This week in IRRI history
January | February | March | April | May | June| July | August | September | October | November | December
01 to 09 January
1 January. In 1975, the International Rice Testing Program (IRTP) —5 years later renamed the International Rice Testing and Improvement Program (IRTIP), and then finally the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER)—is started as a project when it is first approved by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding support of US$2.0 million.
In 1977, the Philippines officially became a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Since then, now known only as “CGIAR”, this umbrella organization, which has supported IRRI and up to as many 17 other international research centers at one time, has continued to evolve, undergoing strategic changes in direction and governance over the years.
In 1993, the Asian Rice Biotechnology Research Network (ARBN) was established.
In 2001, with retirement, Gurdev Khush, IRRI’s 1996 World Food Prize co-Laureate, completed 29 years as head of the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biochemistry Division (PBGB) and leader of various research programs. In 2010, Roland Buresh, Jagdish Ladha, Hei Leung, David Mackill, and To Phuc Tuong were promoted to principal scientist status for their various achievements at IRRI.
2 January. In 2002, Angeline Kamba (photo left) began her term as chair of IRRI’s Board of Trustees—the first woman and African to serve in the position.
3 January. In 2011, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology in Meerut, India, honored IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler by naming its new soil- and plant-testing laboratory after him.
In 2016, Mahabub Hossain, former head of IRRI's Social Sciences Division (SSD, 1992-2007), passed away on 3 January, one day after his 71st birthday. He was undergoing heart bypass surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States. We all were greatly shocked by this. I had lunch with Mahabub at BRAC in Dhaka last 8 September along with IRRI DG Bob Zeigler and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC founder and 2015 World Prize laureate. He mentioned to us then that he would be going to the Cleveland Clinic.
During his 15-year stint at IRRI, the Bangladeshi national served in a dual role as a researcher and administrative head of SSD. His research at IRRI centered around socioeconomic studies on rice supply and demand trends in Asia, constraints to increasing rice productivity, understanding rural livelihood systems, and the impact of improved rice technologies on poverty reduction. Mahabub will be greatly missed. Read the obituary that I prepared for the IRRI Web site.
4 January. In 2008, L. Dale Haws, 81, crop production specialist at IRRI for 11 years (1974-85), passed away in Logan, Utah.
5 January. In 1989, Hubert G. Zandstra, former director, Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Science Division, International Research Development Centre, Canada, arrived as IRRI's third deputy director general for research. He later became DG of the International Potato Center (CIP: 1991-2005).
In 2012, Deputy Director General Research Achim Dobermann and experiment station head Leigh Vial began their very educational—and entertaining—IRRI Agronomy Challenge, a unique project in which they demonstrate how to grow a productive rice crop in a 25 x 100-meter field on IRRI's research farm. See the 43-minute documentary that combines the 18 segments.
7 January. In 2005, Sant Virmani, IRRI principal scientist, was named a recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, which recognizes the contributions made by nonresident Indians (Pravasi Bhartiya) for the development of India and the world in general.
In 2009, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs (photo), director of The Earth Institute and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, visited IRRI to learn more about the Institute. So interested in IRRI’s work, he returned in May 2012.
9 January. In 2007, I was in Phnom Penh representing IRRI at the official inauguration of the new facilities of the Cambodian Agricultural Research Institute (CARDI) (photo) with the completion of its last major structure, the Plant Breeding Center. Around 4,000 people attended.
During the event, Prime Minister Hun Sen presented the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Sahametrei Medal (photo) to former IRRI directors general M.S. Swaminathan and Ronald Cantrell, which I accepted on their behalf, in recognition of their contributions to the revival of rice research and development in the country.
In 2014, Fangming Xie, IRRI hybrid rice breeder, received the the Anhui Friendship Award for his contributions to the social and economic development of Anhui Province in China. In 2012, a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially reopened the Riceworld Museum after several months of renovation and installation of new exhibits.
10 January. In 1989, members of the German parliament visited IRRI.
In 2012, Rice Today magazine celebrated its milestone 10th anniversary—a decade of rice story telling. I’m proud that I’ve been involved with the magazine from the very start, currently serving as its editor-in-chief.
12 January. In 2014, an Asia Society Symposium, In a grain of rice: food & culture for South and Southeast Asia, featured IRRI research on improving the eating quality of rice.
13 January. In 2011, David Mackill (photo), IRRI principal scientist and long-time rice breeder at the Institute (1982-91 and 2001-10), gave his exit seminar during which he reminisced on 35 years of progress in developing stress-tolerant rice.
In 2015, IRRI, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the Philippine Department of Agriculture, and the University of Southern Mindanao launched the North Cotabato Heirloom Rice Project in Davao City.
18 January. Illumina, Inc., a developer of life science tools, designated IRRI as a 2011 winner of its Agricultural Greater Good (AGG) Initiative Award designed to help spur critically needed research in identifying and breeding plants and animals that will increase the sustainability, productivity, and nutritional density of agricultural and livestock species.
20 January. In 2005, IRRI and CIMMYT announced the details of the IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance, an initiative aimed at boosting international efforts to fight rural poverty and strengthen food security in the developing world.
In 2009, IRRI and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) signed an international agreement to support and facilitate India's rice research to help the nation's rice production at a time of unprecedented price volatility and subsequent need for revitalization of food production.
In 2011, Indira Gandhi Agricultural University bestowed upon Gurdev Khush, former head of IRRI’s Plant Breeding Genetics and Biotechnology division, and now adjunct professor, University of California, Davis, the Doctor of Science (honoris causa) degree. Earlier, on 28 January 2000, Dr. Khush was named the winner of the 2000 Wolf Prize in Agriculture for his extraordinary contribution to theoretical research in plant genetics, evolution, and breeding. He received the award from Izar Weizman, President of Israel.
21 January. In 2008, after months of preparation by staff of the Genetic Resources Center, a replicate set of the Global Rice Collection from 123 countries held by IRRI was shipped to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), or Doomsday Vault. IRRI contributed the largest number of accessions for a crop (70,180) and the largest estimated number of seeds (35,577,576). According to GRC Head Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton (pictured helping to load the shipment), the IRRI shipment was the first to arrive in Oslo, Norway, and the first to be deposited in the vault at Svalbard.
22 January. In 1986, IRRI’s Macro-microphotography Laboratory was dedicated. In 1998, Robert Havener (photo) arrived as interim director general, serving about 7 months between the resignation of George Rothschild and the arrival of Ronald Cantrell. I recall that Dr. Havener provided important stabilizing guidance during a very turbulent time in IRRI’s history.
In 2007, Ronald L. Phillips, IRRI BOT member, was named a co-recipient of the 2007 Wolf Prize for Agriculture.
23 January. In 1984, Shouichi Yoshida (at right in photo with K.C. Ling), principal scientist and head of IRRI's Plant Physiology Department for18 years, passed away. Later that year, the Shouichi Yoshida Memorial Fund was established. Dr. Yoshida published his classic book, Fundamentals of Rice Crop Science in 1981.
24 January. In 2006, the Crop Research Informatics Laboratory (CRIL) was jointly launched in Mexico and the Philippines. This scientific program of the IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance united key databases and research on the planet’s three most important crops: rice, wheat, and maize.
25 January. In 2003, in New Delhi, the achievements of agronomist Virendra Pal Singh (photo) were recognized as he departed IRRI after serving the Institute for 30 years where he worked to improve the rice-farming systems in unfavorable environments.
In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a grant to IRRI for US$19.9 million over three years to initially help place improved rice varieties and related technology into the hands of 400,000 small farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Sant Virmani, former IRRI plant breeder, was conferred with the Padma Shri Award by Indian President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
In 2013, during the culmination event of the 30th Global Young Leaders Program (YLP) held in Makati, Philippines, the participants (photo), who are professionals from different companies and nonprofit organizations, presented their recommendations on how to commercialize research outputs, like the Nutrient Manager for Rice, in a bid to reach a larger number of beneficiaries.
