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International Rice Research Institute

April-June 2015, Vol. 14, No. 2

Celebrating 50 years of
rice research in India
What kind of rice do consumers want?
Rice in Latin America on the world stage
Rice yield rises with WeRise

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2 Rice Today April-June 2015
contents Vol. 14, No. 2

EDITORIAL: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF IMPACT NUGGETS OF PLANETARY TRUTH......................... 22 MAPS........................................................................ 38

THROUGH RICE RESEARCH IN INDIA.................. 4 What kind of rice do consumers want?
NEWS.......................................................................... 5 WISDOM AND SCIENTIFIC STRIKING A BALANCE THROUGH ECOLOGICALLY
BREAKTHROUGHS.............................................. 23 ENGINEERED RICE ECOSYSTEMS...................... 40
RICE TODAY AROUND THE WORLD......................... 9
REVISITING 50 YEARS OF INDIAN RICE FACTS............................................................... 43
INDIAN FARMER KICK-STARTS TWO RICE RESEARCH................................................... 26 India reaches the pinnacle in rice exports
GREEN REVOLUTIONS........................................ 10
YIELD RISES WITH WERISE..................................... 30 GRAINS OF TRUTH.................................................. 46
WHAT’S COOKING................................................... 33
RELEASE OF RICE VARIETIES............................. 14
A SCHOOLBOY AT HEART: CELEBRATED INDIAN THE WORLD......................................................... 34
SCIENTIST SPEAKS HIS MIND............................ 16
RICE SCIENTISTS FROM INDIA COUNTRIES.......................................................... 36
HELPING AFRICA................................................ 20

About the cover. Indian farmer Nekkanti Subba Rao

holds part of his bumper crop of flood-tolerant Swarna-

Sub1, which he harvested in 2009 on his Andhra Pradesh

farm. He was also on the cover with the miracle rice IR8,
in October 2006 to celebrate the 40th anniversaty of that
variety's release. On pages 10-11, find out more about
how this amazing pioneer, popularly known as Dhaan
Pandit (rice expert), helped kick-start both the first and
second Green Revolutions in India. (Photo by Manzoor
Hussain Dar)

Rice Today is published by the International Rice Research Institute Rice Today Editorial Board
(IRRI) on behalf of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP).
IRRI is the world’s leading international rice research and training Bas Bouman, GRiSP
center. Based in the Philippines and with offices located in major rice- Matthew Morell, IRRI
growing countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on Eduardo Graterol, Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice
improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers
and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving Marco Wopereis, Africa Rice Center
natural resources. It is one of the 15 nonprofit international research Mary Jacqueline Dionora, IRRI
centers that are members of the CGIAR consortium ( Osamu Koyama, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Responsibility for this publication rests with IRRI. Designations used Erna Maria Lokollo, Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Dev.
in this publication should not be construed as expressing IRRI policy or Pradeep Kumar Sharma, CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University
opinion on the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or its Gonzalo Zorrilla, National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA)
authorities, or the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Rice Today welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. The editor-in-chief Gene Hettel
opinions expressed by columnists in Rice Today do not necessarily
reflect the views of IRRI or GRiSP. managing editor Lanie Reyes
associate editor Alaric Francis Santiaguel
Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra
International Rice Research Institute Latin America editor Nathan Russell
DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines copy editor Bill Hardy
Web: art director Juan Lazaro IV
designer and production supervisor Grant Leceta
Rice Today editorial photo editor Isagani Serrano
telephone: (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725; circulation Antonette Abigail Caballero, Lourdes Columbres, Cynthia Quintos
fax: (+63-2) 580-5699 or (+63-2) 845-0606; email:, Web masters Jerry Laviña, Lourdes Columbres printer CGK formaprint

International Rice Research Institute 2015

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Celebrating 50 years of impact through rice research in India

he Indian Council of Agricultural from the perspectives of Dr. Swaminathan
Research (ICAR) and the International and J.K. Ladha, principal scientist and IRRI
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are representative for India and Nepal. Also,
delighted to jointly observe 50 years of find out on pages 10-11 why progressive
successful rice research in India. During 12- Indian farmer-researcher Nekkanti Subba
15 April 2015, around 400 Indian researchers Rao, standing in the same field on his Andhra
will be holding the 50th Annual Rice Group Pradesh farm, is featured on a second Rice
Meeting of the All India Coordinated Rice Today cover.
Improvement Project in Hyderabad. On pages 16-18, Indian rice breeder extraordinaire E.A.
ICAR’s Hyderabad-based Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), Siddiq talks about his life’s work in an exclusive IRRI pioneer
recently named the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), interview. Dr. Siddiq developed semidwarf basmati varieties
is also planning special events later this year to celebrate its for the country’s agricultural export trade and stiff-strawed
half century of significant contributions toward ensuring food varieties for India’s now-thriving rice-wheat rotation. While on
security for all Indians. the IRRI Board of Trustees during the early 2000s, he fought for
The India-IRRI partnership has been a fruitful synergistic the continuation of the International Network for the Genetic
relationship. IRRI has had a long tradition—since the 1960s—of Evaluation of Rice as well as hybrid rice research, which were on
tapping into the unique expertise of many prominent Indian the budget-cut chopping block at the time.
scientists to guide its research, governance, and management. Late last year, a cadre of renowned Indian rice scientists
Over the years, more than 50 Indians have distinguishingly and administrators was asked to give testimonials on behalf of
served—or are serving—IRRI as globally recruited staff and the thriving India-IRRI relationship. There was an enthusiastic
17 have been decision makers as members of the Board of response. Topics ranged from achievements in hybrid rice and
Trustees. Since 1964, many Indian scholars have studied at IRRI building India’s scientific capacity to addressing climate change.
to earn advanced degrees or participate in other educational Read selected highlights of these tributes on pages 26-29 and
programs. see the full set on the Rice Today website.
During IRRI’s early days, Dilbagh S. Athwal, an Indian plant The centerfold features the panoramic mural of Indian
breeder, worked at various levels in IRRI’s upper management rice farming mounted on the wall of the DRR’s Rice Museum
for a decade during 1967-77, ultimately serving as the Institute’s in Hyderabad. Commentary on what it signifies comes from B.
first deputy director general. Later, M.S. Swaminathan, the Mishra, former DRR project director, who commissioned the
first World Food Prize Laureate in 1987, served as IRRI’s fourth work in 2005. This issue’s map section on pages 38-39 provides
director general during 1982-88. an interesting assessment of the rice preferences of urban
Indian scientists at IRRI have contributed significantly to consumers in India and Bangladesh.
IRRI’s success in using cutting-edge science to help bring food On pages 20-21, learn about the achievements of two
security, economic growth, and environmental protection to Indian scientists far away from home working with the Africa
the world through their dedicated research and administrative Rice Center—systems agronomist Senthilkumar Kalimuthu and
efforts. G.S. Khush, the celebrated rice breeder and 1996 World lowland rice breeder Venuprasad Ramaiah.
Food Prize Laureate, worked for 34 years at IRRI and made In his regular Rice facts column on pages 43-45, IRRI head
countless contributions to keep the Green Revolution in rice economist Sam Mohanty discussess India reaching the pinnacle
production on the right path, especially with his breeding in rice exports.
team’s development of landmark varieties IR36 and IR64. Other So, while reflecting on the last 50 years, read and enjoy
prominent Indian researchers, as international staff members at these features and others in this special India-focused issue of
IRRI, have helped the Institute become what it is today. They are Rice Today!
listed on the IRRI-India website. In the meantime, as the directors general of our respective
For their part, ICAR and IIRR are particularly interested in organizations, we pledge that ICAR-IRRI will continue the
South Asia-focused flagship projects related to climate change, partnering spirit of the last five decades to involve our scientists
resource management, rice varietal development, GM research, in enhancing food security in not only India but in all of South
and capacity building. Asia.
ICAR and IIRR especially appreciate IRRI’s initiative in setting
up, in 2012, the South Asia Rice Breeding Research and Training
Hub at the International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad. The hub is already providing
targeted breeding and training in India with a spillover benefit
to other countries in the region.
ICAR and IRRI are seeking new opportunities to increase
India’s focus on upstream and innovative research and to Subbanna Ayyappan Robert S. Zeigler
catalyze the transfer of the new technologies to the region’s Director general Director general
farmers and others in the value chain. In addition, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) International Rice
partnership is playing a major role in further developing the rice Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research Institute
sector, particularly in eastern and southern India. Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of
In this issue, on adjacent Grains of truth, pages 46-47, Agriculture of India, and
you can read more about the historic India-IRRI partnership Member, IRRI Board of Trustees (2013-15)

Harold Roy-Macauley is new

AfricaRice director general
that coordinates and facilitates Describing the 2011-2020
agricultural R&D activities in 22 strategic plan of AfricaRice to
countries in West and Central Africa. boost the rice sector in Africa as
Dr. Roy-Macauley is no stranger “evidenced-based and therefore
to CGIAR, having served previously very solid and powerful,” he urged

as the regional director for the World AfricaRice staff “to be adventurous
Agroforestry Centre in West and and ingenious in the way we roll out
Central Africa. He has consulted for our rice science.”

arold Roy-Macauley, a Sierra numerous international and bilateral Dr. Roy-Macauley outlined his
Leonean national, was organizations on biosafety and first priorities as:
appointed as the new Director biotechnology and was the managing
General of the Africa Rice Center director for the Regional Center for • Rendering partnerships more
(AfricaRice) at an Extraordinary Improving Adaptation to Drought efficient around rice science and
Session of the Council of Ministers in Senegal, a research and training sector development,
of AfricaRice held on 6 February center of CORAF/WECARD. • Strengthening capacity for rice
in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Roy- As part of his mandate at science and sector development,
Macauley has nearly 30 years of AfricaRice, he underlined the • Improving access of smallholder
experience in agricultural research importance of “introducing rice producers to markets,
with extensive leadership and more high-end life science and • Reintegrating rice science in the
management expertise. He is socioeconomic applications in the policy agenda of countries, and
currently the executive director of Rice Sector Development Hubs, • Increasing investments in rice
the West and Central African Council convened by AfricaRice, to help science and sector development.
for Agricultural Research and consolidate the already profound
Development (CORAF/WECARD)—a and significant changes the rice value Source:
leading subregional organization chain is undergoing in Africa.”

AfricaRice agronomist wins France's Young

Promising Scientist Prize

azuki Saito, Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) agronomist

from Japan, was awarded the Agropolis Foundation's
Louis Malassis Young Promising Scientist Prize for
his exemplary and promising contributions in the field of
agriculture and food. Dr. Saito (second from right) is the
driving force behind the Rice Agronomy Task Force, convened
by AfricaRice, which is conducting activities in 21 countries
across Africa. Yield-gap survey protocols for the Agronomy
Task Force, developed under Dr. Saito’s leadership, are
currently being used in these countries by national research
institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.
The results from the surveys are enabling AfricaRice and
its partners to identify the opportunities available to introduce
technologies to close yield gaps. (See A game changer in Africa’s
rice agronomy on pages 34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 13, No.3)


Rice Today April-June 2015 5

California rice farmer uses the market Basmati rice exports
to protect wildlife and boost profits to Iran likely to
project on Knaggs Ranch in By adjusting land management
California’s Central Valley is to benefit such species, Mr. Brennan
helping to keep water on the is generating conservation outcomes
fields during a time and at a volume that he hopes can be sold as a
critical to support salmon nurseries commodity to private and public
while providing beneficial habitat for investors through the Central Valley
water fowl and shore birds. “Farmers Habitat Exchange. Potential investors
are environmentalists, too,” says John include state agencies seeking credits
Brennan, a farm manager for the to meet mitigation requirements or
ranch. “Programs like this will help restoration mandates.
us fulfill our responsibility to nature
and to coming generations.” Source:

Vietnam plans to have national brand

name for rice

he Ministry of Agriculture and million tons of high-quality rice, ac-
Rural Development has submit- counting for 52% of total exports, and
ted a plan to the government that 44% higher than in 2013. Customers IRRI
seeks to develop a Vietnamese rice in the Europe, North America, Asia,
brand name by 2020. Vietnam has and Africa have increased import

been one of the top three rice-export- of Vietnamese rice thanks to good fter several rounds of discussions,
ing nations but it lacks brand names marketing. But the ministry points Iran is likely to start issuing
that are known in the global market, out that V
­ ietnamese rice varieties permits to Indian exporters,
the ministry said in its proposal. face challenges when trying to enter paving the way for basmati exports.
Around 90% of the country's rice quality-conscious markets. “India may resume exports of basmati
exports comes from the Mekong Delta. rice exports to Iran early next year,”
Last year, delta provinces exported 3.2 Source: said Ajay Sahai, director general
of the Federation of Indian Export

Basmati rice exports from India

in 2013-14 were predicted to decline
by 10% due to Iran’s temporary
stoppage of fresh order issuances.
The country has not issued any
fresh import permits after October
2014 due to oversupply. However,
execution of existing and past orders
has continued.
“India does not face any ban
in terms of basmati rice exports to
Iran. During past years, Iran had
imported a large quantity of basmati
rice from India,” said A.K. Gupta,
director, Agricultural and Processed
Food Products Export Development


6 Rice Today April-June 2015

Three-year field trials with nitrogen-efficient rice show
significant yield increases

rcadia Biosciences Inc., an Over the 3

agricultural technology years of field trials,
company that develops the leading rice
and commercializes plant traits line with Arcadia’s
and products that improve NUE trait out-
farm economics and benefit the yielded control
environment and human health, has lines by an average
joined with the International Center of 27%. The trials
for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). included both
They have jointly announced irrigated lowland
the completion of a third year of and rainfed upland
field trials of nitrogen-use efficient locations. In the
(NUE) rice. CIAT has been testing the third year trial
rice at the Center’s research fields in at 50% of normal
Colombia. For the third year in a row, applied nitrogen showed yield increases of 22 and 30%,
rice lines with Arcadia’s NUE trait fertilizer, the leading NUE rice line respectively.
produced significant yield increases out-produced the control line by
relative to conventional varieties. 33%. The previous two years’ trials Source:

Vietnam plans greener


rice cultivation

ietnam plans to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions from rice cultivation by 14% by
2030, according to the Ministry of Natural
Resources and Environment. Pham Hoang Yen, an
expert involved in the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the
Kyoto Protocol, said that, in the last few years, the
country had chased the goal of a 20% reduction in
greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the overall cultivation
sector by 2020.
What the country has been doing includes
preparation for National Appropriate Mitigation
Action and other policies developing countries
adopted to control global GHG at a UNFCC
conference in Bali 8 years ago.
Vietnam has also carried out a program of
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). In June
last year, the country had 253 CDM projects and
had registered 11 programs of activities. This
move earned it 10.7 million certified emission
reduction credits granted by the CDM Executive
Board through CDM activities, Mr. Yen said. The
total GHG emissions reduction from the 253 CDM
projects was 137 million tons of carbon dioxide


Rice Today April-June 2015 7

Rice Today coverage on India
Ri I Cecial
ce nt eleb 52 Co ern rati -pag
ng at ng th e is
re ion e sue:
ss a
20 l
International Rice Research Institute July-September 2006, Vol. 5, No. 4 06

Rice trade liberalization

over the years
Examining a tricky issue

New environment section India is one of the world’s largest rice-producing and -consuming
Can high food production
and biodiversity coexist? countries, not to mention one of IRRI’s most important partners in rice
So, since Rice Today began publishing in 2002, we have provided
a cornucopia of coverage on India—several covers and more than 40
stories and features on a range of topics important to Indian farmers
and consumers. See the listing and links to those stories at www.irri.
The future of rice in Asia
Inspiring youth to stay in the industry org/rice-today/india.
ISSN 1655-5422

International Rice Research Institute October-December 2009, Vol. 8, No. 4

International Rice Research Institute
April-June 2014, Vol. 13, No. 2

Creating an oasis with rice

Climate-smart rice for Africa
Bitter harvest from a noble cause
Praying for rain Where Latin America’s rice gets a baptism of fire
Perils of the delayed Indian monsoon

Africa modernizes its rice production

Tribute to Father of the Green Revolution
Unusual weather patterns: signs of climate change?

