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International Rice Research Institute October-December 2008, Vol. 7, No. 4

Can organic agriculture feed Asia?

What next for Sri Lanka?
The long road
Is intensive farming sustainable?

Thai rice industry

Shaking the invisible hand

Rice on the up in Africa

ISSN 1655-5422 US$5.00 Rice Today October-December 2008 
Vol. 7, No. 4

Editorial . ............................................................... 4 Management made easy.................................. 32

Unleashing Africa's rice potential A new decision-making tool is helping rice farmers
optimize their use of nutrient inputs
News.......................................................................... 5
Global food situation at a crossroads The fun is in the dirt......................................... 34
�������������������������������� Food shortages as rat plague spreads Rice Today interviews Achim Dobermann, soil scientist
and new deputy director general for research at
�������������������������������� Myanmar recovering after cyclone the International Rice Research Institute, about life,
work, and what could have been…
�������������������������������� People..................................................................... 10
Keeping up with IRRI staff
������������������������������������ Moving on
Harvesting serendipity................................... 36
Rice production in Sri Lanka has a long and regal
���������������������������������������� Partners in progress history—but the country faces steep challenges if
������������������� ������������������������������������������
the future is to be as bountiful as the past

������������������������� �����������������������������������������
New books............................................................. 11
The rice tungro virus disease: a paradigm in disease
The long road..................................................... 20
Forty-five years of painstaking research have shown Rice Facts............................................................... 40
management that modern, intensive rice farming is sustainable Rice crisis: the aftermath
�������������������������������� Appreciating Rice and can even improve soil health What has happened, what has changed, and what
Popong eats his rice are the challenges ahead?
������������������������ Snapshot............................................................... 22
�������������������������������������������� Recipe...................................................................... 11
IRRI’s Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment Grain of Truth.................................................... 42
has shown that intensive rice production can be
���������������������������������������������� Hainanese chicken rice sustainable
Can organic agriculture feed Asia?

���������������������������������������������� Maps........................................................................ 12 Moving up in Ethiopia....................................... 24

������������������������������������������������ Simulating water stress If successful, initiatives to boost rice production in
On the cover:
Ethiopia can help the country achieve food security
������������������������������������������ Ethiopian farmer
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A flour blooms................................................... 14 Zeineba Taha in her

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��� Rice flour-based products are booming in Japan,
�� � � � ��� Shaking the invisible hand............................ 26 rice field at Chewaka.
forcing the country to change the way it thinks How much are rice farmers in Asia benefitting from
��������������������������� ������������������������������������������������ about agriculture higher prices? With different governments trying
different strategies, Rice Today looks at the situation
��������� �������������������������������������������� The IRRI pioneer interviews............................ 16 in Thailand.

��������������������������� �������������������������������������������������� Kwanchai Gomez: Figures, fake guns, and fund-raising

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������������� ���������������������������� cover photo Tareke Berhe International Rice Research Institute
����������� DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines
publisher Duncan Macintosh
���������������� editor Adam Barclay Web (IRRI): www.irri.org; www.irri.org/ricetoday

����������������������������������������������� art director Juan Lazaro IV Web (Library): http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org
Web (Rice Knowledge Bank): www.knowledgebank.irri.org
designer and production supervisor Grant Leceta
�������������������� ��������������������������������������������������� contributors Gene Hettel, Meg Mondoñedo, Bill Hardy
Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra (Africa Rice Center – WARDA) Rice Today editorial
������������������������������������������������� photo editor Chris Quintana telephone: (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725;
�������������������������������������������� photo researcher William Sta. Clara
circulation Lourdes Columbres
fax: (+63-2) 580-5699 or (+63-2) 845-0606; email: a.barclay@cgiar.org
���������������� ������������������������������ printer Print Town Group
Rice Today is published by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s Responsibility for this publication rests with IRRI. Designations used in this publication
leading international rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with should not be construed as expressing IRRI policy or opinion on the legal status of any
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 Rice Today October-December 2008
NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Global food situation at a crossroads Export prices for rice


D eclining agricultural IRRI BOARD Chair Elizabeth Woods. 1,100

productivity and
1,000 US 2/4%
continued growing demand Thai 100%B
have brought the world food Viet 5%
situation to a crossroads. Pak Irri-25%
Failure to act now through 800
Thai A1 Super
a wholesale reinvestment
in agriculture—including 700

Chrisanto Quintana
resea rch into improved
technologies, infrastructure 600
development, and training
and education of agricultural 500
scientists and trainers—could lead to a compared with 2–3% during the Green
long-term crisis that makes the price Revolution period of 1967-90. Based
spikes of 2008 seem a mere blip. on projected income and population
This stark warning, in line with growth, annual productivity growth
calls from organizations such as the of almost 1.5% will be needed at least 200
World Bank, the World Food Program, until 2020.





and Asian Development Bank (ADB), The meeting coincided with the
was issued by members of the Board of release of a report by the Food and
Source: FAO Rice Price Update October 2008
Trustees (BOT) of the International Rice Agriculture Organization of the United
Research Institute (IRRI) following Nations stating that higher food prices
their meeting on 16-19 September at are partly to blame for the number of with favorable weather, helped boost
Institute headquarters in Los Baños, hungry people growing by 75 million to planting area and production in
Philippines. around 925 million worldwide. several countries, including India
The global community needs to Higher prices have already forced and Pakistan. India is maintaining its
remember two key things,” said BOT the Philippine government to scale export restrictions on non-Basmati
Chair Elizabeth Woods. “First, that down efforts to overcome malnutrition varieties, although there is talk of
growth in agricultural productivity among children. The government has eliminating or loosening them in the
is the only way to ensure that people cut its Food for School Program from coming months.
have access to enough affordable food. the top 40 food-poorest provinces to Despite a 7.4% drop in volume
Second, that achieving this is a long- the top 20. The country, which was because of export restrictions, high
term effort. A year or two of extra the world’s largest importer in 2007, is prices allowed Vietnam to earn around
funding for agricultural research is expecting to import around 1.5 million $2.4 billion—up almost 90% from
not enough. To ensure that improved tons of rice in 2009. 2007—from rice exports in the first
technologies flow from the research and Another ADB report, released nine months of 2008. Thailand, one of
development pipeline, a sustained re- in September, argued that, for Asian the few major exporters not to impose
investment in agriculture is crucial.” countries to prevent future food price restrictions, was on track to hit 10
Dr. Woods pointed out that the surges, agriculture needs wide-scale million tons of exports this year. From
annual rice yield growth rate has structural reform and that, w ith January to 18 September, Thailand
dropped to less than 1% in recent years, demand remaining higher than supply, exported 8.08 million tons of rice, a
any supply shock 39% jump over the same period in 2007.

jose raymond panaligan

Rice vendors at a market would f ur ther At $4.91 billion, the value of exports
in Manila, Philippines. i ncre a se c ere a l was more than double that for the same
prices. Although period in 2007.
the export price The current crisis serves as a
of rice has settled timely wake-up call for governments,
from more than multilateral organizations, and donors
US$1,000 per ton to refocus on agriculture. Various
in May to around national and international bodies have
$700 per ton, it called for a second Green Revolution—
is still double the one that needs to increase productivity
pr ic e of 1 ye a r sustainably, with ever-fewer resources—
ago. to feed the world in the face of a growing
The higher population and shrinking land base for
prices, along agricultural uses.

 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Food shortages as rat plague spreads Myanmar recovering after cyclone

Major biotech event for Thailand

P eople living in the are affected by severe

I mproved agricultural productivity rice production during the coming dry-

grant singleton
bordering areas of
India, Bangladesh, and
food shortages and
more than 100,000
M inistries, government agencies, and
the private sector will join forces in
Thailand to stage one of Asia’s largest-ever
can help developing countries reduce
their reliance on emergency food relief
season crop and the 2009 wet-season
crop. On 27 August, the team visited
Myanmar continue people are in need of biotechnology events in Bangkok on 25-27 following natural disasters. This is two townships (Kun Yangon of Yangon
to struggle against immediate food aid. November 2008. one of the conclusions of a team of Division and Daedaye of Ayeyarwaddy
the rat plague that In Mizoram, The Thailand Center of Excellence for IRRI scientists who visited cyclone- Division) in Nargis-affected areas.
is destroy ing their around 150,000 Life Sciences, together with the National devastated Myanmar in August. U San Nyunt, general manager
Center for Genetic Engineering and
rice production. The families have been C y c l o n e Na r g i s d e v a s t a t e d of MAS Seed Division, said that the
Biotechnology and exhibition organizer
rat populat ion in affected. According Pico (Thailand), will stage BioAsia 2008, Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) key rice needs of Myanmar are more
t his area ex plodes to the Mizoram a major international biotechnology Delta area on 2-3 May, leaving more fertilizer for high-yielding varieties and
every 50 years or so government, the conference and exhibition. than 140,000 people dead or missing improved production of high-quality
in parallel with the state’s rice harvest was The event aims to stamp Thailand and causing an estimated 1.2-million- seed. The government has asked IRRI
flowering of a native decimated, dropping as an Asian biotechnology hub by ton (6%) drop in rice production, for seeds of salt-tolerant rice varieties,
species of bamboo, from 73,600 tons in bringing together more than 5,000 jeopardizing the country’s food security and the MAS Seed Division needs
researchers, academics, investors, and
which provides food 2005 to around 8,500 and exports. In hard-hit areas closer to equipment to monitor salinity levels in A farmer shows the height of
commercial developers of biotechnology
for the rodents. When tons in 2007. products at the Queen Sirikit National the coast, planted area was down 25% farmers’ fields and on seed farms. the Cyclone Nargis tidal surge.
the bamboo supplies Ken Aplin/CSiro The Austra lian Convention Centre, as well as more than because of a lack of labor, infrastructure, Salt-tolerant high-yielding varieties
are exhausted, the rats A ge n c y f o r I nt e r - 40 distinguished speakers from around equipment, and draft animals. will be important, particularly to replace also plans to support Myanmar’s work
turn to the region’s rice fields (for more, national Development contributed the world. On 26 and 28 Aug ust, IR R I the low-yielding varieties being grown to improve seed storage and can help
see Preparing for the rat race on pages US$400,000 in humanitarian aid to Dr. Juan Enriquez, the Founding Director scientists T.P. Tuong, David Johnson, in coastal areas. IRRI plans to provide farmers save irrigation fuel costs through
34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 6, No. 3). Bangladesh for the Chittagong Hill of the Harvard Business School Life Abdelbagi Ismail, Grant Singleton, and some of its more than 800 salt-tolerant the use of water-saving technologies.
Sciences Project and author of the global
Mizoram State in India, Chin Tract through the World Food Program Ruben Lampayan met in Yangon with breeding lines for testing by MAS. “A disaster of Nargis’s scale will
bestseller As the Future Catches You, will
State in Myanmar, and the Chittagong and the United Nations Development deliver a keynote address at the event. representatives from the United Nations IR R I, t hroug h t he Ir r igated hurt any country,” said Dr. Tuong,
Hill Tract in Bangladesh have all been Program. However, it is anticipated M ore infor mation is av ailable at Development Program, the Food and Rice Research Consortium and the “but a robust and efficient agricultural
affected badly. An August report by that substantial further assistance will www.bioasiabangkok.com or by emailing Agriculture Organization, and the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice sector helps people get back on their
the Chin Human Rights Organization be required to help the affected people info@bioasiabangkok.com. Myanma Agriculture Service (MAS) to Environments, will provide guidance on feet faster and with less need for
estimates that around 200 villages get back on their feet. discuss IRRI's role in plans to increase best-management options. The Institute emergency aid.”

$500,000 donation for IRRI Vietnam flood plan grains. The study, by Chinese and U.S.
Rice in blood pressure? prior to field use. Launched in the is believed to be the inner city of the
IRRI has received a donation of materials The Vietnamese government plans to researchers, shows that it is possible to Scientists from Tokyo University have Philippines on 12 August by Philippine kingdom. Excavations are conducted
worth $500,000 from 5 PRIME, a spend around $146 million between increase rice’s yield by enhancing the developed transgenic rice plants with Department of Agriculture Secretary jointly by the Sri Lankan Archaeologi-
Germany-based company that produces now and 2010 to build dikes and expression of a particular gene. The high levels of nicotianamine (NA), a Arthur Yap, the kit has potential cal Department and the Archaeological
technologies and reagents for molecular relocate thousands of rice farmers scientists initially found strains of rice substance that inhibits the function of across Asia, where zinc deficiency is Institute of Germany.
biology applications. The donation because of heavy seasonal flooding that exhibited underweight grains. In a key enzyme involved in hypertension an increasingly important problem in
includes technologies and reagents in its fertile Mekong River Delta. The one such strain, the cause was identified (high blood pressure). Inhibition of rice production. The kit, developed by Terraces lose development fund
for DNA isolation, amplification, and program would help 33,000 families as a mutation in the GIF1 gene, which is angiotensin I-converting enzyme IRRI scientists Jack Jacob and Sarah The Philippine Department of Tourism
molecular analysis and will strengthen resettle in areas away from landslides responsible for controlling the activity (ACE) leads to reduced hypertension, Beebout, provides a rapid color-chart- (DOT) has turned down a plan to
IRRI’s research capabilities in its and floods. About one-fifth of Vietnam’s of invertase, an important enzyme the leading cause of cardiovascular based test to determine the zinc content develop the Ifugao rice terraces. A
work to achieve more efficient and 86 million people live in the Cuu Long involved in the formation of starch disease and cerebral stroke, of zinc sulfate fertilizer, without the $930,000 proposal to develop a tourist
cheaper rice production, including the (Mekong) River Delta, which produces within developing grains of rice. If affecting around 1 billion individuals need for a laboratory or electricity. village in the area was not included in
development of drought-tolerant rice more than half of the country’s paddy invertase is inactive, the rice plant worldwide. The scientists found that the proposed 2009 budget because it
varieties. “We are very proud to support output and supplies more than 90% cannot produce edible grains. Invertase NA derived from the transgenic rice 2,300-year-old rice would push the department beyond
this extremely important research of its commercial rice. Funding will activity in the mutant strain was only strongly inhibited ACE activity, even A pot of rice has been recovered from a its budget ceiling for next year. The
mission with our technologies,” said 5 come from the state budget, grants, 17% of that in the normal strain. The compared with commercially available soil layer believed to belong to the 3rd DOT had proposed the purchase of 25
PRIME chief executive officer Bernd and loans from the state-run Vietnam team then created transgenic lines of antihypertensive medicine. The work century BC from the archaeological site hectares of rice terraces for the village.
Haase. “Molecular biology is one of the Development Bank. Floods arrive rice in which GIF1 is overexpressed appears in the September 2008 issue in Tissamaharamaya, Sri Lanka. The Many farmers were no longer tending
keys to generating scientific advances between August and November each and found that, compared with normal of Plant biotechnology journal. soil layer, 4.5 meters below the surface, their terraces because doing so is no
that may not only reduce hunger in year in the Delta. strains, the rice had larger and heavier recently yielded ruins of a residential longer economically viable. The United
developing countries but also spark grains. The study was published on 28 New zinc test complex of noblemen. Tissamaharama- Nations Educational, Scientific and
their subsequent economic growth Yield gene discovered September in an early online edition of A new zinc fertilizer test kit enables ya is believed to have been the capital of Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has
and ultimately lift more people out of A team of scientists has identified a gene Nature Genetics, and will be featured in buyers, distributors, and researchers to the Magama Kingdom in Ruhuna, and included the rice terraces on its list of
poverty.” that controls the size and weight of rice the journal’s November print issue. evaluate the purity of their zinc fertilizer Akurugoda, the site of the excavations, world heritage sites since 1995.

