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International Rice Research Institute July-September 2007, Vol. 6, No. 3

The damage they do

The delicious world

of quality rice

Rice and climate change

What will happen, and what's to be done?
ISSN 1655-5422
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Vol. 6, No. 3

Editorial . ............................................................... 4
Sacred ceremonies and political will

News ......................................................................... 5
A new generation, a new revolution
Agreement to boost rice production in Indonesia
Rice Camp 2007
Gates Foundation looks at rice in China
Temperate Rice Research Consortium launched
Rice market at a glance
IRRI Filipino staff recognized
Scientific infrastructure vital for helping the poor

People ...................................................................... 9
Keeping up with IRRI staff

coping with climate change ......................... 10

Climate change threatens to affect rice production
across the globe. What is known about the likely
impacts, and what can be done about them? Pushing things forward ................................ 26 Rice Facts .............................................................. 36
Agricultural economist Mahabub Hossain retires from Of rice and rats
international work to pursue his dream for his home Rats and mice do untold damage to rice crops and
Rice quality rising ............................................ 16 country of Bangladesh
The first coming together of a new international stocks across the globe. Here, Rice Today presents
network of cereal scientists has laid the foundation the facts on the rodent scourge.
for major advances in rice grain quality Forging a rice partnership for Africa ..... 30
“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion!”—so Grain of Truth . .................................................. 38
goes a well-known Ethiopian saying. This could The aerobic rice reality
New books ............................................................ 18 be an apt description for the new partnership
Charting new pathways to C4 rice being forged among international research centers
Rice: a practical guide to nutrient management to address sub-Saharan Africa’s enormous rice
(2nd edition) challenge.
Rice Genetics V
Fertile progress ................................................ 32
Maps ....................................................................... 19 The past 20 years have seen an evolution in
The where and how of rice researchers’ understanding of how to best apply
nitrogen fertilizer to rice. That knowledge is now
being passed on to farmers. On the cover:
Letting a hundred flowers bloom ............ 22 Traditional rice varieties
As director for research at the International Rice from Laos, like this
Research Institute, Ren Wang was instrumental in Preparing for the rat race ............................ 34 one, are usually highly
strengthening both international partnerships and A rare species of flowering bamboo puts rodents in a glutinous, resulting in their
research capacity feeding and breeding frenzy that threatens famine characteristic stickiness. See
in the Indian state of Mizoram the story on pages 16-17.

cover photo Ariel Javellana International Rice Research Institute

publisher Duncan Macintosh DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines
editor Adam Barclay Web (IRRI): www.irri.org
art director Juan Lazaro IV Web (Library): http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org
designer and production supervisor George Reyes Web (Rice Knowledge Bank): www.knowledgebank.irri.org
contributing editors Gene Hettel, Bill Hardy, Meg Mondoñedo
Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra (Africa Rice Center – WARDA) Rice Today editorial
environment editor Greg Fanslow telephone (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725;
photo editor Ariel Javellana fax: (+63-2) 580-5699 or (+63-2) 845-0606; email: a.barclay@cgiar.org
photo researcher Jose Raymond Panaligan
circulation Chrisanto Quintana
printer Primex Printers, Inc.

Rice Today is published by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s should not be construed as expressing IRRI policy or opinion on the legal status of any
leading international rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with country, territory, city or area, or its authorities, or the delimitation of its frontiers or
offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on boundaries.
improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, Rice Today welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. Potential contributors
particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of are encouraged to query first, rather than submit unsolicited materials. Rice Today
15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research assumes no responsibility for loss or damage to unsolicited submissions, which should
(CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. For more information, visit be accompanied by sufficient return postage.
the CGIAR Web site (www.cgiar.org).
Responsibility for this publication rests with IRRI. Designations used in this publication Copyright International Rice Research Institute 2007
NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

A new generation, a new revolution

A n excit ing new progra m just

launched in Asia is encouraging
some of the world’s brightest young
themselves as a new
generation of
revolut ionar ies—
scientists to consider careers helping ta k ing t he latest
developing nations, instead of taking scientific knowledge
jobs focused on the developed world. and using it to
Many recent scientific advances— improve the lives of
such as the sequencing of the rice the world’s poor.”
genome in 2004—have already begun In the 1960s,
to help poor farmers overcome such young scientists from
age-old problems as drought, flooding, all over the world
and high levels of salinity. Much of this t r avele d to A si a
progress was achieved in advanced to help launch the
research institutes in developed nations Green Revolution via the development in the developed world.
by researchers far removed from the of new agricultural technologies for Participants learned the basics of
problems poor farmers face in the field. Asian rice production. Since then, fewer rice production, were shown the latest
The 3-week Rice: research to production and fewer young people have chosen in rice research, and given hands-
course, launched last month at the careers in agricultural research in the on experience in such areas as rice
International Rice Research Institute developing world, sparking concerns of breeding and fertilizer management.
(IRRI) in the Philippines, is one of the slowing progress and stagnation. Megan O’Rourke, a 27-year-old
first attempts to deal with this issue. Sponsored by the National Science mother of three doing her Ph.D. in
“Many young scientists working Foundation in the United States, the ecology and evolutionary biology at
in developed nations are increasingly United Kingdom’s Gatsby Foundation, Cornell University in the U.S., said
isolated from the very people in poorer and IRRI, the new course attracted 26 it was the first time she had worked
nations who could really benefit from participants from 12 nations, with half in a developing nation and seen the
their work,” Susan McCouch, one of coming from the U.S. and European economic conditions first-hand. “It has
the leaders of the new course and a Union and half coming from rice- reminded me that I began studying
professor in the Department of Plant growing countries in Asia and Africa. agriculture because of its essential
Breeding and Genetics at Cornell The program also seeks to reverse the place in supporting lives and societies,”
University, said. “We want to change one-way traffic of recent decades that she said.
this, and encourage good young has seen thousands of young scientists IRRI plans to run the same course
scientists, wherever they are, to think of from the developing world taking jobs next year.

Agreement to boost rice production in Indonesia

I ndonesian efforts to avoid food

s hor t a ge s b y i nc r e a s i n g r ic e
production have been boosted by the
rice produced in 2007, followed by 5%
growth in national rice production each
year after that.
Support efforts will include the
development of improved varieties
with high yield potential, grain quality,
signing of a new agreement to help the “Wit h world r ice production and resistance to pests; a national
nation’s millions of poor rice farmers growing at less than 2% annually, it’s strategy and framework for hybrid
with new technologies. increasingly difficult for countries to rice; and improved rice varieties that
Senior officials and scientists of boost production beyond 2–3%,” IRRI’s can tolerate submergence, drought,
the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Deputy Director General for Research and low-temperature damage in high-
Research and Development, and other Ren Wang explained. elevation areas.
agencies of the Indonesian Ministry But with global rice prices at a Collaborative research will include
of Agriculture, signed the 3-year 10-year high after doubling in the past the strengthening of research capacity
agreement with IRRI on 23 March 2 years and world rice reserves at a for the development and safe use of
2007 in Jakarta. 30-year low, there is pressure on rice- transgenic rice in Indonesia, improving
Indonesia, the world’s fifth most importing countries such as Indonesia grain quality and the nutritional
populous nation, has been struggling to achieve self-sufficiency. The new value of rice, and special emphasis on
for several years to increase its rice agreement between Indonesia and IRRI drought, disease resistance, and poor
production. Shortages could trigger focuses on three key areas: support soils.
price rises and cause severe hardship for the Indonesian government’s Capacity building will focus on
for the nation’s poor. Rice Production Increase Program, postgraduate degree training, on-the-
The Indonesian government wants collaborative research, and human job training, scientist exchange, short
to see an additional 2 million tons of resource development. courses, and in-country training.

Rice Today July-September 2007 

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Rice Camp 2007

T wenty high school students from Thailand and the Philippines attended
IRRI’s second annual Rice Camp on 23-28 April 2007. The camp is a fun
training course that teaches participants about the basics of agriculture
and rice research. First held in April 2006 (see A rice future for Asia in Rice
Today Vol. 5, No. 3), Rice Camp exposes participants to current trends in rice
science and rice farming, offers hands-on experience in field and laboratory
work, creates awareness of the importance of rice research, and promotes
rice science as a future career. It is also a chance for the students to share
cultural differences and similarities. Participants drove a tractor, planted rice,
collected and identified insects, tasted different varieties of rice, and more.
Rice Camp 2007 was supported by IRRI, the Thai Rice Foundation under Royal
Patronage, and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.
Ariel Javellana

4th International Meeting on Rice prompting Pakistani traders to export Research (CGIAR), noted that CGIAR
The Rice Research Institute (IIArroz) rice that would otherwise have been centers are able to contribute to the five
and the Agro-industrial Group of sold on the local market, leading to key components of CASP—facilitating
Cattle and Rice, under the auspices increased domestic prices. According to cross-border agricultural trade and
of the Agriculture Ministry of Cuba, Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan investment, promoting public-private
have announced the 4th International Chairman Aziz Mania, rice smuggling partnerships for sharing agricultural
Meeting on Rice, to be held on 2-6 is also affecting local prices. information, enhancing capacity in
June 2008 at the Havana International agricultural science and technology,
Conference Center. The meeting Indian plan to boost grains establishing emergency response
will run concurrently with the 1st In May 2007, Indian Prime Minister mechanisms for agricultural and natural
International Workshop of Millers and Ma n moha n Si ng h a n nou nc e d a resource crises, and strengthening
a rice expo. The meeting’s objectives new scheme to increase food grain institutional linkages and mechanisms
include discussions on the transfer of production. This 25 billion rupee for cooperation.
sustainable technologies and updates (US$614 million) investment aims to
and evaluations of rice knowledge, increase food grain production by 20 New rice DNA map
especially relating to rice production in million tons by the end of 2009, and Researchers at the Universit y of
Latin America and the Caribbean. Key thereby avoid spiraling imports. Rice Delaware and Ohio State University,
themes will include plant breeding and production will be boosted in two key USA, have used new technology to
phytogenetic resources, technologies areas—through an additional 5 million construct a comprehensive “expression
for managing rice cultivation, crop hectares of land to be brought under atlas” of the rice genome. As well as
protection, physiology and nutrition of irrigation, and by increasing the area identifying individual genes, the new
the rice plant, and harvest and industrial planted to high-yielding hybrid rice map indicates regions of nongene DNA
grain processing. Look for more details varieties to 10 million hectares, from that are “expressed”—that is, transcribed
in future issues of Rice Today. the current 1 million, by 2012. into RNA—and may therefore play a
regulatory role in the cell (genes are
Pakistan price rise Ag ministers’ Mekong meeting transcribed into RNA, which is then
Despite rapidly rising rice prices, the Agriculture ministers of the Greater translated by the cell into proteins;
Pakistani government has no plans Mekong Subregion (GMS) met on 9-11 some RNA is not translated but instead
to impose a ban on rice exports. April 2007 in Beijing to review progress plays a role in the regulation of cellular
Sikandar Bosan, federal minister for in the region’s cooperation in agriculture, processes). The study, discussed by
food, agriculture, and livestock, told endorse the Strategic Framework for Antoni Rafalski in the April 2007 issue
the Pakistani Daily Times in May 2007 Subregional Cooperation in Agriculture of Nature Biotechnology (Tagging
that a combination of rice shortages and Core Agriculture Support Program the rice transcriptome), increases
in other South Asian countries and a (CASP), and discuss the implications for researchers’ knowledge about the
rise in Pakistani production has led the GMS of new trends in agriculture. functionally active regions of DNA
to a boost in exports, which rose from IRRI coordinator for the GMS Gary between genes and will thus help crop
267,000 tons in March to 284,000 Jahn, representing the Consultative biotechnologists develop improved rice
tons in April. The higher prices are Group on International Agricultural varieties.