26 January. In 2009, during ceremonies opening Sri Lanka's new Rice Technology Training Center at the Rice Research and Development Institute, an award was presented to IRRI, which was accepted by Deputy DG for Research Achim Dobermann. Agriculture minister Hemakumara Nanayakkara gave the award to IRRI for the cooperation the Institute has extended to rice breeding activities in Sri Lanka.
In 2015, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (COA) and IRRI signed an MOA to promote rice and other related agricultural research. Shaking hands in the photo are COA Deputy Minister James Sha (left) and IRRI DG Robert Zeigler.
27 January. In 2012, the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) held its1st Paddy Fest—a half-day of games that allows staff members to experience rice production processes right in the mud. The event involved 148 CESD staff, divided into 4 color teams led by CESD scientists Bas Bouman, Liz Humphreys, Krishna Jagadish, and Sarah Beebout.
In 2014, as part of the USAID's Feed the Future Program, the Innovation Laboratory for the Reduction of Postharvest Losses was launched at a meeting hosted by Kanasa State University. For rice, IRRI is the implementing partner in Bangladesh.
In 2015, the groundbreaking ceremony (photo) for the Lloyd T. Evans Plant Growth Facility was conducted at IRRI headquarters. Activities included the loading and burying of two time capsules to be opened in 2035 and 2060, respectively. The facility will become a "state-of-the-art" building with eight controlled-environment glasshouses, plant growth chambers, and plant processing and potting laboratories. IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Matthew Morell said during the ceremony that the laboratory will encourage more scientific work on rice becaise hundreds of scientists are expected to make use of the equipment. View the 6-video playlist I put together covering the event. There are also around 50 still photos on flickr. There was also media coverage in the Manila Bulletin and Rappler.
29 January. In 2004, Paul (Pao-chi) Ma, 97, a member of the first IRRI Board of Trustees (1960-62), passed away in Kunming, China.
In 2014, in commemoration of the 104th birthday of Philippine National Artist Vicente Manansala, artists and art enthusiasts joined the IRRI community to celebrate some of his treasured art work, which has been on display at the Institute since the early 1960s (photo). View 3-video playlist on YouTube on the event.
30 January. In 1981, Principles and practices of rice production, by S.K. De Datta, IRRI agronomist (1964-92), was published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc., the first of many IRRI scientiric books co-published with IRRI by reputable science publishers in the coming years.
In 2011, the Voice of America featured IRRI Senior Scientist Jauhar Ali and IRRI Adjunct Scientist Jan Leach, who is a rice researcher based at Colorado State, discussed the Green Super Rice project, which involves the development of rice varieties that require much less water, fertilizer, and pesticide than modern types of rice do.
31 January. In 2008, Beth Woods, newly appointed IRRI BOT chair was interviewed on ABC Radio Australia. She said that a good rice crop means so much more than the simple act of ensuring that people have enough to eat.
1 February. In 2012, major documented impact of rice research in Southeast Asia was compared with other agricultural research investments in a report published in the science journal Agricultural Systems. The report showed that around 90% of total documented benefits of agricultural research over the last 5 decades in Southeast Asia was due to rice research.
"This means that if you want to help people in Southeast Asia increase the amount of food they produce—which can lead to reduced hunger, better nutrition, higher returns, and better lifetime prospects for farmers, their families, and communities—then rice research is a good choice," said IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler.
2 February. In 2005, SciDevNet reported on IRRI’s efforts to help farmers whose rice fields were flooded with seawater from the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by evaluating the extent of salt damage to coastal rice fields and estimating how much of the land can be reclaimed by growing salt-tolerant rice.
In 2013, Robert "Bob" Eugene Evenson, 78, passed away in New Haven, Connecticut. He was visiting professor at UPLB and a longtime friend and partner of IRRI’s social sciences staff and many others, especially Filipino students and colleagues.
3 February. In 2002, the Honorable Warren Truss, then Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, visited IRRI to learn more about our work.
In 2007, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler received a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from Sardar Vallavh Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology in Modipuran, Uttar Pradesh, India.
In 2014, IRRI showcased its work at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) held in Abu Dhabi. IRRI's YouTube site surpassed 1,000,000 views (currently, more than 1.320 million views have been registered from some 2,300 subscribers and others).
4 February. In 2011, Science published the article, With Reforms Under Way, International Centers Ask: Where Is the Money?, in which IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, said of GRiSP (the Global Rice Science Partnership) that: "It is the first time there is a global research approach to address issues relevant to rice. It's a big step forward."
Approved by the CGIAR Fund Council in November 2014, the second phase of GRiSP is expected to be a 5-year, $600 million endeavor to shave 13% off the expected rise in rice prices by 2035 and lift 150 million people out of poverty.
5 February. In 1987, always thinking way ahead of the curve, IRRI, along with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Indian National Science Academy, kicked off a 3-day symposium in New Delhi called, Climate Variability and Food Security, a couple of decades before "climate change" became the international buzz word that it is today.
On this date, in 2002 and 2005, respectively, Sant Virmani, IRRI principal scientist, was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and, in recognition of his contributions to hybrid rice breeding, genetics, and seed production, received the International Koshihikari Rice Prize in Fukui City, Japan.
In 2006, His Excellency A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, president of the Republic of India, and party visited IRRI headquarters. He interacted with staff scientists, seeking solutions to problems being faced by Indian farmers.
In 2014, IRRI launched its new Transforming Rice Breeding Efficiency (TRB) project aimed at making use of modern breeding tools and approaches that will focus on the Institute's breeding "pipelines" for irrigated rice.
8 February. In 2008, Gurdev Khush, former IRRI principal plant breeder, received the Khwarizmi International Award for Agriculture from Iranian President Mohamad Khatami.
9 February. In 2009, Kari's garden was dedicated in a moving ceremony in memory of Kari Otsuka, spouse of Kei Otsuka, former chair of IRRI's Board of Trustees (2004-07). Kari, who passed away on 2 June 2008, had a special place in her heart for IRRI and that is why the Otsuka family decided to finance the construction of a Japanese garden on the IRRI campus in her memory. This is a very beautiful garden adjacent to the IRRI Coffee Shop and the site of numerous outdoor events since the dedication.
10 February. In 2009, IRRI's fundraising arm, the Foundation for the International Rice Research Institute Ltd., was renamed the International Rice Research Institute Fund Ltd. or IRRI Fund as decided during the first meeting of the Foundation's Board of Directors at IRRI headquarters.
11 February. In 2011, Marcos R. Vega, former IRRI deputy director general who served the Institute for 15 years (1971-86), passed away. A weed scientist, Dr. Vega launched UPLB’s Weed Science Program in the 1950s. He was the first Filipino to be appointed a director at IRRI in 1971. During my stint at IRRI as a visiting editor in 1982-83, I enjoyed my interactions with him. He involved many national scientists in strengthening and accelerating rice improvement programs in the Philippines and other countries.
12 February. In 1982, Keh Chi Ling, IRRI plant pathologist for 17 years, passed away suddenly of a heart attack in staff housing. One of his most significant contributions to rice science was the identification of the wild rice, Oryza nivara, as a source of genetic resistance to grassy stunt virus.
13 February. In 2004, a number of IRRI staff members presented papers during the FAO Rice Conference in Rome, the first major event during the International Year of Rice (IYR) 2004. Among them, IRRI Director General Ronald Cantrell gave a presentation, which I co-authored with him, on New challenges and technological opportunities for rice-based production systems for food security and poverty alleviation in Asia and the Pacific. Later on 24 February, in collaboration with the Municipal Office of Los Baños, IRRI launched the IYR mobile exhibit at the Los Baños National High School (LBNHS) and the Los Baños Central Elementary School.
In 2009, the final phase of IRRI's seventh External Program and Management Review (EPMR7) concluded with a summary of the final report to IRRI staff presented by New Zealand plant physiologist Greg Edmeades, review panel chair. He concluded that the bottom line was that IRRI meets high standards in the conduct and management of science, partnerships with NARES and ARIs, financial management, and leadership within and outside, and that overall the Institute does things very well.
