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Seminar International Rice Research Institute

February 3, 2015

The Social Science Sequel to Growing Rice Like Wheat:

Transition towards dry rice cultivation requires
integration of natural and social sciences
Paul C. Struik, Wageningen University,
The Netherlands


Why this talk?

Brief overview of GRLW

Why a sequel?


Why this talk?

Three pillars of international policies for food

security and protection of natural resources

right to food,
intensification of agriculture,
and sustainability.
These three pillars trigger hefty debates about

ecology, and
economics of the production of food
In rice, the big issue is water

Transition towards water saving in rice

The transition towards water-saving rice systems requires

social-economic changes, both at the level of the individual

plot, farm and at higher levels of organization.

Optimizing rice production within the framework of genotypeby-environment-by-management-by-society interactions will

demand innovative approaches that will require a
considerable change in the institutional infrastructure.

The knowledge chain will have to be adapted and the water

management will have to be altered.

Mapping and analysing impact pathways of the transition

from paddy rice to aerobic or even dryland rice are crucial.

This transition to GRLW requires thoroughly conceptualized
research integrating social and natural sciences,
consisting of:

1. experimental field research on the agronomic and socioeconomic consequences of changing the existing system; and
2. empirical research on existing upland rice production
systems to identify key success factors of those systems.

Wageningen based social and natural scientists seek synergy

with the IRRI staff to draft a programme consisting of a social
science sequel of the current natural science oriented
programme Growing Rice Like Wheat.

Brief overview of
Growing Rice
Like Wheat

Growing rice like wheat

Understanding rice drought tolerance mechanisms
by comparison with wheat

PhD6: Integrated modelling approach

Groups involved
Provider of the funds
Management team

Plant Sciences Group, Wageningen UR,

Rice Research Institute,
IRRI, Philippines
Dept. of Crop Physiology, UAS, India
Yangzhou Univ., Jiangsu, China

Objectives and approach

To unravel the mechanisms responsible for drought

tolerance in rice and compare to wheat

To provide a scientific basis for agronomic and/or

breeding approaches to grow rice with less water, like


Approach 1: mechanistic drought tolerance study of

various types of rice compared to wheat

Approach 2: GWAS and QTL meta-analysis in rice to

explore genetic variation and provide mechanistic

Approach 1:4 PhD, with different focus

Preethi NV, Bangalore, CSA WUR:
Cellular tolerance

Wenjing Ouyang (Uni. Yangzhou, China, CSA WUR)

Water relations
Morphology, Anatomy, Hydraulics

Giovanni Melandri (Physiology, WUR)

Physiology, metabolomics

Beatriz Andreo Jimenez (Physiology, WUR)

Roots and environment
Mycorrhiza, hormone signalling

Approach 2: Niteen Kadam

Phenotype analysis


Genome-wide approach to identify genes
associated with complex traits, like yield,
water use efficiency, drought adaptive

Genotype analysis

Association analysis

Connecting the approaches

Leads for genes and tolerant


Morphological &
physiological studies
Wheat and rice
different H2O

QTL analysis
GWA (wide range
of rice varieties)

Approach 2

Approach 1

Leads for traits contributing to

drought tolerance

Why a sequel?

The issue

Common sense knowledge: lowland flooded rice is best

practice, upland rainfed rice has little potential

Recent (research) initiatives focus on water reduction

Aerobic rice and System of Rice Intensification

claim high yield potential in non-flooded conditions

Emerging question: where does the common sense

come from and did anyone question it before?

What is it about?
P = + T + E + S + TE + TS + ES + TES +
P = performance
= average outcome of a production system
T = technological factors at each part of the system and their
E = environmental factors at each part of the system and their
S = societal factors at each part of the chain and their interactions
= uncontrolled residual error
(adopted from Nuijten, Struik et al. 2013)

Changing conditions changing practices

Labour requirement and

direct seeding

Poor farm economics

Land pressure and
multiple cropping

Water scarcity and

water-less-rice production

Global climate change and

methane emission in rice fields

The challenge in agricultural research, to

be picked up by a GRLW sequel
To design approaches that are effective in creating
knowledge that is usable by farmers, based on
participatory approaches, co-creation of knowledge, and
action research, and trans-disciplinarity.
These approaches involve all stakeholders including
scientists from very different disciplines.

A sequel requires

1. Methodological approaches (technography, diagnostics,

performance, joint learning, institutional context

2. Awareness that technology alone cannot expand

smallholders opportunities

3. Mobilisation of smallholders through experimental


4. Experimentation with institutional innovations and

creation of institutional change

5. Analysis of agrarian systems, institutions and


6. Re-orientation on integration between natural and

social sciences

Four important How? questions

Finding practical answers to the following complex questions:


How can lasting change be catalysed in an agro-ecological

setting and an institutional environment that are highly


How can we use the lessons learned about institutional

innovation to make local agro-ecosystems resilient and
suitable for sustainable intensification?


How can sustainable agricultural intensification be

orchestrated in such a way that it improves the livelihoods of
all the rural poor?


How can we design and implement agricultural policies that

protect smallholder farmers against the threats and
uncertainties associated with globalisation of markets?

Current trend in science is to enhance

intensification as it is good for productivity,
resource use efficiency and sustainability:
* There is a strong focus on win-win situations (or even
win-win-win), for example FAOs Water-Energy-Land-Food
* WU aims to produce two times more with two times less
* De Wit argues
It may be concluded ..... that no production resource is
used with any less efficiency and that most production
resources are used more efficiently with increasing yield
level due to further optimizing of growing conditions

Unfortunately, win-win situations are rare.....

When designing water saving strategies in rice:
We need an agronomy that focuses on the science of
Based on quantitative assessments of objectives, tools,
resources and costs for systems that look beyond today
and beyond ones own plot, farm or cropping system.

What do we want
to achieve?

Upland rice research has a long tradition at IRRI


Therefore, given the issues at stake we opt

for a Coalition of the Willing to create

New theoretical frameworks for true integration of

natural and social sciences

A conceptual framework for integral and quantitative

trade-off analysis

Cross-overs between methodologies, analytical tools and

scientific languages

Training systems to create graduates that are real

integrators instead of converted natural or social

Leadership and governance

Theory of Change / Research impact pathway NWO

Problem areas to be

Research & development


Direct causes

Research & development


Underlying knowledgerelated causes

Research & development




Growing rice like wheat sequel

Implementing innovative strategies for water-limited
rice production

1. WOTRO call for Dutch
universities CGIAR collaboration
(up to 700 keuro)
2. INREF (up to 1 Meuro)

Thank you very much