 Rice Today July-September 2007

Gates Foundation looks at rice in China

A delegat ion f rom t he Bill and

M e l i n d a G a t e s Fo u n d a t i o n
led by Bill Gates, cofounder of the
Molecular Breeding
Net work, a new
breeding strateg y
Foundation and chairman of Microsoft t o c o m b i n e ge n e
Corp., and Raj Shah, director of the discovery with
Agricultural Development Program variety development
of the Foundation, visited the Chinese initiated at IRRI in
Academy of Agricultural Sciences 1998 and coordinated
(CA A S)-IR R I Joint L ab on R ice by Dr. Li.
Zhi-kang li (left) shows
Molecular Breeding and Genetics Mr. Gates showed Bill Gates (center) and
headed by IRRI molecular geneticist great interest and Prof. Shumin Wang, deputy
Zhi-Kang Li on 18 April 2007. d iscussed severa l director general, Institute
of Crop Sciences Research,
The delegation met with Dr. Li topic s , i nc lud i n g CAAS, around the CAAS-
and his team at CAAS, where Dr. Li molecular markers, IRRI Joint Lab.

gave presentations on Rice breeding in t he r ice genome
China—current status and prospects, sequence, gene expression, and rice Crop Gene Resources and Genetic
the concept of “Super Green Rice,” breeding, with Dr. Li. The group also Improvement and the China National
and progress in the China National visited the National Key Facility for Crop Genebank.

Temperate Rice Research Consortium launched

T he Temperate R ic e Re sea rch

Consortium (TRRC) was launched
during an international planning
in temperate env ironments;
strengthen capacity building among
TRRC partners; develop and share
developing countries.
Participants focused on major
issues of temperate rice and identified
workshop on temperate rice on 2- improved germplasm and technologies research priorities and strategies
4 May 2007 in Suwon, Republic of for problem solving and sustainable for four major working groups: yield
Korea. More than 90 scientists from temperate rice production; and improve potential and grain quality, biotic
12 temperate rice-growing countries grain quality, nutritional value, and stress (blast), abiotic stress (cold), and
in Asia, Europe, and North America postharvest technology. resource-use efficiency (water and
attended the workshop, which was In a welc ome add re ss, R DA nutrients).
coordinated by IRRI with financial Administrator Kim In-Sik emphasized
support from the National Institute the importance of temperate rice in
of Crop Science, Rural Development world food production and the need Reader's Letter
Administration (RDA), Korea. for improvements in production, stress
The TRRC aims to strengthen resistance, grain quality, and nutritional Dear Rice Today,
national agricultural research and value to feed a rising population. IRRI
extension system (NARES) partnerships Deputy Director General for Research I write with hat in hand in admiration
for technology development, validation, Ren Wang spoke on the need to reduce of the Aussies. Skimming through the
April–June issue of Rice Today, I find
and dissemination for improvement the big gap in the yield potential of
on page 7 (Australian rice doldrums)
of rice production and productivity temperate rice between developed and the extraordinary report of the national
rice production for last year of 1,048
million tons (roughly twice the output
of the remainder of the world). While
it has declined some 80% for this year,
126 million is nothing to sneeze at. I
remain humbled by this achievement
and depressed to consider that I labored
decades in the Americas to raise production
by a few measly million tons.

Peter Jennings
Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice

Rice Today apologizes for the error, which

was in no way caused by parochialism
on the part of the Australian editor. The
correct figures are 1.05 million tons in
Adam barclay

2006-07, with 0.126 million tons predicted

for 2007-08.

Rice Today July-September 2007 

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Rice market at a glance

T he Food a nd A g r ic u lt u re
Organization of the United Nations
(FAO) reported in the March 2007 issue
rose in Africa for the fifth consecutive
year. As expected, estimates of world
rice stockpiles at the end of the 2007
1 million tons more than previously
anticipated, and almost matching
the 2005 trade record. The expected
of the FAO Rice Market Monitor that season have been downgraded 2 million increase in trade largely reflects greater
estimates of world paddy (unmilled tons to 103 million tons, due to the supply needs by importing countries
rice) production in 2006 have been lower 2006 outlook. facing production shortfalls.
downgraded to 629 million tons, a cut Initial global forecasts for 2007 As anticipated, rice export prices
of 2 million tons. This figure is 4 million predict a rise in production back to have continued to climb. According to
tons lower than the record high of 2005. 2005 levels. This assumes a return to the June 2007 FAO Rice Price Update,
The decrease is thought to be largely average growing conditions, positive the All Rice Price Index (set at 100 for
due to smaller crops in Asia, which price expectations, and rejuvenated 1998-2000 prices) reached 121 in May
were damaged by insects and irregular institutional support. 2007, up from 115 in December 2006.
monsoon rains. Production also fell in FAO’s forecast of world trade in 2007 Experts predict this trend is expected
Latin America and the Caribbean, but was raised to 29.8 million tons, nearly to continue for at least this year.

IRRI Filipino staff recognized

T he winners in the 2006 Awards Program for IRRI Filipino staff were
recognized during the Institute’s Board of Trustees meeting on 18
April 2007. Plant physiologist Evangelina Salcedo-Ella (pictured, left),
Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD), won the Award for
Outstanding Scientific Achievement, and CESD research technician Ed-
gar Amoloza (pictured, right, receiving his award from Board Chair
Keijiro Otsuka and Director General Robert Zeigler) won the Award
for Outstanding Research Support. The Award for Outstanding Admin-
istrative Support was shared by staff members of the Plant Breeding,
Genetics, and Biotechnology Division for their work in organizing the
Fifth International Rice Genetics Symposium (Manila, 19-23 Novem-
ber 2005) and the IRRI-India Office staff for their work in helping to
organize and run the 2nd International Rice Congress (New Delhi, 9-13
October 2006). Ms. Salcedo-Ella was chosen for her work on flood tol-
erance in rice and Mr. Amoloza was recognized for his research project
on increasing Analytical Services Laboratory sample throughput and
helping improve the lab’s operations. Jose Raymond Panaligan (2)

Scientific infrastructure vital for helping the poor laboratory: opened in December 2004
after an investment of $1.2 million, the

W orld-class scientific facilities play

an increasingly important role in
helping poor nations overcome poverty,
said. “And, it’s vital that institutes
such as IRRI have the resources to
continually upgrade and renovate their
lab works with IRRI rice breeders and
cereal chemists around the world to
ensure that new rice varieties reach the
food insecurity, and new challenges own labs and facilities; otherwise, they highest possible standards in terms of
such as the impact of climate change. will quickly become irrelevant.” quality and nutrition.
The need for such infrastructure As a result of the upgrading, the A biotechnology laborator y:
was highlighted at the annual meeting Institute has re-opened three labs at op ene d i n Ju ne 20 0 6 a f ter a n
of the IRRI Board of Trustees (BOT) its Philippine headquarters: investment of $1.7 million, this lab is
in the Philippines on 16-18 April 2007. A microarray laboratory: first a state-of-the-art, high-throughput
IRRI has spent several million dollars set up in 2001, this lab became fully transgenic research platform to enable
over the past 5 years upgrading its main operational in 2002 after an investment developing countries to obtain new
laboratories to keep them up to world of US$895,000 on new equipment and technologies and training. It also
scientific standards. genotyping instrumentation. It serves provides a unique capacity to develop
“While advanced scientific research as a centralized facility supporting public biotechnology products designed
institutes in developed nations have a research and training to conduct gene to benefit those nations without access
vital role to play in helping to solve expression analysis, genotyping, gene to such facilities.
some of the developing world’s most tagging and mapping, and marker- “It will be a tragedy if the poor miss
intractable problems, it’s essential that assisted breeding. It also provides out on the benefits provided by our new
we also build, and continue to upgrade, access to the latest genomic tools to scientific knowledge simply because
scientific infrastructure in poorer researchers from developing nations. they don’t have the facilities to use it
nations,” BOT Chairman Keijiro Otsuka A grain quality and nutrition and learn from it,” Dr. Otsuka said.

 Rice Today July-September 2007

Achievements Keeping up with IRRI staff
The president of India, A.P.J. Kalam, Vietnamese agriculture and rural
who visited IRRI in February 2006, development. At a ceremony in Hanoi,
has nominated former IRRI Director Bui Ba Bong, vice-minister of Vietnam’s
General and World Food Prize laureate Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
M.S. Swaminathan (1982-88) for the Development, honored Dr. Wang for
upper house of the Indian parliament. In his leadership and commitment in
an opinion column in India’s Hindustan ensuring that IRRI helps poor rice
T ime s, JS S Ru r a l D e velopment farmers and consumers improve their
Foundation adviser M. Mahadevappa lives in Vietnam, and for his unqualified
also touted Prof. Swaminathan as support for a more effective Vietnamese

aileen del rosario

India’s next president. agricultural research and extension
IRRI crop physiologist Shaobing system.
Peng has been invited to be one of Guy Trébuil and François
five Changjiang (Yangtze River) Chair Bousquet, along with co-author
Professors of Huazhong Agricultural
Time magazine (14 May 2007)
Tayan R aj Gur ung, have been
awarded the 2006 Ralph Yorque
Memorial Prize by the editorial board
I R R I Director for Management
Services Kwame Akuffo-Akoto
(pictured, above) bid farewell to the
has voted former Africa Rice Center of the Ecology and Society Journal Institute after more than 5 years of
(WARDA) breeder Monty Jones, from for their article Companion modeling, innovative and productive service. He
Sierra Leone, as one of the world’s 100 conf lict resolution, and institution provided IRRI with excellent financial
most influential people. In a profile building: sharing irrigation water in leadership, developing and promoting
written by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Lingmuteychu Watershed, Bhutan. best practices in fiduciary management
Columbia University’s Earth Institute, The 500-euro prize was awarded for the and financial reporting. Mr. Akuffo-
Dr. Jones was cited for leading the most novel paper [Ecology and Society Akoto was instrumental in aligning
development of New Rice for Africa 11(2):36] integrating different streams the financial practices of IRRI and its
(NERICA), high-yielding varieties of science to assess fundamental partner institutes supported by the
suited to African conditions, which have questions of the ecological, political, Consultative Group on International
dramatically helped improve African and social foundations for sustainable Agricultural Research with global
rice productivity, an achievement that social-ecological systems. The field standards, and in formulating a single
also earned him the 2004 World Food work for the study was carried out financial policy for the entire group.
Prize. Read more about Dr. Jones in when Drs. Trébuil and Bousquet were Hu ng- G o o Hw a ng , sen ior
The rice man of Africa on pages 28-29 assigned to the IRRI-Thailand Office scientist seconded from Korea’s Rural
of Rice Today, Vol. 6, No. 2. in 2001-04. Development Administration (RDA),
IRRI Deputy Director General for Former IRRI agricultural econo- leaves after 3 years of outstanding
Research Ren Wang was recognized mist Prabhu Pingali was among 72 work i n japon ic a r ic e breed i ng
on 19 May for his contributions to new members and 18 foreign associates and streng thening of IR R I-R DA
inducted into the U.S. collaboration through leadership in
National Academy of the genetic improvement of japonica
Sciences in May 2007. rice. Dr. Hwang is replaced in the Plant
Dr. Pingali, currently Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology
director, Div ision (PBGB) Division by Kyu-Seong Lee.
of Agricultural Kumi Yasunobu, seconded from the
a nd Development Japan International Research Center for
E c onom ic s, Fo o d Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), left the
and Agriculture Social Sciences Division (SSD) in March
Organization of the 2007. She was replaced by JIRCAS
United Nations, was scientist Shigeki Yokoyama. Zahirul
elected in recognition Islam, international research fellow in
of his distinguished SSD, left in June 2007. Xuemei Ji has
and continuing completed his contract as a postdoctoral
achievements in fellow in PBGB.
original research, Also departing were Ren Wang

which includes and SSD Head Mahabub Hossain

Ren Wang (center) receives a plaque from Bui Ba work on technological change and (see more about them in this issue of
Bong (left), vice-minister of Vietnam’s Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Development, as IRRI scien- agricultural development policy. Rice Today). Randolph Barker will
tist Gary Jahn looks on. serve as acting head of SSD.

Rice Today July-September 2007 

Coping with
Climate Change
Climate change threatens to affect rice production

across the globe. What is known about the likely

Flooded rice fields, like

impact, and what can be done about it? this one at the International
Rice Research Institute in
the Philippines, release
significant amounts of the
greenhouse gas methane.