14 February. In 2009, J.K. Ladha, then senior scientist and coordinator of the Rice-Wheat Consortium and IRRI representative for India at the time, was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
In 2012, Michael T. Jackson and John Sheehy, good friends and former IRRI scientists from the UK, were included in the Honours List by Queen Elizabeth II. In separate ceremonies (14 February for John and 29 February for Mike), they were each awarded an OBE, in a formal investiture held at Buckingham Palace, making them Officers of the Order of the British Empire. The dynamic duo was awarded for services to international food science and agricultural research and development, including for their work in helping countries address food security by developing climate-resilient crops at IRRI.
In 2013, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III visited IRRI to celebrate the National Year of Rice and to get a personal update on progress of the agreement between the Institute and the Philippine Department of Agriculture, which aims to support the delivery of research and extension services of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program. View the YouTube video. In the photo, I’m too busy taking photos to get a yellow wristband from the President as he mingles with the IRRI community.
15 February. In 2011, my good friend, former boss at IRRI, and colleague, Robert "Bob" Huggan, 79, head of IRRI’s Information Center/CPS (1993-97) and a senior advisor, External Operations (1997-98), passed away in Montpellier, France, after a lengthy illness. He was an expert in public awareness, donor relations, appropriate dissemination of scientific research results, R&D communications, cross-cultural communications, and information management. He was the consummate lecturer and trainer.
In 2012, a new project in India, Improved Rice-based Rainfed Agricultural Systems in Bihar (IRRAS), was launched by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and IRRI. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project has been building and interconnecting an integrated adaptive research pipeline with a knowledge exchange system to generate and disseminate agronomic technologies to 50,000 smallholder farmers in rice-based rainfed lowlands in Bihar, targeting drought-prone and submergence-prone environments.
16 February. In 2011, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler visited the Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute (TRRI) in Aduthurai. He inspected various IRRI-TRRI collaborative research activities under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and discussed with scientists techniques for extending rice research in this partnership to benefit rice farmers.
17 February. In 1998, H.E. Sailas Atopare, governor general of Papua New Guinea, visited IRRI for a general overview.
18 February. In 2006, Hei Leung, senior scientist, plant pathology, was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
19 February. In 2013, Sarah Beebout, a soil chemist at IRRI, made the list of Devex's recent Manila 40 Under 40 awards—a global program that recognizes 40 international development leaders under the age of 40 in cities around the world.
20 February. In 2009, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler joined a panel discussion in New York City, jointly sponsored by the Asia Society and Oxfam America, which asked the question: is it time for another Green Revolution? Indeed yes, especially since, later, Dr. Zeigler would determine that the second Green Revolution had already started in July 2008.
On previous day, Dr. Dobermann, who made outstanding contributions to IRRI’s mission, not only as deputy director general (2008-2014), but also as a program leader and scientist, gave a forward-looking exit seminar to the IRRI community. Ms. Farrell, director of Human Resource Services (2008-2014), transformed HRS into a proactive results-oriented service unit that supports the Institute's mission.
24 February. In 2003, the largest single course in the history of IRRI training (with 38 participants) started. Developing integrated nutrient management options for delivery (DINMOD) included participants from China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, and IRRI to share their experiences during the 2-week course.
25 February. In 2013, IRRI and Syngenta signed a cooperation agreement for the second phase of the Scientific Know-how and Exchange Program (SKEP II). SKEP II build is building on the successes of the program’s first phase and includes more marker development for rice breeding, crop health management research, and expanding into rice reproductive biology, plant architecture, and yield genes.
27 February. In 2009, the Uttar Pradesh State Varietal Release Committee officially released Swarna Sub1 (Improved Swarna), the first such variety to be released in India—and, as they say, the rest is history. The Sub1 varieties have gained in popularity in India and elsewhere as catastrophic flooding has become more frequent and severe in the region.
28 February. In 2006, an end of era at IRRI truly came with the closing—after 43 years of production—of the IRRI print shop in Communication and Publications Services. Since 1985 when records were first kept, the traditional print shop (with as many as four professional printers working at one time) had produced approximately 174 million impressions for a wide array of IRRI publications, flyers, and forms. The computerized IRRI Copy Center, managed by Information Technology Services, replaced the print shop operation.
1 March. In 2006, the new IRRI copy center opened replacing the old analogue IRRI print shop.
2 March. In 1976, IRRI held its first official Employees Recognition Day.
In 2012, more than 500 rice farmers from 22 municipalities across Laguna—the province that hosts IRRI's headquarters—spent the day learning and providing feedback on rice technologies being tested and developed by the Institute.
3-4 March. In 2004, IRRI held two special days to celebrate the International Year of Rice 2004: the Araw ng Magsasaka (Farmers' Day) and International Day (4 March) for ambassadors and donor representatives.
5 March. In 1970, with a devaluation of the peso against the dollar, national staff went on a 1-day strike to request a salary increase and to be paid in dollars. A modest salary increase was granted, but not the request to be paid in dollars.
In 2011, Noel Magor, head of IRRI Training Center, is recognized during the 7th International Integrated Rice Duck Farming Conference in Sylhet, Bangladesh.
6 March. In 2010, serving various rice dishes prepared by volunteers, IRRI featured a booth for the first time at the annual Food Festival of the Brent International School in Manila where many students of IRRI families attend. See brief YouTube video.
In 2013, Hiram Gomez, Jr., senior manager at the IRRI Supply Chain Services, was named Supply Management Professional of the Year by the Philippine Institute for Supply Management (PISM) at the Supply Link 2013 International Conference.
In 2014, the Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) rice breeding nursery was showcased at IRRI headquarters to highlight the availability of novel genetic resources as response gene pools.
7 March. In 2009, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, accompanied by BOT member Mohammed Syeduzzaman and IRRI principal scientist Abdelbagi Ismail, met with leaders from the government and private sectors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Dr. Zeigler gave a presentation on how IRRI's work could make a difference in nation's efforts to secure a rice supply and take part in international efforts on food security and poverty elimination.
In 2011, the TTC Genetic Resources Center invited research staff on its first-ever field tour. There is an amazing turnout of visitors, who are given an opportunity to view the wonderful world of rice genetic resources, particularly of the cultivated varieties.
8 March. In 1960, IRRI's Articles of Incorporation were approved by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 2001, Gurdev Khush, IRRI principal plant breeder, was among Chinese and foreign scientists to be named a recipient of The China International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Award for 2001. On 9 March 1995, after a peer-review process on the basis of excellence in science, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (London).
10 March. In 1962, construction of the multi-purpose Service Building was completed. Over the 53 years, the iconic structure on the IRRI campus has stood the test of time, including numerous typhoons over the decades. Although suffering major damage from Typhoon Glenda in July 2014, repairs have been made and the building is back "in service" again.
In 1996, the Philippine Cabinet of President Fidel V. Ramos met at IRRI.
In 2014, IRRI celebrated International Women's Day with a series of activities at headquarters to highlight the important role of women in all areas of human endeavor. Speakers included Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, gender specialist Thelma Paris, and soil scientist Sarah Beebout.
11 March. In 2004, Glenn B. Gregorio, at the time an international research fellow in the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biochemistry Division, received the 2004 Achievement Award for Crop Science Research from the Crop Science Society of the Philippines (CSSSP). Now a senior scientist at IRRI, Glenn recently announced that he is departing and on 12 February, he gave his interesting exit seminar, The dream of a rice breeder.
12 March. In 2013, country partners from six rice bowls in Asia and IRRI scientists met for the inception and planning workshop of the new project Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia (CORIGAP) at IRRI Headquarters.
Also in 2013, in Sanya, Hainan Province, China, the Green Super Rice (GSR) Project formally launched its second phase in a meeting opened by David Bergvinson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Participants came from Chinese institutions, the BMGF, AfricaRice, IRRI, and NARES in Asia and Africa.