 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 

NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org

Boost for troubled farmers grow an endowment fund for long-term ever-changing landscape of rice, “can
The Food and Agriculture Organization support of rice research. Donations be moving, shocking, celebratory, witty,
of the United Nations (FAO) will provide through July 2008 total $12,500. and thought-provoking.” For more
$500,000 to increase rice production in The U.S. Internal Revenue Service information on the UK exhibition, see
conflict- and flood-affected districts of has given Asia Rice Foundation USA, www.stanscafe.co.uk/ofallthepeople.
Sri Lanka. The project Input supply to Inc. nonprofit status and all donations
vulnerable populations under Initiative are tax-deductible. Donations can Less water = less arsenic
on Soaring Food Prices has been be sent to Hugh Murphy at Asia Rice Rice grown “aerobically” in unflooded
funded in response to a request by the Foundation USA, Inc., 150 Kala Heights f i e l d s ( l i k e w h e a t a n d m a i z e)
Sri Lankan government for assistance Drive, Port Townsend, WA 98368, USA; accumulates less arsenic than rice
in combating the soaring food prices. email h.murphy@cgiar.org. grown in puddled conditions, according
FAO will provide funds to renovate to a study by a team of UK and Chinese
6,000 hectares of former rice land and Of all the people… researchers. In several countries,
distribute seed to the farmers in the Of all the people in all the world is including Bangladesh and India, rice
problem areas. Six hundred metric tons an exhibition that uses grains of rice is a major source of human exposure to
of certified seed will be distributed to to bring abstract statistics to life in arsenic, which has been linked to cancer
the target families in collaboration a startling way. According to the and other diseases. The problem occurs
with the Department of Agriculture in exhibitors, “Each grain of rice equals one when farmers flood rice paddies with
Batticaloa, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, and person and you are invited to compare arsenic-contaminated irrigation water.
Anuradhapura districts. the one grain that is you to the millions The scientists compared rice plants
that are not.” Over a period of days, a grown in flooded soil in greenhouse
IRRI memorial fund team of performers carefully weighs out conditions with rice plants grown Terry Jacobsen, IRRI head of operations, admon-
The Asia Rice Foundation USA has quantities of rice to represent a host of under aerobic conditions—a technique ishes some Italians who didn’t eat their rice. The
Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the Dead), in Urbania, GREAT WALL of rice: IRRI crop physiologist
established an IRRI memorial fund to human statistics, including populations developed initially to conserve water. Tanguy Lafarge and sons Nathan (left) and
Italy, has been home to 18 mummies since 1833.
memorialize with a donation in their of towns and cities; global or regional The aerobically grown rice’s arsenic The bodies were naturally preserved by a mold that Rèmi take the magazine to China.
names former IRRI staff members numbers of doctors versus numbers level was 10 to 15 times lower than absorbed the corpses’ moisture.
who have passed away. The Foundation of soldiers; the number of people who that of flooded rice. Their study was
established the fund in 2005. Half of are born and who die each day; and the published in the 1 August issue of
the income is used for a program to number of people who die in disasters the A merican Chemical Society’s The city of love becomes, at last, the city of
support young scholars involved in rice and warfare. The statistics, which are Environmental science & technology rice. IRRI scientific editor Tess Rola with Rice
Today in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
research. The other half is invested to arranged in labeled piles that form an journal.


Leadership Course for Asian Women
Dear Executive Editor, in Agriculture R&D and Extension
IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines, 2–13 March 2009
My respects to you all. I am writing to Rice Today because I will give its
articles and those of RIPPLE to some low-price journals and magazines Topics include Asian women in the workplace; mainstreaming gender
concerns in the workplace; leadership and management; personality
from a private media group. I will distribute interesting articles on rice development; developing work-related knowledge and skills; and
production development and rice science for media groups and some relating to others.
public libraries free of charge as a general volunteer worker. I am a low- For more details, contact Dr. Thelma Paris (t.paris@cgiar.org) or Dr. Noel
income person. I do various personal work, part-time nonprofit work, Magor (IRRITraining@cgiar.org).
and charitable work.
I will use those articles for interested persons from various sections. Ecological management of rodents, weeds,
… I really hope that many farmers or persons interested in farming and rice diseases—biological
will obtain some general knowledge in local language, Myanmar, after and social dimensions
I distribute articles about rice science and rice production. I have been IRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines, 16–27 March 2009
aware that natural disasters happened in the Philippines and around the
world. Please pray for all people who died from these natural disasters The themes for the course are ecologically-based pest management with
an emphasis on rodents and weeds; applying social science knowledge
and all the rest who survived around the world, including those in in decision analysis of pest and disease problems; farmer participatory
Myanmar. research. Presenters at the course include Emeritus Professor Charles
Krebs, Dr. Grant Singleton, Dr. David Johnson, Dr. Serge Savary, Dr. Flor Eyes on the rice: former IRRI scientist
With best wishes, yours respectfully, Palis, and Dr. K.L. Heong. Rhulyx Mendoza about to score yet
Mr. Than Htaik (a) Manan For more details, contact Dr. Grant Singleton (g.singleton@cgiar.org). another goal for Rice Today.

 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 

people New Books www.irri.org/publications

Keeping up with IRRI staff

The rice tungro virus disease: by expert rice scientists, pathologists, more—from field to the dining table.
a paradigm in disease management and economists, contain comprehensive For orders, email prri@philrice.gov.ph.

G raham McLaren, who

headed the IRRI-International
Maize and Wheat Improvement
Edited by E.R. Tiongco, E.R. Angeles, and
L.S. Sebastian; published by the Philippine
Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); Philippines
information on tungro, including virus
pathology, transgenic resistance to
tungro viruses, and improved tungro
Popong eats his rice
C.G. Ocampo with illustrations by G. Dy;
Center (CIMMYT) Crop Research P1,000, developed countries US$60, management approaches. For orders, published by the Philippine Bureau of
Informatics Laboratory (CRIL) from developing countries $30. Shipping and email prri@philrice.gov.ph. Make checks Agricultural Research (BAR); 34 pages.
its formation in 2006, has left the Handling costs: Philippines: P120 to P150 or postal moneys order payable to the The book narrates the story of a child,
Institute to lead the Generation (via post or fast courier), international Philippine Rice Research Institute. Popong, and his Wizard-of-Oz-like
Challenge Program’s Subprogram on (depending on zones): $25 to $65. adventure with the Rice Prince in the
Bioinformatics and Crop Information This book highlights the most important Appreciating Rice world of rice. The Rice Prince, who
Systems. Dr. McLaren will be rice virus disease A.S. Roque; published by PhilRice. appeared in Popong’s dream, teaches
based at CIMMYT headquarters in tropical This book contains a wealth of knowledge the boy important lessons about eating
in Mexico. Thomas Metz Asia. Although sourced from the Philippine Rice rice and not wasting it. In the words of
becomes interim head of CRIL. much is known Research Institute, the International Rice a schoolteacher who used the book
Plant biotechnologist Inez ACHIM DOBERMANN, IRRI deputy director general for research (left), demonstrates a drum seeder at the about tungro, it Research Institute, and various rice- with her second-grade students, “This
Slamet-Loedin joined the Institute 2008 Annual Development Cooperation Conference of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation remains a major industry experts and practitioners. The children’s story book is very useful
(SDC), held on 22 August in Fribourg, Switzerland. This year’s conference focused on the Mekong Region,
on 4 August. Her duties will include around the themes of food security and sustainable globalization. IRRI’s exhibit included the drum seeder, threat, lowering author, an educator-journalist, wrote because the words used are simple and
the development of transgenic a grain quality kit, the rice “super bag,” a leaf color chart, and a collection of diverse rice varieties. production by up the book in an easy-to-understand the illustrations are clear and very colorful.
products carrying agronomically to 80% in severe style for people with little experience They make the difficult task of explaining
important genes and validation of coordination, and implementation Marcos, and IRRI breeders Peter cases. Twelve in the rice production process— how rice is grown entertaining and fun.”
the function of candidate genes. of farmer participatory research. Jennings and Hank Beachell. chapters, written growing, harvesting, postharvest, and To order, contact BAR on +63 2 926 2538.
Kyung-Ho Kang, senior scientist D.C. Bhandari, lead University of Minnesota Regents
(plant breeding), joined IRRI coordinator at the IRRI-India Professor Emeritus Vernon
on 11 August to work under the Office in New Delhi, departed the Ruttan died on 18 August from Adapted from the New York Times
project “Germplasm Utilization for
Value Added.” Molecular biologist
Institute on 1 August to return to
the National Bureau of Plant Genetic
a brief illness, aged 84. Professor
Ruttan worked at IRRI as an
Ajay Kohli started at IRRI on Resources as principal scientist and agricultural economist in 1963-65.
29 September. His duties include head. Vijay Kumar, previously Statistician K.M. Palaniswamy, Hainanese chicken rice Preparation
dissecting genetic pathways for executive secretary at India’s National an IRRI scholar in 1968-70, died Chicken and rice
key agronomic traits and applying Academy of Agricultural Sciences, tragically in a road accident on 5 Serves 4–6
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and
Time: 1½ hours, plus resting
genomics tools to validate gene takes over from Dr. Bhandari. December 2007. He was working salt it. Add chicken to pot (completely
function. Entomologist Finbarr on a book titled Guidelines for submerge) along with smashed garlic
A classic Singaporean/Malay dish developed by
and sliced ginger. Cover, reduce heat to
Horgan is scheduled to arrive at Rice researchers in the estimation immigrants from the southern Chinese island
medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn
the Institute in October. His duties Moving on of some plant parameters, to of Hainan.
off heat and let chicken remain in water,
include the development of strategies which his daughter, Usha Rani covered, for 45–60 minutes or until it is

to integrate plant resistance with ormer IRRI photographer (1961- Palaniswamy, contributed, cooked through.
Chicken and rice
natural biological control and crop 89) Urbito (“Bito”) Ongleo and hopes to complete soon. Salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove chicken from pot (keep the stock)
management practices to enhance passed away on 6 September in Los 1 whole (1.4–1.8 kg) chicken (trim excess fat)
and let it cool to room temperature. Put
sustainable pest management. Baños, Philippines, at age 74. His 3–4 cloves smashed garlic
the peanut oil in a frying pan over medium
Fiona Farrell, new head of IRRI’s most famous photo (below) showed Partners in progress 1 teaspoon minced garlic
heat (add trimmed chicken fat if desired).
3–4 slices fresh ginger
Human Resource Services, arrived U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in a When oil is hot, add shallots and remaining
1/4 cup peanut (or corn or canola) oil

in September. She replaced acting plot of Green Revolution rice variety homas Rosswall has garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring
3 shallots or 1 small onion, roughly chopped
occasionally, until lightly browned. Add
head Paramjit Sachdeva. IR8 with Dr. Robert Chandler, been selected as chair of the 2 cups long-grain rice
rice and stir until glossy. Add 4 cups of
Devendra Gauchan and Philippine President Ferdinand CGIAR Challenge Program on 1/4 cup minced spring onions (scallions)
http://flickr.com/photos/jetalone the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then
H.N. Singh have been appointed Climate Change, Agriculture, 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for
Chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
as postdoctoral fellows under the and Food Security. Professor about 20 minutes, until rice has absorbed all the liquid. Add salt
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Rosswall, a microbial ecologist and pepper to taste.
Chili-garlic sauce: 5 fresh red chilies; 2-cm chunk of ginger; 3 garlic
project on stress-tolerant rice. and ecosystem scientist with cloves; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon lime juice; 2 tablespoons
Chili-garlic and ginger sauces: add all ingredients into a blender,
Dr. Gauchan, based at IRRI’s extensive research experience in chicken stock (from the boiled chicken)
and mix until ingredients are well blended. Add salt or sugar to
Philippine headquarters, will agriculture and climate change, is taste.
Ginger sauce: 75 grams ginger; 6 garlic cloves; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1
conduct socioeconomic research, currently executive director of the teaspoon lime juice; 2 tablespoons chicken stock (from the boiled
including analysis of livelihood International Council for Science. To serve
Chop chicken (keep or discard skin, as preferred). Put chicken
systems of farmers in stress-prone Parashuram Lal Karna has
and rice on plates and garnish with cucumbers, remaining spring
rainfed (nonirrigated) environments. been appointed acting executive Sauce for chicken: 1 tablespoon garlic oil; 1 teaspoon sesame oil;
onions, and cilantro. Combine ingredients for the chicken sauce
5 tablespoons light soy sauce; 1½ tablespoons sugar (to taste); 3

Dr. Singh, based in India, will director of the Nepal Agricultural and drizzle over the chicken. Serve with sauces and a bowl of the
tablespoons chicken broth (from boiled chicken)
provide technical and logistical Research Council. He replaces Nanda remaining stock.
support in the planning, design, P. Shrestha, who retired on 3 July.