US$5.00 ISSN 1655-5422 US$5.00 ISSN 1655-5422

Rice Today October-December 2009  Rice Today April-June 2014 1


Course title Date Application deadline
Effective Presentation Skills Workshop 28 July 28 May
Training Workshop on Rice Technology Transfer Systems in Asia 7-20 June 6 April
Rice: Research to Production 10-28 August 25 June
Research Data Management 8 September 8 July
Effective Presentation Skills Workshop 28 September-9 October 28 July
Molecular Breeding Course 12-23 October 12 August
Rice: Postproduction to Market (2nd offering) 27-29 October 27 August
Basics of Rice Production (2nd offering) 2-13 November 27 August
Ecological Management of Rodents, Insects, and Weeds, 9-13 November 2 September
in Rice Agroecosystems

Basic Scientific Writing Course 9-13 November 9 September

Advanced Applications of ORYZA V3 in Rice Research 9-13 November 9 September
Research Data Management 24-26 November 24 September
Effective Presentation Skills Workshop 3 December 3 October
For inquiries, contact,, or Phone: (63-2) 580-5600 ext 2538 or +639178639317; fax: (63-2) 580-5699, 891-1292, or
845-0606; mailing address: The IRRI Training Center, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines (Attention: TC Course Coordinator); Web site:
Note: Fees and schedules are subject to change without prior notice.

8 Rice Today April-June 2015

IN EARLY February, Robert Zeigler, director general of the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI; center 2nd row
with Rice Today), interacted with rice-farming families in
northeastern Thailand near Ubon Ratchathani. This was an
area where he spent significant time more than 20 years
ago when he was the leader of IRRI's Rainfed Lowland Rice
Ecosystem Program. His objective was to help improve rice
production and the livelihoods of farmers trying to make
a living under the region's harsh rainfed conditions. His
prognosis after the 2-day visit: "I'm very happy with what
I've seen and heard. A lot of progress has been made."

IN LATE January, IRRI's Appslab Team, the people behind

the Rice Crop Manager app., visited Batad Village in
Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines. This location is a UNESCO
Heritage Site featuring the spectacular Amphitheater
Rice Terraces. From left to right are Apol Banasihan, Carlo
Liwanag, Prime Sazon, Terry Velasco, Erica Banasihan,
Weng Castillo, PJ Sinohin, Edsel Moscoso, Apple Suplido,
and Jecjec Dela Torre.

SAFARI WITH Rice Today. Jedd Dumaguina, sound

recordist and photographer for Monoxide Works,
poses with Rice Today in a four-wheel-drive vehicle
during a safari in Masai Mara National Reserve
in Kenya. The Masai Mara, one of the best known
wildlife reserves in Africa, is very popular with
tourists, travel writers, documentary makers, and

Rice Today April-June 2015 9

Indian farmer




incorporated the SUB1 gene into
Swarna. It was a dream come true.
Says Dr. Dar: “Mr. Subba Rao
evaluated Swarna and Swarna-Sub1

kick-starts two side by side in his field and invited

hundreds of farmers to come see the
difference. Luckily, for observational

purposes, the seedlings got
submerged that season and Swarna-
Sub1 performed so much better than
NEKKANTI SUBBA Swarna. He distributed Swarna-Sub1
RAO helped kick-
start both the first seed from his 2008 kharif harvest
and second Green to other farmers, who multiplied it

Revolutions in India during the rabi season 2008-09. This MR. SUBBA RAO speaks during IRRI’s 2014 Farmers’
by promoting and Day.
distributing IR8 in resulted in the spread of Swarna-
1967 and Swarna- Sub1 to nearly 1,000 hectares during
Sub1 in 2009. the 2009 kharif season in a dozen shared their experiences with IRRI
surrounding villages.” scientists and scholars during that
event. He was part of the group
by Gene Hettel Revolution (GR2.0), which is being varieties proved to be more disease privilege of working with this pioneer A farmer-scientist because he was already averaging
publicized to leave no poor farmer resistant and quickly replaced TN1. farmer for the last 6 years. “Mr. “In 2012, I gave him 1 kilogram of seed 8 tons per hectare on his 10-hectare
behind (see Green Revolutions 2.0 & In 1967, Mr. Subba Rao tested Subba Rao has been instrumental of Ciherang-Sub1, a short-duration, farm back then in the mid-1980s.

while back, I read an 3.0: No farmer left behind on pages 32- IR8 on his farm and supervised in promoting and distributing flood-tolerant variety with high “Science has a great role to play
interesting story extolling 35 of Rice Today, Vol. 14, No. 2). its first large-scale demonstration Swarna-Sub1,” he says. “In fact, in grain quality,” says Dr. Dar. “Not in helping farmers because the cost
the merits of the new flood- Well, the Rice Today staff needed and multiplication—on about 2,000 1979, he grew, tested, and inspired surprisingly, he multiplied it in the of cultivation continues to increase
tolerant rice, Swarna-Sub1, to look no further for a cover photo hectares near his home village of his neighboring farmers to grow the kharif and also cultivated it during and outbreaks of insect pests and
in the newsletter of the Stress- subject to grace this issue, which is Atchanta—following instructions original Swarna, even before it was the following boro season. It had diseases result in severe losses,”
Tolerant Rice for Africa and South celebrating 50 years of rice research from the government of India. The officially released, because of its high- higher yield than other popular rabi he said to the participants during
Asia (STRASA) project. The author, in India. It was an easy decision. next year, IR8 was planted on 1,600 yielding and good eating qualities. rice varieties and thus spread through the 1985 symposium. He added
Manzoor Hussain Dar, International The 1967 photo was on the cover of hectares in his village and the rest After its release, Swarna covered the hundreds of hectares in a few years that community participation and
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) senior our October-December 2006 issue to was history, with the seeds soon entire Godavari Belt in India and and has become a popular variety. proper government policies could
associate scientist based in India, observe the 40th anniversary of the being distributed throughout the continues to be the variety of choice Through the local university, he has significantly influence returns.
included two photos of the same release of IR8 in Asia. country. So, in addition to being among millions of farmers in India also helped distribute 1,000 mini-kits Flash forward 29 years to 1
farmer, Nekkanti Subba Rao, in the Mr. Subba Rao’s farming called Dhaan Pandit (rice expert) by and neighboring countries.” of Ciherang-Sub1 to the farmers before October 2014. Mr. “IR8” was back at
same field on his Andhra Pradesh livelihood and his on-farm research his neighbors, he is also known by Unfortunately, Swarna yields its release. That’s how he works. IRRI Headquarters in the Philippines
farm. have spanned the same period. the moniker “Mr. IR8,” which still often decrease during seasons with “I consider Mr. Subba Rao a to mingle with more than 400
During this time, he has continuously resonates with many Indian farmers lots of flooding. So, Mr. Subba Rao was scientist himself,” says Dr. Dar. “He Filipino farmers during the Institute’s
Spanning two Green Revolutions collaborated with the All India to this day. especially excited when IRRI breeders is truly an inspiration to the farmers Araw ng Magsasaka sa IRRI (IRRI's
I found this striking because the Coordinated Rice Improvement Dr. Dar, who coordinates in the area and has a large following. Annual Farmers’ Day). He repeated
photos had been taken 42 years apart! Project in testing new varieties, research and seed upscaling and He is the best promoter around of the his 1985 message to a new attentive
One depicted a young 29-year-old producing certified seeds, and dissemination-related activities for new technologies and he creates a lot audience by sharing his experiences,
farmer in 1967 clutching a bundle establishing beneficial links between STRASA in stress-prone rainfed of awareness among the farmers.” practices, and insights. It is clear that
of lush grain-laden panicles of IR8, scientists and farmers. Truly, this lowlands in South Asia, has had the he brims with pride about his role
the rice variety that started the first has made him an integral part of the No stranger to IRRI in helping usher in both GR1.0 with
Green Revolution (GR1.0) in the 1960s. history of the Green Revolutions in In 1985, during IRRI’s 25th anniver- IR8 and GR2.0 with Swarna-Sub1
The other showed a wizened 71-year- India. sary, the Institute organized a and the even better varieties that are
old in 2009, still with a twinkle in his multilevel symposium that included following.
eyes and the same bright smile, in a Testing and distributing IR8 and scientists, political leaders, and—most “He is always excited
similar pose. Swarna-Sub1 importantly—14 outstanding farmers about innovative varieties and
However, this time, Mr. Subba He proudly recalled that, in 1966, he identified from 10 nations. Two technologies,” concluded Dr. Dar.
Rao was grasping a bundle of was one of the first farmers to plant Indians were in that group to visit the “I wish I had a new product to give
panicles of Swarna-Sub1, a popular Taichung-Native 1 (TN1) for national Philippines, Sardar Jagjit Singh Hara him every year because, through
variety (Swarna) made flood-tolerant demonstrations. TN1 was actually the from the Punjab (see In the Punjab: an his network, we can best bestow

by incorporating the SUB1 gene. first indica rice variety carrying the outstanding farmer revisited on pages maximum benefits to the thousands
Many have since considered Swarna- semidwarfing gene, sd1, derived from 34-35 of Rice Today, Vol. 8, No. 2) of farmers in the region.”

Sub1 and other popular varieties Taiwanese variety Dee-geo-woo- and Andhra Pradesh’s own Dhaan
IN THE IRRI fields during his 2014 visit, “Mr. IR8” MR. SUBBA RAO and Dr. Dar confer often on the
with a SUB1 background to be the gen, which is also a parent of IR8. visits a demonstration plot of rice variety IR8, which latest available technologies that may benefit the Pandit! Mr. Subba Rao and his fellow Mr. Hettel is editor-in-chief of Rice
launching pad for the second Green However, IR8 and subsequent IRRI launched GR1.0. farmers of the region. outstanding farmers generously Today and IRRI historian.

10 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 11

1965 1967 1968 1981 1982 1986 1996 2002
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research Indian plant breeder Dilbagh S. Athwal joined After threshing his first full harvest The seminal book, Principles and practices M.S. Swaminathan became Amir U. Khan (right), IRRI agricultural G.S. Khush, IRRI principal plant breeder, ICAR hosted the first steering committee meeting of the Consortium
(ICAR) established the All India Coordinated Rice IRRI’s management team and ultimately served of IR8 resulting in a bumper rice of rice production, by IRRI agronomist IRRI’s fourth director general. He engineer, received the International won the World Food Prize, with H.M. for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) in New Delhi, India.
Improvement Project (AICRIP) in Hyderabad. as the Institute’s first deputy director general. crop, Indian farmer K.N. Ganesan and principal scientist S.K. De Datta, was later won numerous honors and Inventor’s Award for Industry from Beachell, former IRRI plant breeder. Sant Virmani, IRRI plant breeder, was elected as a fellow of
Indian breeder S.V.S. Shastry (right in photo) and Andhra Pradesh farmer Nekkanti Subba saw that this variety, which ushered published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. It was awards. In 1987, Swaminathan Sweden's King Carl Gustaf during He has also won the Rank Prize for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and
Wayne Freeman, IRRI’s representative in India, Rao tested IR8 on his farm and supervised in the Green Revolution, would be the model for many future IRRI books picked Hall at IRRI headquarters was ceremonies held in Stockholm. The Nutrition in London (1998) and the Wolf received the International Service in Crop Science Award from
were designated as the first joint coordinators. its first large-scale demonstration and changing his family's future. He up by reputable science publishers. In 1986, Dr. dedicated in his honor. In 1991, award recognized his contributions Prize in Agriculture (2000). In 2002, in the Crop Science Society of America. In 2005, he received India’s
Benjamin Pearey Pal became the first multiplication. was so impressed with the variety's De Datta received the first International Soil he won the John and Alice to the farm machinery industry in recognition of his 29 years as head of IRRI’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award and Japan’s International
director general of ICAR. He later served as an early The India-IRRI partnership intensified when performance that he named his Science Award from the Soil Science Society Tyler Prize for Environmental developing countries such as the axial Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Koshihikari Rice Prize. 
member of IRRI's board of trustees (1967-70). scientists from AICRIP and the Central Rice second son, born that same day, IR8– of America. Achievement and the Honda flow thresher. Division and leader of various research J.K. Ladha, IRRI soil nutritionist, was named a fellow of the
Research Institute in Cuttack began to visit IR-ettu (Irettu) in Tamil. Prize. In 1999, he was named programs, the Collaborators’ Center building American Society of Agronomy. Other recognition he has received
IRRI headquarters in the Philippines. This led to among the 20 most influential was renamed Gurdev S. Khush Hall. includes: fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (2004),
the first formal memorandum of understanding Asians of the 20th century by Time The week-long 3rd International fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
for cooperation in research and training signed magazine. Hybrid Rice Symposium was held in Science (2009), and the International Service in Agronomy
by ICAR and IRRI in 1974. Hyderabad. Award from the American Society of Agronomy (2011).