13 March. In 1978, Li Hsien-nien (Li Xiannian), then vice premier of the People’s Republic of China, visited IRRI. Li later became President of China in 1983.
14 March. In 2002, Calvin Qualset, director of the Genetic Resources Conservation Program at the University of California-Davis and then IRRI BOT member, received the 2002 Charles A. Black Award for his life's work in germplasm preservation and enhancement.
15 March. In 2004, IRRI stalwarts Sant Virmani and Tom Mew were appointed principal scientists in recognition of their many years of contributions to the Institute pathology and breeding, respectively.
In 2009, during the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler estimated that billions of dollars a year need to be invested in infrastructure such as new irrigation systems and new technology to boost yields in rice fields. "I'm worried that we won't make the necessary investments and we're going to see continued pressure on the ability to meet global demand," he said, speaking in Manila as part of the Summit.
18 March. In 2008, the International Rice Research Notes (IRRN), IRRI's long-running journal of 32 years, which had expedited communication among scientists concerned with development of improved technology for rice and rice-based cropping systems, went open access using Open Journal Systems (OJS). To cut costs, no more copies were printed. Then on 31 January 2013, the journal ceased publication completely. All past issues dating back to 1976 are archived on Scribd.
In 2011, P. Stephen Baenziger, Eugene Price Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and IRRI BOT member, won the university's Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award.
20 March. In 1996, the IRRI Library launched its automated catalogue.
21 March. In 2005, Robert S. Zeigler arrived as IRRI's eighth director general. Where has the last decade gone? Certainly, many achievements have been made over the period. We will be hearing a lot about this later in 2015, Bob's last year as DG. Bob and I both turn 65 in January 2016, he being 27 days older than me, born on 3 January 1951. So, do the math on my birthdate. As the photo shows, we often have shared a cake in January. Anyway, the last official day for both of us at IRRI will be 31 January 2016.
In 2011, the 3-day fourth annual meeting of the Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC) is kicked off at IRRI headquarters.
Also, the Department for International Development (DFID) launched Climate Week with its inaugural awards to celebrate the UK's most innovative, effective, and ambitious organizations, communities, and individuals and their efforts to combat climate change. IRRI's Scuba Rice project (flood-tolerant rice) won the award for "Best Initiative by a Governmental or Statutory Body."
In 2012, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler inaugurates new and added office space for the IRRI India Office in New Delhi.
22 March. In 2011, Lloyd Le Page, the first chief executive officer of the new CGIAR Consortium, began a 3-day visit to IRRI headquarters during which time he toured the Institute's facilities and attended the GRiSP Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop and portions of the 4th annual meeting of the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium.
In 2012, at IRRI headquarters, Professor R. Ford Denison, adjunct professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota, began a special five-lecture series on Darwinian Agriculture. He tackles the following topics, related to his book, Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture.
23 March. In 1999, IRRI's first director general (1960-71), Robert F. Chandler, passed away in Florida. In a future blog, I will have lot more to say about this distinguished World Food Prize Laureate, who was the founding DG of IRRI, serving for more than 11 years. Read the New York Times obit.
In 2005, IRRI awarded a plaque of honor to the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) to recognize its partnership and outstanding contribution to food security and health of the people of Bangladesh for more than three decades.
In 2011, Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and party visited the research farms of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in Patna. They received briefings on the ongoing activities of Stress-tolerant rice for poor farmers in Africa and South Asia (STRASA) and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), two important projects supported by BMGF.
24 March. In 2004, Richard Flavell, chair of IRRI's Sixth External Program and Management Review (EPMR) panel, urged all staff to "celebrate" the Institute's achievements and to be proud to work at such an important and successful organization.
25 March. In 2009, Monsanto Company announced a $10 million grant to establish Monsanto's Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program, which is helping identify and support young scientists interested in improving research and production in rice and wheat, two of the world's most important staple crops, through plant breeding techniques. Of course, Norman Borlaug and Hank Beachell were world-class breeders for their respective crops, wheat and rice, Borlaug being the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Beachell, being a 1996 World Food Prize Laureate.
26 March. In 2006, the Chinese Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin visited IRRI.
In 2007, more than 80 scientists from 14 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America attended a 5-day international workshop on Cool Rice for a Warmer World held at the Crop Physiology and Production Center (CPPC), College of Plant Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU), Wuhan, Hubei, China. The workshop was sponsored by IRRI and HZAU, with partial financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
27 March. In 2012, the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) holds its 5th annual meeting at IRRI headquarters attended by 95 participants, composed of 83 HRDC members and 12 observers.
28 March. In 2011, in the journalNature, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler stated that "Collaboration can boost citation impact, spread costs and broaden research horizons. It has, for example, enabled IRRI researchers to tackle scientific questions on a scale once thought impossible."
And a workshop, 12 steps to successful rice production, run by the Mozambique National Institute of Agronomic Research and IRRI, kicked off a 5-day rice production workshop at the Umbeluzi Research Station in southern Mozambique, the first of its kind in the country.
30 March. In 2003, K.L. Heong, IRRI entomologist, received the 2003 Charles A. Black Award for his contributions to the advancement of science in the public policy arena.
In 2009, Prime Minister Michael Somare of Papua New Guinea visited IRRI.
1 April. In 1962, Akira Tanaka arrived as IRRI's first plant physiologist. According to IRRI’s first breeder, Peter Jennings, he was, by far, the most experienced rice scientist at IRRI in those days. His love was mineral nutrition, particularly, deficiencies, but his job at IRRI was really to take the tropical rice plant apart, analyze it—the stems, the leaves, the architecture. “He had all this experience and his contribution to the development of IR8 was equivalent to that of a breeder,” said Jennings. “He helped to define the course, the way. Without Tanaka, I think, IRRI would have struggled longer in developing the first semidwarf rice variety.”
In 2002, the first issue of Rice Today appeared. Originally published twice a year, the magazine went quarterly in 2004 to cover the International Year of Rice and has stayed that way ever since (except for 2005). It has truly become the flagship publication of the Institute and the Global Rice Partnership (GRiSP). In April 2008 in the Critique & Awards Program of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), the magazine won three Gold Awards and one Silver Award for material that appeared in the four issues published in 2007. The ACE judges commented that “the Rice Today team took often difficult and sometimes technical subjects and made them interesting to the reader. The outstanding photography highlighted a good balance between text and graphics.” As the current editor-in-chief, I’m proud to say that this is still our challenging objective as we strive to always improve the content. The complete set of past issues is archived on Scribd.
In 2007, the Steering Committee of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) endorsed David Johnsonas the leader of CURE’s Coordinating Unit.
In 2008, Achim Dobermann became IRRI’s sixth deputy director general for research. For the next 6 years, he provided strategic leadership and oversight for IRRI’s research and outreach programs. His forward-looking exit seminar warrants revisiting. Always a whirlwind of enthusiasm and ideas, I particularly enjoyed working with Achim on his IRRI Agronomy Challenge project over two dry seasons at IRRI in 2012 and 2013. This unique project being his brainchild, he could not stray far from it even during the Christmas holidays. I still remember him dragging me out to the plot to shoot a video of him applying the first fertilization of Agronomy Challenge 2 on 28 December 2012.
In 2014, Rod Wing, director of the Arizona Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona, began as AXA Chair at IRRI to lead research on comparative genomics and genome assembly of diverse types of rice, both cultivated and wild.
2 April. In 2006, as part of the Korean Seed Multiplication Project (KSMP), 25 tons of high-quality rice seed multiplied under IRRI's controlled conditions were airlifted to the National Institute of Crop Science in Korea. Korea’s achievement in rice self-sufficiency through the “Green Revolution" of the 1970s was made possible through similar past arrangements. The first KSMP for rapid dissemination of the popular Tongil variety was accomplished during the 1969-70 dry season. Another 125 tons of Korean rice seed grown in the Philippines were airlifted to Korea in 1982.
In 2008, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler appeared on BBC's Asia Business Report to say that there is a need for another Green Revolution. He also discussed the rice shortage in Asia and the scarcity of supplies.