10 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 11


with irrigation. It is a highly stylized This does not necessarily mean irrigated rice in wetter areas where
example that shows simulation that water stress is an important farmers could produce a reasonable

water stress
results for only one variety (IR72). problem there. In fact, some of the rice crop without irrigation. For
It used 9 years of daily weather most productive rice areas are found example, in southeastern China,
data2 to compute average and there, including the Punjab in India farmers could produce rice without
relative yields (with and without and the Nile Valley in Egypt. On the irrigation. However, supplemental
irrigation) over this period. Many other hand, if water becomes scarce irrigation increases production,
other known sources of variation, in these regions—as is happening in particularly in dry years, and allows
such as local hydrological processes many areas—water-saving irrigation for the production of rice or another
by Robert Hijmans and differences in soil types, are not technologies and appropriate crop outside the main rainy season.
taken into account in this example. varieties would be very useful. The map shows the relation
It nevertheless shows some basic Most areas with a relative rice between maximum rainfed yield

rioritization of agricultural (we refer to this as the “relative example, in red areas, rice grown facts about rice and water. There yield of below 50% have little rainfed (in the rainy season) and yield of
technology development— yield”), as computed with the without irrigation would achieve are some places where you cannot (nonirrigated) rice production.3 irrigated rice in the off-season (any
such as breeding for ORYZA2000 simulation model.1 For less than 15% of the yield expected grow much rice without irrigation. But this does not mean there is no season that would allow the highest
new varieties—should, yield if irrigation were available). It
among other things, be based on therefore reflects a yield increase
expectations about the adoption partly by reduced water stress and
of the technology by farmers, and partly by shifting toward growing
on the consequential economic seasons with more solar radiation
and environmental benefits. That and perhaps lower temperatures.
is easier said than done. A major Drought tolerance would seem
obstacle to estimating adoption particularly relevant in areas with
and benefits is that the value of predominant rainfed production
agricultural technologies is location- with a moderate to large yield
specific. That is, their utility can reduction (50–70% relative yield).
depend strongly on spatially variable Such areas include Bangladesh and
environmental factors, such as eastern India. Current research4
soil type and climate, and social aims to refine the approach by
and economic circumstances. improving the data used to run the
The effect of environmental models, and by running models
variability on crop growth can for different rice ecosystems and
to some extent be estimated for different varieties to contrast
with crop growth models. Such existing versus new drought-
models encapsulate knowledge of tolerant varieties, and to contrast
eco-physiological processes and current cropping practices versus
allow simulation of crop yield for water-saving technologies.
specific varieties and locations. In
this way, complex location data,
such as daily weather data, can Dr. Hijmans is a geographer in the
be summarized with an easy-to- IRRI Social Sciences Division.
interpret index such as crop yield.
The map shows the yield of rice
grown in lowland conditions (flat,
flooded fields) without irrigation Relative rice yields for irrigated versus 2
rainfed lowland (flat, flooded fields) condi- Estimated from satellite observations by
relative to yield with full irrigation tions for variety IR72 computed with the NASA, data available at
ORYZA2000 simulation model. Only results http://earth-www.larc.nasa.gov/cgi-
for areas with a significant amount of crop bin/cgiwrap/solar/agro.cgi.
land (see The Asian exception: irrigation on Compare this map with the rice area
pages 34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 7, No. 2 for by ecosystem map on pages 20-21 of
more information) are shown, irrespective Rice Today Vol. 6, No. 3 (www.irri.org/
Bouman BAM, Kropff MJ, Tuong TP, of whether (and how) rice is grown there publications/today/pdfs/6-3/20-21.pdf).
or not. 4
Wopereis MCS, ten Berge HFM, van Together with colleagues at the
Laar HH. 2003. ORYZA2000: modeling International Food Policy Research
lowland rice. IRRI. Available at www. Institute and the University of Minnesota,
knowledgebank.irri.org/oryza2000. see www.harvestchoice.org.

12 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 13

A flour blooms
allergic to flour can eat rice-flour other crops, some simply give up
cakes and cookies without anxiety. their land because alternative crops
Awareness of rice-flour products usually require more skilled labor.
is growing fast. In 2003, Rapidly growing demand
less than 7% of Japanese for rice flour therefore looms
consumers knew of rice- as a golden opportunity to fix
flour bread; in 2006, the some of the problems faced by
by Masaru Yamada and Satomi Tamai in Tokyo number jumped to 44%. Japan’s farming communities.

Although it is becoming But farmers in Japan have not

smaller, there remains a huge been so enthusiastic. Selling rice as

gap between Japan’s domestic a traditional staple is much more
Rice flour-based products are booming in Japan, forcing the country to change

rice prices and international prices. attractive than selling it for the new
the way it thinks about agriculture The Japanese government is,
however, trying to close that gap. For
demands. Traditional buyers pay
substantially more than newcomers
Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd., is now making rolls instance, the government has given do, although farmers are eligible for
with 100% rice flour. away free rice to companies that try a subsidy to compensate for this.

uko Kimura, a chef at the use of locally produced food, First, skyrocketing international

Masaru Yamada
Fukusoen, a traditional including vegetables and rice. With grain prices have made Japanese
noodle restaurant in local government support, more rice, which is segregated from the
Tsuruoka City in Yamagata than 8,000 schools—one-third international market by high tariffs,
Prefecture, is riding the crest of all lunch-serving schools in more competitive. Second, recent

of a wave. After launching the Japan—serve rice-flour breads now. scandals with many imported food
“Haenuki Men” rice noodle in June And the trend is not limited to items have prompted Japanese
2007, Fukusoen, owned by a local the public sector, with an increasing consumers to seek more locally grown Many different types of rice-flour bread—available at Lawson 24-hour convenience stores—have increased
consumers’ awareness of rice flour.
agricultural cooperative known as number of private companies food, which is seen as safe and tasty.
JA, sold 18,000 of the meals by the also interested in rice flour. Another advantage of rice flour to develop new rice-based food. To beef up rice production, new
end of March 2008. Then, from April Lawson, a company that owns 24- is that it isn’t always necessary to add With Japan only 40% self- measures taken by the government
to June 2008, the restaurant sold hour convenience stores, announced A new rice noodle product, which won a prize in gluten, which can cause allergies. sufficient in food (on a caloric are directly aiding farmers who
almost the same amount again. earlier this year that they would the national food contest held by the agricultural Although products such as bread, basis), the Japanese government grow rice for new uses. More aid
Instead of soba, the traditional begin to sell rice-flour breads at ministry in 2007. which uses rough rice flour, require is encouraging farmers to produce will be paid to such farmers than
buckwheat used for noodles, rice around 8,500 shops from September. gluten, products such as cakes and more rice for these new purposes, to those growing other crops in idle
flour is the main ingredient of In Japan, the new demand for cookies, which use finer rice flour, because eating more domestically paddy fields. Farmers growing rice
Haenuki Men noodles. By adding products such as those made from rice flour becomes—a property that do not. So, even people who are grown rice in any form boosts for rice flour and livestock feed will
some starch from a domestic potato, rice flour is currently responsible for gels with consumer tastes. In this the self-sufficiency ratio. receive 500,000 yen (US$4,800) per
says Kimura, “We could develop a the consumption of around 6,000 light, Starbucks Coffee Japan began In the 1960s, Japan’s average hectare per year. This is 30% higher
noodle with a great texture that isn’t tons of rice per year. It is believed offering rice-flour rolls in June. per-capita rice consumption was than the amount of aid awarded to
available with traditional soba.” that Lawson’s contribution alone “The sticky taste goes with 118 kilograms. Now, the average farmers who grow soybeans and
With rice-flour noodles will more than double this figure. coffee very well,” says a Starbucks Japanese citizen eats less than 60 wheat, for example. The government
gaining popularity, rice Yamazaki Bakery, a major spokesperson. “And, because wheat kilograms. This long-term hopes that this will provide sufficient
consumption in Japan baking company that also has become much more expensive, trend causes problems for incentive to grow rice for flour.
has increased. The sells rice-flour breads, has the price difference between wheat Japanese agriculture. Around One of the most important
amount of rice destined expanded its market to the and rice flour has dwindled.” 40% of the country’s rice fields lessons from recent years is the value
for noodles is overtaking whole of Japan, selling about This point underlies the fact are kept fallow to maintain of innovative thinking. For a long
that used for breads. Rice 50,000 loaves of rice-flour bread that Japan, which is self-sufficient the supply-demand situation. time, the Japanese rice industry
flour began to be used per month. According to a in rice but must import much of Nearly 10% of farmland in did not develop alternative rice
for breads about 5 Yamazaki representative, its wheat, was not directly affected Japan is now abandoned, flour–based products because it
years ago as part “The novelty of using by the rice-price spike in 2008. with lack of labor being thought rice should be eaten only as
of a Japanese rice flour and the use Rice flour itself is not new one of the main reasons. a traditional staple. Now, though, it
school lunch of local rice appeal to Japan, which has a history of Satake Even though farmers are is clear that more consumers want to
program developed to consumers. We thousands of years of rice production. eligible for a subsidy if they eat less conventional items. And, the
to encourage plan to offer a range However, breads, noodles, cakes, set aside rice production and produce industry is jumping at the chance.
of rice-flour breads.” and many other products previously
Improvements in thought to require wheat as a
Yamazaki Bakery

A new rice-flour product milling technology are main ingredient are now being The compact mill (0.7 m in length by 1.1 m Mr. Yamada and Ms. Tamai are
launched by Yamazaki in width by 1.4 m in height) made by Satake, a
Bakery company, the
extending the advantages made from rice flour—and they traditional maker of grain-milling equipment,
journalists based at The Japan
biggest bread maker in of rice flour. The finer are gaining great favor in Japan. will help small bakeries and farmers to produce Agricultural News, Japan’s
Japan. it is milled, the “stickier” So, what are the reasons? rice-flour products. largest agricultural newspaper.

14 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 15

The irri pioneer interviews
Conducted by Gene Hettel Ayutthaya, in the Central Plain of [IRRI’s first soil chemist, 1961-85], researchers much more easily and
Thailand, and I saw the rice plants only worked in the lab. Chandler was able to convince them of the need
along the road as the car passed by, had tried to push him out to the field to use proper statistical procedures
and that I also knew nothing about but he never succeeded. So, after I in their experiments. I probably
rice research. I thought that would started conducting experiments, he was the first statistician anywhere

be the end of the interview, but it went to Ponnamperuma and said, who conducted field experiments
continued and they hired me anyway! “If Kwanchai can go to the field, so to get closer to the scientists.
I went to Bob Chandler and asked can you.” It worked. Ponnamperuma
him for some resources to conduct did go out and conducted field Helping behind the scenes
field experiments because until then experiments after that. There are certain professions that
the Statistics Department had never I learned a lot by conducting field may be doomed to be behind the

Figures, fake guns, and fund-raising

done any field experiments and thus experiments. S.K. De Datta [IRRI scenes. Statistics is one of those.
no resources were available. Chandler agronomist, 1964-91], my mentor We were used to it and we did not
said: “Take whatever you need; I and teacher, taught me everything mind it very much. We took pride
am pleased that you’re going out to I needed to know about conducting in seeing researchers using proper
the field.” He said this because, at rice field experiments. I have always statistical procedures in their
For 25 years from July 1967, Thailand’s Kwanchai Gomez was the International Rice Research Institute’s chief statistician. the time, our chief world-renowned been grateful to him for that. research. I appreciate the comments
She was also IRRI’s first female international scientist in what was then a very male-dominated field. In 1993, Dr. Gomez soil scientist, Felix Ponnamperuma After that, I was able to talk to the of Ronnie Coffman [IRRI plant
moved out of statistics to work on donor relations as the head of the new Liaison, Coordination, and Planning Unit, which breeder, 1971-81], which affirm
focused on an innovative experiment at the time: fund-raising. She returned to Thailand in December 1996 to spend 2 that the use of statistics at IRRI
has really helped the scientists.
years at IRRI’s Bangkok office and round off more than 3 decades with the Institute. Dr. Gomez, who remains in Bangkok, On Kwanchai Gomez and the importance of statistical analysis Regarding Coffman’s comment
is currently executive director of the Asia Rice Foundation, which is based in IRRI’s Philippine hometown of Los Baños about the statistics situation before
Nyle Brady, IRRI director general (1973-81), in
1971, that the yield trials were not
his pioneer interview: “Kwanchai Gomez was
replicated [see box, below left], I
A new bride with a a great organizer. For the Genetic Evaluation
replacement. Bob Chandler [IRRI the chief plant breeder [and eventual must defend Beachell. Actually, he
statistics degree and Utilization (GEU) Program, she was the one
Director General, 1960-72] and World Food Prize winner in 1996]. was right. In those days, he really

who kept the records of what was going on.
ow did I get to IRRI? By Colin McClung [IRRI assistant I thought, if I could convince him, did not need statistics for his yield
I remember going to meetings during which
marrying, in April 1967, a director (1964-66) and associate maybe I could convince the others trials. In the late 1960s, some of

Gene Hettel
she said: ‘Now you guys I know have been
Filipino, Arturo A. Gomez director (1967-71)] interviewed and as well. So, I asked him why he was the new varieties were yielding
doing some studies to determine resistance
[who was professor of hired me and the rest is history. not using statistics in his yield trials. 8–9 tons [per hectare] while the
to various insects and diseases, but I don’t
agronomy at the University of the As a statistician at a research He looked at me and said, “What do traditional ones were yielding 1–2
have any records of what you’ve done. I can’t write it up if you don’t tell me
Philippines at Los Baños]. I had institute like IRRI, my goal was to you statisticians know about field tons. For that kind of difference, you
about it.’ So she got on their backs and she was remarkable in that way.”
earned a PhD in statistics from North see that all rice researchers, be they experiments and the problems we can see it with your eyes! You did
Ronnie Coffman, plant breeder (1971-
Carolina State University, the place in the field or laboratory, used the breeders face every day? You guys not need statistics to prove it.
81), said: “If I had to identify the person
where I met my future husband. After proper statistical techniques and sit in your air-conditioned room Of course, those were the good
most responsible for the development of
our wedding in Bangkok, I decided procedures. To my surprise when I and expect to tell us what to do in old days of Hank Beachell. Such large
IR36 [at one time the most widely planted
to resign from my teaching job at came, statistics—be it experimental the field.” I was taken aback, but not yield differences did not last long. So,
rice variety in the world], it would probably
Chulalongkorn University and move designs or statistical analyses—were angry. I thought about this overnight. as time passed, researchers had to
be Kwanchai Gomez. She designed the
to Los Baños to be with my husband. not appreciated, understood, or start looking for smaller differences—
sensitive, quadruple-lattice yield trials that

Gene Hettel
I hoped to find a job there instead of used very much in any of IRRI’s A good perspective 3, 2, and even 1 ton per hectare. For
caused us to notice it. IR36 was an open plant
in Manila because going to Manila experiments. That was a challenge The next day, I went to Beachell and that, statistics were needed to detect
type, not very attractive to the eye. Prior to
every day back then would have for a very young person like me, a thanked him profusely for having differences that were becoming
the establishment of those yield trials, we
been horrible because of the terrible woman—the only lady scientist for given me a very good perspective. smaller and smaller. Researchers
would have almost certainly thrown it away. Prior to 1971, the IRRI breeding
roads. Luckily, Burton a long, long time at Maybe I could win him and the required more precision in making
program did not replicate its yield trials, much to the chagrin of Kwanchai.”

