southern region. This is an Improving rice productivity, however, is
its breeding program. In 1995, it inherited integrated program in which the Fund is not only a matter of breeding new varieties.
CIAT’s genetic improvement program on responsible for the initial steps of crossing In fact, very few places in the region have

40 Rice Today July-September 2009

shown the need for new cultivars to project that incorporated the concept of Complementarity and synergy serve
increase yields. There is still a huge gap “water harvesting” with small upland rice as the foundation of the system, with FLAR
between the varieties’ yield potential and farmers in Central America. The strategy targeting those technological issues for
farmers’ actual production results. To help aimed to build small dams in farmers’ fields which combining efforts lead to better
bridge this gap, FLAR developed a strong to collect rainwater, allowing them to shift results than having each member working
program on the transfer and extension from low-yielding upland rice planted in alone.
of good management practices. It began the rainy season to high-yielding irrigated The competitiveness of LAC’s rice sector
with a project funded by the Common rice planted during the dry season. The continues to improve through the joined
Fund for Commodities (CFC) from 2003 to project also encouraged farmers to use efforts of everyone in the network—with
2006. This has continued and has expanded other irrigated crops and engage in fish CIAT being the top-level research center
since then. Currently, the project is being production, as these are good means opening new frontiers, FLAR incorporating
established in 10 countries. On average, to diversify their livelihood sources and the new technologies in its applied research
it has increased farmers’ yields by 1–3 augment their income. projects and funneling them to its members,
tons per hectare and has reduced costs and, finally, with the private and public
by 10–30%. It definitely made a huge Network synergy institutions of each country adopting and
improvement in farmers’ income and FLAR’s mission is to create a regional adapting these technologies in farmers’
competitiveness. independent organization for rice technology fields to produce better outputs.
FLAR intensively seeks new sources and development, focused on improving the
of funds to further advance its programs’ rice sector’s competitiveness, ensuring food
actions. Recently, CFC approved a new supply, and reducing unitary costs. Mr. Zorilla is the executive director of FLAR.

Brazil steps up by Tiago Sarmento Barata, Renata Pereira da Cruz, and Valmir G. Menezes

A part from being a traditional soybean,

maize, coffee, sugarcane, meat, and
fruit producer, Brazil is a major producer
and increased the competitiveness of the
irrigated crop.
To illustrate, during the 1976-77
guarantee a profit increase and sustainability
among rice growers.
Over the past 6 years, average yield in RS
and consumer of long-grain rice outside of growing season, irrigated rice production showed an increment of 37%, from 5.33 to 7.3
Asia. It produces a total of 12.8 million tons in Santa Catarina (SC) and Rio Grande do tons per hectare in an area occupying more
of paddy rice on approximately 3 million Sul (RS) accounted for 21% of the cultivated than 1 million hectares. The main factors that
hectares. This production, however, contributed to this progress were the
courtesy of irga

is still insufficient to meet domestic Rice harvest in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. release in 2002 of a herbicide-tolerant
demand (approximately 13 million cultivar that allowed efficient red rice
tons). control and rice production in areas
So, Brazil fills the gap by highly infested by insects (hybrid
importing rice from its neighbors, cultivars with herbicide tolerance
particularly Argentina, Uruguay, were released in past years and the
and Paraguay. In spite of this gap, Clearfield system was expanded in
Brazil’s rice has increasingly become a RS); more efficient cultivation systems
presence in the international market. (a minimum-tillage system in RS and
In 2008, the country exported 790,000 a pregerminated seed system in SC);
tons and imported 590,000 tons of rice anticipation of sowing time; adoption
(on a paddy rice basis). of an integrated cultivation system in
The country uses both upland the rice crop; anticipation of irrigation
and irrigated rice production systems and nitrogen-fertilizer topdressing;
but the geographic distribution of change in crop fertilization schemes,
production has gone through significant rice area and 37% of national production. with intensive use of higher amounts of basal
cultural migration from the west-central Today, however, its share has increased to and topdressing fertilization aimed at high
region to the south during the past few 44.5% of the cultivated area and more than yield; and intensification of the technology
years. By the end of the 1990s, the need for 71% of total cereal production. Hence, rice transfer process by public institutes such
better markets and technology imposed production has been greatly strengthened as IRGA, Emater, and Embrapa, and private
unfavorable competition in the upland and improved in southern Brazil. companies.
rice-producing regions, which favored Programs developed by research Considering all of this, Brazil, led by
cattle and other crops, mainly soybean and, institutes such as the Rio Grande do Sul Rice RS, has played an important role in helping
more recently, sugarcane. The irrigated Institute (IRGA) have been fundamental in ensure food security in the world today.
rice-producing regions (the southern part increasing the average yield of the irrigated
of the country), on the other hand, began rice crop at the farm level in RS. Initiatives Mr. Barata, a market analyst; Mr. Pereira da
an intense technological advancement to reduce production costs and use natural Cruz, a reseacher; and Mr. Menezes, technical
process that considerably raised yields resources more efficiently also helped director; all work at IRGA.