India-IRRI timeline spans the decades Over the last five decades, this selection from IRRI’s historical timeline (online at www. has many Indian connections tied to people and events.
Compiled by Gene Hettel
Photos from IRRI archives

2003  2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 2013

In New Delhi, the achievements of His Excellency A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Darshan Brar, head of IRRI's More than 40 years after his An international agreement was The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel The project, Improved Rice-based Rainfed Ashish Bahuguna (left in photo with Dr. Coromandel International
agronomist Virendra Pal Singh were (center), president of the Republic of India, Plant Breeding, Genetics, and work with IR8, Mr. Subba Rao signed between ICAR and IRRI University of Agriculture and Agricultural Systems in Bihar, was launched in Zeigler), secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Limited signed a memorandum of
recognized as he departed IRRI after serving and party visited IRRI Headquarters. He Biotechnology Division, won the distributed seed from his harvest to support and facilitate India's Technology in Meerut honored IRRI India by the Catholic Relief Services and IRRI. and Cooperation, Government of India, signed a understanding with IRRI for cooperation
the Institute for 30 years where he worked interacted with staff scientists, seeking Koshihikari International of flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1 rice research, helping the nation's Director General Robert Zeigler by Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, memorandum of agreement with IRRI to further in promoting and disseminating improved
to improve the rice-farming systems in solutions to problems faced by Indian Rice Prize, recognizing his to other farmers who multiplied rice production at a time of naming its new soil- and plant- it targets drought- and flood-prone environments. strengthen IRRI’s collaboration with India. rice research technologies in India.
unfavorable environments. farmers. rice research body of work. it, ultimately leading to the unprecedented price volatility and testing laboratory after him. He was Dr. Zeigler inaugurated new and added office The global rice research agenda was the As part of the 2013-16 IRRI-India
IRRI agronomist Vethaiya The 2nd International Rice He also received the CGIAR significant spread of the variety in subsequent need for revitalization also conferred with the honorary space for the IRRI India Office in New Delhi located focus of a plenary talk given by Dr. Zeigler during Work Plan, the Institute and the Tamil
Balasubramanian received Congress in New Delhi attracted nearly Outstanding Scientist the region. of food production. degree of doctor of science by the at Rajendra Place. the Third International Agronomy Congress held Nadu Agricultural University signed
the International Fertilizer Industry 1,400 rice researchers, traders, millers, Award, honoring his original In New Delhi. the South The Cereal Systems Govind Ballabh Pant University The  IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding Hub at at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in a memorandum of understanding to
Association International Award.  farmers, and agriculture ministers, work that furthered CGIAR Asian wing of the project, Stress- Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) of Agriculture and Technology in the International Crops Research Institute for New Delhi. promote research, training, and exchange
including 400 delegates from 46 countries.  goals. tolerant rice for Africa and was established to promote Pantnagar. In 2014 (photo), he was the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, In his Coromandel lecture, Cutting-Edge of information and technology on rice and
South Asia (STRASA), was durable change at scale in the conferred with an honorary degree India, was inaugurated by Dr. Zeigler and Dr. Rice Science for Food Security, Economic Growth, its farming systems and value chains.
inaugurated. region's cereal-based cropping of doctor of science during the 35th William Dar, director general of ICRISAT (middle and Environmental Protection in India and Bayer CropScience, IRRI, and
systems. CSISA India’s activities convocation ceremony of Tamil photo).  Around the World, Dr. Zeigler noted that IRRI and ICAR sponsored an inaugural 2-day Rice
focus on areas of the eastern Nadu Agricultural University in The 6th International Hybrid Rice India have been working together since the mid- Future Forum in New Delhi. Bas
Indo-Gangetic Plains dominated Coimbatore. Symposium was held in Hyderabad.  1960s to develop and deliver ways to help Indian Bouman, director of Global Rice Science
by small farm sizes, low incomes Sam Mohanty, IRRI economist rice farmers improve their rice productivity. Partnership, was one of the presenters.
and comparatively low levels and Social Sciences Division head, Senior officials from India’s Ministry
In its Golden Jubilee year, the Directorate of Rice Research in

of agricultural mechanization, won the prestigious Glory of India of Agriculture visited IRRI for a 2-day
Hyderabad is given national institute status under the ICAR umbrella. It is irrigation, and productivity. Award in New Delhi. series of awareness and consultation
now the Indian Institute of Rice Research. It has been IRRI’s privilege meetings, particularly to discuss STRASA.
to have worked, trained, and learned together with Indian scientists over
5 decades to help improve the lot of rice farmers and to help feed the
world's hungry.

12 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today October-December 2014 13

Regional cooperation
Nepal’s agriculture secretary, Jaya 21% of the rice area in Bangladesh.
Mukunda Khanal, shares the same Some Indian rice varieties, such
view. “The cooperation has opportuni- as Swarna, Sarju 52, and Samba
ties and options to improve the liveli- Mahsuri, are now popular in Nepal.

speeds up the release

hood of poor farmers in the region,” As the initial implementation
he says. “It will provide a platform to step of this agreement by India,
share good practices among countries several varieties released in
and the exchange of technologies and Bangladesh, such as BINA dhan 8,
quality seed can help attain higher rice 10, 11, and 12, are recently notified

of rice varieties
productivity in the region.” for release in the Indian states of
Mr. Bahuguna notes that, West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha.
although the agreement covers only These varieties will be evaluated
by Lanie Reyes rice, it can be extended to other crops for release in other states also, but
later on. “This cooperation is not only for a year—as provided in the
limited to the seed sector and will agreement.
lead to agricultural development Sukha dhan 5 and 6, drought-

in the region,” Mr. Bahuguna adds. tolerant varieties released in Nepal,
ice farmers in India, Institute convened the senior officials for release in areas with countries agreed to work together For him, this cooperation can be are being considered for release in
Bangladesh, and Nepal of the three countries through a similar agroclimatic in formulating seed protocols and expanded and replicated to other Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
will have faster access to meeting under STRASA.” conditions in both countries. guidelines that are compatible across parts of the world. “The South The Indian government has
newly developed high- The regional seed cooperation Part of that agreement countries. Asian Association for Regional been proactive in carrying out the
yielding climate-smart varieties. started when delegations from provided for reciprocal On 18 October 2014, Nepal Cooperation can play a vital role in regional cooperation agreement. In
This is thanks to an unprecedented India and Bangladesh met in acceptance of research data, joined with the governments of bringing in more countries to the fact, starting in 2015, the Department
regional seed cooperation agreement February 2013. The delegation including results of farmers’ Bangladesh and India to sign a platform.” of Agriculture of India allotted
that speeds up the release and from India was headed by Ashish participatory varietal selection protocol on regional seed cooperation 30% of its funds to programs such
dissemination of rice varieties to Bahuguna, secretary of agriculture activities that are generated in one in a workshop on seed issues held in Results to boot as the National Food Security
benefit farmers in the region. and international cooperation of country to support varietal release in Kathmandu, Nepal. The regional cooperation, even in its Mission (NFSM) and Bringing Green
the Ministry of Agriculture; Matia the other country. infant stage, has produced concrete Revolution in Eastern India (BGREI)
Saves breeding time Chowdhury, minister of agriculture, And, consistent with the goal A historic moment results and has demonstrated what to further promote climate-smart rice
The regional seed cooperation saves a headed the Bangladeshi delegation, of bringing the needed climate- This regional cooperation on rice can be achieved. In fact, several developed by STRASA.
lot of resources and the time required among other respective relevant change-ready varieties to farmers varieties among the three countries varieties released in one country According to Dr. Ismail, the
for a variety to be released in one agencies, including Monzur Hossain, in the shortest time possible, the was declared historically significant are already popular in another. “For regional seed cooperation was carried
country. The time it takes from initial secretary of agriculture. From IRRI, two countries agreed on the promo- by the agriculture executives. example, BR11, BRRI dhan 28, and out smoothly not only because
evaluation of a breeding line to the the delegation was headed by V. tion of prerelease multiplication and Dr. S.M. Nazmul Islam, BRRI dhan 29, which are modern these three countries share similar
release of a new variety could take Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI deputy demonstration of breeding lines and agriculture secretary of Bangladesh, high-yielding rice varieties released guidelines for varietal evaluation and
between 3 to 6 years. director general for communication varieties at advanced stages of release believes that signing of this regional in Bangladesh, are now widely release, but because each country
“With this seed cooperation and partnerships. to fast-track awareness among farm- agreement ushers in a new era of grown in eastern India,” reports Mr. shares a similar goal—that is,
agreement, a rice variety that has Among other things, the two ers and to ensure a sufficient supply collaboration and cooperation that Bahuguna. delivering the technologies needed by
been tested, approved, and released countries agreed to have a joint of breeder seed once a variety was aims to help improve the livelihood Indian varieties are now farmers.
in one country can be released in evaluation of improved rice varieties released. In relation to this, the two of the poor farmers in the region. estimated to be planted on more than Indeed, the success of the
other countries without undergoing creation and the implementation of
further testing and evaluation, this regional seed cooperation clearly

as long as they will be grown in demonstrate that partnerships and
similar agroclimatic conditions,” collaboration can accomplish the
says Abdelbagi Ismail, principal goals very rapidly. It is hoped that,
scientist at the International Rice with IRRI’s catalytic role and being
Research Institute (IRRI). “The a lead institute of the Global Rice
regional cooperation system is the Science Partnership, more milestones
most suitable platform for the three can be achieved among the partners.
countries because they share similar In the future, this kind of regional
agroecosystems and borders.” cooperation could help partners use
INDIA, BANGLADESH, resources efficiently as countries
How it all started Nepal, and IRRI seal share relevant information with one
the deal. From left,
“IRRI played a catalytic role to make S.M. Nazmul Islam, WORKING TOGETHER another.
the regional cooperation happen,” Bangladesh; Robert (from left) India's
says Dr. Ismail, who also leads the Zeigler, IRRI director Ashish Bahuguna and
general; Jaya Mukunda Bangladesh's Matia
Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and Khanal, Nepal; and Chowdhury and Monzur Ms. Reyes is the managing editor of
South Asia (STRASA) project. “The Ashish Bahuguna, India. Hossain. Rice Today.

14 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 15

The IRRI pioneer

Conducted by Gene Hettel

A schoolboy at heart:
Celebrated Indian scientist speaks his mind
he legendary Ebrahimali Abubacker Siddiq, 78, began his long and enduring rice research career in 1968 as a cytogeneticist at
the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi, including 7 years there as a senior scientist. In 1983-86, he spent
3 years as a breeder for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Egypt. Returning to IARI, he was appointed professor
of genetics (1986-87).
In late 1987, he became project director at the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR). In 1994, he assumed the position of deputy
director general (crop science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). In 2000-05, he served as a member of the
Institute’s Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2005. His 35 years of research in plant breeding contributed to the development and
release of high-yielding semidwarf basmati and nonbasmati varieties, which have boosted rice production in India.
Upon retirement from his regular ICAR service in 1997, ICAR named him a national professor (1997-2002). In 2002, he joined the
Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics of the Department of Biotechnology, in which he served as the Distinguished Chair
until 2007, when he continued there as an adjunct scientist. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Hyderabad and IARI
and is an honorary professor of biotechnology at Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University in Hyderabad.
Here are some excerpts from his pioneer interview conducted in April 2014 in Hyderabad.

A long association with IRRI Rewarding stint for IRRI in Egypt Critical issues while on the
My professional association with When I was a senior scientist at IARI, IRRI Board
IRRI started in 1968. When I was a IRRI, with M.S. Swaminathan as its Keeping INGER. While serving on the
rice breeder at IARI, IRRI provided director general, was keen to develop IRRI Board, there were several issues
me opportunities to participate rice research in Egypt. I was chosen to I was concerned about during the
in its international symposia and be the rice breeder to join the USAID- early 2000s when Ronald Cantrell
conferences. Starting in 1987, supported project for establishing the was Institute’s director general. It
as project director of DRR, my National Rice Research and Training was a time when funding support
association with IRRI became even Institute. In 1983, I joined the project, from major donor sources to CGIAR
closer. As project director (1987-94), which was technically coordinated institutes, including IRRI, was
I progressively strengthened the by the University of California-Davis, declining. To cope with the situation,
relationship between India and IRRI. and contributed to shaping and IRRI was contemplating projects and
My roles as a scientist, project strengthening Egypt’s rice breeding programs which should be continued
director, deputy director general program. and which ones might be pruned.
(crop science) at ICAR, and later as a Overall, the project team did a Whether IRRI should continue or
member of IRRI’s Board of Trustees lot of good by streamlining research, not with the International Network
enabled me to know and discover training local scientists, and helping for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice
what India could gain through many get their PhD degrees. (INGER) was one of the issues before
collaborative activities with IRRI, That 3-year exposure was really a the Board for a decision.
particularly in germplasm exchange wonderful experience personally I impressed upon fellow board
and human resource development on for me and I feel, even today, that I members that it was INGER that
all aspects of rice science. achieved all that was expected of me provided IRRI with true visibility in
as a breeder there. the rice world. Connecting almost