Oñate, who was then chief IRRI, not to mention others over about using statistics if I measurements, and in controlling
Graham McLaren, Dr. Gomez’s successor as chief statistician and head
statistician and head of being an Asian from conducted my own field experiments. experimental errors so that small
of the IRRI Biometrics Unit and its various incarnations (1993-2008), said, “It
the Statistics Department Thailand. It was Now, I didn’t know anything differences could be detected.
was the GEU that allowed the introduction of new methodologies. Today, it’s
at IRRI, was going to take difficult working with about field experiments. I didn’t IRRI researchers began
difficult to find opportunities to introduce
sabbatical leave at the these very renowned, know much about rice research recognizing the importance of
new methodologies and that’s a frustration.
Asian Development Bank relatively older, to start with. When Chandler and statistics not only because I went
Teaching statistics and bioinformatics is a
in Manila for 1 year. scientists and telling McClung interviewed me, they to the field to conduct experiments
challenge as well. There is huge demand
So, he heard about them that they ought asked me two questions: “What but also because the situation
for training in this area, but it is also a very
this new bride with a to be using statistics experience do you have with rice had changed. Statistics became
difficult topic to teach and to keep people’s
degree in statistics who in their experiments. research and what knowledge do you a hit because the researchers
Ariel Javellana

attention so they grasp the principles without

was nearby. He contacted Things changed for have about rice?” I said the closest knew they could not detect those
getting bogged down in the detail.”
me and suggested I apply the better when I talked I ever got to a rice plant was when smaller differences scientifically
to be his “temporary” Dr. Gomez at IRRI in the 1960s to Hank Beachell, then I was traveling from Bangkok to by themselves. So, they came

16 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 17

Jose Raymond Panaligan
knocking at my door. We became book with my husband [Statistical
quite popular because the scientists Procedures for Agricultural
needed us. When they first arrived Research]. That book has been
in my office, they would say read and used not only in Asia,
apologetically, “Oh, by the way, we but all over the world. [Indeed, it
don’t know anything about statistics.” is the most popular book IRRI
And I would say, “Oh, but I don’t has ever produced.] This has
know anything about your field of been one of my greatest joys—to
discipline either, so let’s talk.” produce an effective tool that
I want to reiterate that the can help achieve my goal of
negligible application of statistics teaching people about statistics
in the early years of IRRI was not whether they are students
anybody’s fault. But I appreciate or working scientists.
the remarks of Coffman and Brady The book was written
[see box]. Of course, the Genetic 32 years ago, updated a bit
Evaluation and Utilization (GEU) in a 1984 second edition
Program was Brady’s baby. He created published by Wiley, and
it and I only helped him organize it. is still available. In those
The GEU was truly multidisciplinary. days, desktop computers
The scientists of different disciplines were not accessible to
were not used to working together. everybody, so I put in
They argued a lot, but that was the book all the statistical
okay. It was never a personal thing. calculations in detail. Many people,
I enjoyed those years. It was not especially statisticians, asked me
easy, but it was fun. We made the why I had to detail each and every Management Services and Biometrics
GEU a success and a lot of good rice statistical analysis, step by step. in 1990, simply Biometrics by
varieties—like IR36—came out of it. My reply: if you use a computer, 1992, then expanded to Biometrics
suddenly the answer comes out. You and Bioinformatics in 2001, and
Applying statistics worldwide don’t know what went on because the finally became the Crop Research Kwanchai Gomez and her “statistical” successor Graham McLaren inspect a plot of IR36 at IRRI. Some attribute the selection of this famous rice variety—once
My goal as a statistician was program did it for you automatically. Informatics Laboratory in 2006. one of the world’s most widely planted—to the use of proper experimental design and statistical analysis.
to get statistics applied in rice My detailed explanation in the book From 1993, Dr. McLaren headed the
experiments—not only at IRRI but helps researchers to understand unit until September 2008, when he
throughout Asia and the rest of the why and how a certain statistical left IRRI to work in Mexico for the to do the job well, I knew that Lampe know any boy at his age might do and bullets. I thought long and hard
world. I think that, in my small way, analysis was computed. This would Generation Challenge Program.] trusted me and I trusted him, which something like that. Don’t worry about his request and finally said:
I achieved that. IRRI became a user help them to understand how to was an important ingredient for too much about it.” With a great “Ok, I will agree as long as I still
of statistics. During those years, it interpret the results better as well. From statistics to fund-raising the success of such a unit. Besides, sigh of relief, I said, “Oh, ok, thank can be in the Statistics Department.
became the model. National program The second thing that IRRI Statistical knowhow was not Lampe was a good fund-raiser and you,” and left his office in a hurry. Strategic planning shouldn’t take the
researchers came and saw what IRRI enabled me to do was to develop required to head IRRI’s new Liaison, had in fact taught me a lot. I knew Now, I didn’t know Lampe well whole day, so he said, ‘Sure, sure,
was doing in the area. Of course, a statistical computer package Coordination, and Planning Unit that I could always count on him before this and it was the first time sure.’” Of course, not many years
they followed and put statistics to use called IRRISTAT and make it [created by Klaus Lampe, the IRRI to help me out when I needed it. we had really ever talked. But, two later, he changed his mind about me
in their rice experiments as well. free to everyone who needed it. director general at the time, in days later, he called me again to staying in statistics. But, anyway,
We had many nondegree IRRISTAT became one of the most 1993 to focus on establishing close A call to arms his office. I thought to myself, “Oh, we became close coworkers, more so
training programs in those years. widely used statistical packages relationships with IRRI donors], When Lampe arrived as director what did Victor do this time?” But for me than with any other directors
Statistics became a key course in available in Asia since, at that and I was thus reluctant to take on general in 1988, I was just a working I was wrong; it had nothing to do general during my 32 years at IRRI.
those programs, accounting for time, most Asian rice researchers the job. I finally agreed to take the scientist and never had much of with Victor. Lampe told me IRRI So maybe Victor was responsible
2–4 hours to 20–30 hours per did not have ready access to other job—for two reasons. First, IRRI a chance to see him. However, was being asked to do strategic for bringing us together. Otherwise,
course. I think that helped our cause existing but Western-designed was having financial difficulties and one day, he called me to his office planning. It would be the first time he may have never noticed me.
greatly—for many years, everybody statistical packages due to their someone needed to go out and look saying there was a problem: “Your for such an exercise at IRRI and he
who passed through IRRI for training high costs. In recent years, a slightly for funds to sustain its operations. son Victor [who was 10 years old needed somebody to organize the
learned something about statistical different Windows-compatible I believed that I owed IRRI a lot. I at that time] brought a fake gun to group that would prepare the plan
applications in rice research. So, version, called CropStat, has been had gained a good reputation in the the international school today,” he and he would like me to handle it.
Go to www.irri.org/publications/today/
when they went back home, they developed by Graham McLaren’s statistics discipline because of IRRI. frowned, “and he had a ‘real’ bullet He added that this task would
Pioneer_Interviews.asp to read the
were able to apply the concepts. group and is now available online So, I wanted to repay. A special unit as well. The school principal wasn’t really take a lot of my time and I
full transcript of the Kwanchai Gomez
I must thank IRRI for enabling via the IRRI Web site (www.irri. for donor relations was never tried very happy about that.” I thought may not have time to do statistics. interview in which she discusses more
me to do two things that I believe org/science/software/cropstat.asp). before. Somebody had to set up the to myself, “Oh, my god, how could At the time, I thought he just wanted about her IRRI experiences, including
helped greatly in my efforts. One [Local politics and advances in system and I was pleased to help. Victor bring a real bullet to school me out of statistics, but then maybe her recollections of six directors general
is that, while on sabbatical leave the discipline led to gradual changes. Second, even though I wasn’t and where did he get it from? Then, he saw something in me earlier in and other colleagues and her work
at Stanford University, I wrote a The Statistics Unit became Project sure if I had the right qualifications Lampe immediately said, “You the week when we discussed guns today with the Asia Rice Foundation.

18 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 19

William Sta. Clara (2)

The long road

by Adam Barclay

A rainbow arches over IRRI’s Long-Term Continuous

Cropping Experiment, now in its 45th year. Farm work-
ers (left and center) plant the experiment’s 134th crop
in September 2008.
ariel javellana

a testament to the painstaking continuous (double or triple) rice- but, in many cases, they will need
Forty-five years of painstaking research have shown that modern, intensive dedication, attention to detail, cropping systems revealed by the to supplement them with mineral
and quality of management LTCCE is that, at least under tropical fertilizers because organic fertilizers
rice farming is sustainable and can even improve soil health and measurement that dozens
of Institute staff have applied
conditions, farmers need not apply
manure or other organic materials
often contain insufficient nutrients
for optimizing rice yields.”

over the past 45 years. to maintain soil organic matter. The significance of the LTCCE is
ust outside the town of Los between harvesting one crop and soil nitrogen (N)-supplying capacity.” “The big message,” says Dr. Nor is it necessary to retain large perhaps best summed up by Robert
Baños, around 60 kilometers planting another has been minimal Soil organic matter—which Dobermann, “is that, with the amounts of crop residue (straw). Zeigler, IRRI’s director general. “I
south of Manila, sits a one- (2 to 3 weeks), and crop residue has comprises living organisms and right amount of fertilizer and good “High-input, intensive agriculture know this might sound silly,” he says,
hectare patch of land that is, been removed after harvest, rather the decomposing remains of once- management, we can produce 18 is often sustainable agriculture “but when I read the LTCCE paper,
quite possibly, some of Asia’s most than incorporated into the soil. living organisms, including animals, or more tons of rice per year on a too,” says Dr. Dobermann. “There I felt shivers of excitement rolling
valuable real estate. It’s not for sale What did IRRI’s researchers plants, and microorganisms—is very sustainable basis. Intensive are many misperceptions about over me as I internalized what 45
and, even if it were, you wouldn’t find? The answer flies in the a vital component of healthy soil. rice monocropping can actually the impact of mineral fertilizers. years of experimentation means.”
build a house, or a car park, or a face of what many people now High amounts of soil organic matter be a very sustainable system.” The LTCCE routinely yields The story does not end here.
shopping mall on it. But, for the believe. In short, with appropriate enhance the soil’s water- and nutrient- Dr. Buresh, who took over nearly twice as much rice per With support from PhilRice staff,
past 45 years, this patch of land has fertilizer management, not only holding capacity and improve as the LTCCE’s lead researcher hectare per year than an average similar observations were made in
revealed an extraordinary thing. can yields be maintained, but soil soil structure for plant growth. in 2000, explains that unique rice farm. This is possible only long-term trials with double-cropped
In recent years, people health can be improved as well. Healthy soils can also reduce the properties of submerged soils make through judicious use of fertilizers. rice systems at two other locations
have begun to argue that A recent paper1 by Roland severity and costs of such problems rice different from any other crop. Although the LTCCE field has never in the Philippines. With the LTCCE,
modern, intensive agriculture is Buresh, Mirasol Pampolino, and as drought, flood, and disease. Because of prolonged flooding, he received any organic fertilizer, it many of these trials will continue to
unsustainable—that it degrades Eufrocino Laureles from IRRI, Over a 15-year period (1983- says, farmers are able to conserve is a very sustainable system.” provide vital information about the
the soil and, eventually, renders and Hermenegildo Gines from 98), the study also found no decline soil organic matter and also receive Dr. Buresh points out that sort of agriculture that will be needed
the land incapable of supporting the Philippine Rice Research in the amount of N able to be free input of N from biological typical Asian rice farmers have to feed the world in the decades to
worthwhile crops. However, new Institute (PhilRice), summarized supplied to rice plants by the soil. sources. This biological N fixation access to limited amounts of organic come. Moreover, the trials are used
evidence tells us that, when it comes the decades of LTCCE information In other words, it is possible amounts to around 25 kilograms fertilizer. IRRI therefore focuses to address short-term objectives such
to rice, this is far from true. in a report on the soil health in to farm rice intensively, to do per hectare per crop, enough to simply on the principles of nutrient as testing promising varieties under
Since 1963, the International four long-term trials managed it for a long time, and to use help ensure a stable yield of about management and soil fertility that high-yield management, and trying
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has by IRRI, including two at the mineral (nonorganic) fertilizer 3 tons per hectare per crop in can achieve high yields year in, new nutrient-management strategies.
grown first two, then, from 1968, Institute’s Los Baños headquarters. without degrading the soil or the absence of applied fertilizer year out, without compromising Worryingly, it is increasingly
three crops of rice per year on According to the paper, “The the land’s productivity. In fact, N. And, this has been sustained soil or environmental health. difficult to find support for such
that one hectare, in what is known results suggest that continuous if you manage the crops well, for the 45 years of the LTCCE. “To do this, we need to equip long-term work. Dr. Zeigler notes
as the Long-Term Continuous cultivation of irrigated rice with you can improve things. “None of the world’s other major farmers with better knowledge and that it would be a momentous loss if
Cropping Experiment (LTCCE). balanced fertilization on submerged According to Achim Dobermann, cropping systems has these features,” simple tools that they can use for the LTCCE—which could almost be
As Rice Today went to press, the soils maintained or slightly increased IRRI deputy director general says Dr. Buresh. “It’s for these reasons adjusting nutrient inputs to their considered a world rice heritage site—
134th crop is under way. The time soil organic matter and maintained for research, the experiment is that rice monoculture systems have locations and needs,” explains were compromised by lack of funding.
been around for thousands of years Dr. Buresh. “Farmers who have Yet, he points out, “It is investment in
and sustained whole civilizations.” access to organic fertilizers on an this sort of research that can answer
Pampolino MF, Laureles EV, Gines HC, Buresh RJ. 2008. Soil carbon and nitrogen changes in long-term continuous lowland rice cropping. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 72:798-807. Another unique feature of economical basis should use them, questions of truly global importance.”