Ariel Javellana

s if rice farming weren’t been relatively little research Reiner Wassmann, International first work on high carbon dioxide (CO2) has dealt with temperature effects crop to heat stress. To attain this
hard enough. It is investigating the fundamental Rice Research Institute (IRRI) concentrations affecting rice plants on rice yields in several research goal, we are pooling some of IRRI’s
patently clear now that question of how humanity will senior climate scientist and was performed in 1971, long before activities, including modeling work research thrusts—plant breeding and
humans have gone feed itself in a changed climate. coordinator of the IRRI-led Rice the issue of climate change became and analysis of high night-time plant physiology, for example—and
and made it a whole How will higher temperatures and and Climate Change Consortium. known to a broader audience. Likewise, temperature effects, led by IRRI we will add new tools for screening
lot harder. And, in a the attendant increased incidence Dr. Wassmann is seconded to the first workshop dealing with crop physiologist Shaobing Peng. and impact assessment. Moreover, we
cruel irony, while the rich, developed of extreme weather such as IRRI from the Research Center climate and rice dates back to 1974. In 2007, IRRI established the are now establishing monitoring sites
countries are the ones that have droughts, storms, and floods affect Karlsruhe (IMK-IFU) in Germany. In 1991, IRRI started research Rice and Climate Change Consortium to test the effects of emerging crop-
produced most of the greenhouse agricultural production? What are explicitly examining climate change to assess direct and indirect management trends (diversification
gases that are causing climate change, the implications for feeding the What is IRRI’s past record on impacts, namely, a project funded consequences for rice production, to from rice-rice to rice-maize systems,
it will be the poorer countries in the world’s burgeoning population, climate change research and by the United States Environmental develop strategies and technologies for example) that will alter crops’
tropics—many of them reliant on especially the billions of poor who what are the current activities? Protection Agency (U.S.-EPA), titled to adapt rice to changing climate, budgets of carbon and nitrogen
rice to keep their populations from rely on small-scale and subsistence IRRI has a long history of studying Effects of UV-B and Global Climate and to explore crop management and thus significantly attempt to
hunger—that will be worst affected. farming? And, of course, what the effect of climate on rice. The first Change on Rice, which used open-top practices that reduce greenhouse gas reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As Earth warms up, one of can we do to lessen the impact? experiment on temperature effects on chambers to study increased CO2 and emissions under intensive production. Data gathered from these sites
the biggest concerns is the effect To start answering these rice was conducted in 1961, one year temperatures and included a modeling In the initial phase, our focus will be used to develop predictive
on agriculture—yet there has questions, Rice Today spoke to after IRRI’s inception. Remarkably, the component. More recently, IRRI is on improved resilience of the rice models and guide future research.

10 Rice Today July-September 2007 Rice Today July-September 2007 11

Do higher temperatures and
CO2 levels affect rice yields?
Overall, much uncertainty still
exists about the true direction of the
impact of CO2 and temperature on
rice yields. In the open-top chamber
experiment at IRRI in the early
1990s, rice was grown at ambient and
elevated (doubled) concentrations of
atmospheric CO2. Plants were also
grown at ambient and elevated (plus
4 °C) air temperature to study the
interactive effects of elevated CO2 and
temperature on growth and yield.
Over the 2 years of the study, the
elevated CO2 + ambient temperature
treatment increased total biomass
by 40% and yields by 27% over Open-top chambers were
those achieved under ambient used in an IRRI study in the
CO2 and temperature. Under the early 1990s to investigate
the effect of increased CO2
high air temperature treatment, and temperature on rice.
however, this stimulation decreased.
Compared with ambient conditions,
the combination of increased CO2
and increased temperature resulted there is no FACE system in tropical conditions. The technology to
in a small increase in biomass countries, so all our knowledge do this is now available, and, if
and yield in the dry season and a comes from a limited number funding can be found, IRRI hopes
small decrease in the wet season. of small-chamber studies. to develop an experimental system
The results of these studies are IRRI crop modeler John Sheehy in which both CO2 and temperature
in line with so-called Free-Air CO2 determined that, as a general rule, can be controlled in rice fields.
Enrichment (FACE) experiments for every 75 ppm increase in CO2
examining the effect of increased concentration, rice yields will Will climate change result in
CO2 on rice. FACE experiments increase by 0.5 ton per hectare, higher or lower rice production?
allow researchers to increase CO2 but yield will decrease by 0.6 ton One component of the U.S.-EPA
concentrations in the field—as per hectare for every 1 °C increase project dealt with modeling climate
opposed to in greenhouses or in temperature. However, nobody change impacts on rice production.
chambers—and so offer a more has studied the interactions In a comparative approach, climate
realistic assessment of the effect between CO2 and temperature data from three general circulation
on plants. On the other hand, under controlled, realistic field models (GCMs; a class of computer
models used for understanding the
global climate and projecting climate
As populations grow, agriculture faces increasing competition
from the urban and industrial sectors for water and land. Climate change) were coupled with crop yield
change, which is expected to alter the timing and location of models. The bottom line of this study
rainfall, is likely to compound this problem. was that the global yield forecast
largely depended on the GCM used;
one GCM resulted in a predicted
net increase in rice yields (plus
4–7%) while two GCMs predicted
net decreases (minus 4–13%).
Moreover, the range of different
climate change scenarios effectively
defies a straightforward, single-
figure prediction of future yields.
Uncertainty about global impact
is caused by both GCMs and the crop
simulation models used for such
global predictions. In particular,
we lack a good understanding of

12 Rice Today July-September 2007

Climate scientist Reiner Wassmann
is researching the impact of climate
change on rice quality will occur from change on rice, as well as the impact
higher temperatures, which will affect of rice on climate change.
several quality traits, including chalk,
amylose content, and gelatinization
temperature. The positive effects of
elevated CO2 do not compensate for
the overall decrease in rice quality
from the effects of global warming.

How will we ensure enough rice
production in the future? which major yield losses are
There is a lot of genetic variation experienced, for example); and
across varieties of both cultivated • Site-specific adjustment in crop
rice (Oryza sativa) and its wild management (shifting planting
relatives. We are therefore optimistic dates and improved water
that IRRI will be able to develop management, for example).
new varieties that can cope with At the same time, the envisaged
higher temperatures. Scientists are adaptation of rice production
also confident that the resilience to climate change will require
of rice production systems to substantial funds to support vigorous
climate extremes, such as floods and concerted efforts by national and
and droughts, can be improved international research institutions.
Ariel Javellana (3)
within certain boundaries. Climate change has recently received
While IRRI sees plant breeding enormous attention in the media
the complex interactions of CO2 at the heart of improvements in and in policy statements, such as the
and temperature effects at the rice production, the efficiency Stern Review on the economics of
process level of plant physiology and of adaptive measures can be climate change—which included a
development. Likewise, the combined increased significantly by section on rice contributed by IRRI—
effect of temperature and humidity is other efforts, including and the Intergovernmental Panel
not taken into account in the available • Molecular marker techniques to on Climate Change 4th Assessment
crop models. All in all, there is much speed up the breeding process; Report. All of these have identified
scope and much need to improve • Geographic analysis of adaptation of the agricultural
these models and also incorporate vulnerable regions (where the sector as the key to limiting
mechanisms that will allow us to rice crop is already experiencing damage. Despite this unanimous
more reliably explore ways to adapt to critical temperature levels); assessment of the importance of
climate change, through, for example, • Regional climate modeling research on adapting agriculture
genetic improvement of specific to identify future “tilting to climate change, adequate
traits or shifting crop management. points” of rice production funding has yet to materialize.
(temperatures or CO2 levels above continued on page 15 
How will climate change
affect rice grain quality?
The quality and characteristics of As the world warms up, sea levels will
rise, causing major problems in low-lying
the rice grain itself are likely to rice-growing areas.
become one of the key parameters for
determining the impact of climate
change. The trends for grain quality
take directions similar to those for the
quantity of rice produced. In a study
conducted by Ph.D. student Rachelle
Ward, under the supervision of IRRI
cereal chemist Melissa Fitzgerald,
elevated CO2 decreased chalk content.
As high chalk content is generally
an undesirable trait, this meant
that grain quality was improved
by increasing the proportion of
marketable grains. Despite this, the
most damaging effects of climate

Rice Today July-September 2007 13

Goodbye gas
Yasukazu Hosen (2)

lthough rice production will be affected However, some ways of managing rice nonpuddled, and nonsaturated soils). The team’s
by climate change, rice farming also has production help reduce CH4 emissions. Yasukazu next step is to analyze the effect on greenhouse
the capacity to amplify the problem. Hosen, a soil scientist seconded to the gas emissions of the timing of various aspects
Because much rice is grown in flooded fields International Rice Research Institute from of crop management, such as nitrogen fertilizer
under anaerobic (oxygen-depleted) conditions, the Japan International Research Center for application, irrigation, and incorporation of crop
it is likely to contribute to global warming more Agricultural Sciences, is leading a project to residue into the soil during the fallow period. By
than any other crop. The chemistry of flooded develop crop management strategies that growing the rice in specially designed chambers
rice soils means that they release significant increase the efficiency of water use and therefore (see photos, above), the team can capture and
amounts of methane (CH4)—a greenhouse gas reduce the amount of water required, without measure gases emitted by the rice plant and its
about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide sacrificing yield. In principle, such a strategy field soil.
(CO2), and which accounts for a fifth of the global can significantly cut CH4 emissions. Although alternate wetting and drying has the
atmosphere’s warming potential. Dr. Hosen and his team are assessing the potential to reduce methane emissions from rice
Methane is the final product of the microbial environmental impact of existing water-saving fields, it is likely to result in increased nitrous
breakdown of organic matter. In rice soils, the technologies such as alternate wetting and oxide (N2O) emissions. N2O, also a greenhouse
source of organic material can be residues of drying irrigation and aerobic rice (a production gas, is more than 300 times as potent as CO2.
the preceding rice crop, root secretions from system in which specially developed, high- The trick is to find a way to minimize the
the growing crop, or manure applied as fertilizer. yielding varieties are grown in well-drained, environmentally negative effects and maximize
The significance of rice production as a cause of the positive results.
rising CH4 levels in the atmosphere over the last Dr. Hosen and his team developed several
century was recently re-emphasized in a report by other hypotheses, including
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1. N 2 O emissions can be mitigated using
which was released in May 2007. an appropriate combination of nitrogen
application and irrigation timing.
2. When crop residue is incorporated into the
soil early in the fallow period, it decomposes
faster than when it is simply scattered on
the soil surface. This causes higher CO 2
emissions during the fallow period, but lower
CH4 emissions during the following cropping
period. Thus, the global-warming impact of
rice farming can be reduced with earlier crop
residue incorporation.
Dr. Hosen cautions that it is premature to
make any solid conclusions, but early results
are promising, with preliminary data indicating
much lower CH4 emissions but significant N2O
emissions under alternate wetting and drying.
Yuichi Furukawa (2)

At the time Rice Today went to press, the field

experiment was continuing, and a pot experiment
(see photos, left) had been established to set
guidelines for also reducing N2O emissions.

14 Rice Today July-September 2007

An aerial view of IRRI's
open-top chamber experiment
in the early 1990s.


What’s really going to happen? However, what is clear is that of 10–85 centimeters over the next
The impact of climate change on the risks stemming from a sea-level century depending on the climate
rice yields will depend on the actual rise—which is projected in the range scenario used—are enormous for
patterns of change in rice-growing some countries. IRRI geographer
regions. Both higher maximum and Robert Hijmans has constructed
higher minimum temperatures can a map of Vietnam displaying the
decrease rice yields due to spikelet rice area that is below 1 meter and
sterility and higher respiration between 1 and 5 meters above sea
losses, respectively (respiration is level, respectively (see map, left).
the process by which cells or tissues Red River With Vietnam so dependent on
obtain oxygen and so generate energy Delta rice grown in and around low-lying
for their growth and maintenance). river deltas, the implications of a
However, these production sea-level rise are ominous indeed.
losses may be averted or at least The Rice and Climate Change
mitigated through the concerted
Vietnam Consortium is currently cooperating
efforts of agricultural research with the Southern Institute for
and policies aiming to improve Elevation Water Resources Planning in Ho Chi
rice varieties and accompanying Below 1 m Minh City, Vietnam, on an impact
management strategies. 1–5 m assessment of different sea-level
At the same time, rice production rise scenarios on hydrological
may be threatened in some especially Each dot conditions in the Mekong Delta,
represents 10,000
vulnerable regions, such as those hectares planted the rice “granary” of Vietnam.
affected by a rise in sea-levels. with rice Moreover, climate extremes
Some of Asia’s most important such as more frequent or more
rice growing areas are located in intense droughts, cyclones, and heat
low lying deltas, which play a vital waves pose incalculable threats
role in regional food security and to agricultural production. Given
supplying export markets. It is Mekong the significance of rice as a staple
unclear to what extent the impact of Delta crop, IRRI will strive to incorporate
higher sea levels can be compensated a range of “defensive traits” into
for by improved water control and Vietnam’s rice industry depends heavily on low- modern rice varieties and to improve
lying farm areas in the Mekong and Red River deltas.
what the costs and socioeconomic Relatively small increases in sea level could have crop management to develop more
consequences of these changes are. disastrous consequences. resilient rice production systems.