16 Rice Today April-June 2015

all rice-growing countries through the expected level of progress. So, characteristic of basmati rice is a com-
international testing and exchange the issue came up before the Board if plex genetic trait. Nearly all the physi-
of germplasm, it was INGER that it were justified to prune the hybrid cochemical properties of starch are not
enabled rice-growing countries breeding program. I urged that simply inherited. Combining all the
to strengthen their rice breeding the hybrid rice program be further quality features of traditional basmati
research and develop varieties suited strengthened, not pruned, because it in a high-yielding background,
to their own different ecosystems. I is the only technology available with therefore, was not an easy task.
emphatically said, don’t prune INGER proven capability to raise the genetic At one stage of the breeding
because what you are spending on it yield ceiling. Even though it probably process, some people commented,
is not that much but what you gain would not reach the levels achieved in “You are working for so many years;
is much more. Luckily, I and other China, certainly India and a few other still, you’re not coming out with
INGER proponents on the Board won countries in the region could gain high-yielding basmati varieties.”
out and INGER thrives today. from the technology in the coming While visiting the field, one critic
Into Africa. Except for the limited years. I pleaded with the Board not sarcastically asked, “Should we bring
INGER testing program, IRRI was to curtail ongoing support for hybrid in Norman Borlaug (the father of
not doing anything substantial rice research. The suggestion was the Green Revolution) to develop the
for Africa. The Africa Rice Center accepted broadly and so the hybrid kind of basmati rice you are trying to
(AfricaRice, formerly WARDA) was rice program at IRRI continues today. achieve for so long?”
there addressing rice production I understand that today around I was hurt by this remark and
constraints. Even so, given the large 2.4 million hectares are being planted was compelled to respond that, with
underexploited potential in Africa, to hybrid rice in India. If our breeders all respect to Norman Borlaug, I told
I and other board members insisted come up with hybrids that can him in the presence of many that you
that IRRI should emphasize and satisfy both farmers and consumers can bring not one, but many Borlaugs,
focus on improving rice productivity with appropriate growth duration, but it will not make any difference
and production on the continent. So, resistance to insect pests and diseases, in progress, given the complex trait
the Board urged IRRI to give needed and high grain quality, I am optimistic we are dealing with. I explained
emphasis to Africa. That is when that, 3 or 4 years from now, Indian how difficult and time-consuming
the first African national—Angeline farmers should be planting 5 million it is to combine so many complexly
Kamba—became the chair of the IRRI hectares of hybrid rice. And even with inherited indices of basmati quality
Board and when IRRI started to send a relatively small hybrid area, India in a high-yielding background. I
more scientific staff to the continent is second only to China in bringing remember how I, along with my
to strengthen rice research there. hybrid rice to farmers’ fields. small staff, used to be in the field
Focusing on the rainfed lowlands. all day selecting productive plant
Throughout my time on the Board, A career achievement with types in the breeding populations
I insisted that IRRI should also basmati rice and the long hours we spent into
focus on rainfed ecosystems, My major work as a breeder was to the night cooking rice to evaluate
particularly the rainfed lowlands, develop high-yielding varieties with the promising lines for the desired
where drought and submergence are basmati quality. The unique quality quality trait combination.
major constraints. Although not so
prominent in many Southeast Asian
countries, this ecosystem constitutes a
large area in South Asia, particularly
in eastern India and Bangladesh.
We cannot rely indefinitely on the
irrigated ecosystem alone to meet
our future rice demands. There has
to be a balance across the irrigated
and rainfed ecosystems. I am happy
that India and IRRI are working
together to address this issue through
the development and adoption of
submergence- and drought-tolerant

rice varieties in eastern India through

the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and
South Asia (STRASA) project.
Don’t cut hybrid rice. There was a DURING THE 49th Annual Rice Group Meetings of the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project, last
year in Hyderabad, Dr. Siddiq (right) confers with Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of IRRI’s T.T. Chang
feeling that, unlike in China, hybrid Genetic Resources Center.
rice research at IRRI was not making

Rice Today April-June 2015 17


professionally attractive. Thus, there

is a large-scale migration of rural
families to urban areas in search of
better livelihood opportunities. It
used to be 60–40%, rural to urban
population; now, the reverse is being
Today, many farmers do not
want to see their sons becoming
farmers like them. They want them
to go for better-paid jobs in the cities.
BASMATI RICE is believed to have been cultivated on the Indian Subcontinent for centuries. The term is of A recent survey conducted across
Sanskrit origin ("vasmati"), meaning "fragrant". India showed that more than 60%
of the farmers don’t find farming
Yet, we failed to reach the targeted Adding biotechnology to socioeconomically attractive. They
genotype for years. It took us nearly 24 the toolbox feel they are losers and they want to
years to finally succeed in developing I looked into the prospects of the migrate to urban areas. So, unless we
Pusa Basmati 1 (PB1), the first-ever application of biotech tools for directed come up with appropriate strategies
high-yielding semidwarf basmati and speedy rice improvement. After and policy measures to sustain
variety, released in 1989. Just like with a full day’s discussion with me, farmers in farming, it is not going
the miracle high-yielding IR8, which Gary Toenniessen, representing to be easy to meet our future food
would not have sustained us had the Rockefeller Foundation, agreed demands.
we not come up with progressively to support a rice biotechnology
improved versions of it with program in India, if we organized and A schoolboy in retirement, freely
acceptable grain quality and resistance coordinated it. Thus, the India Rice sharing knowledge
to insect pests and diseases, PB1 also Biotechnology Network started. For Now in retirement, among other
provided the genetic base for evolving 10 years, I coordinated this program things, I am an adjunct professor at
better and better varieties and hybrids. involving rice researchers engaged in my old institute, IARI. Whenever I go
biotechnology. to Delhi, I give lectures to students
Breeding for the rice- Under this program, the and interact with the staff on many
wheat rotation Foundation helped India by training agricultural issues. I really enjoy
I was also very interested in our young researchers in advanced this kind of activity in retirement.
developing an appropriate rice variety laboratories abroad and providing My wife says, “You are retired, but
that would enable timely harvest all needed equipment. Although you still act like a schoolboy.” Maybe
and thus timely planting of wheat the funding support was not high, I so; however, for a scientist, there is
in Punjab, Haryana, and western must admit that, if not for that initial really nothing like retirement. I now
Uttar Pradesh. With the fertile soil support, it would not have been have time to read and think about
there, high fertilizer application possible for India to have built its rice the new developments in science and
causes modern rice varieties to lodge biotechnology research to the level share those ideas with students and
before harvest hence the rice cannot we have today. younger colleagues.
be combine-harvested. Keeping this Many companies have asked
problem in mind, we had introduced Future challenge for India: me, “Why don’t you do some sort of
Pusa 44 in 1994. keeping rice farming sustainable consultancy?—whatever you want,
Pusa 44 does not lodge at all The challenge for the next 20 years we will arrange.” I said, no. I don’t
because of its strong straw. This and beyond is achieving production need financial support from anybody.
variety has helped sustain the rice- targets on a sustainable basis—ecologi- I have my pension; I have my lifetime
wheat system by enabling combine cally and economically. Whereas the savings to survive and act as I wish.
harvesting that clears the field unfolding technological advances will If anybody wants a free consultancy,
quickly for proper land preparation hopefully make farming ecologically there’s no problem. I am available.
and timely wheat planting. This is secure, the real challenge is going to Otherwise, I am leading a peaceful
why the rice-wheat rotation in the be in making farming economically life!
region is such a great success. By viable because it is becoming increas-
virtue of this trait along with its long, ingly a losing profession. Mr. Hettel is editor-in-chief of Rice
slender, and clean grains as well as Farmers are not a happy lot in Today.
resistance to most pests and diseases, this country today. They don’t have
it is still popular in the region. Even secure livelihood opportunities in See some video clips from Dr. Siddiq's
today, there is no variety yet to the rural areas because rice farming interview at
replace Pusa 44. and agriculture, in general, are not interview.

18 Rice Today April-June 2015

Rice scholars in South
and Southeast Asia:
Apply now!
The Lee Foundation Rice Scholarship Program is offering
scholarship grants to students pursuing their PhD in fields
allied with the rice sciences.

Research areas Requirements for eligibility

• Gene discovery and bioinformatics • Citizen of a country in South or
• Modern rice breeding Southeast Asia
• Rice systems of the future • Involved in rice science and related
• Economics and policy
systems research
Types of scholarship • Willing to work on any of a specified list of
• 4–5 years for a full PhD program research areas for his or her PhD
• With great potential for scientific achievement
Scholarship benefits • About to enroll in a PhD program or have
• Round-trip airfare and related travel expenses gained admission to an approved course at
• Monthly stipend with local medical and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
accident insurance
• An adequate level of proficiency
• Research support
• Leadership and professional development in English
• University fees • Not more than 35 years old at the time
of application

The grant supports a 4–5-year PhD program that will be pursued jointly at IRRI and at the
Department of Crop Sciences (http://cropsci. and the Illinois Plant Breeding Center
( of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Lee Foundation Rice Scholarship Program aims to educate and train a new generation of young rice scientists and researchers
to help feed Asia. This exciting new program offers young South and Southeast Asians a unique opportunity to gain excellent
education from reputable academic institutions. It is anticipated that they will be part of a new science leadership in the region and
build key partnerships for over 20-25 years.

How to apply
Submit an application online
on or before 15 May 2015.
For more information,
send an email to

Rice Today April-June 2015 19

Rice scientists from India helping Africa
Venuprasad Ramaiah: Senthilkumar Kalimuthu:
A passion for rice genetics A stargazer with feet firmly
and breeding planted on the ground

by Savitri Mohapatra

ike many of his classmates, Senthilkumar is coordinating
Venuprasad Ramaiah was the activities of the Agronomy
planning to become an DR. RAMAIAH confers and Mechanization Task Forces
engineer. But, during his with Arnaud Gouda, convened by AfricaRice in Eastern
a research technician
first year of bachelor’s degree studies in the AfricaRice
and Southern Africa. He is also
at the University of Agricultural Biotechnology monitoring rice R&D activities in 12
Sciences in Bangalore, India, a Laboratory, where they DR. KALIMUTHU (right) rice sector development hubs across
are "mining" for alleles confers in the field with
course in plant genetics taught by in the genebank. Task Force members. Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar,
an inspiring teacher, Ms. Savithri R RAMAN, AFRICARICE (2) Rwanda, and Ethiopia, where he
Amma, marked a turning point in his has trained more than 200 rice

life. “I also strongly believe that the real identify genes for drought tolerance, enthilkumar Kalimuthu loves Award for his MSc research from researchers and 350 rice farmers
“For me, that was a ‘wow’ need is in Africa, where even small anaerobic germination, and iron astronomy and space science the Tamil Nadu Agricultural in rice agronomy, of which 40%
moment,” said Dr. Ramaiah, a contributions can have more impact toxicity. The project is done in and named his son Majoris, University, but also because his are women. He is also supervising
scientist at the Africa Rice Center on the livelihoods of farmers than in partnership with Cornell University, after one of the largest stars findings were later disseminated to students, research assistants, and
(AfricaRice). “It sparked a passion in Asia.” IRRI, and the National Institute of known to mankind. Yet, as a systems more than a million farmers in Tamil some researchers.
me for research in this field. There At AfricaRice, Dr. Ramaiah Agrobiological Sciences in Japan and agronomist at the Africa Rice Center Nadu through the Department of His studies and experience are
has been no looking back since then.” works on rice breeding for the rainfed with support from the Bill & Melinda (AfricaRice), he has his feet firmly Agriculture. helping him to realize his dream of
After completing his PhD in lowland ecosystem with national Gates Foundation. planted on the ground. His work was so much becoming an eminent agronomist.
genetics of grain yield and root length programs under the Africa-wide Dr. Ramaiah's pioneering work Born to a farming family appreciated that he was able to Importantly, the lessons that he
under drought stress in rice, which rice breeding task force, which has already led to the identification of in Ramanathapuram District in receive initial funding from the learned during his childhood
he pursued at the same university covers about 30 countries, and extremely promising material among Tamil Nadu in southern India, Dr. Dutch government for his doctoral from his mother on their farm are
and at the International Rice Research with international organizations, the more than 2,000 accessions in Kalimuthu vividly remembers his research at Wageningen University continuing to guide his footsteps.
Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, particularly IRRI. He is also closely AfricaRice's genebank. school holidays, which he spent in The Netherlands. On completion, Recounting one such lesson,
Dr. Ramaiah obtained a postdoctoral involved in training research staff These efforts are expected helping his mother on their farm. He he became a postdoctoral researcher he said that, when he was walking
fellowship at IRRI and, later, at The and students. to deliver better stress-tolerant recollects the anxiety of farmers in at Wageningen University and later on their farm with his mother, his
World Vegetable Center in Taiwan. His team has successfully varieties to small and poor African his village as they prayed for rain. in the French National Institute of feet would press on roots of rice
He then took up the position of a transferred the SUB1 submergence- rice farmers in rainfed areas. These “When rain didn’t come, our rice Agricultural Research in France. plants. He was worried that he was
project scientist in the groundnut tolerance gene–identified by IRRI varieties will help make the farmers’ plants failed to flower and often we Since he was keen to help rice damaging the plants. But his mother
breeding unit of the International scientist David Mackill and U.C. yield and income stable as well as had to harvest feed for cattle instead farmers and make an impact on assured him that destroying rice
Crops Research Institute for the Semi- Davis researcher Pamela Ronald–into protect them from the threats of of food for us,” he said. the ground, Dr. Kalimuthu joined roots a little would produce more
Arid Tropics, in Hyderabad, India, two important rice varieties in West climate change. This experience led him to AfricaRice in 2012 as a systems tillers and more yield. “I didn’t
in 2009. However, since he was keen Africa (WITA4 and NERICA L-19) “Despite all the challenges in take up agriculture during his agronomist at the Center’s regional understand at that time. But now,
to return to rice research, he decided that are susceptible to flooding. These Africa, it is most rewarding for me undergraduate studies and focus station in Tanzania. Explaining through my experiments, I see how
to join AfricaRice as a lowland-rice Sub1 varieties will be disseminated and my team to see the results to on water-saving rice cultivation the potential impact of research in the roots get pruned by mechanical
breeder in 2010. to rice farmers in flood-prone areas in products and feel that we are a part technologies as the topic for his MSc Africa, he said, “Through agronomy, weeding. This helps increase rice
“My family friends and Africa. of it,” said Dr. Ramaiah. “We feel and PhD research so that he could it is possible to double the national tillering and yield.
colleagues thought I was crazy for Building on his successful immensely proud that, with proper help such farmers. average rice yield in Tanzania to 4
leaving an attractive position in work on drought tolerance at IRRI, resources, we can do research on a Dr. Kalimuthu is justifiably tons per hectare. This ‘potential’ is
India, but I am passionate about rice Dr. Ramaiah is coordinating an par with the best organizations in the proud that not only did he receive what drives me to work in and for Ms. Mohapatra is the head of Marketing
research,” Dr. Ramaiah remarked. important project at AfricaRice to world.” the Thirumathi K. Rangammal Africa.” and Communications at AfricaRice.