20 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 21

William Sta. Clar a

Today October-December 2008, Vol. 7, No. 4 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice
Farm workers tr ansplant the 134th crop of an IRRI Experiment Today
that has shown that long-term
October-December 2008 intensive rice production can be sustainable.
Moving up

Tareke Berhe (3)

policymakers to mid and high
seriously consider altitudes. Much
the country’s of this land is
potential to grow occupied by

in Ethiopia
the grain for itself. resource-poor
Subsequently, subsistence
successful lobbying farmers for whom
has pushed rice to growing rice
be classified as a presents good
fourth “National opportunities
Food Security Crop” to supplement
The authors (from left to right, Dr. Zenna, after wheat, maize, their current
Mr. Gebre-Tsadik, and Dr. Berhe) inspect and the country’s meager income.
rice plants in Chewaka, one of the best rice-
producing areas in Ethiopia. traditional staple The water- A threshing demonstration
by Negussie Shoatatek Zenna, Zewdie Gebre-Tsadik, and Tareke Berhe
cereal crop, tef. logged nature of in Fogera.
Birhane Gobezai
This move favors the soil and the
If successful, initiatives to boost rice production in Ethiopia can help the country achieve food security rice research and promotion on a
larger scale. A national workshop
cold climate of high altitudes are the these lines in four locations at

was held on 21 August 2007 in major constraints to crop production 1,860, 2,260, and 2,400 meters
Area (hectares)
eographically, The Sasakawa Africa Association the Ethiopian capital, Addis in these areas. Nevertheless, rice above sea level. So far, about 40
Ethiopia’s vast land Total area (SAA) through its Sasakawa Global Ababa, where the National Rice grows well in waterlogged conditions of the lines have shown promising
area—1.12 million square 80,000 NERICA area 2000 (SG2000) program has played Promotion Committee was formed, and rice varieties exist that can grow growth at the different sites.
kilometers—is defined by a key role in promoting NERICA to facilitate the establishment of at high altitudes in cold weather. A similar initiative led by IRRI
the Great Rift Valley system, which and other cultivated varieties to the National Rice Research and Preliminary evaluation of a selection and WARDA, which aims to develop
cuts the whole country diagonally the country. In addition, the Japan Development Steering Committee. of local varieties revealed good climate-hardy rice tailored to a
from the Red Sea through to Kenya, International Cooperation Agency Currently, 18 improved rice vegetative growth but low night number of rice-producing countries,
creating mammoth depressions (JICA) and SAA have supported varieties (both NERICAs and Oryza temperatures meant that most of including Ethiopia, is set to begin
and mountain ranges. As a result, the introduction of essential sativa, conventional cultivated rice) the cultivars remained sterile or with financial support from the
the country possesses unique and 20,000 postharvest (storing, milling, are being evaluated in different required a prolonged harvest time. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
diverse geo-climatic zones. drying) technologies and processing regions. Rice production is expected Despite these early setbacks, As rice production takes off in
Agreeable weather conditions 0 machinery to rice-producing areas. to cover about 90,000 hectares in the accessibility of many samples Ethiopia, participation and support
2005 2006 2007 2008
make the mid to high altitudes the Year The recent surge in demand for 2008, up from 49,000 hectares in of cold-tolerant rice in IRRI’s from international organizations
predominant locations for human rice combined with the skyrocketing 2007. This figure is projected to International Rice Genebank and such as IRRI, WARDA, SAA,
Rice area trends in Ethiopia, 2005-08.
settlement and crop production. import price challenged the country’s reach 400,000 hectares by 2010, the large area of available fertile JICA, and others is crucial. This is
Consequently, population pressure with NERICA land mean that Ethiopia has great especially so in such areas as seed
and an archaic farming system The rice production system in the varieties expected potential to become a major rice- multiplication of selected varieties,
at these altitudes have caused country has focused mainly on the A YOUNG boy from Gura Ferda in southern Ethiopia to dominate. producing country. Recognizing evaluation of rice germplasm
tremendous ecosystem degradation introduction of improved varieties shows off a local rice variety named X-jigna white. However, this opportunity, Tareke Berhe, (seeds and the genetic material
in the form of soil erosion and from a range of different sources, if rice is to director of SAA’s regional rice they contain) for specific traits, the
declining soil fertility. This situation, including the International Rice contribute to program, has initiated a project to introduction of rice-production
together with the Rift Valley’s Research Institute (IRRI), the Africa the nation’s food evaluate cold tolerance in rice. and postharvest technologies,
typically erratic climate, means that Rice Center (WARDA), Guinea, and security, it must The project aims to develop training of rice breeders, and
prolonged cold and dry spells are Madagascar. Federal and regional be grown on a rice varieties that can be grown by developing and lobbying for
challenging the country’s ability research centers are concentrating larger scale in small-scale farmers in cool-climate effective agricultural policies. With
to achieve food self-sufficiency on the evaluation and release of new ecosystems not elevated areas. Success would create such support, rice production in
(producing enough food) and food varieties for local producers. Three already devoted a huge opportunity to support a large Ethiopia has a chance to bring a
security (ensuring that everyone improved irrigated varieties from to traditional number of resource-poor farmers and long-awaited Green Revolution and,
has access to sufficient food). IRRI and four “New Rice for Africa” or cash crops contribute to Ethiopia’s food security. with it, the plentiful and affordable
Rice was introduced to Ethiopia (NERICA) varieties from WARDA preferred by With assistance from IRRI food that the country needs.
in the 1970s and has since been were released to farmers in 2005- local farmers. Rice Breeder for Africa Glenn
cultivated in small pockets of the 07. In farmers’ fields, the NERICA Fortunately, Gregorio, Dr. Berhe obtained 130
country. It is a staple food in the varieties—grown in the rainfed the country has rice varieties from the International Dr. Zenna and Dr. Berhe are a
country’s east, where rice is imported uplands, where farmers do not more than 13 Network for the Genetic Evaluation postdoctoral fellow and regional
through Somalia on the black market. have access to irrigation systems— million hectares of Rice (INGER), as well as six rice coordinator, respectively, at
Recent surges in demand, especially registered yields of 3–6 tons per of waterlogged lines from Madagascar. Negussie the Sasakawa Africa Association
from city dwellers, are forcing the hectare. The IRRI varieties, grown black-clay soil Shoatatek Zenna, postdoctoral in Ethiopia. Mr. Gebre-Tsadik
government to spend large amounts in lowland irrigated conditions, (known as fellow at SAA and a former IRRI is Ethiopia’s rice agronomist
of money on importing rice. achieved 6–8 tons per hectare. vertisol) in the Ph.D. scholar, is currently evaluating for Sasakawa Global 2000.

24 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 25

ariel javellana (2)
near-record prices of April and May risen nearly 2.5 times in the past 4 At the same time, as many as 95%
came between crops, when they had years. Pesticide costs and seed prices of Thailand’s farmers—excluding only
nothing to sell. Their dismay grew as have both doubled, and fuel costs for the very poor—have access to a wide
they watched the high prices dwindle machinery have soared. The cost of variety of easy credit sources, from
before they could harvest again. renting land has also skyrocketed, commercial and state-owned banks
At its peak in early-to-mid-May, affecting about one-quarter of through to the undisciplined use of
the price for 5% white rice (an export rice farmers across the country. government money in local village
grade comprising maximum 5% About 80% of Thailand’s rice funds. Relatively poor farmers now
broken grains) was US$1,022 per farmers carry an amount of debt have a higher debt-to-income ratio
ton, and that for the premium grade variously described as relatively than their wealthier counterparts.
of Thailand’s legendary Khao Hom high to alarming. Their debt rises While some farmers were
Mali (Jasmine rice) was $1,245 per and falls in a constant rhythm, lucky to get enough from the high
ton. Those exporters and millers with following the crop cycle—leaping prices to clear their debts, the rush
the good fortune to have stocks on with land preparation and of rice income into the country
hand and the foresight to resist the planting, falling and occasionally captured the attention of Thailand’s
urge to sell forward did very well. disappearing with harvest. politicians. Two of the country’s
Others, learning from their early
mistakes, recovered to reap rewards.
In the first 6 months of 2008,
Thailand exported 5.97 million tons
of rice—46.7% more than was shipped
How much are rice farmers in Asia in the first 6 months of 2007—
worth almost $3.5 billion. In July,
benefitting from higher prices? With different shipments were just short of 1 million
tons, and, in August, about 735,000
governments trying different strategies, tons. Industry representatives were
confidently predicting a record year
Rice Today looks at the situation in Thailand. Mounds of rice at a parboiling rice mill. with exports totaling 10 million tons.
Thailand’s gross domestic
product rose by about 6% in the
by Bob Hill

Shaking the
first half of the year, most of it
coming from increased world
prices for agricultural products,
particularly rice. In that time, the

invisible hand
value of the country’s exports leaped
by about 30% compared with the
Rice stacked in jute sacks at a rice
corresponding period in 2007. mill warehouse in Nakornluang District,
But, in the middle of May, prices Ayutthaya.
began to fall again. Vietnam resumed
exporting, India looked set to return
to the global market, and importers According to some economists, most respected economists say the
stood back, waiting for cheaper the amount of debt is a direct industry has been perceived as the

deals. In early September, 5% white consequence of government policy. perfect vehicle for unscrupulous
any of Thailand’s 3.7 million has done to prop up the high prices irrigated land and produce as many rice was selling for $760 per ton and In 2001, the government of politicians to direct funds either
rice farmers are unhappy. As is now a controversial part of the as five crops in two years—struck it Hom Mali 100% grade A for $913. deposed prime minister Thaksin into their own pockets or into their
the producers of the world’s political turmoil that grips the rich. Others have been able to meet The small part of the brief Shinawatra introduced a debt support systems in the countryside.
biggest rice export crop, country and that tangles all aspects their debts this year, while many bonanza that made its way down moratorium for farmers, allowing As a consequence, the president
they believe their share of the 2008 of Thai life in a soap opera of poorer Thai farmers in the rainfed to the average farmer lost most clients of the government-run Bank of the Thailand Development
rice price bonanza should have been intrigue, suspicion, and accusation. (non-irrigated) environment have of its gloss for two big reasons: for Agriculture and Agricultural Research Institute and former
a lot bigger. They now see the high World rice prices, which began to yet to see any benefit at all. Rice increased production costs Cooperatives (BAAC) to defer dean of economics at Thammasat
prices slipping away before they can skyrocket in late 2007, were spurred millers and any exporters who were and chronic indebtedness. their debts up to a maximum of University, Nipon Poapongsakorn,
taste the sweetness of new wealth. by high demand and a decision by not badly burned in the explosive The Thai Farmers’ Association Bt100,000 ($2,972) for 3 years, and the head of the Department
Early in June, they threatened to some exporting countries to opt market of early 2008 (see Troubling says the cost of producing 1 hectare of without any interest payments. of Agricultural and Resource
rally in Bangkok if the government out of the world market for the sake Trade, on pages 13-17 of Rice Today rice in 2004 was $695. In 2006, this The 2008 government of Economics in Kasetsart University’s
didn’t make some effort to halt the of their domestic food security. Vol. 7, No. 2) are believed to have rose to $871, in 2007 to $1,019, and in Samak Sundaravej, after just a economics faculty, Somporn
slide of rice prices from their peak A distinct minority of Thai rice been the main beneficiaries. 2008 to $1,296. Thailand imports all few months in office, reintroduced Isvilanonda, fear irrevocable damage
in May, back toward “normalcy.” farmers—those who would normally For most farmers, who are able but a tiny fraction of the raw material the same scheme, giving farmers to the domestic rice market and
What the Royal Thai government be regarded as wealthy; they cultivate to grow only one crop per year, the for its fertilizer, and the cost has another 3-year debt holiday. Thailand’s eventual decline as the