Rice Today July-September 2007 15

Sticky rice, prawns, and water chestnut
dumplings—one of the gourmet rice
dishes prepared for participants at the
grain quality workshop.

Rice quality rising

Ariel Javellana (2)

The first coming together of a new

international network of cereal
scientists has laid the foundation for
by Duncan Macintosh major advances in rice gr ain quality

arbecue by pool to matter of great concern to the with more nutritious, better tasting
discuss the future of researchers from more than 20 food. The gathering was also the
amylose” is not your countries who met on 17-19 April network’s first face-to-face meeting.
typical dinner invitation. 2007 during a workshop entitled New scientific knowledge is
For most people, the first part of the Clearing old hurdles with new allowing rice researchers to develop
request is probably very enticing, science: improving rice grain quality better quality rice varieties that
but the last part has the potential at the International Rice Research could fetch a higher price from
to provoke responses of “Er…sorry, Institute (IRRI) headquarters consumers, especially increasingly
I’m busy that night.” But, if you’re in Los Baños, Philippines. affluent rice consumers in Asia.
one of 75 cereal chemists and The workshop was part of a The main aim of the new
grain-quality experts who received major international initiative by the International Network for Quality
just that invitation in April 2007, International Network for Quality Rice is to help rice breeders around
it promises a great night out. Rice—which first came together the world develop varieties with
The proportion of amylose (a electronically in 2006—to try to improved quality traits such as
starch) in the rice grain contributes boost the income of the world’s better taste, aroma, and cooking
to all traits of cooking and sensory millions of poor rice farmers and at characteristics as well as higher
quality. Its future is therefore a the same time provide consumers levels of nutrition. Once provided

16 Rice Today July-September 2007

to farmers, the new varieties are
expected to command a higher
price among consumers, especially
many in Asia, who, as they become
wealthier, are seeking—and Spicy prawn
paying for—better quality food.
“Much of this research would and chicken
not have been possible 10 years ago
because we simply did not have the patties
knowledge or the understanding
of quality that we do now,” Robert
Source: Australian Women’s Weekly
Zeigler, IRRI’s director general, cookbooks, modified by Melissa
said. “It really is a very exciting time Fitzgerald, head of IRRI’s Grain Quality, Yogurt Dipping Sauce
Nutrition, and Postharvest Center. This
to be involved in such research, is one of the dishes cooked for the
1 cup plain (unsweetened) yoghurt
workshop participants. 1½ tablespoons mild sweet chili sauce
especially because we can take the
1 green onion, finely chopped
new scientific knowledge generated Makes about eight servings 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
by activities such as the recent (cilantro) leaves
sequencing of the rice genome, Patties
and use it to improve the lives of 1½ cups cooked short-grain rice Process rice, chicken, prawns, green onions,
250 g minced chicken garlic, ginger, chili, sauce, and coriander
the poor by providing either better 150 g small cooked prawns, shelled until just combined. Divide mixture into
quality food or increased income.” 5 green onions, chopped eight portions, shape into patties, place on
“It’s very clear from the great 2 cloves garlic, crushed tray, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
response we got to the workshop 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
that rice quality is becoming a very 1 small fresh red chili, chopped After refrigeration, shallow-fry patties in
1 tablespoon fish sauce hot oil until browned and cooked through;
hot topic in rice research almost 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander drain on absorbent paper. For dipping
everywhere,” the convener and head (cilantro) leaves sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl
of IRRI’s Grain Quality, Nutrition, Canola oil for shallow frying and mix well.
and Postharvest Center, Melissa
Fitzgerald, said. “Many of the
issues we discussed may not have living cells), including the study of the needed that to ensure we made the
even been considered a few years chemical fingerprints that metabolic right decisions as we move into a
ago, but, with the recent advances processes leave within cells. new era of rice quality research.”
in molecular biology and exciting During the workshop, the latest For many years, rice breeders
new areas such as metabolomics, research was presented in several have focused on developing varieties
we can do things now that we new areas, including breeding that would boost production and
could only dream about before.” for better quality and genetically provide some insect and weed
Metabolomics is the whole- mapping specific quality traits in resistance to help farmers reduce
genome assessment of metabolites rice such as taste and aroma, the their use of pesticides; quality
(the molecules involved in cooking and eating qualities of was not a high priority. However,
metabolism, which is the set of rice and how to measure sensory major new advances in rice
chemical reactions that occur in qualities more accurately, and the research and Asia’s continuing
role of important substances such economic development have created
as starches like amylose in cooking important new opportunities.
rice and how they are measured. “These are the two key changes
To give participants a break driving the whole process and
from the intellectual rigors of the making this research area so
workshop program—and to make sure exciting,” Dr. Zeigler said. “If we can
that theory was put into practice— link these two things together—our
dinners and lunches showcased new and improved knowledge and
rice dishes from around the world. understanding of rice quality with
Attendees were treated to gourmet affluent-consumer desires for better
meals that included European rice—then it’s possible we can also
and Central Asian rice dishes, as help poor farmers improve their lives.
Jose Raymond Panaligan

well as “a banquet of rice in all its “This would be an outstanding

Southeast Asian gourmet forms.” example of using the latest in
Workshop convener
Melissa Fitzgerald in “IRRI has a strong foundation science to improve the lives of the
her lab. of previous rice quality research to poor, while satisfying the desires
build on,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “We of the affluent,” he added.

Rice Today July-September 2007 17

New Books www.irri.org/publications

a new rice engine and why start The pocket-sized guide

now?), agricultural economist introduces the concept of yield
David Dawe (Scientific research, gaps and underlying constraints.
poverty alleviation, and key trends The functions of each nutrient are
in the Asian rice economy), plant explained in detail, with a description
ecologist Rowan Sage (Learning from of the deficiency symptoms and
nature to develop strategies for the recommended strategies for
directed evolution of C4 rice), and improved nutrient management.
other leading experts in the field. The 47-page color annex provides a
Charting new pathways to C4 pictorial guide to the identification
rice is scheduled for publication of nutrient deficiencies in rice.
in July 2007. To order or inquire, To make this 2nd edition as
contact IRRIPub@cgiar.org. widely accessible as possible, it is
also freely available to download
Rice: a practical guide to from the Web in PDF (www.irri.
nutrient management (2nd org/publications/catalog/ricepg.asp).
edition) (edited by T.H. Fairhurst, C.
Witt, R.J. Buresh, and A. Dobermann; Rice Genetics V (edited by D.S. Brar, D.J.
published by IRRI; 136 pages; US$10). Mackill, and B. Hardy; published by World
Scientific Publishing; 350 pages; US$88).
Charting new pathways to C4 rice
(edited by J.E. Sheehy, P.L. Mitchell, and
B. Hardy; published by World Scientific
I n the last 5 years, site-specific
nutrient management (SSNM)
for rice has become an integral part R ice is now the model plant for
genetic research on crop plants.
Publishing, Singapore; 422 pages). of improving nutrient management Those who work on rice do so not
in many Asian countries. Nutrient only to help grow and eat it, but also

W ith unfavorable conditions

brought about by climate
change and other environment-
have been tailored
to location-
to advance the frontiers of genetics
and molecular biology. Progress
made since the first International
related issues, feeding the world in specific needs Rice Genetics Symposium (IRGS) in
the coming century will be no mean and promoted on 1985 has made rice the organism of
feat. The situation offers an enormous a wide scale. The choice for research on crop plants,
challenge to the rice research first edition of and the rice genome has become
community, compelled to feed Rice: a practical a reference for other cereals.
almost half the world’s population guide to nutrient This volume is a collection of the
using less water and nitrogen. management papers presented at the 5th IRGS
In Charting new pathways to (2002) quickly became the in Manila, Philippines, in 2005. It
C4 rice, 24 scientists blaze the trail standard reference for SSNM. reports the latest developments in
toward another Green Revolution, Over the years, SSNM has the field and includes research on
continuing the fight against hunger been refined through research and breeding, mapping of genes and
using modern technology. According evaluation through the Irrigated quantitative trait
to the authors, future substantial Rice Research Consortium. loci, identification
yield increases are likely only if Conceptual improvements and and cloning of
the photosynthetic system of the simplifications have been made, candidate genes
rice plant (known as C3) can be particularly in nitrogen management. for biotic and
converted to the more efficient C4 A standardized four-panel leaf abiotic stresses,
photosynthesis of plants such as color chart has been produced, gene expression,
maize. C4 plants use water twice with more than 250,000 units and genomic
as efficiently as C3 plants; nitrogen distributed by the end of 2006. databases and
use is 30% more efficient, and they The evolution of SSNM prompted mutant induction
are generally more tolerant of high this revised edition of the practical for functional
temperatures. When achieved, C4 guide, to ensure consistency with genomics.
rice will be the first non-evolutionary newer information provided on To purchase the complete
example of reconstructing the the SSNM Web site (www.irri. electronic publication or select
primary metabolism of a plant. org/irrc/ssnm) and local training chapters, go to http://tinyurl.
Showcasing alternative ways materials. This edition will also be com/2lyvl6. A paperback edition,
of achieving C4 photosynthesis, translated into several languages, to be sold only within the
the book presents papers by crop including Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Philippines, will be available at
modeler John Sheehy (Why build Indonesian, and Vietnamese. IRRI for $27 from late July.

18 Rice Today July-September 2007

The where and how of rice
by Robert Hijmans

ice is grown bunded fields that retain water to
in more than assure flooded conditions, makes
100 countries. up about 44% of the global rice
According to area. This is the dominant system
the Food and at high latitudes (both north and
Agriculture south), but also in southern India
Organization and on the Indonesian island of
of the United Java. Flooded rice is the most
Nations (FAO), productive rice ecosystem, producing

Ariel Javellana (2)

the global rice about 75% of the global output.
area harvested Most of the rainfed rice fields are
in 2005 was also flooded for at least part of the
153 million growing season. This agroecosystem,
hectares. The amount of land used for commonly known as “rainfed a long history of compiling such data
rice is less, in the order of 127 million lowlands,” comprises about 45% of for Asia,1 the Institute now considers
hectares, because in some fields the global rice area and is particularly all rice-producing countries, in
farmers plant two, or even three, important in eastern India and collaboration with the International
rice crops each year. One hectare Southeast Asia. The remaining 11% of Center for Tropical Agriculture,
of double-cropped land therefore the world’s rice area is grown in the the Africa Rice Center, and the
provides 2 hectares of rice area each “upland” ecosystem, which comprises International Food Policy Research
year (areas referred to hereafter fields that are neither flooded nor Institute. The map for Africa is a
are harvested areas, as opposed to irrigated. In Asia, this system has first approximation, and consistency
actual land areas). On this land, declined considerably in Thailand between the classifications used
farmers produce 628,000,000,000 and China, but is still important. It in Latin America and Asia needs
kilograms of rough (unmilled) rice. is the dominant production system improvement. Meanwhile, the
This averages in Africa and Brazil in technology for this type of work
out to about 95 Knowing where and how terms of area planted. is changing: a recent paper by
kilograms for each rice is grown is crucial for The reality is always Xiangming Xiao and colleagues2 has
person on Earth. more complex, with shown how time series of satellite
Almost half assessing threats to and fields that are sometimes images from the MODIS sensor can
the global rice opportunities for production flooded, or receive very be used to map flooded rice areas.
area is in India little supplementary Knowing where and how rice is
and China and 89% is in Asia. Africa irrigation. In parts of northern grown is crucial for assessing threats
and the Americas each have a little China, for example, rice is grown as a to and opportunities for production,
more than 5%. The eight countries “normal” (nonflooded) field crop, with and hence for determining research
with the most rice area are all in supplementary irrigation as needed, needs. For example, to estimate the
South and Southeast Asia (India, while some of the upland rice in possible impact of a drought-tolerant
China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil receives water from sprinkler rice variety on income and poverty
Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, irrigation. It remains a challenge alleviation, you need to know (along
and the Philippines) and they have to adequately characterize rice with many other things) how much
80% of the global rice area. agroecosystems and obtain accurate rice is produced in areas affected by
Rice production agroecosystems statistics about their distribution. drought, what the current rice yields
are often classified according to The map on the next two pages are, and how much yield increase
the dominant water regime. For reflects the International Rice to expect from the new variety.
example, rice fields are distinguished Research Institute’s (IRRI) current Trends of detailed rice area and
for being irrigated or rainfed, and best estimates based on subnational- yield data can also help us better
for being flooded or not flooded. level production statistics in rice- understand ongoing patterns of
Irrigated rice, typically grown on producing countries. While IRRI has change, and the implications for food
security and research priorities.
1. The work of the late Robert E. Huke, a professor of geography at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA,
and a visiting scholar at IRRI, has been particularly important and is the foundation for IRRI's current work.
Dr. Hijmans is a geographer in
2. Xiao X, et al. 2006. Remote Sensing of Environment 100:95-113. IRRI’s Social Sciences Division.