20 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 21

22 Rice Today April-June 2015
DRR Rice Museum
features traditional
wisdom and scientific
breakthroughs ENTRANCE TO the
DRR Rice Museum
in Hyderabad.
by B. Mishra

n India, rice has been traditional and science-based rice
grown since time farming. It depicts the different
immemorial. Here, the rice ecosystems—irrigated,
rice grain has always upland, shallow lowland, semi-
been considered sacred. The deep water, deep water, and
spirit of the Divine is believed floating rice. It also shows seed
to reside in each rice grain. production plots and hill rice.
Rice is a symbol of fertility The mural illustrates how
and being used in worship rice farmers’ lives are governed
wherein grains are offered to and regulated by the seasonal
God. rhythms of rice growing—
Rice is the essence, a way sowing, planting, fertilizing,
of life and it is blended with weeding, irrigating, harvesting,
festivals, traditions, rituals, threshing, and hulling. Their
and each walk of life of the lives from birth to death are
rice farmers. It is seen in music bound to rice.
(particularly folk songs), As the staff and collaborators
poems, art, and sculpture. of the DRR celebrate its 50th
Large parts of folklore have R.M. SUNDARAM, DRR senior scientist in anniversary, the DRR Rice
become interwoven with rice culture. biotechnology (second from right in upper photo), Museum is observing its 10th year of
For more than half of humanity, rice gives special guests a tour of the Rice Museum operation, having opened its doors
including (from left) Bas Bouman, GRiSP director;
is life, providing its nurturing energy. J.K. Ladha, IRRI representative for India; and on 31 March 2005. The panoramic
Indeed, many consider the crop as the (extreme right) Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director mural, particularly, has been a solemn
root of civilization.  for research. The bottom photo shows the panoramic place for staff and visitors to pause
mural in the background.
As a rice researcher for nearly in the museum—to take some quiet
four decades and as project director time to reflect on the importance and
of the Directorate of Rice Research An integral and crucial part of significance of India’s rich and diverse
(DRR) for 5 years, I realized the need the DRR Rice Museum is a mural rice culture.
for establishing a rice museum that painting that gives a panoramic
depicted a combination of traditional view of the various operations of Dr. Mishra was project director for the
wisdom and the major DRR, 2000-05. During his
breakthroughs of science time, 144 inbred rice varieties
and technology in breeding and 9 hybrids suited for different
(release of Sub1 varieties rice ecologies were released.
and hybrids), management He facilitated the development
practices (direct seeding of hybrid rice in India, which
and aerobic rice), pest and is now planted on around 2.4
disease management, crop million hectares. He coordinated
resource management the largest AICRIP network on
(agronomy), postharvest SECTIONS OF the mural show various rice up to that time, having 47
Indian rice farm operations. See a
technology, engineering, larger segment in the centerfold on the
funded projects and more than
biotechnology, and next page. 90 cooperating centers with
genomics.  nearly 500 rice scientists.

Rice Today April-June 2015 23

© Director ate of Rice Research

A section of the panoramic mural housed at the Rice Museum of the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad, India. It depicts how rice farmers’ lives are
Rice Today April-June 2015, Vol. 14, No. 2
24 Rice Today April-June 2015 governed by the seasonal rhythms of growing the crop. See the previous page
Rice for more
Today background.
April-June 2015 25
A time to celebrate, pause and reflect…

In December 2014, I noted that 2015 would mark the 50th anniversary of India’s Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) and while the Rockefeller Foundation

the Annual Rice Group Meeting of its All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP). So, at that time, J.K. Ladha, designated Wayne Freeman as
the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) representative in India, and I encouraged a cadre of renowned Indian rice the joint coordinator,” says Dr.
De Datta. “Dr. Freeman also later
scientists and administrators to provide some brief recollections and testimonials, particularly espousing the exceptional
served with distinction as IRRI’s first
partnership between India and IRRI. We also asked a long-time DRR breeder to provide her unique look at AICRIP’s legacy.
representative in India.”
Responses were heartening, enthusiastic—and enlightening. In addition to historical perspectives, topics ranged from As AICRIP’s first manager, Dr.
achievements in hybrid rice and building India’s scientific capacity to addressing climate change. What follows here are Shastry, who also served on IRRI’s
some selected gleanings. The complete set of contributions is at Board of Trustees in the early days
(1970-73), saw his priority being
project implementation and not
A time to celebrate, pause, soon associated with the project to collaborative research with India so much bureaucratic things such
and reflect enhance the pace of rice research in was formally launched shortly as memoranda of understanding
In her detailed account of Five decades the country. after AICRIP’s establishment. and streamlining administration.
of AICRIP, N. Shoba Rani writes According to S.K. De Datta, one “ICAR appointed S.V.S. Shastry, a “The focus was on the semidwarf
about the program’s growth and of IRRI’s first agronomists, serving distinguished breeder and geneticist, cultivars, which covered the entire
contributions to the rice revolution there from 1964 to 1991, IRRI’s as its coordinator and project leader research area of the AICRIP center in
in India. The acting director of the Hyderabad,” he says.
DRR/AICRIP for a time in 2014, she “The bread and butter of crop

states that the Golden Jubilee of improvement is genetic enhancement

AICRIP, which received directorate and crop husbandry,” he adds. “The
status as the DRR in 19751, is a time to genotypes must be matched with the
INGER IS celebrating its own 40th anniversary in 2015.
celebrate success and a time to pause biological and physical environment
and reflect on the way forward and in which the crop is grown. IRRI and
to face new challenges. “It is also a AICRIP met this challenge guided
time to hear the heartbeat of the rice by the competence and vision of the “India has benefited from its technology from scratch, according
farmers,” she adds. scientists at both institutions.” partnership with INGER by directly to Sant Virmani, IRRI plant breeder
According to Dr. Rani, the releasing 70 entries from diverse (1979-2005) and former leader of
Indian Council of Agricultural The key to success: sources to date as varieties,” says IRRI’s Hybrid Rice Program.
Research (ICAR) located AICRIP in germplasm exchange D.V. Seshu, former IRRI plant breeder “We encouraged India’s private
Hyderabad in 1965 with a mandate According to the DRR’s current (1976-93) and an early INGER sector to develop and disseminate
at the time to develop an integrated director, V. Ravindra Babu, AICRIP’s coordinator. “The use of several hybrid rice technology by freely
national network of cooperative varietal improvement has involved hundred test entries as parents in sharing IRRI-developed hybrid
experimentation on all aspects of rice the pooling of breeding material various breeding programs led to the materials and seed production
production. “Accelerating breeding generated in more than 100 regional release of an additional 252 varieties technology with them,” says Dr.
with the new semidwarf varieties rice-breeding stations across India. in 24 Indian states. INGER entries Virmani. “This concerted effort
arriving on the scene would be a key “This has allowed for testing were also used directly as either resulted in the development and
effort,” she says. under different rice ecologies and restorer or CMS2 lines that led to the commercialization of hybrid rice
agroclimatic zones,” he says. “The release of around 40 hybrids in India.” by 1994. In recognition of this
IRRI’s connection in India formally greatest advantage has been the free development, India, in collaboration
started with AICRIP exchange of genetic material at both Developing hybrid rice with IRRI, hosted the 3rd International
The Rockefeller Foundation, the the national and international levels from scratch Symposium on Hybrid Rice in 1996.
U.S. Agency for International through IRRI’s International Network Speaking of hybrid rice, the India- “IRRI has supported the hybrid
Development (USAID), and IRRI were for Genetic Evaluation of Rice or IRRI collaboration is a unique program in India by continuously
INGER.” example of how to develop such a sharing breeding materials and seed

In its Golden Jubilee year, the DRR has been given
national institute status under the ICAR umbrella. It THE FIRST joint coordinators of AICRIP were S.V.S. Shastry (right) and Wayne Freeman. 2
CMS or cytoplasmic genetic male sterile is a plant's inablity to produce functional pollen. It is an important tool in hybrid seed production. Hybrids often exhibit
is now the Indian Institute of Rice Research. heterosis or hybrid vigor, whereby the traits of a hybrid progeny are enhanced as a result of the genetic combination of its parents.

26 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 27

“A major recent achievement production in India and neighboring Pacific Association of Agricultural for the Indo-Gangetic Plains in
in India-IRRI capacity building countries, and affect the food and Research Institutes (APAARI) since 1994, and enthusiastically endorsed
is in simulation modeling for livelihood security of millions,” its inception in 1990. APAARI and the CGIAR’s Global Rice Science
climate change impact assessment says Pramod Aggarwal, regional IRRI have had a long partnership Partnership (GRiSP) in 2010. 
and resource optimization for program leader for South Asia of the in promoting and initiating rice
environmental sustainability,” CGIAR Research Program on Climate research for development activities Impact of the Green Revolution
adds Himanshu Pathak, Center Change, Agriculture, and Food in India and South Asia, according to All of the products and activities of
for Environment Science, Indian Security (CCAFS). Raj Paroda, former APAARI executive the ongoing Green Revolution have
Agricultural Research Institute. “The According to Dr. Aggarwal, secretary (1992-2014), ICAR director had remarkable impact in India.
various workshops and conferences India and IRRI share a long general (1994-2001), and IRRI Board “During the 1960s, the country
on climate change and environment research collaboration to study the of trustees member (1990-93). “For imported up to 10 million tons of
will go a long way in achieving relationship between rice and the example,” says Dr. Paroda, “APAARI, food grains annually,” says Gurdev
sustainable livelihoods for millions of climate. “For example, IRRI and on the advice of IRRI, published the Khush, 1996 World Food Prize
Indians.” ICAR scientists worked together book Hybrid rice in China, which laureate and IRRI rice breeder and
Pradeep Sharma, vice chancellor to set up automatic methane helped promote hybrid rice research principal scientist (1967-2001). “For
of Sher-e-Kashmir University of gas measuring facilities, which in India.” the last 10 years, India has exported
Agricultural Sciences and Technology were instrumental in producing Dr. Paroda added that APAARI 4−6 million tons of food grains every
of Jammu, adds management of revised estimations of methane gas helped facilitate the germplasm year,” he says. “The quantity of rice
soil and water to the list that IRRI emissions, leading to a downward exchange activities of INGER in India, exported in 2013-14 was 10.7 million
supports for capacity building in evaluation of emissions from the worked with IRRI and CIMMYT to tons—more than any other country.
India. “These two natural resources agricultural sector.” initiate the Rice-Wheat Consortium Considering that the population of
SINCE 1989 when ICAR implemented a national program on hybrid rice development, IRRI researchers are threatened by overexploitation He points out India has increased from


have contributed much to improving this technology, which can greatly increase India’s rice production and misuse as well as by climate that now IRRI and the 350 million in 1960 to the
and farmers’ income.
change,” he warns. International Maize and current 1.254 billion, this is
Wheat Improvement Center a remarkable achievement.”
production technology and providing IRRI tally around 110 PhDs, 15 MSs, Global climate change: (CIMMYT) are working
regular consulting services through 135 interns, and 15 research fellows. a pivotal issue with CCAFS on obtaining Mutual benefits and
visits by Institute breeders,” adds “Many Indian scientists, who are part Many in the cadre obviously had greenhouse gas estimates rewards
Dr. Virmani. “Concurrently, IRRI of the IRRI alumni network, now this issue on their minds—and under different management “IRRI and ICAR have
has enhanced the capacity of Indian occupy key leadership positions in with good reason. “Global climate practices in farmers’ fields always been natural
scientists and seed production ICAR and the university system and change—characterized by increasing in several “climate-smart partners,” says Dr. Swapan
personnel with postdoctoral, on-the- are significantly contributing to the temperatures, more variable rainfall, villages” in India and South Datta, former ICAR deputy
job, and short- and medium-term country’s rice crop production and sea-level rise, and melting glaciers—is Asia. “These studies will director general (crop
training in the Philippines as well as use,” points out Dr. Pathak. projected to significantly impact rice lead to the development of science) and IRRI tissue
in India.” more robust measurement, culture specialist and plant
reporting, and verification biotechnologist (1993-2005).

Capacity building is critical systems for methane gas “That dynamic partnership
Others in the cadre also mentioned emissions in rice paddies,” has become successful
the critical importance of capacity says Dr. Aggarwal. and beneficial for both
building. Professional advancement Farmers in the climate- institutions.”
for Indian scientists has been key, not smart villages in eastern DRR director Babu
only in hybrid rice development, but India have been given agrees. “IRRI has been a key
in many aspects of rice research. access to drought- and R&D partner of the DRR
According to Mano Pathak, flood-tolerant rice varieties, for the last 50 years—and
former IRRI director of research such as Sahbhagi dhan and the rewards have been
and training (1974-89), the Institute’s Swarna-Sub1, respectively, mutual,” he says. “I am sure
training programs were initiated to among many other adaptive that, through continued
provide MS, PhD, and postdoctoral practices. “Water-saving and collaboration between
research programs. “Additionally,” low-emission practices such the two organizations
he says, “short-term nondegree as alternate wetting and as equal partners, we
programs on rice production, drying and direct-seeded will be able to meet
pest and soil management, and rice are an integral part of India’s future challenges
postharvest technology have been an the climate-smart portfolio to rice production and
important feature of the Institute’s in these villages,” he adds. productivity.”
intensive training courses, some up to
6 months in duration.” APAARI’s regional role EAST INDIAN rice farmers are now meeting their food security needs with Mr. Hettel is editor-in-chief
climate-smart varieties, such as drought-tolerant Sahbhagi dhan. See
Since 1965, Indian scholars who SINCE 1965, more than 1,000 Indian scientists have attended IRRI’s short- and medium-term courses. In Asia, IRRI has interacted Creating an oasis with rice on pages 10-11 of Rice Today, Vol. 13, No. 2. of Rice Today and IRRI
have trained and done research at closely with the Asia historian.