Clearfield is a production system developed by the BASF chemical company to control red rice.
Seeds are normally pregerminated when directly sown into the puddled seedbeds. Pregerminating the seed increases the rate and percentage of seedlings established. It also reduces
the time required for seeds to obtain enough moisture to initiate germination.

Rice Today July-September 2009 41

42 Rice Today July-September 2009

A look at
by Dr. Samarendu Mohanty Head, IRRI Social Sciences Division

ice is life” truly lives up with a steady increase in per capita The decline in average per capita
to its meaning in India, production throughout the Green rice consumption enabled India to
where its origin dates Revolution era in the 70s and 80s, become the second-/third-largest rice
back to as long ago as before flattening out in the 90s and exporter in the world, accounting for
2500 B.C. In this vast country, rice finally declining in the 21st century as much as 20% of the market share
is a staple food for more than half (Fig. 1). An overlay of per capita in some years. It is also interesting
of its billion-plus population, and a consumption on per capita production to note that strong economic growth
source of livelihood for more than 50 clearly reveals that consumption in the past decade resulted in the
million households. Apart from its was a shadow of production until the diversification of the food basket
economic and strategic importance, early 90s. But, since then, per capita away from rice for all income groups
rice is also deeply engraved in the consumption has been declining (Figs. 2 and 3). Furthermore, per
rich Indian tradition and culture. at a faster rate than per capita capita rice consumption among
Rice offerings are common on many production—making India a rice- the lower income groups of both
auspicious occasions to bring good surplus country. The decrease in rice the urban and rural population
health and prosperity to family consumption, which started in the also dropped over this period.
members. Families bless newlywed early 90s, coincided with economic Despite the decline in per capita
couples by showering rice on their reforms and trade liberalization rice consumption, however, total
heads for prosperity and good luck that resulted in higher economic consumption continued to climb
(photo above). The significance growth and diversification from because of growing population.
of rice extends beyond life for rice to more high-value products. The drastic drop in production in
many Indian communities. Rice
is used in many rituals, including
offerings of it to the departed soul.
While growing up in a small
town in eastern India, we were
frequently reminded by our parents
not to waste rice as it would alienate
Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of
wealth, fortune, and abundance.
Numerous such instances can be
cited to bolster the cultural and
social significance of rice in India.
On the global front, India has the
largest area under rice cultivation,
but falls behind China in terms of
volume of production. In the past
50 years, Indian rice production has
nearly tripled with the introduction
of semidwarf modern varieties
as part of the Green Revolution
technology package. During this
period, production has been able
to keep up with population growth,

Rice Today July-September 2009 43

and record production have
contributed to rebuilding the stock
from 8.5 million tons in 2004-05
to 17 million tons in 2008-09.
Although the situation has
improved—consecutive record crops
were produced and buffer stocks were
gradually rebuilt—India continues
to play it safe by keeping the export
ban on nonbasmati rice. Continuing
uncertainties in the global food and
financial markets have also forced
the government to be absolutely risk
averse before the April-May 2009
general election. However, it is widely
believed in the trading circle that
the export ban will be lifted in the
second half of 2009 to free up storage
space for the upcoming kharif crop.
A simple comparison of rice retail
prices in two major Indian markets
(Hyderabad and Coimbatore) with that
of the Philippines, the largest importer
of rice in the world, revealed some
interesting findings. Between October
2007 and January 2009, rice prices in
Coimbatore and Hyderabad increased
by 33% and 55%, respectively,
compared with a 26% increase in the
Philippines (Fig. 4). In some Indian
markets, rice prices nearly doubled
during this period. This may imply
that the export ban has not been very
effective in keeping rice prices low
in the Indian domestic market. Even
then, the government decision to
restrict rice exports is logical based
on the simple fact that rice is more
than just a staple food in India, where
political bigwigs hotly debate its
affordability and availability.