Rice Today July-September 2007 19

M ap: Robert Hijmans / Design: Juan Lazaro, IV

Rice Today July-September 2007, Vol. 6, No. 3 Where and how rice is grown is crucial information for determining research priorities.
and influence traits) at the Chinese Agricultural Research Institute in
Academy of Agricultural Sciences Shanxi, where he worked for 3 years.
(CAAS) in Beijing. “One of the most Originally, he expected to go from the
exciting aspects of my work at IRRI,” farm into the construction industry,
he says, “was guiding new work but was so taken by agriculture
in areas like functional genomics that, fatefully, he went on to get his
to ensure it made a difference in first degree, in plant protection,
the lives of poor rice farmers.” in 1978 from the Department
On his next trip overseas—this of Agronomy at the Shanxi
time to Korea—Dr. Wang was to Agricultural University in Taigu,
establish yet another consistent 60 kilometers south of Taiyuan.
theme to his work at IRRI: this From there, he launched his
time, his commitment to helping career in agricultural research by
IRRI’s partners in the national taking a job in 1979 as an assistant

Jose Raymond Panaligan

agricultural research and extension lecturer in agricultural entomology
systems (NARES) of rice-producing at the same university. He then went
nations. While in Korea, he on to his master’s degree in biological
signed a new collaborative 2- control, which he completed in
year work plan that focused on 15 1982 from CAAS’s Institute of
individual research projects. Biological Control in Beijing.
“IRRI’s many partnerships world of agricultural research. Launching his international
and relationships with the NARES Shanxi is known as the coal career on a Rockefeller scholarship,
are vital not only to its research capital of China, containing about Dr. Wang was one of the first
but also to its continuing ability to one-third of the nation’s coal Chinese students allowed to study
achieve impact and really make a deposits. Because of its high altitude overseas when he left to get his
difference in the lives of poor rice and dry climate, little rice is grown Ph.D. in entomology in 1985 from
farmers and consumers,” Dr. Wang there, with the main crops being the Department of Entomology at
says. “My job was to identify those wheat, maize, millet, sorghum, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute
areas where IRRI could play a useful and potatoes. Dr. Wang’s father and State University in Blacksburg,
role, and those where it could not.” was a well-known and respected Virginia, in the United States.
In addition to building on vice governor of the province. Next, he returned to China to
decades of successful research At 18, Dr. Wang started his first work at CAAS, eventually rising to
relationships in Asia, Dr. Wang led job, as a farm worker at the Linfen assistant director of the Institute of
efforts to build new relationships
in regions such as Central
Asia and Africa. However, his Dr. Wang with IRRI
biggest challenges remained in Director General
Robert Zeigler and
South and Southeast Asia. (above) at his farewell
“The rapid development of seminar in June 2007.
many NARES in Asia, especially
in nations such as Korea, India,
Thailand, and China, meant IRRI
had to change also, or be left
behind,” Dr. Wang says. “During
my time at IRRI, several of these
nations have moved from being
simple research partners to actual
donors, so the whole relationship
has fundamentally changed.”
Fortunately for IRRI, Dr. Wang
had the experience to deal with
such major changes. For most of
his career, he has been surrounded
by change and opportunity. Born
in 1955 in Taiyuan, the capital of
Ariel Javellana (2)

Shanxi, Dr. Wang saw little rice

while growing up and, it appeared,
was never destined to enter the

Rice Today July-September 2007 23

Biological Control in 1993, when he Dr. Wang and his staff
left to become deputy director of the (from left) Donna Robles,
International Institute of Biological Lucy Gamel, and Velinda
Control at CAB International in
the United Kingdom until 1995.
He was then tempted back
to China to become CAAS vice
president, the post he was holding
when he was appointed head of
research at IRRI. Dr. Wang says
experience has taught him that,
as a manager of research, it is
more important have a broad
understanding of many different
scientific areas rather than be an
expert in only one. “If you have good

Ariel Javellana (3)

people, it’s important you let them
take the lead,” he says. “The difficult
time comes when you are presented
with many good ideas, and you as the
manager have the resources to choose
only just a few and not everything.” improvement and the second was analyze a large number of genes to
Dr. Wang says that while at IRRI natural resource management. At determine their function—and the
he tried to focus on two broad areas the same time, he was intent on creation of the new crop research
for scientific advancement. The first continuing the Institute’s efforts to information lab—a bioinformatics
was in the general area of germplasm strengthen socioeconomic research unit, which allows the powerful
and provide policy support to capture, analysis, storage,
developing countries. “During my integration, and dissemination of
time at IRRI,” he says, “we saw the biological information—as a joint
development of new facilities such venture between IRRI and the
as the gene array and molecular International Maize and Wheat
marker applications lab—which Improvement Center in Mexico.”
allows researchers to rapidly In the area of natural resource
management, Dr. Wang oversaw
the establishment of IRRI’s first
ever environmental council, which
provides environmental policies
and ideas for not only the Institute’s
research, but also its operations.
In response to requests from
its NARES partners, IRRI also
strengthened its focus on fragile
upland areas, recognizing that
this was where many of Asia’s
poorest rice farmers lived.
Typifying his commitment to the
Institute’s goals in these areas, in
January 2001, Dr. Wang traveled
to Nepal to sign a memorandum
of understanding between
IRRI and the Nepal
Agricultural Research
Council that led to
the development of
a detailed research
program for rice
production in the
mountain kingdom.

24 Rice Today July-September 2007

Later that same year, Dr. Wang Dr. Wang examines rice in one
led an IRRI team to China to of IRRI's demonstration fields.
establish what has become the world
rice industry’s premiere event, the
International Rice Congress. Held
every 4 years, the first Congress
was held in 2002 in Beijing after a
grand opening attended by the then
president of China, Jiang Zemin.
Dr. Wang says one of the keys
to any success he had in China or
elsewhere in Asia was the strong
support he received from the rest of
the IRRI management team. “I was
very fortunate to be hired by Ron
Cantrell when he was IRRI’s director
general. He taught me much that I
was able to use later on,” he explains.
“I firmly believe that one
of the secrets to success for any
management team, especially at a
research institute, is to be able to
argue about issues on a professional
basis, while still maintaining
strong personal relationships.
Sometimes, this can be difficult
in an Asian context, so it was very
helpful to work at an international
organization like IRRI, which is
based in Asia—I have a lot to thank
my management colleagues for.”
Dr. Wang says he also tried
to place special emphasis on his It also triggered a revolution in Research (CGIAR). As the CGIAR’s
relations with locally hired staff at traditional rice research, the impact new director, Dr. Wang functions
IRRI. “I was very proud to be invited of which will be felt for years to come. as the chief executive officer of
to become an honorary member “There’s been incredible progress the CGIAR system and heads the
of the IRRI Filipino Scientists in rice research, not just at IRRI, but Washington, D.C.-based CGIAR
Association. It’s something that all over the world,” Dr. Wang says. Secretariat. He also becomes
I will always value,” he says. “That we can take all of this new a member of the World Bank’s
During Dr. Wang’s term as DDG- knowledge and use it to improve the senior management under its
R, the Institute faced a decline in lives of the poor has made my time at Vice Presidency for Agriculture
support from some key donors that IRRI a very rewarding experience and and Sustainable Development.
required a reduction in staff. It was something that I will never forget.” Dr. Wang says that he is excited
a difficult time, especially for those Dr. Wang is leaving IRRI in by the challenge posed by his new
working on the research side of IRRI. strong research shape. Not only does role, and that his time at IRRI will
Most of Dr. Wang’s memories, it have a new strategic plan for 2007- never be forgotten. “I have a lot to
however, are positive. He was 15 called Bringing hope, improving learn in my new job and need all of
also at IRRI when one of the most lives, but the Institute has already IRRI’s support and counsel,” he says.
significant breakthroughs in the begun to implement a new medium- “Let a hundred flowers bloom,
long history of rice research was term plan for its research to meet the let a hundred schools of thought
announced. The release of the first goals of the overall strategic plan. contend.” This is perhaps one of the
draft sequences of the rice genome, Although he is departing IRRI, best-known phrases to come out of
by the Beijing Genomics Institute Dr. Wang is not leaving agricultural modern China, but it also sums up
and Syngenta simultaneously in research. In fact, his next adventure nicely the success and management
2002, and the final sequencing of extends his opportunity to influence philosophy of a young man who set
the rice genome by a Japanese-led not only IRRI but also its 14 partner out from Shanxi more than three
international consortium in 2004, institutes of the Consultative Group decades ago to help make the world
made headlines around the world. on International Agricultural a better place—and that he has.

Rice Today July-September 2007 25

Pushing things

Agricultural economist Mahabub

Hossain retires from international
work to pursue his dream for his
home country of Bangladesh
Ariel Javellana (2)

by Meg Mondoñedo here at IRRI. But I want to set up a Bangladesh and one of the largest
private-sector development studies in the world, as its executive

institute—that is my aim, to set up an director. BRAC, whose mission is
wo things stand out when institute and see if I can leave a legacy to reduce poverty and empower the
you listen to Mahabub in Bangladesh. I am going back to my disadvantaged, focuses on income
Hossain: his resolve in country to share what I have learned.” generation for the poor through
stamping out global poverty Dr. Hossain’s next move is to join microcredit and employment in
and his love for his country. the Bangladesh Rural Advancement agriculture, and on skill enhancement
After 15 years of excellence—in Committee (BRAC), the largest for the poor through better health
research, livelihood analysis, impact nongovernmental organization in care and education. In this role,
assessment, rice sector analysis, he will have the chance to focus
poverty mapping, providing policy Dr. Hossain, his decades of experience on the
support to governments and wearing his problems facing his home country.
beloved Filipino
institutions, and training developing- barong, presents a Dr. Hossain was born in 1945 in
country scientists—International Rice seminar at IRRI. a remote village in undivided Bengal
Research Institute (IRRI) economist under British India—an area that
Mahabub Hossain is ready to return now belongs to the Indian state of
to Bangladesh with a mission. West Bengal. He and his family lived
“I’m taking an early retirement,” through the partitioning of Bengal
says Dr. Hossain. “I could stay here by the British in 1947. The eastern
until 2010, when I’ll be 65, but I’m area of Bengal, home to a Muslim
leaving because I feel that I owe majority, went to Pakistan, becoming
something to my country. Bangladesh East Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan
has serious problems, the living became Bangladesh after its civil war
environment there is very poor, and with West Pakistan (now Pakistan).
I’m leaving a good job and a good life The Hossain family migrated to East