In 2013, Yuan Longping, regarded as the 'Father of Hybrid rice,' gave the keynote speech during the sixth annual meeting of members of the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) at IRRI headquarters. Professor Yuan talked about progress made in the breeding of 'super hybrid rice.’
3 April. In 1975, the Maitim Bridge opened for access to the new experimental farm land.
In 2002, the Collaborators' Center building was renamed Gurdev S. Khush Hall during the BOT week.
In 2008, IRRI convened and hosted the inaugural meeting of the Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC). Achim Dobermann, then deputy director general for research, explained more about the Consortium in this video.
In 2014, IRRI and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) signed an agreement for the mutual protection of elite breeding lines in the Philippines.
4 April. In 1983, IRRI received the 1982 Third World Prize, an annual USD 100,000 award in recognition of an individual’s or institution’s outstanding contributions to Third World development, particularly in the economic, social, political, and scientific fields. IRRI Director General M.S. Swaminathan accepted the award in Beijing from Premier Zhao Ziyang, People’s Republic of China, and gave the associated 1983 Third World Lecture: Agricultural Progress—Key to Third World Prosperity.
In 2000, Philippine President Joseph Estrada delivered a keynote speech on Rice research and poverty alleviation, at Malacañan Palace on the occasion of IRRI's 40th anniversary.
5 April. In 1991, M.S. Swaminathan, former IRRI director general, received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. He shared the prize with C. Everett Koop, famous for his work as U.S. Surgeon General (1982-89) to prevent tobacco use, AIDS, and abortion, and for his support of the rights of disabled children.
In 2005, two success stories with IRRI ties won major awards— Three Reductions, Three Grains Program to improve environment and livelihood of millions of rice farmers in Vietnam, and Genuinely Lao, the story of the project that revolutionized rice production in Laos—in a competition sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for countries in its East Asia Division.
In 2009, the C4 Rice Project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched at IRRI. The project has involved a consortium of scientists who work together to discover the cassette of plant genes responsible for the greatest known efficiency of solar energy conversion in plant photosynthesis.
In 2013, the seventh annual NRS recognition ceremony was held at IRRI.
6 April. In 2014, IRRI staff members led by DDG-R Matthew Morell began attending the week-long 49th Annual Rice Group Meeting held at the Directorate of Rice Research in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, India, to review progress of the IRRI-India Work Plan for 2013-16.
7 April. In 2005, four members of the House of Commons from the Netherlands and staff members from the Royal Netherlands Embassy visited IRRI.
In 2016, Wayne Henry Freeman, 100, passed away in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A world-renown plant breeder, he was a Rockefeller Foundation-appointed joint coordinator of the All-India Rice Improvement Program (1966-76), Wayne worked closely with IRRI during the early days of the Green Revolution. View a clip of my IRRI Pioneer interview with him on 21 June 2008 at Michigan State University in which he talked about the importance of using best agronomic practices to attain the yield potential of rice that was gained during the Green Revolution. Read his obituary and also see a Rice Today mentioning his work in India. Noting that Wayne lived to be an active 100 years old, Russ Freed, a former IRRI rice breeder in the 1970s, stated: "Plant breeders (1) live long, (2) have impact, (3) meet presidents, and (4) have fun. What more could you ask from a career?"
In 2006, the auditorium in Chandler Hall was officially dedicated as the Robert D. Havener Auditorium. Dr. Havener spent 7 months in 1998 at IRRI serving as the Institute’s interim director general in a time of transition.
The plaque, in part reads, "With his actions and wise counsel, Bob touched millions of people. His steady hand, wisdom, sound judgment, patience, and humility, and—above all—compassion were critical to guiding IRRI through challenging times.” Bob had passed away on 2 August 2005. It was my pleasure to present to his wife Liz a miniature replicate of the plaque later during the summer of 2006 at her home in California.
Also in 2006, Florencia “Flor” Palis, postdoctoral fellow in the Entomology and Pathology Division, and the IRRI Emergency Brigade were presented with, respectively, the Director General’s 2005 Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement and the 2005 IRRI Award for Outstanding Support of IRRI’s Mission. This was the beginning of annual recognition of IRRI’s hard working national staff during BOT week.
And finally, in 2006, IRRI and the International Potato Center (CIP) made CGIAR history by becoming the first two CGIAR Centers to have a video conference using the Access Grid, which is a technology for enabling multiple locations, even dozens, to participate simultaneously in a video conference.
In 2011, through an AusAid contribution of AUD 15.4 million to IRRI, Australia extended the capacity of IRRI’s research by supporting the construction of a new state-of-the-art plant growth center and upgrades of IRRI’s experimental farm. Of course, the ground breaking for the new Lloyd T. Evans Plant Growth Facility took place this past 27 January.
8 April. In 1968, the first week-long International Rice Research Conference (IRRC) began at IRRI. There have since been 28 more IRRCs over the years. Since 2002, they have been the scientific arm of the last four International Rice Congresses, the 29th IRRC being held as part of IRC2014 last October.
In 2008, in the ongoing effort to acknowledge the contributions of outstanding performers and role models among IRRI’s national staff and to recognize those who have shown extraordinary involvement in activities that contribute to the overall improvement in effectiveness and efficiency of the Institute, the 2007 NRS awardees were announced: Alice Laborte, associate scientist in the Social Sciences Division (IRRI Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement), Norberto T. Quilloy, research technician III in plant breeding (IRRI Award for Outstanding Research Support); and the Rice Today Production and Distribution Team (IRRI Award for Outstanding Administrative Support).
In 2014, in Danang City, Vietnam, more than 90 representatives from 10 countries in South and Southeast Asia began their participation in the 3-day 13th Annual Review, Planning, and Steering Committee Meeting of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE).
In 2015, Bill Gates visited IRRI. Read IRRI DG Robert Zeigler's account of the visit.
Also in 2015, IRRI's C4 rice made MIT's 2015 list of 10 new innovations that could change the world.
9 April. In 1970, UN Secretary General U Thant visited IRRI.
In 1992, IRRI named its new USD 4.9-million Biofertilizer Laboratory after Prof. Kenzo Hemmi, an outstanding Japanese agriculturist and chair of IRRI’s Board of Trustees (1984-88) in (as the building plaque reads in part) “recognition of his vision and leadership during a time of transition. He had encouraged IRRI to increase its work on sustainability, equity, and the role of women in rice production.”
In 2002, due to impending budget cuts, the staff reduction program for nationally recruited staff began.
In 2011, addressing the 46th Annual Rice Research Group Meeting held by ICAR’s Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), IRRI DG Robert Zeigler said, “Investments in agriculture have been far too low and need to be doubled in the next couple of decades to maintain what the global community has achieved so far in terms of food security.”
10 April. In 1974, U.S. President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz visited IRRI.
In 2008, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler was quoted in a Time magazine cover story, No grain, big pain, on Asia's rice crisis: "Rice isn't just another commodity. In Asia, rice has cultural, social, and, in many places, even a religious role, so it carries much more psychological weight." In a real media blitz tied to ongoing rice crisis, on the same day, Bob appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition (1:40 into the audio clip) to discuss the situation of rice-producing nations cutting exports amid shortages.
11 April. In 2002, for developing improved rice varieties and for his contributions to increasing rice production in the Philippines, Gurdev Khush was awarded a Presidential Citation from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In 2007, the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) awarded a plaque of recognition to IRRI as one of its international partners that contributed significantly to CLSU's growth and development.
In 2008, following the BOT meeting, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler; BOT Chair Elizabeth Woods; Philippine Secretary of Agriculture (and IRRI BOT member) Arthur Yap; and BOT members Mutsuo Iwamoto (Japan), Ruth Oniang'o (Kenya), Seong-Hee Lee (Korea), Achmad Suryana (Indonesia), and M. Syeduzzama (Bangladesh); and PhilRice Executive Director Leo Sebastian, held a press conference (view video clip) on the rice price and availability with major Philippine media, which came down from Manila for the specially arranged event.