26 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 27

bob hill (3)

ariel javellana
to the National Rice Committee, Warehouse Organization, the confirms. “Wishing to help poor Public Warehouse Organization
which in its role as the formulator Office of Agricultural Economics, farmers is a fine sentiment, but as saying that more than 200
of rice industry policy, is routinely and Thailand’s National Statistical when the intervention price is millers are being sued for breach of
chaired by the prime minister Office to show that the lion’s share higher than the market price, you contract. Several years ago, there
and attended by the ministers of of benefits from price intervention destroy the market in the long run. were also widespread instances of
commerce, finance, and agriculture, went to the richest strata of Thai Small operators cannot survive.” Khao Hom Mali being blended with
as well as their departmental An immediate problem from lesser-quality grain while in the
heads and other senior officials. this year’s price intervention scheme hands of millers. Many such cases
Then, as the export price for was the forcing of Thailand’s export have been referred to the National
5% white rice fell to about $856 per quotations above those being offered Counter-Corruption Commission.
ton, and under intense pressure 15 by Vietnam. In the countryside, Thailand has as many as 10,000
Associate Professor Somporn Isvilanonda: “Poor from farmers, the government 10 local wholesale rice trading has been rice millers. As with smaller traders,
farmers don’t get benefits from price intervention.
Rich farmers get the benefits.” announced its above-market-value 5 strangled by successive years of price most millers, at the bottom end of
intervention prices for the 3-month 0 intervention. Having been bypassed, the wealth and turnover ladder,
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
period between 15 June and 15 Decile (1 = poorest; 10 = richest) smaller middlemen are closing their are being bypassed or, at least,
September. It pledged $405 per ton Distribution of benefits (in percentages) from the
disadvantaged by the intervention
for white rice paddy (unmilled rice) Thai price intervention program by farmer income scheme. Only about 220 rice mills
with moisture content up to 15%. deciles, 2006 dry season and 2006-07 wet season have joined the program and are
The price was progressively lower responsible for receiving, milling,
for higher moisture content, paying and helping to store the government’s
A mill worker unloads rice for milling.
$361 to $376 per ton for paddy rice stockpile. And, with the first
with a moisture content of 25%. 2008 price intervention scheme
Putting this in perspective, the just finished, another is expected
paddy sold by farmers for $376 per to begin in November, to cover As one of Thailand’s most
ton, with a moisture content of 25%, the country’s main harvest. respected analysts in the field
would increase in value to about During the 2006-07 term of the of agricultural economics, Dr.
$434 after being dried by millers military government that preceded Nipon says Thailand’s rice
to reduce its moisture content to Prime Minister Samak, about 55 industry has become a system
15%. After the paddy was milled millers were blacklisted for illegal that allows politicians to
Thai Rice Mills Association President Vattana
into 5% white rice it would then practices and cheating. There was distribute largesse to their support
Rattanawong: “Price intervention is not only cost exporters about $781 per ton. uproar in the industry in August networks in the countryside.
supported by farmers, but also by the citizens Dr. Nipon and Associate when the Samak government “Yes, exactly!” agrees the
Professor Somporn say the claim announced that blacklisted millers president of the Thai Farmers’
that price intervention will help poor would be allowed back in, to take part Association, Prasit Boonchuey,
world’s leading rice exporter.
farmers is a myth. They find support in the upcoming scheme. The millers saying that rice is being used as a
Their concerns were exacerbated
from the Thai Farmers’ Association, had complained about the need to political tool to create short-term
by a flurry of government activity
which says that most farmers are pay fines amounting to about $42 popularity for the government
ariel javellana

in early June. The prime minister Gathering freshly unloaded rice for milling
incapable of delivering rice with million, and said they were already in rural communities.
announced the reintroduction of at a parboiling mill.
a moisture content low enough to suffering because of the high market Mr. Prasit’s frustration with
price intervention for the secondary
qualify for the top government prices. prices. Their trade association also government policy is clear. “The
dry-season crop, supposedly to
In a recent paper,1 the economists asked that millers be allowed to share government should be thinking of
assist farmers. Then, he accused
cited the Commerce Ministry’s farmers. Using figures from the doors. One of the country’s biggest in government-to-government deals, long-term development assistance,
Commerce Ministry officials of
Department of Internal Trade as 2006-07 harvest season, when private rice markets at Nakhon a request the government not only to allow farmers to help themselves.
collaborating with exporters at the
estimating the financial loss from rice the price intervention scheme cost Sawan, in the heart of the central rice acceded to by granting them half
expense of farmers, and removed
market price intervention in 2005- $703 million, Thailand’s farmers bowl, has become a storage operation. of its government-to-government
all responsibility for rice matters
06 at $314 million. The program were divided into 10 equally-sized In the first month of this year’s business, but also undertook to
from the Commerce Ministry and
handled a record 8.65 million groups ranging from poorest to 3-month intervention scheme, the find financial support for them.
vested it in his own department, with
tons of paddy in that season. As of richest. The bottom four groups government-run BAAC bought Farmers and exporters were
assistance from the Finance Ministry.
December 2007, the government still received less than 18% of the benefits, 508,506 tons of paddy, worth $200 outraged, saying the decision
Prime Minister Samak then
owed the BAAC $1.783 billion for while the top four received more million, from 38,285 farmers. This, was tantamount to encouraging
formed three new committees,
funding price intervention schemes than 62% (see figure below). it said, represented 20% of its target. the guilty to re-offend.
one each for the price intervention
between 2001-02 and 2005-06. “The poor farmers don’t get Earlier intervention schemes “Most of the millers are either
program, milling, and release.
Moreover, the economists benefits from price intervention; rich were administered by major millers, politicians or are politically involved,”
The new structure was additional
drew on figures from the Public farmers get them,” Prof. Somporn but most commentators say the vast, says Dr. Nipon. “Rice policy is no
confusing circus between the farm longer based on business decisions,
gate and retailers or exporters is but on political decisions, and, if we Thai Farmers’ Association President Prasit
1 where graft thrives. Dr. Nipon and can’t halt this phenomenon, sooner Boonchuey: “Farmers don’t want to be the tools of
Key Policy Issues in the Thai Rice Industry: Myths, Misguided Policies, and Critical Issues, delivered at a Rice Policy Forum organized by IRRI at Los Baños,
Philippines, 18-19 February 2008. Prof. Somporn cite the board of the or later, farmers will get hurt.”

28 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 29

Instead, we’re stuck with short-term 2004. Throughout the high world during which he promised to sell rice Rice being unloaded from trucks
intervention. Farmers have become demand, nothing moved. If the at “friendly” prices to the Philippines at a parboiling rice mill.
dependent upon the government, secondary harvest scheme went on a government-to-government
and that is how the industry as expected, the stockpile should basis, on the condition that no bids or
has become a political tool.” now be more than 4 million tons. prior Cabinet approval were required.
Prof. Somporn is a member “I pushed hard for the When there was no bid from
of the National Rice Committee, government to sell its rice when Thailand, the Philippines announced
which sets official rice policy, but the price was at its peak,” says it had struck a deal with Vietnam.
he is bitterly opposed to the way the Prof. Somporn. “But it was worried Perhaps predictably, the
industry is being administered. about domestic food security. That Thai Rice Mills Association
“I argue with the prime minister,” was before they learned that there sees no likelihood of damage
Prof. Somporn says. “I say they should would be another harvest within to the rice industry from the
establish a policy for the future, 4 months. But we still lost the price intervention scheme
because the market is more dynamic opportunity to sell at peak prices because it says the intervention
than they realize. I suggested an because the government’s decision level is not extremely high.
option pricing system, to allow the processes are extremely slow.” The association’s president,
private sector to function. They said The government was quick, in Vattana Rattanawong, says it is
no. They are not at all knowledgeable investing in new silos because they April, to dust off an old proposal for expected that about one-quarter
about the rice industry, and they know the government will rent the formation of a cartel of rice- of the country’s main rice crop
have no use for academic analysis. their storage space. When they get producing countries to effectively will enter the scheme. This will Prof. Somporn says that, by his “Exports will decline because
They operate according to their own [government] rice in their silos, control the international price of amount to about 5.7 million tons calculation, intervention has cost Thailand’s price will be higher than
political feelings.” More thoughtfully, the first thing they do is sell it to rice. The plan, to include Thailand, if the main crop reaches its usual $892 million over the past 3 years: “If others. Then the government will
he adds: “I can’t leave, or there would buy more rice. It’s like investment Vietnam, India, Pakistan, and 23 million tons of paddy. the government prolongs this policy, have to inject more and more money
be nobody to argue with them.” capital. When the government wants China—collectively accounting for “If exports continue at the it will damage the Thai rice industry.” into its price support system until
The 3-month price intervention its rice, they [the millers] simply 79% of global rice exports—brought present volume, there will be no Dr. Nipon says he’s been tracking it gets to the point where it says:
scheme for the dry-season crop had buy some more to replace it. a storm of horrified reaction market collapse,” Mr. Vattana says. down the real cost to the Thai ‘we can no longer afford to do this.’
a budget of $743 million, covering “We don’t know what the cost and was shot down by Vietnam “In fact, we expect exports will taxpayer. “By early next year, I should Then the whole thing will collapse.”
not only purchases but also milling, is to the public. The financial and even before it could be proposed rise year after year. This scheme have the figures, and I will make them
storage, and fumigation. The economic cost of this program to the would-be partners. is not only supported by farmers, known to both farmers and society.
real cost is a matter of debate. is never known. But we know In June, Thailand also missed but also by the citizens generally. We must get rid of this system.” After this article was written,
“In the paddy pledging it is several billion baht.” an opportunity to sell 675,000 “Rice exporters don’t agree Mr. Prasit of the Thai Farmers’ Samak Sundaravej was removed
program, everyone benefits at the At the other end of the scheme, tons of rice to the Philippines in with the scheme because they want Association claims the government as the Thai prime minister by the
expense of the taxpayer,” says Dr. selling the government’s stockpiles a government-to-government to control the market; they want has been losing $535 million per country’s Constitutional Court
Nipon. “Yet we don’t know how is another hot issue. Despite the deal. The Philippine proposal was the lowest prices. Rice millers are year because of price intervention, because he had contravened the
much is being spent. The system stratospheric prices, the Thailand taken off the Cabinet agenda in closer to farmers. We have to support but adds: “Farmers are not getting conflict of interest provisions of
is designed to hide these things. government began the year with Bangkok on 10 June and ignored. farmers, because farmers must in anywhere near that much.” the Thai Constitution by hosting
“Hundreds of rice millers 2.1 million tons of stockpiled rice, The move followed a visit to the future grow the same quantity of As for the future, the Thai Rice TV cooking shows while in office.
with political connections are some of it from as long ago as Philippines by Prime Minister Samak, rice on a smaller area of land. This Exporters’ Association predicts that Members of the ruling coalition
will demand new varieties of rice.” Thailand’s export volume will fall later boycotted a Parliamentary
The Rice Mills Association to 8 million tons next year because session in which he was expected
claims the government spends no price intervention will make the to accept his party’s nomination to
more than $119 million per year on Thai product uncompetitive. resume the top office and he was
the pledging scheme. “When that’s However, the Thai Commerce forced to stand down. The same
divided among 20 million farmers, Minister says the coming harvest coalition has since elected Somchai
it’s not much,” Mr. Vattana says. will see the highest intervention Wongsawat as its new leader.
prices ever—$446 per ton for white The Commerce and Agriculture
rice paddy and $565 for Khao Ministers have not changed.

bob hill
Hom Mali. The prime minister has
raised the idea of a government Bob Hill is a Thailand-
department to especially handle based writer specializing in
the rice industry, and says the science and technology.
government’s stockpiles in 2009
will rise to about 5 million tons.
“If this government screws up, Note: Apart from export prices,
which are quoted internationally in
it will mean less rice for the world,”
ariel javellana (3)

US$, all US$ figures were converted

declares Dr. Nipon. “Thailand will
from Thai baht at the 29 September
cease to be the leading and most 2008 rate of US$1 = Bht34.15.
Dr Nipon Poapongsakorn.
reliable supplier of rice in the world.

Rice Today October-December 2008 31

Management Asking the right questions

IRRI’s newly developed nutrient-

management decision-making tool asks

made easy
the following questions, allowing farmers
or extension agents to determine the
optimum fertilizer applications for their
rice crop.

1) What is the rice variety?

2) Is rice transplanted or direct seeded?
Answers are used to provide
A new decision-making tool is helping rice farmers guidelines on the optimal number of
days after crop establishment to apply
fertilizer nitrogen (N). This ensures
optimize their use of nutrient inputs that N is applied when most needed
by the crop.
IRRI CONSULTANT Mira Pampolino demonstrates

PJ Sinohin
a nutrient-management module in Indonesia. 3) What rice yield is typically attained?
A crop’s need for nutrients increases
by Roland Buresh with an increase in yield. The answer
The SSNM approach is a multiple research and extension nutrient management guideline for agricultural technicians quickly is used to adjust fertilizer rates to the
relatively knowledge-intensive (technology dissemination) rice now disseminated throughout formulate fertilizer guidelines needs of the crop.
technology in which optimum organizations. Now, to facilitate the the country. Scientists developed in tailored to specific rice fields or

he largest expense for fertilizer management for a rice consolidation and dissemination 2008 software named Pemupukan rice-growing areas. These decision 4) Is rice straw retained or removed
rice farming after labor field is tailored to specific local of such intensive knowledge, Padi Sawah Spesifik Lokasi (Rice tools consist of about ten multiple- from the field after harvest?
is typically the purchase conditions for crop yield, growth scientists have developed easy- Fertilization for a Specific Location). choice questions that can easily be Straw contains about 80% of the
of fertilizers. Fertilizer duration of the rice variety, crop to-use, interactive computer- PuPS, as it is known, consolidates answered by an extension worker potassium in a mature rice plant. The
prices have dramatically increased residue management, past fertilizer based decision tools for extension existing knowledge from years or farmer. Based on responses to answer is used to adjust the rate of
in recent months, making it ever use, and input of nutrients from workers and farmers. of research. PuPS, along with an the questions, a fertilizer guideline fertilizer potassium to the farmer’s
more important that rice farmers organic materials and sediments. In Indonesia, IRRI and partner associated training module, was with amounts of fertilizer by management practices.
use the most profitable fertilizer Such knowledge requirements have organizations within the Indonesian ceremonially released by President crop growth stage is provided for
management practices for their slowed the wide-scale promotion and Agency for Agricultural Research and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the rice field. This helps farmers 5) What source and amount of fertilizer
growing conditions. This requires uptake by farmers of SSNM. Uptake Development have worked together the Indonesian National Rice increase their yield and profit was applied in the previous season?
farmers to select a combination of by farmers has also been constrained to consolidate divergent soil testing, Week in July 2008. The PuPS CD by applying the right amount The answers together with the
fertilizer sources, timing, and dosages by confusion arising from the soil mapping, and plant-based is being distributed to extension of fertilizer at the right time. answer on yield are used to estimate
that provides the highest incremental contrasting, and often contradictory approaches into one concise national workers across the country through These tools enable farmers whether soil phosphorus fertility has
increase in rice yield per added and competing, Indonesia’s Assessment Institutes to select the least expensive been built up or depleted. Fertilizer
cost. Such a selection can involve recommendations Farmers in Indonesia mixing fertilizer for Agricultural Technology. combination of fertilizer sources phosphorus rates are adjusted
complex decisions for farmers, for nutrient (potassium chloride and urea) for application In the Philippines, IRRI for meeting the nutrient needs of accordingly.
which are made even more daunting management to rice at panicle-initiation stage. scientists, in partnership with public- their rice crops. Fertilizer rates and
by the myriad available fertilizer received from and private-sector organizations, timing are adjusted to accommodate 6) What source and amount of organic
sources and recommendations. different sources. have developed a similar tool. a farmer’s use of organic sources fertilizer will be applied?
Fortunately, a partnership of IRRI has Named Nutrient Manager for of nutrients. They accommodate The answers are used to estimate
national and International Rice consequently Rice, it is tailored to rice-growing transplanted and direct-seeded rice, nutrients supplied from organics,
Research Institute (IRRI) scientists worked with conditions in the Philippines. In including inbred and hybrid varieties when used by a farmer, and to
across Asia have, through nearly partners in both September 2008, the Philippine with a range of growth durations. adjust rates of inorganic fertilizer
15 years of research, developed the public and Department of Agriculture began The guidelines are consistent with accordingly.
an improved site-specific nutrient private sectors distributing the Nutrient Manager the scientific principles of SSNM
management (SSNM) approach to consolidate CD—which is available in five for rice, which are based on years
for rice. This approach—which existing knowledge dialects—to local extension agencies of research across Asia. These
enables farmers to effectively apply on nutrient best throughout the country. In the fourth principles are available in the book
the three major plant nutrients management quarter of 2008, country-specific Rice: A Practical Guide to Nutrient
(nitrogen, phosphorus, and practices into versions are set for evaluation in Management, which was released Dr. Buresh is a senior soil scientist
potassium) as and when needed by concise principles Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the in July 2008 in Bahasa Indonesia at the International Rice Research
their rice crop—has consistently and guidelines Indian state of West Bengal. and is now being released across Institute. For more information on
increased rice yields and profit in accepted and Nutrient Manager for Rice Asia in other local languages nutrient management, see
on-farm evaluations across Asia. promoted across Monina Escalada
and PuPS are designed to help (http://tinyurl.com/6lp8zj). www.irri.org/irrc/ssnm.