26 Rice Today July-September 2007

Pakistan in 1949 during a time of developed a Bangladeshi media
ethnic cleansing targeting Muslims. strong and often shows interest in
Dr. Hossain's work in his
In 1958, Dr. Hossain returned to harmonious home country.
West Bengal to live with his maternal research team.
grandparents and take advantage Dr. Hossain
of the better schooling available. In joined IRRI in
1966, he returned to East Pakistan 1992, after the
after completing his bachelor’s then Director
degree at Calcutta University. General Klaus
As a child in West Bengal, Lampe told him
India, Dr. Hossain did not dream about the position
of becoming a social scientist. “My earlier. “During
aim in life was to become a doctor,” the Rockefeller
he says. “But the school in my Foundation
village did not offer science courses. meeting on
They only had humanities, arts, biotechnology
and agriculture, not science. My in 1990,” he BRRI

grandparents, who brought me up, recalls, “I

did not allow me to go to another was invited by Dr. Lampe for a me,” he recounts. “But I assured him
area to get a science education, so breakfast meeting. He told me that, after a year, I could decide if I
that was the end of my aim in life. I there was a position vacant at IRRI, wanted to continue after completing
went to study humanities and then and that they had been looking one term. Only then could I decide
I was attracted to history. It was for someone for about a year.” if I wanted to join IRRI. So that
my favorite subject. But somehow, I Following his interview, Dr. was my polite way of saying no.”
ended up majoring in economics.” Lampe promptly offered him the job. Dr. Lampe took Dr. Hossain’s
As head of IRRI’s Social Sciences But getting Dr. Hossain on words to heart, and, 1 year later—to
Division, Dr. Hossain provided board turned out to be a difficult Dr. Hossain’s awe—called again to
leadership and tactical input to the task. In 1988, the Bangladeshi say that the position was still vacant.
development of IRRI’s research and government appointed Dr. Hossain “Dr. Lampe knew that I was
institutional plans. He led IRRI’s director general of the Bangladesh approaching the end of my first term
research programs on rainfed Institute of Development Studies as director general at BIDS, he knew
environments, along with various (BIDS), the policy think tank of I was going to decide whether I would
research projects, and networks such Bangladesh. He rose above many do a second term,” says Dr. Hossain.
as the Consortium for Unfavorable of his seniors in the institution. “My thinking was that, obviously,
Rice Environments. He also provided “I told Dr. Lampe that the the job at IRRI was good and no
strong leadership in organizing social position at BIDS was good for two one should deny themselves a good
sciences research to meet IRRI’s terms of 3 years each and I could opportunity, particularly for better
priority needs and, in the process, not betray the trust that they gave education of their children. I asked
Dr. Lampe to write to my boss, Saifur
Rahman, the finance minister at that
Dr. Hossain with A.P.J. time, who was also chairman of the
Kalam, president of board of trustees of BIDS, in order to
India, who visited IRRI
in February 2006.
facilitate my release from BIDS. That
was how my career at IRRI began.”
Dr. Hossain later found out that
IRRI sought him so ardently because
of his rich background and hands-on
experience in assessing the impact of
agricultural technologies on income
distribution and poverty. From
Bangladesh, he had been a member
of the coordinating team of an IRRI
project investigating these issues in
Jose Raymond Panaligan

seven Asian countries. He also had

a good grasp of policymaking and
planning, a skill that would prove
invaluable in helping IRRI carry
out its mission to reduce poverty

Rice Today July-September 2007 27

shortage of land, water, and labor
that have been diverted from
agricultural to nonfarm activities.
“The challenge is how to meet
the demand for rice,” says Dr.
Hossain. “Every input is scarce
and, as long as the population
continues to increase at an alarming
rate, that challenge remains.”
He adds that one of IRRI’s pivotal
roles is to change the perception
of donors from Europe and the
United States that the Asian food-
security problem is almost solved
and the remaining challenges can
be handled by the private sector.
“I think we need to convince our
traditional donors that our job is
not yet done,” he says. “As a social
scientist, one of my responsibilities
lies in preparing a story that will
convince donors that more support
is needed for IRRI to do its job.”
Dr. Hossain’s research
achievements are many and varied.


Furthermore, much of his work has
been with social scientists from the
DR. HOSSAIN, in his late 20s, in front of Cambridge University's Clare national agricultural research and
College, where he was a postgraduate student from 1972 to 1977. The
passport photos on the right show his progression through the years. extension systems (NARES)—the
institutions in the countries where
IRRI works—and so has helped
boost the research capacity and
and hunger, improve the health troubled by the global issues that strength of agricultural social science
of rice farmers and consumers, form daunting challenges for programs throughout Asia. He has
and ensure that rice production IRRI. As the population in Asia’s conducted policy dialogues in several
is environmentally sustainable. low-income countries continues countries, including Bangladesh,
Dr. Hossain has no regrets about to increase, the goal of providing the Philippines, and Myanmar.
deciding to join IRRI. In 1985-87, additional food is becoming more and By supervising the compilation
while working at the International more difficult to meet. Compounding and updating of IRRI’s freely
Food Policy Research Institute, he the problems caused by growing available Rice Statistics Database
performed a detailed study on the numbers of people is the increasing (www.irri.org/science/ricestat)—
impact of the Green Revolution—the
introduction in the 1960s and 1970s
of modern, fertilizer-responsive, high-
yielding rice varieties—in Bangladesh.
“I knew how much IRRI
was contributing, so I thought
this was a very good institution
to work for,” says Dr. Hossain.
“I knew that working at IRRI
would tremendously advance my
knowledge of what was happening in
agricultural development in Asia.”
A contented look spreads
across his face as he adds that
he enjoyed every minute of the DR. HOSSAIN is an economist
15 years he spent at IRRI. unafraid to get his feet dirty
in the field.
However, he is still very much

28 Rice Today July-September 2007

Ariel Javellana
Dr. Hossain with his
staff in IRRI's Social
Sciences Division.

which contains data on rice area, capacity of staple food due to low and, especially, the assistance and
production, yield, import-export rice prices—has been substantial. dedication of the secretaries and
figures, consumption, prices, For Dr. Hossain, IRRI is not other support staff. I think the
land use, adoption of improved just a research institute but a nationally recruited staff are the
varieties, and costs and returns humanitarian organization as well. real assets of the Institute. I will
in rice farming—Dr. Hossain “If IRRI had not been here,” he says, miss my staff; they have become my
has ensured public access to “we would have seen severe food friends. We are like a family here.”
important information that has insecurity in many countries. IRRI Another thing that he will miss is
helped ensure that rice research has done tremendous work to address the traditional Filipino shirt known
has been targeted and effective. issues of food security. However, as a barong. Initially, he wore a
Dr. Hossain’s work, with NARES we should not be complacent; we barong to blend in with the Filipino
scientists, on household surveys are still engaged in a war against culture but, over time, he grew to
to generate primary data on the time. If IRRI had not existed, I love the comfortable shirt, which
operation of the rural household would have seen many more people is traditionally made from fiber
economy has greatly increased die of hunger in my own country, derived from banana or pineapple
researchers’ and policymakers’ Bangladesh, which experienced plants. “The only thing that I miss
understanding of rural livelihood famines in 1944 and 1974. IRRI is is the pocket,” he says with a smile.
systems. He performed numerous a household name in Bangladesh “It has no pocket for a pen!”
impact assessments, which have and many other countries in South As he prepares to depart IRRI,
expanded and deepened the body and Southeast Asia have benefited Dr. Hossain keeps his dreams for
of knowledge on such issues as tremendously from IRRI’s support.” the Institute close to his heart and
yield losses from pests and climatic After 15 years at IRRI, Dr. mind. “I want to see this institute
stresses, IRRI’s role in providing rice- Hossain will dearly miss many prosper further,” he says. “I hope
breeding materials (such as seeds) things. First and foremost are his that, within the next few years,
to other countries, and the impact staff. “They are the best,” he says. IRRI will be running with the
of rice research on the reduction “The national staff are the real substantial resources required
of poverty. This last assessment contributors to IRRI’s achievements, to implement its mission.”
demonstrated that indirect impact— while the internationally recruited With countless achievements,
in terms of, first, availability of staff may be regarded as medium- awards, and immense contributions
year-round employment in rice term visitors. Our external reviewers to IRRI and Asia, Dr. Hossain
farming and agricultural growth- and participants at international leaves with gratitude and a single
induced rural nonfarm activities, meetings and workshops are always piece of advice for everyone:
and, second, higher purchasing very impressed by the organization “Always push things forward.”

Rice Today July-September 2007 29

a rice
for Africa IRRI Board member
Ruth Oniang‘o admires
by Savitri Mohapatra a Nerica plant.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion!”—so goes a well-known Ethiopian in the country where it was
saying. This could be an apt description for the new partnership being forged among grown. Moreover, global rice
stocks are declining and some
international research centers to address sub-Saharan Africa’s enormous rice challenge. recent predictions have rice prices
doubling in the near future.

ccording to the latest figures range of agroecologies in Africa. To effectively address some of
from the Food and Agriculture Advances have been made in these daunting challenges, WARDA is
Organization of the United understanding the dynamics of joining forces with the International
Nations (FAO), paddy (unhulled rice production systems and in Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and
rice) production in Africa has developing technologies designed the International Center for Tropical
gone up for the sixth consecutive for African conditions. Agriculture (CIAT by its Spanish
year, reaching 21.6 million tons in However, many challenges acronym) as part of a new alliance
2006, 6% above the 2005 total. remain, and smallholder farmers aimed at creating a strong synergy
FAO attributes the record harvest in sub-Saharan Africa continue for rice research in Africa. The three
to favorable weather conditions and to face a blitz of problems, many research centers are supported by the
the positive effects of the adoption of which are compounded by new Consultative Group on International
of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) challenges such as climate change. Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
varieties developed by the Africa Demand for rice is soaring “This research alignment seems
Rice Center (commonly known across much of sub-Saharan Africa very relevant to us because we work
as WARDA) and its partners. and 40% of this demand is being on the same commodity and there
Rice is successfully and met by imports at a staggering cost are certain areas of collaboration
economically produced in a wide of about US$1.5 billion per year. that have not been fully tapped
WARDA before,” said WARDA Director
economists General Papa Abdoulaye Seck.
caution that Dr. Seck explained that some
Africa would of the agroecologies in Asia, Latin
be ill-advised America, and sub-Saharan Africa
to rely heavily are alike and rice farmers in
on rice imports developing countries face many
for its growing similar challenges. “Therefore,
demand, a research alignment where the
because only comparative advantages of these
4% of world rice centers are combined can have a
Prof. oniang‘o (left) with production is large-scale impact in Africa,” he said.
WARDA board members subject to trade, Taking this into account, five
r.v. raman (3)

Tsekede Abate (center) and with most rice thematic areas have been identified
Mary Uzo Mokwunye.
being consumed for joint research to boost the

30 Rice Today July-September 2007

Warda director general
development of the African rice Papa Seck (left) and IRRI
sector: genomics, seed systems, Director General Robert Zeigler
policy and markets, postharvest at the 2006 annual general
meeting of the CGIAR.
technology, and the commodity chain.
One of the priorities of this
alliance is to strongly support the
International Network for the Genetic
Evaluation of Rice (INGER)-Africa,
which is coordinated by WARDA.
Based on IRRI’s model and
adapted to African conditions,
INGER-Africa has been so
successful that an impact study
by WARDA economists showed
that, thanks to its catalytic effect,
rice varietal improvement in seven the directors general and research be impossible for any single
West African countries generated directors of WARDA and IRRI. organization to implement an
a producer surplus gain of about Several donors, including the effective research for development
US$360 million in 1998. Rockefeller Foundation, Japan, agenda in Africa,” he said.
WARDA recently recruited a Canada, and France, as well as Building on this momentum,
new coordinator for this network, international nongovernmental senior scientists from the centers
which serves as a vital link between organizations such as Sasakawa have already started attending
national programs in Africa and Global 2000, endorsed the initiative each other’s research planning
international centers, promoting of intercenter collaboration for meetings and WARDA and IRRI
genetic diversity through the bigger impact in Africa. Participants scientists are contributing to joint
exchange and evaluation and use from Africa also expressed scientific publications. IRRI sent
of improved breeding materials eagerness and enthusiasm. a big delegation to WARDA’s First
originating from worldwide sources. As an indication of their genuine Africa Rice Congress in 2006 and
Capacity building in all interest in this partnership, for has proposed to jointly organize
the rice-related research and the first time and at WARDA’s with WARDA and other partners
development activities is another invitation, IRRI representatives— the next Africa Rice Congress,
thrust of this collaboration, which Board Chair Keijiro Otsuka and planned for 2009 in Dakar, Senegal.
will be carried out with support two board members, Ronald L. Already, three joint proposals
from partners such as FAO and Phillips and Ruth K. Oniang’o—took that were submitted to donors—the
the Rockefeller Foundation. part as observers at WARDA’s Canadian International Development
These selected priority themes board meeting in March 2007. Agency (CIDA), the Gatsby Charitable
as well as the proposed strategy “This testifies to IRRI’s firm Foundation, and the International
of the new rice partnership for commitment to work closely with Fund for Agricultural Development—
Africa were unveiled at the CGIAR WARDA,” remarked Dr. Otsuka, have been approved. The proposals
Annual General Meeting in 2006 who, as a strong advocate for include the organization of a
through a joint presentation by IRRI-WARDA partnership, is also planning workshop, rice germplasm
enthusiastic about collection in eastern Africa, and
the potential of improvement of rice production
Warda scientist Aliou Diagne (right) NERICA, after in East and southern Africa.
with IRRI board members Ron Phillips
(left) and Keijiro Otsuka.
carrying out With support from CIDA, the
impact studies planning workshop is scheduled
on the NERICA for June 2007 to advance this joint
varieties adopted initiative. Research directors of the
in Uganda. three centers are expected to attend.
WARDA Board Congratulating WARDA on
Chair Gaston the new developments, Ren Wang,
Grenier warmly IRRI’s deputy director general
welcomed the for research, who is set to become
IRRI delegation CGIAR director in July 2007, said,
at the board “WARDA is on its way toward a
meeting. “I agree center of excellence under Dr. Papa
simon senou

fully with Dr. Seck’s dynamic leadership and we

Seck that it would at IRRI are excited about it.”