28 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 29

Yield rises with rice yields even with unpredictable
weather patterns. Japan’s Ministry of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
fertilizer application timings using
the ORYZA crop modeling tool,
which simulates the growth and

funds CCARA. development of rice as well as
WeRise provides crucial weather water under different conditions,
and grain yield advisories in the including local weather. The grain
form of a narrative summary. This yield advisory is also location-specific A CROPPING calendar based on
includes the start and end of the so that end-users can choose a accurate weather information could
rainy season, the expected rainfall subdistrict for this advisory. mean better rice yields for farmers.
distribution and flooding or drought
by Keiichi Hayashi, Anita Boling, that might occur during the season, From theory to field reality
and Tsutomu Ishimaru when to sow and transplant the crop, In rainfed rice farming, the timing
what variety is appropriate, and of sowing is crucial because good been positive. They found WeRise
how to apply fertilizer efficiently. It yield is linked to a sufficient water easy to use and understand. They
also contains graphical outputs of supply and good crop growth. Some also said that explaining the advisory
rainfall, minimum and maximum farmers plant early while others are to farmers was easy. 
temperatures, wind speed, vapor more cautious and start sowing late “The information is more
pressure, and solar radiation. in the monsoon. Relying mostly on complete and it has graphs,” said
These sets of information are guesswork, farmers can have high or Beby Noviani, an extension worker
location-specific to subdistrict levels low yields as a result of coincidence; from Indonesia.
of countries in Southeast Asia. The thus, they cannot obtain the same Muhammad Jono, another
A weather-rice-nutrient decision seasonal weather predictions are result in the following year. Indonesian extension worker,
based on the localized outputs of the In 2014, WeRise was tested in summed up his experience with
support app is helping farmers Scale Interaction Experiment-Frontier Indonesia to see whether it could WeRise in one word: “simple.”
ensure yield in rainfed areas (SINTEX-F) Research Center for minimize the effect of poor timing.

Global Change developed by Japan’s Although many farmers started Raising farmers’ odds
Agency for Marine Science and sowing rice after a downpour at the With WeRise, rice farmers will be able
Technology. SINTEX-F is designed to beginning of the rainy season, the to use their resources efficiently by

nreliable weather can make a poor harvest. The weather can also Tailor-made weather and predict when the El Niño Southern WeRise team, following its weather choosing a suitable variety, avoiding
or break rice farmers that rely inflict damage during harvest time. yield reports Oscillation will occur, 1 to 24 months prediction, planted rice much later. a failure in crop establishment,
on rainfall for water. Climate If harvesting coincides with rains, WeRise is a product of collaboration in advance. Thus, WeRise can provide A few weeks after the farmers and using an efficient fertilizer
change makes it even harder farmers need plastic sheets to keep between the International Rice farmers with predicted weather and planted, rainfall stopped. The young application. This can help reduce
to predict weather conditions, thus grains dry. The bottom line is that Research Institute (IRRI) and Japan yield information with enough lead rice seedlings planted by the farmers their risks and make rainfed rice
lowering the chances of recovering no one can tell how much of their on the project Climate Change time for them to prepare and decide suffered from water scarcity and farming better and more stable.
farmers’ investments in mitigating investment can be recovered after a Adaptation in Rainfed Rice Areas what and when to plant. some plants did not survive. The By providing farmers with timely,
the impact of erratic rainfall patterns cropping season. (CCARA). WeRise aims to improve WeRise can also predict yield WeRise team, on the other hand, accurate information, farmers
on their crops. To help solve this Optimal production can be the chances of farmers of having good based on recommended sowing and obtained significantly higher yield can enjoy better harvests, which
problem, a prototype weather- achieved through good agricultural than the farmers who did not receive translate into higher earnings and
rice-nutrient integrated decision practices, which can be designed any weather advisory and relied on more reliable profitability. Thus,
support system (WeRise) came about. to fit the different types of rainy their instincts. WeRise could make rainfed rice
WeRise is a web application tool that season. For example, a long-cycle rice farming attractive to young people by
integrates rice nutrients with weather variety should be chosen for long A user-friendly tool changing the perception that rainfed
data to provide farmers with weather rainy seasons with sufficient rainfall. WeRise is designed for agricultural agriculture is an all-or-nothing
and crop advisories. In areas where the rainy season is extension agents and farmers who occupation.
short, a short-cycle variety is suitable can access the Internet through
Rice roulette for coping when water is scarce. If smartphones or computers. Local
Growing rice in rainfed environments the rainy season is long enough but millers and retailers of agricultural Drs. Hayashi and Ishimaru are seconded
is like gambling. It is difficult for rainfall is insufficient, a drought- inputs are potential users who can scientists from the Japan International
farmers to decide when to sow or tolerant rice variety can be a good be sources of information for farmers Research Center for Agricultural
transplant rice because they cannot candidate. with no Internet access. WeRise is Sciences (JIRCAS) working on the
predict the arrival of the monsoon. When drought occurs, a short- now available in English, Bahasa, CCARA project. Dr. Hayashi is the
They also cannot foresee whether cycle variety should be used to avoid and Lao, making information project coordinator who leads the
the season’s rainfall will be enough water shortage at the critical stages dissemination even simpler for agronomy and soil science component.
to sustain their crops. Even with of plant growth. However, these small-scale rice farmers who are not Dr. Ishimaru is a plant breeder who leads
sufficient rainfall at the beginning of decisions are made at the start of tech-savvy. the genetics and breeding component.
the season, they have no guarantee the planting season. Farmers cannot The feedback from 53 research Dr. Boling is a former postdoctoral fellow
the rain will continue. Obviously, too change the variety of their choice and extension workers in Indonesia, of CCARA.
much or too little rainfall can lead to after they have planted it. Lao PDR, and the Philippines has

30 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 31

32 Rice Today April-June 2015
What’s cooking? by Ms. Lynda Hagan


Noodle extruder

Ms. Agbezudor, technical

assistant at FRI in Ghana, shows
how to make rice noodles.

Recipe by Ms. Lynda Hagan,

research assistant at FRI.
Home-made noodles from Ghana
Ingredients • Knead dough once more and pass the
• 250 grams rice flour dough through the noodle extruder. If a
• 250 grams wheat flour noodle extruder is not available, loosely
• 165 grams egg whites roll the dough on a rolling pin and cut
• 25 grams xanthan gum the dough into strips of desired width.
• 10 grams salt • Sprinkle flour on a tray and carefully
• 200 milliliters water (add a pinch of unfold the strands in the tray.

ith increasing urbanization, food coloring) • Dry the noodles in the sun for one day.
• 25 mL or 5 tsp cooking oil • Store dried noodles in an airtight
the demand for convenience
container at room temperature.
foods such as rice preparations Directions
is rising in Africa. Tasty and Preparing the noodles (one or two days Cooking the noodles
innovative uses of rice, such as for before cooking the noodles) • Boil about half a liter of water in a pot.
rice noodles, can promote rural • Mix rice and wheat flours, xanthan gum, Add a little salt and oil.
enterprises and raise income, and salt in a bowl. • Add 100 grams of noodles, cover the
especially for women processors. • Add egg whites and cooking oil, and pot, and let the noodles simmer for
Ms. Lynda Hagan, research mix well. 5 minutes or until they are soft. Test
assistant at the Food Research • Gradually pour 200 mL of water into the noodles frequently because they
Institute (FRI) in Ghana, has the flour mixture and mix it with a fork become mushy if overcooked.
developed a recipe for noodles using or your fingertips to form a soft dough. • Drain the noodles using a colander.
Place the dough on a lightly-floured • Rinse the noodles under cold water to
rice and wheat flour as part of an
work surface and knead for about 5 stop the cooking. Drain once more.
effort to develop and promote higher minutes until smooth and elastic. Set it • Serve warm rice noodles with any sauce
value rice‐based products. aside for 20 minutes. of your choice
The rice-flour noodle is a
variation of the wheat-flour noodle
generally imported from Asia into Bon appétit!
Africa. Joyce Agbezudor, a technical
assistant at FRI, demonstrates how to Watch Ms. Agbezudor prepare the home-made rice noodles in a 5-minute video on YouTube at
prepare home-made rice noodles.

Rice Today April-June 2015 33

rice sector offers the


by Adriana Varón Molina

here is one occasion that of Latin America and the Caribbean aim for organizations such as the
Brazilian farmer Geovano (LAC), Europe, and Asia, making the Latin American Fund for Irrigated
Parcianello never misses. Every field day international. The foreign Rice (FLAR) and its 35 members,
year, he travels 503 kilometers guests were among 460 participants the International Center for Tropical
from his farm in the municipality of at the XII International Conference Agriculture (CIAT), IRGA, and the
Alegrete to the city of Cachoeirinha, on Rice in Latin America and the Brazilian Agricultural Research
where the most important rice Caribbean, which took place in Porto Corporation (Embrapa). The regional
experiment station in the state of Rio Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, on 23-26 alliance draws as well on support
Grande do Sul is located. Being there February 2015. from the International Rice Research
with a thousand other rice growers “Listening to presentations Institute (IRRI), CGIAR’s lead
gives Mr. Parcianello an opportunity on topics such as genetics, crop center for the Global Rice Science
to find out about new varieties, improvement, agronomy, and Partnership (GRiSP)—which believes
disease control measures, and options climate change, and visiting the field in the important role of this region in
for crop rotation—knowledge he can plots opened our minds to what’s the coming decades to meet the rising
apply on his own 900 hectares of rice. happening in the rice sector, not only global demand for rice.
in the region but in the whole world,”
An international said Eliécer Araya, president of Costa A world-stage performance
technology festival Rica’s National Rice Corporation High productivity (with some
This year, the “technology festival” (Conarroz, its acronym in Spanish). countries obtaining yield as high
organized by the Rice Institute of Rio “This also gave us an opportunity as 16 tons per hectare), extensive
Grande do Sul (IRGA) had an extra to further reinforce the knowledge mechanization, the use of direct
dimension. Not only did participants network that strengthens us all.” seeding, and excellent grain quality
come from places such as Alegrete, Taking LAC’s rice sector to new are among the key features of LAC’s
Santiago, San Antonio, and Itaqui “horizons of competitiveness”—the production that are attracting world
but they also came from 33 countries slogan of the conference—is a central attention.

34 Rice Today April-June 2015

“Latin America has enormous
land resources and abundant water,
and its rice production is technically
advanced,” said Robert Zeigler, IRRI
director general. “The challenge BOTH INDOORS via
for this region is to analyze global poster sessions and
other presentations and
markets carefully and design outdoors via IRGA field
strategies that will enable production plot demonstrations,
to meet demand.” conference participants
learned about the
Joe Tohme, director of CIAT’s latest developments
Agrobiodiversity Research Area, in rice genetics, crop
stressed the importance of regional improvement, agronomy,
and the effects of
integration through networks such as climate change.
FLAR and the Consortium on Hybrid
Rice for Latin America (HIAAL).
“CIAT’s Rice Program helps countries
across the region to strengthen their
capacity and make production more
competitive by using the genetic
materials and agronomic practices
that we and FLAR are developing,”
Dr. Tohme said.
“Strategic alliances are what can
make us strong as a region,” said
Flavio Breseghello, director general
of Embrapa Rice and Beans. “The
presence of Asian scientists in Latin
America, thanks to GRiSP, makes
them more aware of our strengths
and us more aware of theirs. The
good practices of each continent
complement one another.”
National governments have
a key role to play in building
strategic alliances, explained Bas raise average rice yield by 50%. This quality, improved infrastructure for
Bouman, GRiSP director. “The way production miracle resulted mostly exports, and lower operating costs,
forward is to strengthen national from a training program created for with the aim of offering a higher
capacity, working side by side with 100 IRGA technicians and extension quality product at a lower price,” said
governments and their programs, and agents from private companies and Eduardo Graterol, FLAR’s executive
devise strategies that enable countries farmer cooperatives. director. “The goal is to place surplus
in LAC to compete with the biggest “We reviewed the latest production in international markets,
rice producers in the world.” knowledge from different research while ensuring that each country
centers—CIAT, IRGA, IRRI, and can supply enough rice for its own
Ingredients of a universities—and took it to the field population.”
production miracle by means of the technicians,” said The sun-drenched international
“There’s little point in doing Sergio Gindri, an IRGA researcher. “It field day ended with a banquet for
research without extension. The was important to develop consistent Mr. Parcianello and the rest of the
most important thing is transferring messages on basic concepts, such 1,500 guests, who feasted on carreteiro,
knowledge to producers—that’s the as early weed control and the use a typical dish of Rio Grande do Sul,
key,” said Carlos Pereira, former of high-quality seed of improved in which rice, of course, is the main
president of IRGA, who now works varieties. But the route by which the ingredient—just as it is in the daily
as an agronomist with the state’s Latin America and the Caribbean diets of more than half of the global
Agricultural Secretariat. region reaches its goal of serving as population.
IRGA, with its 75-year history, a food basket for the world won’t be
offers a good example of how easy.”
the rice production chain can be “To position ourselves in Ms. Varón Molina is communications
strengthened. In 10 years, growers international markets, we have to coordinator for Latin America and the
in Rio Grande do Sul managed to tackle basic issues such as seed Caribbean at CIAT.