32 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 33

Then, there are people he knows, important role for me to play.” quite good, I think. I must have
who have had a more direct influence. Despite the workload, though, been 12 or 13 when I was supposed
“I had a very good professor in “Science is wonderful. Getting paid to go to a training camp held by one
college back in Germany,” he says. “A for doing something I love is great. of the leading soccer clubs in East
soil scientist who was able to teach I’m happy to be in a position where Germany, where they would select
science in a visual, engaging way; I can help make decisions that make the next talents. But, when the day

fun is
without him, I wouldn’t have been a positive impact on others. It’s that came, I was so scared that I didn’t
interested in science and agriculture.” big mission of contributing to an show up. So that was the end of my
even bigger goal here at IRRI.” professional soccer career. If I’d gone,
A day in the life… I might not be here at IRRI now.”
“Typically,” says Dr. Dobermann, Date with fate
“I try to be at the office by 7:30 “I had no clue what a soil scientist Nine years in the Philippines

in the
a.m. to get some quiet time even was until I started college,” Dr. Dr. Dobermann likes pork adobo [a
before things get really busy.” Dobermann recalls. “It was the very Filipino dish of meat cooked in garlic,
Then there’s reviewing policies first class I took. I had this exciting vinegar, and soy sauce] and sinigang
and research agendas, writing papers, professor and it immediately clicked [meat cooked in tamarind soup with
attending meetings, and talking with with me. It was very much by chance; local vegetables]. But, most of all,
scientists. In between all that, he has I didn’t even know it existed. As he appreciates the friendliness and

to answer around 100 emails a day, a teenage kid, I went through the strong family orientation of Filipinos.
many of which require some sort usual phase of not knowing what I
of attention or decision-making. wanted to be. At one point, I thought On the media
“I also spend a lot of time I’d become a lawyer or a chemical “I like it when interviewers ask
meeting with individual scientists engineer or—whatever—until I was, questions that imply that they

ariel javellana
in their offices, in the field, or in more or less by chance, pushed into have a distorted view of the life of
the lab to keep a close eye on what’s agriculture. And I stuck with it.” a scientist. Often, the public’s view
going on in a research sense.” of a scientist is the weird looking
by Meg Mondoñedo
One of the responsibilities of a Where’s the fun in soil science? nerd with a wild haircut, sitting in
DDGR is to ensure that the institute “The fun is in the dirt,” he says. the lab, brewing things up, with no
is focusing on the kind of research “Many people have no clue what’s family life whatsoever. But science
that will benefit rice farmers and beneath the surface. They look at is a bit like art. It’s not dull, dry
Rice Today interviews Achim Dobermann, soil scientist and new deputy consumers. Dr. Dobermann must it as an abstract brown or red or work. You need to be very creative
director general for research at the International Rice Research look at things critically from a yellow material that can be used and you need to have fun with it.”
broad perspective and, when to build houses but the real fun is
Institute (IRRI), about life, work, and what could have been… necessary, challenge people. understanding what the soil is, how Ten years from now…
“An institute can only it was formed; why are there rocks “IRRI five to ten years from now

survive if it has the ability to here, no rocks there? Soil is a living needs to be bigger and more
f you were to interview and directing science—to helping international and national awards critically self-evaluate what it is thing; there are bugs in there and focused at the same time,” says Dr.
IRRI’s deputy other scientists succeed in the for his contributions to agricultural doing,” he says. “That’s a very all sorts of things you can’t see—and Dobermann. “It needs to be more
director general for interest of a larger institution. research and development. that’s exciting. It’s as exciting as flexible and be able to provide an
research, what would Dr. Dobermann, a soil scientist the stuff that’s going even better environment and facilities
be your first question?” and agronomist, has led research on A fan of great minds on above-ground.” for the staff to work well. We need
Achim Dobermann thinks for a global issues of cereal production, “Certain people have influenced me,” to find new ways to help solve the
moment, then says, “If you had the crop management, and climate he says, “whom I’ve read about but Did you know…? major development challenges. ”
choice, which of your responsibilities change in Asia, North America, and never met, because most of them Dr. Dobermann grew He also emphasizes the need to
would you drop?” then laughs. Europe. As deputy director general died a long time ago, but who have up as part of a farming expand IRRI’s partnerships and work
“And would you like for research, he oversees IRRI’s impressed me with their strength family in a small more closely with a much wider range
to answer that?” research on rice improvement, of character or contributions village of about 300 of public- and private-sector partners.
“No,” he says with a straight management of rice systems, they have made to society.” people in southern “As DDGR, I constantly think
face, then a chuckle, then silence. genetics and genetic resources, On top of his most-influential- East Germany. about the four most important
It’s impossible to put Dr. policy, information management, people list is Charles Darwin for As a child, he aspects of my job: Are we doing
Dobermann in a box. He is serious and capacity building. He has “the amount of dedication he gave was exposed the right science? Do we have the
yet funny, modest but outspoken, published more than 200 research to science and his struggle to put his to agriculture. right people in the right place?
focused but far-reaching. papers, including 90 papers in peer- scientific discoveries in line with the “But it really Do they have the right resources
Now, after working as a reviewed international journals. prevailing values.” Nelson Mandela didn’t excite me that and partners? How can I protect
researcher for nearly 20 years, He is an elected Fellow of the and Mahatma Gandhi come next much,” he says. “At them and help them succeed?”
william sta. clara

he believes that he can make his American Society of Agronomy and “for their enormous passion and one point, I wanted to Trying to answer these
biggest contribution by applying the Soil Science Society of America, dedication to a cause and staying become a professional questions is what makes him one
his broad experience to managing and he has received numerous on course for a long, long time.” soccer player. I was of the busiest people around.

34 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 35

harvesting serendipity
by Dilantha Gunawardana

Rice production in Sri Lanka has a long and regal history—but the

Dilantha Gunawardana
high-yielding varieties resistant to a pests, is salt tolerant, and possesses
host of pests and diseases prevalent high grain quality, including long
country faces steep challenges if its future is to be as bountiful as its past in Sri Lankan rice fields such as and strong grain body, favorable
brown planthopper, bacterial leaf aroma, and short cooking time.

blight, rice blast, and rice gall midge. Since high-quality seed is
he term “serendipity” was governments since independence Current research at RRDI crucial for hybrid rice farming,
coined by author Horace have paid it due attention. concentrates on the development of RRDI researchers have introduced
Walpole in 1754 after The current state of the rice higher yielding hybrid rice varieties, a technique to improve seed
reading an ancient fairy industry in the Serendib isle is thus a the effects of climate change on rice germination without additional
tale titled The three princes of story of sound research, investment production, soil fertility and nutrient financial and labor costs. The
Serendip. The word described the in irrigation, and organized management, and weed control. method, termed “parachute sowing,”
accidental discovery of fortunate extension (technology dissemination) Hybrid varieties in particular have involves placing seeds in specially
things, after the many fortuitous spanning two millennia. Over that received recent attention through developed trays possessing 434
findings by the story’s heroes. time, the country has remained a project supported by the Asian wells, each 2 centimeters deep
The Arabic term “Serendib” (also self-sufficient, or close to it, in Development Bank, the International and filled with soil. One to three
spelled “Serendip”) has been used rice. In recent times, however, the Rice Research Institute (IRRI), seeds are sown in each well and, 12
to describe the island of Sri Lanka, grail of self-sufficiency has proved and the Food and Agriculture days later, the emerging plants are
regarded as an isle of unparalleled somewhat more elusive, despite Organization (FAO) of the United removed with the surrounding soil
beauty and enumerable natural surplus years in 2004 and 2005. Nations. Technical assistance is intact. The seedlings are then hand-
resources, since as early as AD 361. The Sri Lankan rice industry can being provided by IRRI and the sown into the field. The parachute-
Among the many natural be traced back to the ancient kingdom government of China. The FAO has like appearance of the soil “cap” is
blessings that mark Sri Lanka is of Anuradhapura, the first capital of also approved US$329,000 for hybrid responsible for the technique’s name.
vast, fertile terrain well suited for this island nation, which flourished rice development and popularization. Over the past two decades, Sri
the growth of many crops, including between 161 BC and AD 1017. Many In 2007, the first modern Lanka has been able to produce more
rice, the staple food for the 21 million ancient kings of this early kingdom commercial hybrid rice variety, Bg than 85% of the rice needed to feed
inhabitants of this South Asian developed large reservoirs and mazes 407H, was developed at RRDI by its population. In 2004-05, favorable
nation. The importance of rice within of interconnected canals to irrigate a team led by senior plant breeder weather during both cultivating
Sri Lanka, however, extends well the rice fields of their constituents. S.W. Abeysekera. Approximately seasons—Maha (September to March)
beyond its status as the primary food Reservoirs and waterways built by 1,000 kilograms of Bg 407H seed and Yala (April to August)—resulted
source, with integral roles in cultural the kings of this golden era are to this was distributed island-wide. Able in a national surplus. However,
identity, tradition, and politics. day being used by rice farmers in the to achieve yields of up to 11 tons per 10–15% of the country’s rice has
Rice is grown primarily on dry zone for irrigation. Many of these hectare, Bg 407H is also resistant been routinely imported from
irrigated land in Sri Lanka’s “dry ancient works have been rehabilitated to rice blast and many natural Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar,
zone,” an area spanning most of and maintained under the

RRDI (2)
the country’s north-central and Mahaweli River diversion program,
northeastern regions, and secondarily implemented during the 1980s to
on rainfed (nonirrigated) land by ensure reliable water availability.
smallholder farmers across the A more recent renaissance of
county. In 2007, Sri Lanka’s rice the rice industry can be sketched
industry made up 5% of the nation’s back to the establishment of the Rice
gross domestic product. Almost Research and Development Institute
one-third of the labor force is directly (RRDI) in 1929 in Bathalagoda, a
involved in the rice sector. Currently, quaint rural town 110 kilometers
the per-capita consumption of rice northeast of the capital, Colombo.
is 108 kilograms per year. Although RRDI’s successes include an improved
rice, until recently, offered minimal variety, released in 1968, named Bg
financial return for farmers, its social, 11-11, which achieved yields of up to Sri Lankan farm workers prepare to plant Bg 407H is the first commercially distributed
cultural, and political significance 8–9 tons per hectare. The 1970s and rice on a farm in Bathalagoda. A close-up view of “parachute” modern hybrid rice variety developed by Sri
rice seedlings. Lanka’s Rice Research and Development Institute.
has ensured that successive 1980s were dedicated to developing

36 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 37

RRDI (2)

and develop the country.” The rice Topographical map

of Sri Lanka.
component of this program aims to Anuru Abeysekera (right) and
increase production by 30% from IRRI associate scientist Ofie Namuco
look at promising rice varieties with
2008 to 2010. It is projected that potential to compete against weeds.
22.5% of the improvement will come
from improving the productivity of
existing rice varieties—to a national
A farm worker holds stacks average of 5.2 tons per hectare from
of 12-day-old rice plants
ready to be sowed using Parachute rice seedlings immediately
the current 4.3 tons per hectare—with
the parachute method. after planting. the remaining 7.5% achieved through
farming unused or abandoned
and, to a lesser extent, India. the poorer of whom suffer from cultivable lands. Other plans to
Despite years of regal worsening malnutrition and improve rice production include
intervention, historical and modern susceptibility to disease. At the the production of high-quality seed