Rice Today July-September 2007 31

The past 20 years have seen an evolution in

researchers’ understanding of how to best

apply nitrogen fertilizer to rice. That

knowledge is now being passed on to farmers.

Ariel Javellana (2)

by Roland J. Buresh increasing N fertilizer use efficiency rice crop. During the past 20 years,

through “reducing N loss.” The the focal message for increasing N
itrogen (N) is without aim was to increase the portion fertilizer use efficiency has evolved
doubt the nutrient of fertilizer N taken up by the rice from “reducing N loss” to “feeding
that most limits rice crop. A key parameter of success crop needs.” This evolution recognizes
production. It is typically was the “recovery efficiency” or the importance of managing N to
required in greater quantities than percentage of applied fertilizer N accommodate the diversity in field-,
any other nutrient if rice farmers taken up by the mature rice plant. season-, and variety-specific needs of
are to reap high yields and profits. The recommendations for rice for supplemental N. Varying the
Inappropriate N management also farmers arising from research in the application of fertilizer N to “feed”
has detrimental effects on crop yield 1980s and 1990s involved splitting the specific needs of a crop enhances
and the environment and aggravates the application of fertilizer N two opportunities for increasing yield
disease and pest incidence. or three times during the growing per unit of applied fertilizer N while
Large portions of the fertilizer season. Rates of fertilizer N were also reducing N loss and increasing
N applied to flooded rice fields preset and uniform across vast rice- recovery of fertilizer N by the crop.
are rapidly lost as gases to the growing areas for a given growing During the past 20 years,
atmosphere. As a general principle, season. The recommended first the key parameter of success has
about one-third of the fertilizer N timing of fertilizer N application was evolved from increased “recovery
applied by conventional farmers’ typically before crop establishment efficiency” of fertilizer N to increased
practices to irrigated rice grown (basal), involving use of one-third “agronomic efficiency,” which is the
in paddies (lowland rice) in Asia to two-thirds of the total fertilizer increase in grain yield per unit of
is lost within two weeks to the N to be used throughout the fertilizer N applied. This emphasis on
atmosphere as gases. About one- season. Thorough incorporation the output per unit of input without
third of the fertilizer N remains in of fertilizer N into soil before rice compromising on the need for high
the soil at crop harvest, and only establishment—preferably without yield acknowledges the importance
about one-third of the fertilizer standing floodwater—was promoted of ensuring increased profit for
N is taken up by the rice crop. as a way to reduce N loss. farmers. Over the same period,
Beginning in the 1970s and Through the 1990s and onward, guidelines have evolved from preset
continuing through the 1980s, emphasis was placed on matching and uniform fertilizer rates across
research on N management for the application of fertilizer N to the vast areas to an increased awareness
lowland rice largely focused on real-time, field-specific needs of a of the importance of adjusting

32 Rice Today July-September 2007

The evolution of nitrogen management
rates and timings to site-specific
and growth stage-specific needs. 1987 2007
Guidelines are now available whereby
Focal message “Reducing N loss” “Feeding crop needs”
fertilizer N rates for field-, season-,
and variety-specific conditions can Key parameter of fertilizer Recovery efficiency Agronomic efficiency combined
N efficiency with high yield
be determined from the estimated
Total N rate Fixed by season Determined by crop response to N
crop response to fertilizer N and a and agronomic efficiency
targeted agronomic efficiency for
Key component(s) of Basal (prior to crop Moderate early N; variable N
fertilizer N (see The evolution of N management establishment) rates and distribution within
nitrogen management, right). incorporation the season
The split application of fertilizer
N remains an essential component Another key component of recent time N management in which
of recommendations. Monitoring of advances in N management involves farmers monitor leaf color at 7- to
farmers’ fertilizer practices in Asia varying rates and distribution of 10-day intervals about four to six
in the past decade revealed that fertilizer N within the growing times during the growing season.
farmers often apply a substantial season to match crop demand for Farmers then apply fertilizer N
portion of their fertilizer N either supplemental N. In this respect, the whenever the leaves are more
before or within two weeks after crop leaf N status of rice, which is closely yellowish green than a threshold
establishment. Their early application related to photosynthetic rate and LCC value, which corresponds
of fertilizer N consequently often biomass production, serves as a to a critical leaf N content.
exceeds the demand of young rice sensitive indicator of the crop demand Rice farmers, when presented
for N. This can lead to vegetative for N during the growing season. with options for using the LCC, often
growth in excess of the optimum, The leaf color chart (LCC) is an prefer less monitoring of leaf color. An
which can increase the susceptibility inexpensive and easy-to-use tool for alternative fixed-time option widely
of the crop to lodging (falling estimating leaf N content. The LCC disseminated since 2004 enables
over), pests, and diseases. is usually a plastic, ruler-shaped farmers to monitor leaf color only
Recent advances in N strip containing four or more panels twice: once at active tillering (when
management for rice include as a that range in color from yellowish shoots emerge from the main stem
key component the adjustment of green to dark green. Several types of the rice plant) and once at panicle
the early N application to match of LCCs with varying shades of initiation (when the grain bunches of
the relatively low demand of young color and varying guidelines for N the rice plant first form). These are
rice for supplemental N. Guidelines application have been developed the two growth stages critical for a
are now available to ensure and distributed to rice farmers. sufficient supply of N. Farmers then
appropriate use of only moderate Guidelines initially established adjust their applications of fertilizer
early N to match crop needs. with LCCs were based on real- N upward or downward based on leaf
color, which reflects the relative need
of the crop for N at these stages.
A leaf color chart offers a The International Rice Research
simple, quick way for farmers
to assess the nitrogen needs
Institute, through collaboration with
of their crop. partners across Asia, has developed
and calibrated a standardized
LCC (see photo, left) that enables
farmers to select between equally
effective real-time and fixed-time
N management options for varying
within-season N rates. This LCC
has been widely distributed and
taken up across Asia since 2004. It
is to date the only LCC calibrated
across large rice-producing areas
for both N management options,
enabling farmers to opt for less
laborious fixed-time N management.

Dr. Buresh is a senior soil scientist at the

International Rice Research Institute.
For more information on N management,
see www.irri.org/irrc/ssnm.

Rice Today July-September 2007 33

Preparing for the rat race
by Jason Overdorf

A rare species of
flowering bamboo puts
rodents in a feeding and
breeding frenzy that
threatens famine in the
Indian state of Mizoram
aileen del rosario (2)

t nightfall in the remote Agriculture Department official who fight off the rodents or provide
state of Mizoram in heads the state’s rodent control cell. adequate relief for the massive
northeast India, villagers During last year’s harvest—when food shortages that followed. This
listen with apprehension the bamboo flowering began in rejection by the government led to
to the rustling of thousands of the eastern part of the state—more the formation of the Mizo National
rats foraging and breeding in the than 40 villages lost their entire Famine Front (MNFF) to organize
jungle. For now, the rodents are crop. And this year, the flowering and coordinate relief measures.
gorging themselves on flowering has peaked across all of Mizoram. The consequent sense of
bamboo. But when the bamboo “They depend on this paddy for alienation and marginalization
dies and the rice harvesting season subsistence,” Mr. Lalsiamliana said. among the Mizo people led to ideas
begins, a scurrying plague will “The state will now have to arrange of separatism and secessionism.
descend on their paddy fields. financial support for these areas.” The MNFF was transformed into
An unusual species of bamboo Local villagers call the once-in- a political party called the Mizo
blankets Mizoram, a remote state 50-years phenomenon mautam, or National Front and, on 1 March 1966,
with an ethnically distinct tribal “bamboo death.” And the last time the Front declared the Mizo people’s
population. Melocanna baccifera it hit, in 1959, it was indeed deadly. independence from India. Thus
flowers only once every 50 years or so, The state government dismissed began a violent chapter of insurgency,
generating millions of high-protein local forecasts as superstitious which continued for 20 years, ending
seeds that turn the local rats into raving, and was unprepared to in 1986 through the signing of an
incredibly prolific breeders. But, when accord with the government of India.
the seasonal rains arrive and cause The famine was estimated to have
the seeds to germinate, the rodents caused more than 10,000 deaths,
suddenly lose this source of food. and the conflict itself took more
Now present in huge numbers, the than 3,000 lives. Now, one of the
rats invade the rice paddies in their movement’s leaders, Pu Zoramthanga,
quest for food, destroying the crops Unfortunately is Mizoram’s chief minister.
for people, rats
the villagers depend on for survival. like rice too.
This time around, the
In a single night, the legion government has released more
of rodents can clip the ears from than US$125 million to fight the
every rice stalk in a field, says problem. And, as many as 5 years
James Lalsiamliana, the Mizoram back, Mizoram began tapping experts

34 Rice Today July-September 2007

to develop a coordinated plan to bamboo, how
limit the effects of the flowering to regenerate
and control the rodent population. the forest cover,

Shahnaz Kimi (2) / www.flickr.com/photos/73231755@N00

The Ministry of Environment and controlling
Forests drew on experts from the the rodent
International Bamboo and Rattan population,
Network (INBAR) and the United and dealing
Nations Industrial Development with health Every 50 years or so,
Organization (UNIDO) to help hazards that the bamboo species
Melocanna baccifera
find new ways to use the bamboo may arise with flowers, providing a rich
and thus encourage local villagers the proliferation source of food for rats
to harvest it before it flowers. The of the vermin. in the Indian state of
Mizoram. The results can
ministry also called in Canada’s But, he says the be devastating.
John Bourne, a 30-year veteran key to a solution
of Alberta’s rat patrol who helped lies in realizing
make the Canadian province rat the value of the bamboo itself. host of other economic stimuli.
free, to study the local rodents and Although locals cut down and “One issue is the dying
develop a plan for killing rats. Last burn bamboo to collect ash that bamboo,” Mr. Subramony said.
season, the program Mr. Bourne they use as fertilizer, experts from “Then there is the question of how
helped develop allowed villagers the state’s Bamboo Development to utilize it. There is a threat, but
to kill hundreds of thousands of Agency estimate that less than 1% there is an opportunity also.”
rodents using homemade traps of the 850,000 hectares of bamboo Nevertheless, this flowering
and poison supplied by the state. gets harvested, which is why a season, averting a food shortage
Mr. Lalsiamliana says the panel of researchers from UNIDO depends on killing rats. And that
state paid villagers 100 rupees and India’s Rain Forest Research may not be enough. Because farmers
($2.40) for every 50 traps they Institute has recommended the fear that the rats will destroy
set and distributed more than promotion of cottage industries such their crops, many have simply not
15,000 kilograms of rodenticide. as the manufacture of toothpicks planted in 2007. Consequently, the
T.P. Subramony, head of INBAR’s and bamboo mats and a temporary Mizoram Agriculture Department
Delhi office, says India now has a ban on harvesting bamboo in has predicted a rice shortfall
comprehensive plan that covers other parts of the country for of around 75% in 2007-08.
extraction and management of the the paper industry, along with a A local government reward of 1
rupee (2.4 cents) per rat has already
led to more than 400,000 rats killed
This view across mountains in southern Mizoram by early May 2007. Despite the
shows the extent of the flowering bamboo (light effort, some districts in Mizoram
brown foliage) that provides rats with enough food experienced major destruction of
for their numbers to climb to plague proportions.
crops in the 2006-07 winter.
“There will likely be a food
shortage, and that may lead to
famine,” said S.N. Kalita, formerly
the principal secretary of forests
and head of the Environment and
Forest Department of Mizoram. “But
the situation cannot be compared
with 1959. Now our communication
by road and air transport are
improved, so transporting in food
will not be a problem. Already, some
reserve stock has been created.
All I can say is that the state
government and the government
of India is fully prepared.”