Rice Today April-June 2015 35

Averting hunger in Ebola-hit countries by Savitri Mohapatra

Africa to concentrate R&D efforts and three countries. Measures should
pril is the cruelest connect partners along the rice value enable the most vulnerable people
month,” wrote chain to achieve greater impact. to access agricultural inputs, such
T.S. Eliot in The Waste In the past few years, AfricaRice as seeds and fertilizers, and adopt
Land. It was as if has been providing targeted support improved technology to overcome
he were voicing the sentiments of to Liberia and Sierra Leone at their labor shortages.
the farming communities in Ebola- request to revive their respective rice AfricaRice has been actively
affected countries—Liberia, Sierra sectors, under the World Bank-funded involved in discussing and planning
Leone, and Guinea. Though the West Africa Agricultural Productivity strategies to make improved rice
time for planting has come, there is Program (WAAPP). The main focus seed available to farmers with strong
a desperate lack of labor and inputs, of this support is to make improved support from donors as well as
particularly seed, as hungry rice seed and technologies available to the Economic Community of West
farmers ate the seeds they would farmers, enhance rice quality, and African States.
have normally stored for planting in develop a critical mass of scientists, In December 2014, the Center
April. technicians, extension workers, and participated in Seeds for Agriculture
Although there are signs that the seed producers. in Ebola-affected Countries, a
Ebola epidemic is being contained RICE IS the most important staple in Sierra Leone, Unfortunately, the Ebola crisis workshop organized by the African
in the three countries, a major food and Liberia, however, the Ebola crisis threatens threatens to undo the progress made Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte
to undo the progress made in improving domestic
crisis is looming unless urgent steps production. in all these areas. According to FAO, d’Ivoire. The Center has been invited
are taken to tackle food security 2014 rice production was expected by the World Bank to join its efforts
concerns, according to 2014 reports to decline by 12% in Liberia, 8% in in providing rice seed to farmers in
by the United Nations Food and Sierra Leone, and 4% in Guinea. But, Ebola-hit countries in time for the
Agriculture Organization (FAO) and there are big disparities within the 2015 planting season.
the World Food Programme (WFP). region: production is down by 20% A USAID-AfricaRice initiative
According to their estimates, in Liberia’s Lofa District, which is the aims to provide technical support to
the Ebola virus outbreak left slightly main rice-producing region and is the seed sector in selected countries,

more than half a million people in considered as Liberia’s breadbasket, including Liberia. With support from
the three countries “severely food and by 17% in the hardest hit parts of the Government of Japan, AfricaRice
insecure”—120,000 in Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone. is launching an emergency project to
170,000 in Liberia, and 230,000 in “The Ebola outbreak in Liberia tackle the problem of insufficiency
Guinea. is a complete setback to our of rice seed in Guinea because of the
The total number of affected achievements,” said AfricaRice Ebola crisis.
people could double to one million in emergency” in five regions in the International Rice Research Institute consumption of rice (about 100 scientist Inoussa Akintayo, who is Meanwhile, remembering the
a few months unless urgent measures western and southwestern parts of in Thailand in October 2014 remarked kg) is among the highest in sub- coordinating a World Bank-supported quiet heroism of scientists in these
are taken to significantly enhance the country. that there was a noticeable rise Saharan Africa. However, all three emergency rice project in Lofa and countries, AfricaRice economist Ali
access to food and safeguard crop in local rice prices in the affected countries are net importers of rice as Bong districts in Liberia. Toure, who was working in Sierra
and livestock production in these Shock to food and countries, although the Ebola crisis demand is much higher than local In August 2014, for reasons Leone, remarked, “We are praying
countries, they warned. agricultural sectors was not expected to have a major production. of safety, senior management of for the safety of our brave colleagues,
The crisis has been further FAO and WFP stated that the Ebola impact on the global rice market. Promoting domestic rice AfricaRice decided to pull out its who are continuing their work under
aggravated because Liberia and Sierra epidemic had caused a significant The virus killed many production is therefore important regional and international researchers very difficult and even dangerous
Leone were still recovering from shock to the food and agricultural productive farmers and many in the national rice development from Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This situations.”
prolonged civil wars while Guinea sectors in the affected countries, others abandoned their fields and strategy developed by each of has affected the implementation As of 15 March 2015, 24,700 cases
was still transitioning from military where two-thirds of the people harvests out of fear. In Sierra Leone, these countries under the Coalition of the planned activities,” said and 10,195 deaths had been reported
rule when Ebola struck. depend on agriculture for their for instance, up to 40% of the farms for African Rice Development AfricaRice scientist Bert Meertens, worldwide, most of them in these
In December 2014, the livelihood. A number of interrelated in the worst affected areas were framework. who is assisting the Sierra Leone three countries. The World Bank
government of Sierra Leone banned factors, including quarantines, reported abandoned. The national programs of these Agricultural Research Institute in estimates that the regional economic
all public celebrations, including disruptions in transportation and countries are involved in many joint WAAPP activities. toll could reach USD32 billion by the
Christmas and New Year, to trade, and rising food prices were Impacts on the rice sector projects with the Africa Rice Center end of 2015.
prevent Ebola from spreading triggering the food crisis. Rice is the most important staple (AfricaRice) and have identified A call for urgent action
further. Similarly, Guinea, where Experts participating in in the three countries and its price Rice Sector Development Hubs. A Aside from controlling Ebola, FAO
the latest Ebola outbreak started the Global Rice Market and and accessibility directly influence rice hub is a mechanism introduced and WFP called for urgent action to Ms. Mohapatra is the head of Marketing
recently, declared a 45-day “health Trade Summit organized by the social stability. Annual per capita by AfricaRice across sub-Saharan re-establish farming systems in the and Communications at AfricaRice.

36 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 37


What kind of rice

Profile of respondents
Profile of respondents

East India South India Bangladesh

do consumers want?
Gender 28% 72% 0% 100% 7% 93%

11% 21% 18%

23% 27%
Socio 27% A (upper) A (upper)
eco o c 33% C (middle)
C (middle) C (middle)
( )
27% 34%
class 24% D & E (lower) D & E (lower)

An assessment of preferences of urban consumers in India and Bangladesh

26% 29%

Family size
by Marie Claire Custodio,
chain research team, which includes
Neale Paguirigan, Alice Laborte, Dr. Laborte is a scientist and GIS Ms. Custodio, senior associate scientist;
Jhoanne Ynion, and Matty Demont specialist in the Social Sciences Division Ms. Ynion, assistant scientist; and
(SSD). Dr. Demont is a senior economist Mr. Paguirigan, GIS and database
and leader of the SSD market and value management specialist.

bout a third of the world’s Consumer preferences for size, shape, and aroma
Consumer preferences for size, shape, and aroma
rice is produced and
consumed in South Asia. East India South India Bangladesh
By 2035, about 194 million 1 cm
23% 38% 22%
tons1 of rice will be needed to feed 61% 50% 32%
South Asians, about 40% of which Preferences of  16% 12% 46%
will be consumed in urban areas2. respondents  who 
consider size as priority 
Income growth, urbanization, and trait
other socioeconomic transformations short      medium long to short      medium long to short  medium      long to

have affected consumption and

extra long extra long extra long

preferences for food including rice. bold 2% 2% 6%
To understand the current rice Preferences of 
preferences and have a basis for 27% 38% 18%

respondents who
respondents who   medium

consider shape as 
projections of future demand for rice priority trait slender 70% 61% 75%
quality, we interviewed 1,900 rice
consumers in 11 major cities in East
and South India and Bangladesh.
Proportion of 
This is part of an on-going respondents who
respondents who 
study by the Market Research Team
at the International Rice Research
consider aroma as 
priority trait 37% 14% 20%
Institute (IRRI) to understand market
demand for rice quality traits and
characteristics, and to contribute to Consumer preferences for grain size in different cities in East India
Consumer preferences for grain size in different cities in East India
the development of product profiles
for a more targeted rice breeding Major cities can be 13%
program at IRRI and its national 29% 29%

important leverage
Our preliminary results are points for farmers 71% 31%
presented here. if they succeed Long to extra long
in matching grain Short 71%
quality with 21% 40% 45%
urban consumer 6% 9%
Base: respondents
Source: IRRI Global Rice Model (2014)
preferences. Base: Respondents who 
who consider size as a
priority trait.
size as a priority trait

38 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 39

Striking a balance through
High-diversity vegetation patches flower strips, preferring to grow food
These patches were designed by IRRI or medicinal plants on their bunds.
and its partners at the DA. The initia- The high-diversity vegetation
tive was funded by the DA-Bureau of patches were designed for farmers

ecologically engineered
Agricultural Research, with support to grow the vegetables they wanted
from the Global Rice Science Partner- using the best combinations of plants
ship (GRiSP) and the German Minis- and best configurations of patches to
try of Science and Education (LEGATO enhance biodiversity while reducing
Project). The patches form part of the potential problems with rats and

rice ecosystems
“tool kit” of ecological engineering—a maintaining the original functions of
rapidly growing discipline that at- bunds as water levees and pathways.
tempts to create managed ecosystems IRRI scientists pay careful attention
with benefits for both people and to the timing of flowering and the
nature. abundance of flowers produced by
The current patch design is the the different vegetable plants. For
by Finbarr Horgan, James Michael Villegas, Angelee Fame Ramal, Carmen Bernal, Alexandra Jamoralin,
John Michael Pasang, Corazon Arroyo, Virginia Agreda, and Gregorio Orboc
result of a series of trial-and-error example, bitter gourd and cucumber
experiments. Earlier work at IRRI are particularly prolific flower
had promoted the planting of flower producers and are highly suited
strips on bunds to provide pollen for the patches. Furthermore, the
and nectar for bees and parasitoid candidate vegetables had to be robust
wasps, the latter being important and tolerate the extreme conditions
enemies of formidable rice pests such of rice bunds, which have large
Planting flowering vegetable plants within a rice landscape offers farmers as planthoppers and stem borers. gradients of moisture and nutrients
an environment-friendly way of controlling pests and diseases while With support from local governments, from top to bottom.
attractive rice landscapes with colorful
improving their food security flowered bunds have blossomed Responses from farmers
around Asia—particularly in Vietnam and wildlife
(see Vietnam turns back a tsunami of In 2014, high-diversity vegetation
pesticides on pages 12-13 of Rice Today patches sprouted up at several sites in
Vol. 13, No. 1). However, unlike bees, the Philippines. And, Filipino farmers
some farmers were not attracted to the and neighboring wildlife responded

HIGH-DIVERSITY vegetation patches on an

ecological engineering farm in Bukidnon,
Mindanao, Philippines.

s our truck bounces down the city is punctuated across the farm. The in rice fields. Technically referred
narrow muddy track toward the structures have attracted the attention to as high-diversity vegetation
Alubog family farm in Colonia, of local farmers and are intensely patches, they offer refuge to a range
Bukidnon, Philippines, a huge monitored by scientists from the of beneficial insects, spiders, and
irrigation canal, charged by the recent International Rice Research Institute birds that protect the neighboring
heavy rains, roars beside the road. The (IRRI) and the Philippine Department rice from hungry pests. The patches
morning sun is heating up, clearing of Agriculture (DA) that regularly visit also provide farmers with fruits and
the low-lying mist to reveal a strange this corner of Mindanao. vegetables, including okra, string BARN SWALLOWS rest on a bamboo stake

that supports string bean and bitter gourd A FARMER observes a vegetation patch with okra,
new landscape: a cluster of towering These new structures, which first beans, and bitter gourds that are growing on a rice bund in an ecologically mungbean, string bean, and bitter gourd within
green pillars like the neatly arranged appeared in late 2013, are part of an consumed by the farming household engineered field. a rice landscape.
leafy temples of an abandoned jungle effort to promote ecological balance or sold in the local markets.

40 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 41

Rice facts

india reaches
VEGETABLES PILED up on the table were produced in
the high-diversity vegetation patches that can be seen
interspersed among the ricefields in the background. The
husbandry was best, the small
chemical-free vegetables and rice are highly sought after vegetable patches could produce
in local markets. more than 100 kg of string bean and

the pinnacle in
okra and about 10 kg of mungbean
for each 100 meters of planted bund.
These fruits not only became an

rice exports
added source of food for the farmer
participants in the study but were
sought after at the local markets
because they were chemical-free.
These experiences with
ecologically engineered rice by Samarendu Mohanty
ecosystems indicate that balanced,
healthy ecosystems can be productive
and profitable. The little vegetable

patches among the rice fields in
Mindanao should remind observers
that the most satisfying rice is that
produced in harmony with nature.

favorably. Results are surprising at collared kingfisher, which actively

the sites. Not only were the vegetable consumed golden apple snails from Dr. Horgan is a senior scientist and
patches generally successful in the rice fields. Damage to rice from Ms. Ramal, Ms. Bernal, and Mr.
attracting useful predators (such as insects was generally low, and, where Villegas are researchers in the Crop and
spiders, lady beetles, and parasitoid rice plants were attacked early in the Environmental Sciences Division of
wasps) and pollinators (such as bees season, pest populations were halted. IRRI. Their research aims at restoring
and butterflies) but researchers also The rice compensated well, giving ecological balance in rice ecosystems and
noted an increased abundance and good yields (3 to 6.7 tons per hectare in reducing pesticide use. Dr. Jamoralin and
activity of insectivorous birds. rainfed systems and 5.3 to 9 tons per Mr. Pasang are researchers at the Rizal
Birds not often associated with hectare in irrigated systems during the Agricultural Station in Tanay, Rizal,
rice fields, including barn swallows, dry season) by harvest time. Philippines. Dr. Arroyo is the manager
pied trillers and long-tailed shrikes, All this was good news— and Ms. Agreda is a researcher at the
could be seen actively searching rice fields without the use of any Western Visayas Agricultural Research
among the rice plants for caterpillars pesticides could achieve up to 9 tons Station in Jaro, Iloilo, Philippines. Mr.
and other insects. Three species per hectare at irrigated sites. But one Orboc runs the Regional Crop Protection
of kingfisher used the patches as added bonus made this intervention Center in Bukidnon, Mindanao,
perching sites and one of these is the even more attractive. Where vegetable Philippines.

ndia has come a long way grandfather’s house with a bowl in India’s stance on American policy
in the past 5 decades from their hands to receive PL-480 wheat toward Vietnam.
a country with a severe porridge for breakfast and lunch. Lester Brown, cofounder and
food deficit to being a major The Bihar famine in the mid-60s president of the Earth Policy Institute
grain exporter. The frequent food is regarded as a turning point for in Washington, D.C., has a different
shortages in the 1950s and 60s India’s food production. As described take of the event. In U.S.-India:
and large-scale U.S. food grain in The famine that India did not waste, Dealing with monsoon failure,2 he says
assistance, especially wheat through an article published in Business & the U.S. used the release of food aid
the PL-480 program, seem to be Economy,1 then Prime Minister Indira during the Bihar famine to force the
a distant memory now. Growing Gandhi realized the link between country to reform its food policy
up in the eastern state of Odisha, food sovereignty and independence that served the urban population
I vividly remember women and in foreign affairs as the U.S. used its through a price ceiling to guarantee
children lining up in front of my PL-480 food aid release to influence a floor price for farmers to encourage