Santo Paningbatan
infrastructure suited for year- same time, higher prices have forced and the incorporation of higher-
round irrigation, efficient research, cutbacks in food aid and school meal efficiency postharvest (drying,
sound management and extension
services, and gradual innovation,
programs. It is within this economic
climate that both the Sri Lankan
milling, and storage) technologies.
The FAO is also involved in the
Weeding out weeds
Sri Lanka was not immune to the government and its national and development of the rice sector in

side from water shortage and floods, weeds have become a major problem in the rice
global food crisis of 2008. Food and international research and extension Sri Lanka in four key areas: reliable
fields of Sri Lanka. More than 90% of farmers practice direct seeding in nonpuddled
fuel prices have risen sharply and, partners have initiated numerous seed certification and efficient
fields as opposed to transplanting seedlings into flooded fields. With the shift from
combined with high government programs to boost food production. methods of seed dissemination; transplanting to direct seeding, and without the protective layer of water, different hard-to-
spending, caused inflation to hit The Sri Lankan government has cultivation of 40,000 hectares of manage weed species have infested the fields. Weedy rice, in particular, has become a major
a dangerous 28% in June 2008. inaugurated a broad, multifaceted abandoned farmland mainly from threat to rice fields in different parts of the country.
The effects of high prices for national program titled Api the north-central and eastern the wet zone (in the country’s Weedy rice is believed to be either a natural hybrid of cultivated (Oryza sativa) and wild
essential consumables are being felt wawamu rata nagamu, which provinces; production improvements southwest) by incorporating rice species (O. rufipogon and O. nivara) or a result from the “de-domestication” of cultivated
by both urban and rural residents, directly translates to “we cultivate in smallholder rainfed farms in uncultivated or abandoned rice.
lands and boosting productivity In Sri Lanka, weedy rice was first detected in 1992 but was not seen as a serious threat,
through the implementation says Anuru Abeysekera, senior weed scientist and head of the Plant Protection Division at
A Rice Research and Development of efficient management the country’s Rice Research and Development Institute (RRDI). Last year, however, in Ampara
Institute research center at Bathalagoda. and Puttalam districts, many farmers complained that they could not cultivate their fields
practices; and better postharvest
because of weedy rice, and yield losses were estimated at 30–100%. Now, RRDI is studying
management to limit losses.
the longevity of seed viability of weedy rice seeds collected from different areas in Sri Lanka.
The first of these is a partnership Dr. Abeysekera first began collaborative research with IRRI in the late 1990s with weed
between the public and private scientist Martin Mortimer. In 2004, she started working with David Johnson under the
sectors, with the Department of Irrigated Rice Research Consortium’s (IRRC) Weed Ecology Work Group (now the Labor
Agriculture of Sri Lanka providing Productivity Work Group). Maintaining a strong partnership with the IRRC, in 2005-07, she
seed certification services and conducted field surveys and experiments at RRDI, studied weedy rice, and compared crop-
private companies, such as CIC establishment and weed-control practices to reduce yield losses to weeds in different rice
Agri Business, contributing to seed environments.
dissemination. The contribution Dr. Abeysekera’s philosophy is simple. “If the farmer is happy, reduces losses due to weeds,
of the private sector to the Sri and gets a good yield,” she says, “I have done my duty.”
Lankan rice industry extends to the
development of niche markets for
rice and rice-based products—such brought by global climate change,
as basmati rice, rice flour, and are bound to present an extra
rice noodles—for both domestic challenge in the coming years. Dr. Gunawardana, a Sri Lankan
consumption and export. Time will reveal Sri Lanka’s by birth, is a postdoctoral fellow at
For Sri Lanka to reach, maintain, destiny as a rice-producing nation, IRRI. For assistance in researching
and even surpass self-sufficiency a destiny that has been woven this article, he acknowledges
in rice production, a long-term into the country’s rice fields for Dr. D.S.P. Kuruppuarachchi
vision, careful planning, innovative more than 2,000 years. Rice (assistant representative, FAO–Sri
research, good management, and production is in the hands of the Lanka), Mr. S.W. Abeysekera
efficient extension services will be current and next generations of rice (senior plant breeder, RRDI),
needed. Given its densely packed scientists, agronomists, farmers, Dr. W.M.W. Weerakoon (senior
Dilantha Gunawardana

and fast-rising population, this tiny and politicians. Serendipity in agronomist, RRDI), and Dr.
island needs to squeeze every bit of the Serendib isle has relied on W.M.A.D.B. Wickramasinghe
productivity out of its limited land and always will rely on far more (deputy director research and
area. Changing weather patterns, than mere good fortune. senior soil scientist, RRDI).

Rice Today October-December 2008 39


the aftermath
2008 crop enters the market in by rising per-capita consumption increase in per-capita consumption

Rice crisis:
October, prices may soften. in others (the United States, India, is also projected for many developed
Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, countries in North America and
Long-term challenges Bangladesh, and SSA countries). the European Union because of
Despite some reassuring supply In rapidly growing developing immigration and food diversification.
numbers for 2008-09, there are countries, income growth, Overall, 59 million tons of
What has happened, what has changed, and what are the challenges ahead? huge uncertainties regarding the urbanization, and other long-term additional milled rice—equivalent
source of future growth in global social and economic transformations to around 89 million tons of paddy
rice production. The annual rice mean that consumer demand (unmilled) rice—will be needed by
yield growth rate has dropped patterns are likely to move toward the 2020 above the 2007 consumption of
by Samarendu Mohanty in yield growth (Figure 2). Current The projected increase in global to less than 1% in recent years, consumption patterns of developed 422 million tons (Figure 4). However,
Head, IRRI Social Sciences Division global rice stocks have declined production is based primarily compared with 2–3% during the countries. A recent analysis by 2020 consumption projections may
from a 135-day supply to a 70- on increased area with average Green Revolution period of 1967-90. the International Rice

000 tons
ompared with the prices of day supply in the last 7 years—a projected yield nearly unchanged Declining investments in Research Institute 500,000
other cereals such as wheat 44% drop from 147 million tons in from the previous year. According all areas of rice research and (IRRI) projects that, as 59 million tons
and maize, rice prices were 2001 to 82 million tons in 2008. to the United States Department infrastructure development the standard of living in 400,000
relatively subdued for much of Agriculture (USDA), rice area (including irrigation) have been the developing countries
of 2007. In late 2007, however, prices Rice crisis aftermath is projected to increase by almost largely responsible for such dramatic rises in the future, overall
began to zoom upward to levels The 2008-09 rice market is likely 1 million hectares from 154.4 slowing in yield growth. The same is per-capita consumption
not witnessed in more than three to remain tight even with projected million hectares in 2007-08 to not true for many other field crops will decline slightly from
decades. Between November 2007 record global production of 432 155.3 million hectares in 2008- such as maize, soybeans, and cotton, 64 kilograms in 2007 to





















and May 2008, export prices almost million tons1 (milled rice)—a 1% 09. India will account for more for which increased investment 63.2 kilograms in 2020.
tripled (Figure 1). Since then, prices increase over last year’s 428 million than half of the total increase. in the development of improved Among major rice-
have softened but remain high. tons. Production in 2007-08, nearly Despite higher prices, rice varieties and infrastructure has consuming countries, Fig. 4. Total milled rice consumption.
Several factors such as adverse 2% higher than the 2006-07 level of consumption is expected to remain resulted in impressive yield growth. both Chinese and Indian
weather in key producing countries, 420 million tons, was also a record. strong because of substitution Increasing rice production per-capita consumption during this go even higher if prices of other food
high oil prices, and pro-ethanol away from more expensive food through area expansion is also period is projected to decline by items (livestock products, fruits, and
policies combined with speculative $ per ton %
such as fruits, vegetables, unlikely in most parts of the 4.2 and 3.5 kilograms, respectively vegetables) remain high, causing
trading and government trade 600 40 and livestock products. world because of water scarcity (Figure 3). Nevertheless, even with slow progress in diet diversification
interventions to control domestic 500 Stock-to-use ratio Global consumption in and competition for land from such a decline in per-capita rice in developing countries.
Thai 100% Grade B 30
prices contributed to the recent spike. 400 2008-09 is projected to be nonagricultural uses such as
Despite media and public 300 20 around 426 million tons, industrialization and urbanization. kilograms What does this mean for IRRI?
attention to the recent price surge, 200 an increase of around 1% World rice area has fluctuated 120 The current crisis serves as a timely
a steady increase in rice prices from 10 from the previous year. between 145 and 155 million hectares 2000 2007 wakeup call for governments,
100 2015 2020
2000 went largely unnoticed. From 0 0
After reaching a record over the past two decades, with 80 multilateral organizations, and
2001 to 2007, rice prices nearly 97/98 99/00 01/02 03/04 05/06 07/08 low of 73 million tons in the current level very close to the 60 donors to refocus on agriculture.
doubled primarily because of a 2004-05, global rice stocks historic high. It would be prudent 40
Various national and international
drawing down of stocks to meet the Fig. 2. Rice price and stock-to-use ratio. have been steadily rising and to assume that world rice area will bodies have called for a second
Data source: Production, Supply, and Distribution Database and 20
deficit arising out of deceleration Rice Outlook Report, USDA. are projected to reach 82 million remain in or even fall below this World India China Green Revolution to feed the
tons in 2008-09, compared with range in the next 10 to 15 years. Fig. 3. Per-capita rice consumption. world in the face of a growing
$ per ton
78.5 million tons in 2007-08. population and shrinking land
1000 Despite expectations that global Changing consumption patterns consumption, total consumption base for agricultural uses.
Thai 100% Grade B stocks will continue to increase in Global rice consumption remains in these two countries is projected Unlike the first Green Revolution,
800 Wheat the coming year, prices are likely strong, driven by both population to increase by 18 million tons in which productivity growth was
Maize to remain high partly in response and economic growth in many because of population growth. achieved with the introduction of
600 to export restrictions imposed Asian and African countries. Overall, China’s and India’s modern varieties in tandem with
by key rice-producing countries. This is particularly true for most share in total world consumption assured irrigation and inputs (such
400 Making matters worse, already countries in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to fall from 52% in as fertilizer), and guaranteed prices,
depleted stocks in the U.S.—one (SSA), where high population 2007 to 49% in 2020. The decline the second Green Revolution needs
200 of the few countries that resisted growth combined with changing in per-capita consumption is also to achieve the same goal in the face of
imposing export restrictions during consumer preferences is causing projected to continue in Japan, several 21st-century challenges. These
Aug Oct Dec Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec Feb Apr Jun Aug Oct Dec Feb Apr Jun the recent crisis—are projected to rapid expansion in rice consumption. South Korea, Thailand, and challenges include water and land
05 05 05 06 06 06 06 06 06 07 07 07 07 07 07 08 08 08 decline further, further destabilizing However, global average per-capita Taiwan. For many other countries, scarcity, environmental degradation,
Date the market in the coming months. rice consumption has been flat including the Philippines, Myanmar, skyrocketing input prices, and
Fig. 1. Monthly crop prices.
Data source: various issues of Crop Outlook Reports, USDA. However, as the bulk of the for the last 5 years, with declining Bangladesh, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, globalized marketplaces. In short, the
per-capita consumption in some and many African nations, per- second Green Revolution will have to
countries (China, Thailand, South capita consumption is projected to expand productivity in a sustainable
Production, Supply, and Distribution (PSD) database published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Korea, Japan, and Taiwan) offset increase over the same period. An manner with fewer resources.

40 Rice Today October-December 2008 Rice Today October-December 2008 41

grain of truth
land to accommodate rotations with Because the environmental and
leguminous crops (green manures) sustainability benefits of organic
that can capture atmospheric nitrogen. fertilizer in rice production are small
Diverting land to grow nonfood or nonexistent, use of organics should
or low-yielding leguminous crops be governed by profitability. But the
by Achim Dobermann & David Dawe reduces food production. This may nutrient content of organic fertilizer is
be feasible in some industrialized typically low and much more variable
countries, but, in developing countries than that of inorganic fertilizer,

Can organic with high population densities and

limited agricultural land, it can
necessitating large quantities. Thus,
if organic fertilizer needs to be

agriculture threaten national food security and

poverty reduction by leading to higher
transported over a long distance, costs
can be prohibitively high. Further,

feed Asia? food prices. Moreover, recent research

suggests that there are no proven
given organic fertilizer’s variable
nutrient content, farmers often have
environmental benefits in organic trouble judging how much to apply.
systems, such as less N leaching or With inorganic fertilizer, farmers

ising fertilizer prices and lower gaseous-N losses, when the are relatively sure of the nutrient
misperceptions about environmental impact is expressed quantities and can more easily
environmental degradation in on a per ton food-produced basis. adjust nutrient rates and proportions
intensive agriculture have stimulated In all cropping systems, nutrients to match site-specific needs.
claims that so-called “low-input” are constantly removed in the form When manure or other organic
technologies relying on organic of crops harvested. If these nutrients materials are readily available, rice
nutrient sources may provide a more are not returned, the system cannot farmers should apply them as part of
sustainable means of producing food be sustainable without further input their overall management strategy.
crops and increasing farmers’ income. from outside. Organically managed For example, applying organics in
However, the sole use of organic systems are no exception to this rule. a primitive production system that
technologies would likely perpetuate Organic fertilizers produced within does not use mineral fertilizers will
food insecurity and poverty in the boundaries of a farm do not add probably increase profits and food
Asia because they production. But,
are typically an Cereal production in Asia will depend primarily most Asian rice
expensive source of farmers already
on mineral nutrients to meet future demand
essential nutrients use mineral
and confer few if any fertilizer, so higher
benefits in terms of sustainability nutrients to the cropping system as a profits are likely only if organics are
and the environment. whole; rather, they transfer nutrients used to supplement—not replace—
The effects of organic matter within the system. In contrast, mineral conventional inorganic fertilizers.
applications on soil quality and crop fertilizers add nutrients to the system. Many commercially produced
yields become clear only after several In most low-input systems that rely organic fertilizers that are widely
years of continuous applications. on organic sources, the nutrient promoted and even subsidized in
Numerous long-term experiments content and quantity of available rice-growing countries of Asia do not
conducted in a wide range of rice- organic fertilizers are insufficient to provide proven profitable yield gains.
based cropping systems have achieve high yields for most crops. Although high fertilizer prices have
demonstrated that the continuous use Irrigated rice, with its flooded added additional pressure to farmers
of organic amendments, at affordable fields, is the only major food crop that and policymakers alike, governments
rates, does not lead to significant yield can achieve stable yields with up to should limit subsidies and invest
advantages compared with systems three harvests annually, without the instead in technologies that, coupled
that are managed with judicious and need for rotation, for decades. Unique with appropriate supporting policies,
balanced use of mineral fertilizers. features of carbon and nitrogen enable farmers to improve yields and
Organic practices can result in cycling in submerged soil mean that fertilizer efficiency in their fields.
nutrient imbalances (both excesses soil organic matter actually tends to
and deficiencies). Short-term yield accumulate in such systems, even if
reductions are common and organic no manure is applied or much of the Dr. Dobermann is deputy director
agricultural systems appear to require rice straw is removed from the field. general for research at IRRI. Dr.
both premium prices and government In such systems, applying organic Dawe is a senior economist at the
subsidies to remain economically matter in addition to crop residues United Nations Food and Agriculture
viable on a large scale. They also has relatively less benefit for either Organization. The views expressed
require large amounts of organic crop productivity or the sustainability do not necessarily represent official
nitrogen (N) sources or diversion of of the overall cropping system. positions of the authors’ organizations.

42 Rice Today October-December 2008

44 Rice Today October-December 2008