Jason Overdorf is a freelance journalist

based in New Delhi. This is an edited version
of an article that appeared in the Toronto
Globe and Mail on 30 March 2007.

Rice Today July-September 2007 35

The rice-field rat, Rattus argentiventer, Rodents have two major impacts.
is the main rodent pest in rice fields in The first is the substantial pre- and
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. postharvest losses they cause to
agriculture. The second is as carriers
of debilitating human diseases.
Rodents have an enormous
economic impact on stored grain
in developing countries. Rats need
to eat 10–15% of their body weight
each day and they contaminate

Of rice
much more rice than that with their
droppings. In one year, 25 adult rats
would eat and damage about half
a ton of grain and produce about

and rats
375,000 droppings! Good data on
postharvest losses caused by rodents
are sparse; however, reports of up
to 20% postharvest losses of rice
Story and photos by Grant Singleton
are not unusual. In 1991, a study
in the central Punjab in Pakistan
Rats and mice do untold damage to rice crops and stocks across the found that for every person living in
globe. Here, Rice Today presents the facts on the rodent scourge. a village there were 1.1 house rats.
Extrapolating to the national level,
it was estimated that 0.33 billion

ature has sent the rats of Robert Sullivan, a journalist who metric tons of cereal (rice, maize,
to our homesteads spent a year observing the secret and wheat) were consumed annually
by thousands, and lives of rats in Harlem in New York by house rats in Pakistani villages.
farmers are being eaten off the City. He punctuated his observations This is a conservative figure because
face of the earth by them.” with historical accounts such as rodents damage more food than they
This quote from H.C. Bartley how rats catalyzed major changes consume and cause major damage
(1911) appeared in his book Studies in in the living conditions of Harlem to the structure of grain stores,
the art of rat catching. After a career tenants after many other efforts, which in turn leads to increased
spent catching rats and rabbits in including tenant strikes, failed. weather and insect damage.
England for a living, he wrote this Rats and mice, animals that
book as a reference for teaching his have played a central role in human Taking food from our table
profession at schools. He dedicated life for thousands of years, are Across Asia, preharvest losses of
his book to the headmasters of arguably the most important family rice range from 5% in Malaysia to
Eton, Harrow, Westminster, and of mammals. There are over 2,270 17% in Indonesia. To put this into
Rugby. Alas, given the dearth of species of rodents (defined as animals perspective, a loss of 6% in Asia
specialists in rodent management that have continually growing amounts to enough rice to feed
in Europe, it appears that the book incisor teeth and no canine teeth) 225 million people—roughly the
did not become prescribed reading. and 42% of all mammal species are population of Indonesia—for 12
The human fascination with classified as rodents. They are the months. Rat damage is often patchy
rats is highlighted by the recent re- ultimate mammalian weed, living and family rice plots small, so it
publication of this book and a new in almost every habitat on Earth, is not uncommon for farmers or
best seller published in 2005 simply and adapting well to environments villagers to lose half of their entire
called Rats. The latter is the story significantly altered by humans. rice crop to rats. Some farmers

Trap barrier systems, like this one

in Banaue, Philippines, help farmers
control rodents.

36 Rice Today July-September 2007

methods that are simple to apply and A simple solution
environmentally friendly have proven
effective in lowland irrigated rice
crops (see A simple solution, right).
O nce the ecology of a major pest species
is understood, scientists and extension
specialists can work closely with farmers to
Each rodent pest species has different develop ecologically sound, cost-effective
behavioral characteristics, breeding management strategies that dovetail into
A woman sells normal farming practices, including traditional
dynamics, and habitat preferences.
barbecued rat meat rat-catching methods. Village-level studies in
at a market in Pyay, Some species are seasonal breeders, Indonesia and Vietnam have clearly shown that
Myanmar. some breed throughout the year, and rat populations can be successfully managed if
others breed at very specific times. farmers work together as a community and if they
state that “for every eight rows of The ricefield rat, for example, breeds apply their control at the right time and in the
right habitats. Such ecologically based actions
rice they sow for their families, only when rice is in the reproductive
have also led to a 50% reduction in the use of
they sow two rows for the rats.” phase—if there is one rice crop chemical rodenticides.
In Southeast Asia, the ricefield per year, they have one breeding One simple technology added to the armory
rat (Rattus argentiventer) is the season, if there are two, they will of rice farmers is a trap-and-fence system known
number-one preharvest pest in have two, and, if three crops, they as the trap barrier system (see Building a better
rat trap on pages 34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 4,
Indonesia and is one of the top three will have three breeding seasons.
No. 2). Used across much of Southeast Asia, it
pests in Vietnam. In Laos, a member Female rats are pregnant for comprises a plastic fence surrounding a small
of the Rattus rattus complex of 21 days and mate the day after they rice crop planted 2–3 weeks earlier than the
species causes episodic problems, and give birth. One female can give birth surrounding crop, with traps set into the plastic.
Lao upland farmers consider rats as to three litters (12 young per litter) At night, rats follow the line of the plastic until
they reach a hole, which they enter to reach the
the problem they have least control during a rice crop, resulting in a
rice. They are subsequently caught and removed
over. In the uplands of Laos, Vietnam, total of 36 rats. These young will the next morning.
and parts of India, rat populations not breed until the next crop unless The trap barrier system is most effective
occasionally erupt and cause massive neighboring farmers plant their crops when combined with the following community
problems. Mizoram, in northeastern more than 2 weeks apart. This will actions:
• keep irrigation banks less than 30 cm wide to
India, is currently experiencing such extend the breeding season, allowing
make it difficult for rats to build nests;
an outbreak (see Preparing for the the rats (six females) from the first • conduct community campaigns using local
rat race on pages 34-35). A previous litter to also breed (rats breed at 7 methods to control rats within 30 days of
massive plague in the 1950s led to weeks of age). Therefore, the one planting the crop (before rats breed); these
famine conditions and triggered a adult female could potentially give community actions should focus on village
gardens, main irrigation channels, and
change of government. The lowlands rise to 120 rats in a single season.
of India and Bangladesh have a Attempting to rid their crops of • clean up any grain spills at harvest; and
number of rodent pest species, with rats, rice farmers have developed • synchronize planting so that crops are planted
the lesser bandicoot rat, Bandicota a range of ingenious devices and within 2 weeks of each other.
bengalensis, being a major pest. strategies. Rat traps of all shapes
In many areas, farmers actually and sizes have been used but mostly grave risk. The negative ecological
abstain from planting a second with little success in reducing consequences of rodent control
or third rice crop because of the damage to rice. This is mainly can therefore be better managed
expectation of severe rodent damage. because they have been applied if the method is specifically
This “forgone” loss in productivity by individual farmers after rat tailored to the problem species.
is rarely taken into account. numbers are already too high. H.C. Bartley’s commentary that
the art of rat catching should be
Searching for the ideal rat trap The good, the bad, and taught in schools needs to be taken a
Through understanding the the not so ugly step further in Asia. Rodents cause
population ecology of specific The challenge for biologists has tremendous economic hardship
rodent species, effective rat-control another important dimension: on to Asian smallholder farmers, yet
a continental scale, usually less solutions for management can be
Wildlife biologist Rachel Labador than 10% of rodent species cause simple and effective. More young
is surrounded by rat-damaged fields
(see the bare, brownish patch) in
substantial impacts. Indeed, many biologists need to be encouraged to
Banaue, Philippines. rodent species provide important enter the fascinating secret world of
“ecological services” (they assist rats and work closely with farmers to
cycling of nutrients, for example, assist them in their struggle against
and generally play an important the hardships caused by rodents.
role in nature’s food web). Given
that management programs rarely Dr. Singleton, a rodent expert, is
distinguish between rodent species, the coordinator of the Irrigated
often the nonpest rodents are at Rice Research Consortium.

Rice Today July-September 2007 37

grain of truth

The aerobic
by Bas Bouman
rice reality
sk someone to think of a rice field and odds are First-generation tropical aerobic rice varieties were
they’ll imagine a flooded paddy. Growing rice in mostly derived from crosses between tropical parents
puddled fields works well as long as there’s enough from the two major subspecies of rice, indica and japonica.
water to do it. But, increasingly, that’s not always Some aerobic rice breeding programs have also developed
the case. As populations increase and the industrial and successful varieties by crossing high-yielding lowland rice
urban sectors compete with agriculture for water, “aerobic varieties with traditional upland types. In northern China,
rice” offers a water-saving alternative to many of the millions several new elite aerobic varieties with yield potential of up
of rice farmers worldwide. to 6.5 tons per hectare were released in the late 1990s.
Aerobic rice is a production system in which specially Aerobic rice can be found, or can be a suitable technology,
developed varieties are grown in well-drained, nonpuddled, in the following areas:
and nonsaturated soils. With appropriate management, the 1. So-called “favorable uplands”: areas where the land is flat
system aims for yields of at least 4–6 tons per hectare. (or terraced), where rainfall with or without supplemental
The usual establishment method irrigation is sufficient to frequently
is dry direct seeding, as opposed to bring the soil water content close to
transplanting seedlings into a flooded Will aerobic rice field capacity, where no serious soil-
field. Aerobic rice can be rainfed or chemical limitations occur, and where
irrigated. Irrigation can be applied farmers have access to external inputs
through flash-flooding, in furrows (or replace rice grown in such as fertilizers. Examples include
raised beds), or by sprinklers. Unlike the Cerrado region of Brazil and newly-
flooded rice, irrigation—when applied— formed terraces in the hills of Yunnan,
is not used to flood the soil but to just flooded conditions China, where farmers are achieving
bring the soil water content in the root aerobic rice yields of 3–4 tons per
zone up to field capacity (the maximum hectare.
possible before saturation occurs). on a large scale? 2. Fields on upper slopes or terraces
Aerobic rice also allows farmers to in undulating, rainfed lowlands. Quite
practice conservation agriculture, such often, soils in these areas are relatively
as mulching and minimum tillage. Despite these advantages, coarse-textured and well-drained, so that ponding of water
farmers must overcome several problems that are affecting occurs briefly or not at all during the growing season.
arobic rice. Rice fields that are not permanently flooded There are no widespread examples of aerobic rice in rainfed
tend to experience more weed growth and more species of lowlands, but these upper fields have been proposed as a
weeds. Appropriate herbicide use, plus additional manual target domain.
or mechanical weeding in the early phases of crop growth, 3. Water-short irrigated lowlands: areas where farmers
is therefore needed to control weeds. do not have access to water to keep rice fields flooded for
Soil-borne pests and diseases such as nematodes, root a substantial period of time. A good example is the North
aphids, and fungi are known to occur more in aerobic rice China Plain, where aerobic rice is grown on about 80,000
than in flooded rice, especially in the tropics. Currently, hectares with supplemental irrigation.
aerobic rice cannot be grown continuously on the same piece Besides these typical rice-growing environments,
of land each year without a yield decline. Depending on the aerobic rice can also be found in traditionally nonrice-
cropping history and soil type, low yields can even occur on growing areas. Again in the North China Plain, farmers
fields cropped to aerobic rice the very first time. are experimenting with aerobic rice as a means of crop
Achieving high yields under relatively favorable aerobic diversification in areas where maize has traditionally been
soil conditions requires new varieties of aerobic rice that the dominant crop.
combine the drought-resistant characteristics of upland Will aerobic rice replace rice grown in flooded conditions
varieties (grown on nonflooded sloping uplands) with the on a large scale? It may be too early to tell, but there is no
high-yielding characteristics of lowland varieties (grown doubt that, as rice farmers are forced to compete for less and
in irrigated, flooded fields). Several breeding projects, such less available water, aerobic rice has a major role to play.
as the ongoing program at the International Rice Research
Institute, are working toward this goal. Dr. Bouman is a senior water scientist at IRRI.

38 Rice Today July-September 2007