NEIGHBORS BUY vegetables produced on high-

diversity vegetation patches on a rice farm in
Bukidnon. 1

42 Rice Today April-June 2015 Rice Today April-June 2015 43

Rice facts

india reaches
the pinnacle in
rice exports by Samarendu Mohanty

ndia has come a long way grandfather’s house with a bowl in India’s stance on American policy
in the past 5 decades from their hands to receive PL-480 wheat toward Vietnam.
a country with a severe porridge for breakfast and lunch. Lester Brown, cofounder and
food deficit to being a major The Bihar famine in the mid-60s president of the Earth Policy Institute
grain exporter. The frequent food is regarded as a turning point for in Washington, D.C., has a different
shortages in the 1950s and 60s India’s food production. As described take of the event. In U.S.-India:
and large-scale U.S. food grain in The famine that India did not waste, Dealing with monsoon failure,2 he says
assistance, especially wheat through an article published in Business & the U.S. used the release of food aid
the PL-480 program, seem to be Economy,1 then Prime Minister Indira during the Bihar famine to force the
a distant memory now. Growing Gandhi realized the link between country to reform its food policy
up in the eastern state of Odisha, food sovereignty and independence that served the urban population
I vividly remember women and in foreign affairs as the U.S. used its through a price ceiling to guarantee
children lining up in front of my PL-480 food aid release to influence a floor price for farmers to encourage


Rice Today April-June 2015 43

Million tons

Rice Wheat Corn


15 Exports
















–5 1983






Fig. 1. India’s transformation in grain trade, the shift from grain importing to grain exporting.
Source: Production, Supply, and Distribution (PSD), USDA.

food production. The U.S. President scheme was removed in early 2014. India spends billions of dollars on
at that time, Lyndon Johnson, was Thailand edged past India in 2014 by supporting its agricultural sector. The
worried that India was neglecting exporting 10.97 million tons of rice suite of policies it started in the mid-
its agriculture and becoming too after stopping the pledging scheme in 60s, that is, a minimum support price
dependent on U.S. food aid to 2014 as compared to 10.9 million tons and input subsidies (for fertilizer,
overcome its deficit. for India (source: PSD, USDA). seed, water, electricity, machinery,
Whatever the motive was, the Within rice, the biggest success among other inputs) for farmers and
end result has been more than has been the transformation of a food subsidy for the poor remain
satisfactory. Indian rice and wheat the basmati industry. Up until the in place. These policies, without any
production in the past 5 decades rose early 1990s, Pakistan dominated doubt, played a key role in improving
by more than three- and eightfold, the basmati market, but the rapid India’s food security both nationally
respectively. During this period, development of milling, processing, and at the household level but, at
per capita availability increased and packaging in the Indian basmati the same time, these policies have
by more than 10 kilograms for rice industry has made it the market become a serious burden to the
and 50 kilograms for wheat. The leader today. In 2013-14, India Indian exchequer. For the fiscal year
rise in grain production eventually exported around 3.76 million tons of 2015-16 (April-March), the central
transformed India from a grain basmati compared with 0.75 million budget earmarked around USD20
importer to an exporter in the mid- tons of exports by Pakistan and billion for food subsidy and USD12
90s (Fig. 1). Since then, grain exports earned a foreign exchange of nearly billion for fertilizer subsidy. On top
(rice, wheat, and maize) have steadily USD4.8 billion (source: Agricultural of that, a few additional billions
increased, reaching 24 million tons and Processed Food Products are spent on subsidizing credit,
by 2012-13. The transformation of the Export Development Authority or machinery, irrigation, power, and
rice sector was even more startling, APEDA). During the same period, seed. These subsidies will continue to
with India dethroning Thailand India exported 7.13 million tons of grow in the future if continued in its
to become the largest exporter of nonbasmati rice, primarily broken present form.
rice in 2012. The Thai rice pledging and parboiled rice, earning an Another serious problem fac-
scheme implemented in late 2011 additional foreign exchange of ing Indian rice production is the
definitely boosted India’s rise to the USD2.9 billion (source: APEDA). declining groundwater in its many
top of the export chart, but India has rice-growing belts. In rice-growing
continued to export in excess of 10 The rising cost of success states such as Punjab, Haryana, and
million tons even after the pledging There is no such thing as a free lunch. Tamil Nadu, the free electricity and

44 Rice Today April-June 2015

Million tons
the diesel subsidy have made the
excessive withdrawal of groundwater
Northwest East
worse. An article in National Geo- 60
graphic3 stated that the water table in
India is dropping at an average of 1.4 50
meter per year. If this trend contin-
ues, India’s food security will be 40
seriously affected in the future. Given
the growing water problem in the 30
country, Indian exports of 40 trillion
liters of precious water annually—in
the form of 10 to 11 million tons of
rice—raises an important question of
overproduction of rice in the country. 0
On top of that, the 7 million tons of 2004-05 2005-06 2006/07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
nonbasmati rice are normally ex-
ported at a price that hardly covers
the true cost of production if you take Fig. 2. Eastern vs northwestern India rice production.*
into account the input subsidies (for Source:

fertilizer, electricity, seed, machinery, *Eastern India includes Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand; northwestern India includes
Punjab and Haryana.
etc.) provided to the farmers.

What needs to be done?

The reform of these subsidies, productivity of rice in eastern India. No one can deny India’s success
particularly for fertilizer and These efforts have resulted in some in food grain production and its
food, is long overdue. The current sizable increases in rice production transformation from a food-deficit
government clearly intends to tackle in the eastern states in the past country to a major grain exporter in
this “800-pound gorilla” that is so decade. The average yield of seven the world. What India did to achieve
deeply rooted in the system. The eastern states increased by more this milestone was to meet the need
government is seriously considering than 40% between 2004-05 and of the hour to spare millions from
the recommendations of the Shanta 2012-13 and production increased by starvation and poverty. But, the time
Kumar Panel to deregulate the 16 million tons (Fig. 2). During that has come to think beyond just the
fertilizer sector and provide a cash same period, the rice area in Punjab quantity of grain production and
subsidy of INR7,000 (around USD110) and Haryana also increased slightly more along the line of sustainability
per hectare to farmers.4 Similarly, from 3.68 million hectares in 2004-05 of the production system, including
the government is also looking to 3.87 million hectares in 2012-13, the cost of subsidies. Reforms of
into the panel recommendation to with production increasing by one food and input subsidies will not
reform the grain subsidy program by million tons. be easy but this needs to be done
implementing cash transfers in cities The recent trend suggests that the at the earliest. As eastern India
with a population of more than 1 paddy yields in the eastern states will expands its rice production to take
million in grain-surplus states and an continue to rise in the future with care of the country’s food needs,
option for cash or physical grains in greater use of quality seeds, flood- the state governments in Punjab
grain-deficit states. and drought-tolerant varieties, and and Haryana, with the help of the
In an attempt to reverse the improved production practices. There central government, should devise a
increasing ground water depletion are no indications of shifting from strategy to reduce their area under
in major rice-surplus states such as rice in Punjab and Haryana into less rice, particularly nonbasmati rice, to
Punjab and Haryana, and reduce water-intensive crops. The shift will relieve the pressure on groundwater.
pressure on these states to meet the not happen unless the government
country’s food need, the government removes the minimum support
rolled out programs such as the price for rice or provides an assured Dr. Mohanty is the head of the
National Food Security Mission price for alternate crops that will be Social Sciences Division and program
and Bringing Green Revolution equally or more profitable than rice in leader (Targetting and policy) at the
to Eastern India to improve the the region. International Rice Research Institute.


Rice Today April-June 2015 45

Grains of truth

The outstanding India-

IRRI partnership
by M.S. Swaminathan

t the time of establishing Research (ICAR) and IRRI has converted Pusa 167-120-3-2 into a
the International Rice been strong, mutually beneficial, CMS line (IR58025 A). This became
Research Institute (IRRI) in and a proven model for symbiotic an important source for hybrid rice
1960, Dr. Sterling Wortman partnerships among research breeding. India also used high-
of the Rockefeller Foundation institutions.  yielding and disease- and pest-
seriously considered India as a ICAR and IRRI started develop- resistant IRRI varieties such as IR20,
potential location for IRRI. However, ing memoranda of understanding IR22, IR26, and IR72, among other
Los Baños in Laguna, Philippines, and annual work plans in order to varieties, in the Indian rice breeding
was chosen as the main location for provide structure and purpose to the program. IR36 and IR64 are still
IRRI based on many factors. partnership. In association with the very popular among Indian farmers.
Jose Drilon, IRRI's first executive Rockefeller Foundation, ICAR also IRRI also identified the Xa21 gene
officer, and Arturo Tanco, Philippine established an All India Coordinated for bacterial blight resistance in wild
Agriculture Secretary, played key Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) rice (Oryza longistaminata), which was
roles in getting IRRI established with headquarters in Hyderabad in sourced from India. Also, IRRI and
in the Philippines. This has been 1965. This provided an opportunity India saw potential in FR13A, a flood-
fortunate since the Philippines for a more targeted relationship tolerant rice variety grown in limited
has been an excellent host and has with IRRI. In 1966, AICRIP received areas of eastern India from which the
also provided high-quality human from IRRI a set of 300 strains of rice famous SUB1 gene was ultimately
resources for the Institute, apart from containing genes for resistance to identified. Scientists from IRRI and
land and other facilities. pests and diseases and possessing India have published several joint
 I visited IRRI for the first time a nonlodging plant architecture. papers.
in 1964. I was greatly impressed with Varieties developed at IRRI have been  The IRRI-India partnership
the germplasm in the field, with used in the hybridization program in has been an outstanding exercise
emphasis on a new plant architecture, AICRIP. in promoting collaboration, which
which could make use of soil  Another important contribution advances global rice science and
nutrients and water most effectively. of IRRI has been in human resource development on the one hand and
There was also great emphasis development. A wide range of India’s rice production on the other.
on breeding varieties resistant to researchers, including senior Because of its symbiotic nature, this
major pests and diseases. Therefore, scientists and postdoctoral fellows, partnership has not only endured,
I strongly recommended to the were given opportunities to visit IRRI but has been enriched over the past
Government of India to enter into a and work at the Institute for some half century. I am pleased that this
mutually beneficial partnership with time with appropriate counterparts. issue of Rice Today is chronicling a
IRRI. The Institute also invited Indian Several PhD scholars completed remarkable example of the power and
visionaries such as K.R. Damle, then their course work at the Indian value of partnership between CGIAR
Secretary of Agriculture, to serve on Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) institutions and national agricultural
its first Board of Trustees in 1960. and other institutions in India and research and extension systems.
During the International Rice conducted their research work at
Year 1966, the Government of India IRRI. Dr. Swaminathan is the founding
honored Robert Chandler, the The exchange of genetic material chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan
founding director general of IRRI, between IRRI and AICRIP was also Research Foundation. He is a former
with the International Rice Prize. intensified. In 1981, IRRI delivered IRRI director general (1982-88) and
Since then, the relationship between cytoplasmic-genetic male sterile is known as the father of the Green
the Indian Council of Agricultural (CMS) rice lines to India. IRRI Revolution in India.

CMS is a condition of inablity of a plant to produce functional pollen. It is an important tool in hybrid seed production. Hybrids often exhibit heterosis or hybrid
vigor, whereby the traits of a hybrid progeny are enhanced as a result of the genetic combination of its parents.

46 Rice Today April-June 2015

The enduring India-
IRRI relationship
by J.K. Ladha

s documented in this looking at the “big picture,” training power of a significant sector of rice
issue of Rice Today, India in frontier areas, and catalyzing the consumers. With emerging labor
and IRRI have had a very transfer of new technologies to those shortages and rising labor wages, we
successful relationship in the value chain. need to focus on conservation tillage
over the decades. The introduction of Also, we should maintain or and direct seeding of rice. We need to
rice variety IR8, which helped save even increase our leadership, physical conduct agronomic systems research
India from a massive famine in the presence, and impact in strategic and develop best management
1970s, marked the true beginning of regions of India where rice is the practices for key rice systems.
the success of the partnership. Then, predominant crop. Considering We should aim to maximize
some remarkable results followed this, we should play a key role in the yield potential of new varieties.
such as the development of more revolutionizing the rice sector, There is a strong need for technology
than 400 disease- and insect-resistant particularly, in eastern India. targeting and the development
rice varieties, hybrid rice varieties With the establishment of a of extrapolation domains for an
bred through public and private new regional rice hub in Hyderabad efficient uptake of new technologies.
sector programs, streamlined rice and in close collaboration with Although most research themes and
production practices, and improved ICAR and other public and private activities will cut across all the top-10
postharvest technologies for better sector institutions, the India-IRRI rice-growing states of India, relative
sustainability and productivity. partnership can assist countries priority will differ.
Both ICAR and IRRI have in South Asia and Africa in As we continue our strong
trained scientists, providing strengthening their rice programs. partnership with ICAR, the
equitable access to information, and This would allow us to implement Department of Agriculture and
conducting socioeconomic research. the upstream research agenda Cooperation, and state agricultural
India has been actively part of IRRI’s agreed upon under the India-IRRI universities, we should develop
priority setting, strategic planning, collaborative research program. This linkages with India’s seed industry.
providing scientific advice, and includes targeted breeding research The country has a vibrant seed
carrying out research work in the and training programs that will industry with many large and small
region. Senior Indian scientists and benefit other South Asian Association players. Some seed companies have
government officials have served for Regional Cooperation member a very active R&D and breeding
almost continuously on IRRI’s countries. program, which includes hybrid rice.
Board of Trustees since its creation. India, with its large diversity of IRRI should play a major role in trait
Indeed, the partnership has achieved soil and climate, provides unique discovery and in the development
outstanding results—setting a gold opportunities to develop situation- of a new generation of parental lines
standard in international research specific rice varieties that will also be and varieties, including hybrids, for
collaboration. relevant to its neighboring countries. small and large seed companies that
As the India-IRRI collaboration Although our work will continue meet consumer preferences and are
has matured, so have the needs, to focus on trait and varietal adaptive to rainfed ecosystems.
expectations, and environment of development with many abiotic Institutions like IRRI increasingly
doing business in relation to what is stresses (drought, submergence, face funding constraints and have
happening not only in India but also salinity) and biotic stresses (sheath to work on their goal of full cost
regionally and globally. India has a blight and other diseases), we also recovery. We should continue to
strong national rice research program need to initiate research on emerging explore additional and new project
and has increasing participation by problems such as false smut, funding, including philanthropic
the private sector and civil society nematodes, and low-light intensity. donations and grants from Indian
organizations. IRRI should not take Shorter-duration rice, which can fit donors.
over functions that the public or in diverse cropping systems, should
private sector should have in the continue to be a priority. The demand
country. Our comparative advantage for good grain quality is increasing Dr. Ladha is principal scientist and IRRI
is strong in science and innovation, along with the rising purchasing representative for India and Nepal.

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48 Rice Today April-June 2015