In 2012, Bruce Tolentino, my new boss, arrived as IRRI’s new deputy director general for communication and partnerships (DDG-CP). Bruce replaced William Padolina, who retired from IRRI in November 2011 after 12 years of service to the Institute. Before joining IRRI, Bruce previously worked with The Asia Foundation.
Also in 2012, the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project was recognized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as a flagship project for investment in agriculture by Richard Caldwell, senior program officer for monitoring and evaluation for the agricultural sector of the BMGF, during the inaugural session of STRASA’s 3-day review and planning workshop held at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI) in Karnal, India.
12 April. In 1975, Romanian President and Mrs. Nicolae Ceausescu visited IRRI; they both, of course, had a terrible fate 14 years later.
In 1987, Hank Beachell, former IRRI plant breeder, and Gurdev Khush, then head of IRRI’s Plant Breeding Department, went to Tokyo to share the prestigious Japan Prize, which is awarded to people from all parts of the world whose "original and outstanding achievements in science and technology are recognized as having advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind.” Nine years later, they would again share another prize, the 1996 World Food Prize!
In 2003, F.H. Abed, founder and chair of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and member of the IRRI BOT (2000-05), was awarded the 2003 Gleitsman Foundation International Activist Award for the Eradication of Poverty. See a brief clip from my IRRI Pioneer Interview with him in 2009.
In 2008, the 5th International Crop Science Congress (ICSC) began at Jeju, South Korea, with the theme Recognizing Past Achievements, Meeting Future Needs! A 24-member IRRI delegation was in attendance, headed by DG Robert Zeigler, who gave a keynote presentation, Rice Science: Key to Food Security and Environmental Health in a Changing World. He prefaced his remarks with the developing crisis on rising rice prices and shortages that are sparking concerns across Asia and the world.
In 2012, the IRRI community bade Willy Padolina a fond farewell. Willy made significant contributions over 13 years at IRRI as Director for External Relations, Deputy Director General for Partnerships, Interim Director General, Deputy Director General for Operations and Support Services, Deputy Director General for Operations, Secretary to IRRI's Board of Trustees, and Consultant. He was a great boss and mentor to me and others working in communication. In my pioneer interview with him, he said, “We should continue to regard the value—the very high value—that we put on our partners, the national networks, and the networks we are building with the private sector. It is the role of senior management and the board to make sure that these are all being managed in a very balanced way."
13 April. In 2012, the sixth annual NRS awards ceremony recognized the important contribution of nationally recruited staff to IRRI’s work and formally rewarded outstanding performance. The 2011 NRS Awards included Outstanding Scientific Achievement: Pup1 Team (Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division, composed of Sheryl C. Catausan, Anthony M. Cruz, Cheryl O. Dalid, Rico L. Gamuyao, and Eraño G. Ramos; Outstanding Research Support: Marlon C. Guerra, Specialist (applications programmer) of the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division; and, Outstanding Administrative Support: Anilyn D. Maningas, Assistant Manager II at the Training Center.
14 April. In 2011, IRRI and national rice research institutes in Bangladesh and the Philippines joined with Helen Keller International (HKI), a leading global health organization that reduces blindness and prevents malnutrition worldwide, in a new effort to further develop and evaluate Golden Rice as a potential tool to reduce vitamin A deficiency.
15 April. In 2003, T.P. Tuong was named the head of IRRI’s Crop, Soil, and Water Sciences (CSWS) Division.
In 2004, IRRI director general Ronald Cantrell announced his resignation effective at the end of the year. More on Ron’s legacy in a future blog.
In 2014, the eighth annual NRS recognition ceremony was held at IRRI.
17 April. In 2001, Shu-Huang Ou, former head of the IRRI Department of Plant Pathology (1962-78) and author of the classic book, Rice Diseases, passed away at his home in Palo Alto, California. His book is the acknowledged reference work on the subject and can be found in libraries worldwide (ISBN 0851985450). Dr. Ou had requested the lowest possible price for the book so it would be affordable to scientists who needed it. According to former IRRI plant pathologist Tom Mew, Dr. Ou believed that there was no shortcut to good research but hard work. I’m currently working with Dr. Mew and IRRI plant pathologist Nollie Vera Cruz on a long-awaited revision of Dr. Ou’s tome, scheduled for online availability in late 2015, early 2016.
In 2006, almost 2,000 IRRI staff and dependents began receiving a seasonal flu vaccination to ward off the looming avian flu threat at that time.
In 2007, a workshop on "Clearing Old Hurdles with New Science: Improving Rice Grain Quality" included the first meeting of the International Network for Quality Rice (INQR).
Also in 2007, the Philippine Society of Agricultural Engineers (PSAE) named Eugene Castro of IRRI’s Training Center as Most Outstanding Agricultural Engineer (Maramba Awardee).
In 2009, during the third annual NRS awards ceremony, IRRI recognized: Anita "Annie" Boling and Alvaro "Varoy" Pamplona for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in 2008, Anicio Macahia for Outstanding Research Support, and the Program Planning and Coordination Team for Outstanding Administrative Support.
18 April. In 1968, impressed with the performance of the rice variety that ushered in the Green Revolution, Tamil Nadu (India) farmer K.N. Ganesan named his second son IR8, IR-ettu in Tamil, who was born the same day that Mr. Ganesan harvested his first bumper crop of the variety. IR-ettu is 47 now. It is on my list of things to do to look him up again someday for a follow-up story.
In 1972, the Institute began a week-long 10th anniversary celebration attended by Ralph Cummings, Sr., who would, on 1 June 1972, become IRRI's second DG for a brief 4-month period before becoming the first DG of ICRISAT. The year 1972 is the 10th anniversary of the start of IRRI's research program. In subsequent celebrations of IRRI's founding, the date would be reset from 1960, the year of the Institute's first board meeting (see above in this blog).
In 2005, the IRRI Environmental Council held its inaugural meeting to begin implementing the Institute's Environmental Agenda.
In 2007, during the second annual IRRI NRS awards ceremony, Evangelina F. Salcedo-Ella, Edgar Amoloza, and the PBGB Rice Genetics V Secretariat and the IRRI-India Office staff, received the following awards respectively: Outstanding Scientific Achievement, Outstanding Research Support, and Outstanding Administrative Support.
Also in 2007, a delegation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation led by Bill Gates, cofounder of the Foundation and chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp., and Dr. Raj Shah, then director of the Agricultural Development Program of the Foundation, visited the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)-IRRI Joint Lab on Rice Molecular Breeding and Genetics headed by IRRI molecular geneticist Zhi-Kang Li.
19 April. In 1979, IRRI's status, prerogatives, and privileges as an international organization in the Philippines were enacted as PD (presidential decree) 1620.
In 2001, David J. Mackill took over as head of the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biochemistry (now Biotechnology) Division.
In 2008, the 19-25 April issue of The Economist featured Food and the poor: the new face of hunger, in which IRRI DG Robert Zeigler stated: “Yields cannot be switched on and off like a tap. Spreading extra fertilizer or buying new machinery helps. But higher yields also need better irrigation and fancier seeds. The time lag between dreaming up a new seed and growing it commercially in the field is 10 to 15 years. So, even if a farmer wanted to plant something more productive this year, and could afford to, he could not—unless research work had been going on for years. It has not.”
In 2010, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler participated in the 9th Annual Conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum in Redwood City, California. In a plenary session, he stated, "In fact, food security wasn’t in the headlines for the past 30 years because we had won the battle against massive hunger. We mistook having won the battle with having won the war, however, and I think that’s something that’s really got to bring us up short. I’m actually encouraged that food security is now at the top of the agenda for a group like this.
20 April. In 1972, during IRRI's 10th anniversary celebration, the Institute's so-called "Magnificent Seven" of the time gathered in the rice plots. From left in the photo: Sterling Wortman, A. Colin McLung, Hank Beachell, Jose Drilon, Forest Hill, Ralph Cummings, Sr., and Robert Chandler, Jr.. This indeed was the group that got IRRI going in the early years!