Future challenges
As India moves into the future, it
is almost certain to assume that
2002 and 2003 because of drought Current situation higher income will bring about
made buffer stocks fall to a level not According to USDA estimates, diversification of the food basket
witnessed in decades. During this India is expected to harvest another from cereal staples to more high-
precarious food situation, the onset record crop in 2008-09 after value products with a continuing
of a global food crisis prompted the harvesting around 97 million tons downward slide of per capita rice
government to protect the domestic in 2007-08. Domestic consumption consumption for people from all
supply by imposing a ban on is also projected to rise by around economic spectra. At the same time,
nonbasmati rice exports in late 2007. 2% this year. The continuing ban it is also safe to assume that the
Although the export ban was later on nonbasmati rice has lowered rate of diversification will be much
replaced by a minimum export price rice exports for the second year slower than what we have witnessed
for a few months, the government in a row, from 5.5 million tons in in China and in other East Asian
eventually re-imposed the ban in 2006-07 to a projected 2.5 million countries during their development
early 2008. tons in 2008-09. Lower exports process. The ongoing financial

44 Rice Today July-September 2009

a few more drought-tolerant varieties in
the pipeline, if successful, could have an
even bigger impact on production than
submergence-tolerant varieties. The rice
varieties developed for salt tolerance
through collaborative research at IRRI
and Indian research centers are also
making an impact on the 6.7 million
hectares of salt-affected area.
Another yield booster, hybrid
rice, appears to have picked up its
pace after an extremely slow start
for more than a decade since its
introduction in the mid-1990s.
USDA estimated that hybrid rice
area in India increased from 10,000
hectares in 1995 to 1.3 million
hectares today. It is expected that
the area under hybrid rice will
crisis may also slow down the rate imbalanced fertilizer applications in likely continue to grow at a faster
of diversification even further. favor of nitrogen because of a subsidy pace in the near term because of
Thus, total domestic rice are widespread in India, which several promising hybrid seeds being
consumption may still rise in adversely affects productivity and developed by private companies, and
the next decade with the United causes higher incidence of pests and also because of the government’s
Nations (UN) projecting another diseases. The problem is much more efforts to expand hybrid rice area
160 million people by 2020 added severe in Punjab and Haryana, which to 3 million hectares by 2011.
to India’s current population base have the highest marketable surplus A combination of appropriate
of 1.2 billion. Using the population and which contribute the most to policy reforms and new technologies,
projections from the UN and GDP the government procurement stocks. particularly the development and
projections from the International Subsidization of selected fertilizers has diffusion of stress-tolerant varieties,
Food Policy Research Institute, our also led to fertilizer rations in many can put Indian rice production back
own estimate indicates that Indian states, resulting in excess application on track to ensure food security
domestic rice consumption will in northern states and suboptimum for the vulnerable in the future. A
increase by 13 million tons of milled application in many eastern and recent policy reform to lower the
rice by 2020. The real question is, northeastern states (200 kg/ha in price disparity between straight
can Indian rice production increase Haryana and Punjab versus 10 kg/ha and complex fertilizers is a move
by at least 13 million tons or more in in Arunachal Pradesh). A rapidly in the right direction to promote
the next decade to meet the domestic depleting water table in many northern balanced fertilizer application. The
demand and maintain the status of states is also a matter of concern for introduction of a uniform freight
an exporter in the global rice market? future productivity growth. subsidy scheme for all subsidized
If current yield growth continues, On the positive side, the recent fertilizers will also likely help improve
and rice area remains at the 2008- introduction of Sub1 or flood-tolerant availability in all parts of the country.
09 level, India is likely to produce an modern varieties in India, where Eventually, the government will have
additional 15 million tons of milled around 5 million hectares of rice to deal with the sustainability of the
rice by 2020, which will be good land are prone to flash flooding, fertilizer self-sufficiency program
enough to meet domestic demand. allows the rice plant to survive up to in the face of a rising subsidy bill,
Among the various and most 2 weeks under water (see Scuba rice which jumped from US$5.8 billion in
glaring emerging uncertainties that on pages 26-31 of Rice Today Vol. 8, 2006-07 to a whopping $22 billion
can derail this outcome, however, are No. 2). This period is long enough to in 2008-09. Similarly, free water
growing water shortages, imbalanced completely destroy the traditional non- and electricity for farmers in many
fertilization, competition for rice submergence-tolerant modern varieties. states need a careful examination
land from nonagricultural uses and According to IRRI estimates, these to make sure that enough incentives
biofuel crops, increasing frequency of Sub1 varieties have the potential to are built into the system to minimize
extreme weather, and emerging pest increase production by up to 4 million wastage of groundwater.
outbreaks. Depending on the extent tons in India and Bangladesh. Similarly,
of these problems, production growth IRRI’s first drought-tolerant variety,
* The author thanks Drs. A. Dobermann, R.K. Singh,
in the future may fall well below IR74371-70-1-1, which was recently A. Kumar, D. Brar, and A. Padhee for some excellent
the baseline projections. Currently, recommended for release in India, and contributions.