In 2005, the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of Korea and IRRI continued their collaboration in implementing the training workshop on Rice Technology Transfer Systems (RTTS)—the first of its kind in Asia. Training Center Head Mark Bell was presented with a Gratitude Plate in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the successful implementation of the RTTS and the further strengthening of the collaboration between Korea and IRRI. Past IRRI winners of “the Plate” were Ben Vergara, Gurdev Khush, and Ronald Cantrell.
In 2009, the permanent exhibit, The Grain That Sustains a Nation: Rice in China, opened at the IRRI Riceworld Museum.
23 April. In 1969, IRRI DG Robert Chandler attended the Bellagio I Meeting in Italy as part of a delegation of 15 national and international donor organizations. This 3-day meeting started a series of conferences that resulted in the formation of the CGIAR.
In 2014, as IRRI continued the re-assessment of its partnerships with the private sector, the Institute and Syngenta held a review and planning workshop for their joint Scientific Know-How and Exchange Program (SKEP).
24 April. In 2006, nineteen students from Thailand and the Philippines began the first week-long rice camp hosted by IRRI, in conjunction with the Thai Rice Foundation and the Philippine Rice Research Institute. The students worked in the rice fields, listened to various lectures, and participated in fun-filled learning activities. The BBC produced a 2:46 feature on this. In April 2007, another 20 high school students from Thailand and the Philippines participated in a second one-week training course with similar objectives.
25 April. In 1960, a copy of the land title, in the name of the University of the Philippines (purchased a Ford Foundation grant), for 37.63 hectares of experimental land was delivered to IRRI management; Certificate of Registration #265, certifying that IRRI is registered as a "trust for charitable uses," was issued by the Philippine Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
In 1989, IRRI plant breeder Gurdev Khush was elected a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Science.
In 2005, research committee members of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) arrived at IRRI headquarters to, in part, meet with their IRRI counterparts for moving forward with four Alliance Programs proposed by the two centers’ boards.
In 2012, IRRI formally unveiled the new home for its Center for the Social Sciences in Drilon Hall with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house. I shot some video featuring the ribbon cutting ceremony and comments from IRRI DG Robert Zeigler and SSD Head Sam Mohanty. While the year-long renovation was taking place in 2011 right outside my window in the Cantrell Building, I was able to take some fun photos and videos of the sequential progress.
In 2013, Eva Corazon Pagcaliwagan Reyes—whose indefatigable, creative, and passionate service to IRRI spanned more than 35 years, making a difference in the lives of those she worked with and met at IRRI—passed away. Eves was secretary at CESD, president of SINoP and AISAS for several years, and an IFEA representative for more than 10 years.
26 April. In 2007, Mahabub Hossain, economist and head of IRRI’s Social Sciences Division, gave a farewell summary of social science research at IRRI since 1992. Wrapping up his 15 years with a dual role as a researcher and administrative head in SSD, he presented a synthesis of socioeconomic studies on rice supply and demand trends in Asia and discusses constraints to increasing rice productivity, understanding rural livelihood systems, and the impact of improved rice technologies on poverty reduction. View the seminar video and the accompanying PowerPoint.
Upon retiring from IRRI, Mahabub became the executive officer of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), the largest NGO in the world. Mahabub passed away on 3 January 2016 at the age of 71.
In 2012, the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) held its 11th annual steering committee meeting in Bangkok as it marked its 10 years of delivering solutions to low productivity in fragile rice environments in Asia.
27 April. In 1984, the Electron Microscope Facility at IRRI was dedicated.
In 2009, the ADB-funded IRRI project to reduce vulnerability of crops to preharvest losses caused by planthopper pest outbreaks inaugurated a network of researchers to develop standard protocols in monitoring insecticide resistance of rice pests.
28 April. In 2004, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo honored Dr. S.K. De Datta, former IRRI agronomist and principal scientist (1964-91), with a Presidential Citation Award. In 1981, Dr. De Datta published Principles and Practices of Rice Production with John Wiley and Sons, which is recognized as a major contribution to the rice science literature.
29 April. In 2008, Prof. Elizabeth Woods, then IRRI BOT chair, was featured on ABC Radio Australia and discussed the causes of the rapidly increasing price of grains and rice and related food security, and the issue of increasing hectares of land in Indonesia being used to grow palm oil for fuel instead of food.
In 2009, the executive board of the Global Crop Diversity Trust met at IRRI to discuss strategic issues relating to genetic resources.
30 April. In 1960, University of the Philippines President Vicente G. Sinco signed a lease for all the University-owned land made available to IRRI for both buildings and experimental fields.
In 1999, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug visited IRRI to confer with researchers here. I had not seen Norm since I left the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in late 1994. It was good to catch up. His office was just above mine in the Borlaug Building at CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico during the 9 years I worked there. On his passing in 2009, I wrote a dedication to him in the October-December issue of Rice Today, where I tell the story of him knocking on my hotel room door before sunrise one day to go out to the field plots in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, to walk among the plants to see what he could learn from them. Back on 4 April 1993, I shot some great video of him interacting with CIMMYT wheat trainees in Ciuadad Obregon, during which he switched back and forth between English and Spanish as necessary.
In 2002, Lao PDR Prime Minister Boun-nhang Vorachith visited IRRI.
In 2013, Coromandel International Limited signed a memorandum of understanding with IRRI for cooperation in promoting and disseminating improved rice research technologies in India. The technologies covered in the agreement will help improve all aspects of rice cultivation, including seed quality, nutrient and crop management, water management, farm machinery, and postharvest processing.
1 May. In 1994, Rice was showcased prominently in the May issue of the National Geographic magazine. The article also featured IRRI’s work. Breeders Gurdev Khush and Darshan Brar and Director General Klaus Lampe were quoted. At the conclusion of the article, Dr. Lampe told the author, Peter White, that, because population expansion is not yet under control, researchers will have to find ways to grow more rice on less land and with less water, and with fewer inputs of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides for environmental reasons. Twenty-one years later, successful research efforts are beginning to make these goals a reality! Back in 1994, Dr. Lampe enthusiastically ordered many copies of this National Geographic issue to be distributed to stakeholders. The Communication Office still has hundreds of copies left in inventory, so, let me know if any of you on the IRRI campus would like a file copy.
In 2001, after nearly 10 years as head of IRRI’s Genetic Resources Center, Michael Jackson was appointed to the newly created management position of Director for Program Planning and Coordination (DPPC), which he held until retirement in 2010.
In 2003, an editorial in the journal Nature (Volume 423 Number 6935) stated that: "It is essential for financial support for IRRI to be mobilized. Researchers there, where research that spurred the Green Revolution was carried out, sometimes hear their success in producing abundant, high-yielding rice as a justification for cutting their budget, as if to say "your job is over". But the Institute's job is not over—it has just begun."
2 May. In 2005, IRRI was the first CGIAR center on the Access Grid (for multi-point videoconferencing) as a new 6-Mbps connection to the Asia Pacific Advanced Network was commissioned with a new "local loop" to the network test and termination point at the Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City. IRRI continues to collaborate with DOST-ASTI, most recently involving training on high-performance computing for IRRI staff members in the T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center.
In 2007, the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC) was launched during an international planning workshop on temperate rice in Suwon, Republic of Korea. The issues on temperate rice improvement include both biotic and abiotic stresses, yield potential, grain quality and nutrition, and water and nutrient management. It is recognized that the best possible solution to remove these constraints is through the consortium approach, which has been so successful in organizing collaborative research efforts for other rice ecosystems, such as the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) and the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).
In 2008, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited IRRI to witness the signing of an MOA between IRRI (DG Robert Zeigler) and the country's Department of Agriculture (Secretary Arthur Yap). The 5-year agreement focused on irrigation, technology, extension services, and credit support for farmers as part of the Philippines’ rice self-sufficiency plan.