Rice Today July-September 2009 45

grain of truth

Doubled haploids:
from laboratory to field
by Deepinder Grewal

lant breeders are always in ranks fifth among the most important be useful to design efficient breeding
search of new breeding tools health risks in developing countries, strategies for improving the nutritional
to produce high-yielding crop and eleventh worldwide. In children, quality of rice.
varieties with superior grain zinc deficiency is commonly associated This technique is important in
and nutritional quality, which are also with diarrhea, pneumonia, and stunted developing true breeding lines in the
resistant to diseases and insects, and growth, and it can cause death. next generation from any segregating
tolerant of environmental stresses To overcome zinc and iron defi- population; hence, the DH plants can
(drought, flooding, salinity, cold, etc.). ciency among people where rice is a be multiplied and analyzed just like
Of the many tools available, anther staple, the International Rice Research pure breeding lines. This shortens the
culture-derived doubled haploids Institute (IRRI) has embarked on an breeding cycle, as traits get fixed in the
(haploid cells having two copies of ambitious project supported by the homozygous state. The other advantage
the set of chromosomes) have been HarvestPlus Challenge Program to is that DH populations can be used as
considered the most desirable method produce nutritious rice. This requires permanent mapping populations be-
to shorten the breeding cycle in the va- increasing the grain micronutrient cause they are stable and constant. The
rietal development process and to map content of existing and future high- DH lines offer a unique opportunity to
genes/quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for yielding indica varieties using high- improve selection efficiency for various
agronomic traits. zinc, high-iron japonica donors, which traits because the haploid method is
The anther culture technique is based on gametophytic instead of spo-
a friendly tool for plant breeders. It The anther culture technique is a rophytic selection. One such example is
provides a link between conventional IRRI’s use of a DH mapping population
plant breeding and genomics. Hap- friendly tool for plant breeders. derived from a cross between IR64 and
loids were first produced from anther It provides a link between conven- Azucena. This population was shared
culture of the ornamental herb Datura tional plant breeding and genomics. worldwide, and rice researchers have
innoxia by scientists at Delhi Universi- used it to map QTLs for several agro-
ty, India, in 1964. Since then, haploids nomic traits.
have been produced in several plant are known to be highly responsive to This technology is expected to sup-
species, including cereals. In fact, sev- anther culture. We used anther culture port conventional breeding, especially
eral rice varieties have been developed to produce doubled-haploid (DH) for value-added traits.
and released, particularly in Korea lines from crosses between indica and As mentioned earlier, it has been
and China, using this technique. These japonica lines. Mega-varieties such challenging to use the DH technique
varieties are japonica type, which are as IR64, IR36, PSBRc82, and BR29 in indica rice breeding. Consequently,
very responsive to anther culture. The were selected as one of the parents in this technique has not been deployed
potential of this technique in indica diverse crosses with japonica donors. on a large scale to become an integral
rice breeding, however, has not been IR64 and IR36 are internationally component of breeding programs for
realized because of the recalcitrant an- popular varieties, while PSBRc82 is a indica rice.
ther culture response of indica variet- popular Philippine variety and BR29 Nevertheless, IRRI has developed
ies, and also because it often produces is a mega-variety in Bangladesh. These an indica-type variety through an-
albino plants that eventually die. two countries are the target areas ther culture and it has been released
In addition to increasing rice yield where zinc and iron deficiencies are for salt-affected areas in the Philip-
potential, plant breeders are aiming to most prevalent. pines. The difficulty will soon change,
improve the grain’s nutritional quality. Fortunately, we have been success- however, as we continue to explore and
Breeders are trying to enhance micro- ful in producing more than 1,500 DH search for genes for high anther cultur-
nutrient content, particularly iron and lines through anther culture. These ability, and eventually transfer these
zinc, through biofortification to over- lines are being evaluated for their agro- genes into recalcitrant indica variet-
come the problem of malnutrition. Iron nomic potential and for high iron and ies. Once such genes become avail-
deficiency alone affects more than 3 zinc contents. Some of the lines may able, this would make this technology
billion people in the developing world. perform better than the parents. This more effective in adding new genetic
Lack of this nutrient during child- technique has opened more opportuni- properties into the breeding programs
hood and adolescence impairs physi- ties to map genes/QTLs governing high of indica rice, for which they are highly
cal growth, mental development, and iron and high zinc since little is known needed.
learning capacity. In adults, it reduces about the genetics of these traits, and
the capacity to perform physical tasks. to search for elite DH lines possess- Dr. Grewal is a postdoctoral fellow
Moreover, according to the World ing high-yield traits, along with high on plant breeding and genetic
Health Organization, zinc deficiency iron and zinc. This information will transformation at IRRI.

46 Rice Today July-September 2009

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are blowing in the wind
Climate change makes us all vulnerable. But one sure way to fight it is to harness
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