3 May. In 2005, Vethaiya Balasubramanian, senior scientist in agronomy, was named IRRI's Africa coordinator to set up rice research and development programs in eastern, central, and southern parts of the continent, which laid the foundation for IRRI’s strong presence in the region today. Two years prior on another day in May (27), he won the 2003 International Fertilizer Association (IFA) International Award. He retired from IRRI in 2006, after 15 years of service. You can read a nice feature about this "quiet achiever" in Rice Today.
4 May. In 1980, Ben Vergara, IRRI plant physiologist, received the Philippine’s Rizal Pro Patria Medal given to a person who emulates the Rizalian concept of love of country and fulfillment of duties to citizenship and achieving meritorious individual professional advancement. Ben was one of IRRI’s first agronomists and had a long, productive career at the Institute. In 2001, he was conferred with the title of Philippine National Scientist. Just recently, there was an excellent article on his contributions in the International Journal of Philippine Science and Technology. I have erred grievously in not doing one of my IRRI pioneer interviews with him. Need to do that soon!
5 May. In 1982, IRRI and the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation (CNPIEC) co-sponsored the first IARC (international agricultural research center) book exhibition in China. The 10-day exhibition opened simultaneously in Beijing, Wugong Agricultural Research Center near Sian, and Ch’angsga. The IARCs, including CGIAR centers, such as CIAT, CIP, and CIMMYT, were not well known among publication importers in China and this unique activity at the time, spearheaded by Tom Hargrove (second from left in photo), then head of IRRI’s Communication and Publication Services, really "broke the ice."
6 May. In 1993, M. LaRue Pollard, IRRI editor, won the 1993 International Award of Excellence from the Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE) in the United States for her work at IRRI. LaRue was an editor in CPS for seven years (1986-93). She originally came to IRRI in 1981 (on leave from Iowa State University) as part of Tom Hargrove's very successful rotating 1-year visiting editor program. I arrived at IRRI the first time in 1983 in the same manner as a visiting editor from ISU. Once LaRue and I both saw the dynamic work going on at IRRI as visitors, we could not resist returning to the Institute as regular staff members.
In 1994, the Friendship Order of the Vietnamese Government was awarded to IRRI during the Vietnam-IRRI Rice Conference.
In 2014, Member countries of the Council for Partnership in Rice in Asia (CORRA) shared their visions, strategies, and plans for the development of their respective rice sectors at a workshop in Putrajaya, Malyasia. The workshop helped to ensure that the activities of IRRI and GRiSP are broadly supportive of the aspirations and plans of the CORRA members.
7 May. In 2003, Fazle Hasan Abed, then a member of the IRRI Board of Trustees and founder and chairperson of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), received an Honorary Doctorate of Education from the University of Manchester in the U.K. See a brief clip from my IRRI Pioneer Interview with him in 2009 if you didn’t catch it in my April blog when I mentioned that he won the 2003 Gleitsman Foundation International Activist Award for the Eradication of Poverty.
In 2013, IRRI hosted a new international research hub, which opened in Hanoi, Vietnam, to develop climate-smart farming technologies that reduce the impact of climate change on food production in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia.
8 May. In 2002, The University of London conferred the Doctor of Science degree on K.L. Heong of IRRI’s Entomology and Plant Pathology Division. It was the first such academic award given to an IRRI scientist based on his or her research work at the Institute. While still in the U.K., the next day, K.L. shared the prestigious 2002 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment with Monina M. Escalada (see below).
In 2008, on a segment of ANC's Prime News (Philippines), IRRI senior scientist Bas Bouman discussed the Institute's collaborative 9-point plan with the Philippines' Department of Agriculture to look for ways to meet the future rice needs of the country.
9 May. In 2002, Monina M. Escalada, professor and head of the Department of Development Communication (DDC) at Leyte State University (now Visayas State University) and long-time IRRI collaborator, and K.L. Heong won the 2002 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment for an initiative aimed at persuading a million rice farmers in northern Vietnam to stop spraying harmful and unnecessary insecticides. The Prize, which is the only international environmental prize in the U.K. awarded to authors of a paper that is perceived to have high impact on environmental conservation, is sponsored by energy company Conoco and has the world's largest annual cash award for environmental initiatives.
In 2005, IRRI kicked off a 3-day workshop on Research Prioritization on Genetic Diversification to Sustain Rice Productivity with 70 participants from China, Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
10 May. In 1991, fire broke out and severely damaged the 30-year-old Chandler Hall, which housed Administration, the Library, and CPS at the time. I hear that this indeed was a serious fire and that IRRI almost lost the Library. If anyone there at the time has some first-hand knowledge of the fire and/or photos, please get in touch with me.
In 2005, IRRI hosted a 3-day international workshop on Research Prioritization on Genetic Diversification to Sustain Rice Productivity.
In 2008, DG Robert Zeigler and breeder David Mackill discussed IRRI's work on rice that thrives despite climate change on a segment of CNN's Spirit of Survival series. View the 3:00 YouTube video.
In 2014, IRRI was featured in a major article in the Economist: The new green revolution--a bigger rice bowl. The story, quoting IRRI DG Robert Zeigler and principal scientist Abdel Ismail, emphasized that a second Green Revolution is already under way.
12 May. In 2008, IRRI held its first regional Plant Breeder Workshop in Mozambique. Eighteen plant breeders from Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Mozambique come together at Chokwe in southern Mozambique to make selections from more than 1,000 advanced breeding lines being grown at the Institute for Investigation of Agriculture Mozambique (IIAM) research station.
13 May. In 2008, Federico V. Ramos, former superintendent of the IRRI Farm (now the Experiment Station) from 1961 to 1985, and father of then University of the Philippines President Emerlinda Roman (currently IRRI BOT chair), passed away. According to IRRI DG Bob Chandler, who hired him in 1961, he handled the farm workers well, gave full cooperation to the scientists in their field experiments, and was innovative. For example, he designed and built IRRI’s first electric fence for rat control.
14 May. In 1990, IRRI hosted the week-long 2nd International Rice Genetics Symposium (Rice Genetics II), which attracted 300 scientists from 24 countries. In his opening remarks, Director General Klaus Lampe said, "I firmly believe that this symposium—which IRRI has the great honor to host—is a collection of the best minds in the world able to deal with the genetic improvement of a plant that one-third of the world’s population depends on daily." There have now been seven of these milestone symposia on rice genetics, the first one tied to IRRI’s 25th anniversary in 1985 (see 27 May further below) and the most recent one being RG7, which IRRI hosted in Manila, 5-8 November 2013, attracting more than 700 participants.
In 2014, Ediberto Redona, INGER coordinator, and Glenn Gregorio, rice breeder and deputy head of IRRI's Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division, received, respectively, the 2014 Achievement Awards for research management and research during the 44th Annual Scientific Conference of the Crop Science Society of the Philippines.
In 2007, an exciting new course at IRRI, Rice: research to production, kicked off its initial 3-week run to encourage some of the world’s best and brightest young scientists to consider careers in helping developing nations, instead of taking jobs focused on the developed world. Twenty-six participants came from Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Rwanda, Thailand, U.K., and the U.S. This popular short course, which has been held every year since, began as an idea of National Science Foundation USA of Cornell University, IRRI's Bob Zeigler, and National Science Foundation USA. It is funded by the National Science Foundation USA, the United Kingdom’s Gatsby Foundation, and IRRI. The 2015 installment is set for 10-28 August.
15 May. In 2008, during a special 45-minute program on Bloomberg Television, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler talked with Bloomberg's Michael McKee about the rise in food prices and its impact on the global economy.
18 May. In 2008, A major article above the fold in the Sunday New York Times appears about the world's poor paying the price as crop research is cut. IRRI DG Robert Zeigler stated that "Cutting back on agricultural research today is pure folly."
19 May. In 1995, IRRI was recognized as an international organization through an international agreement signed by Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos and representatives of 10 countries. On the same day, President Ramos conferred the Golden Heart Presidential Award on Klaus J. Lampe, outgoing IRRI director general. The award recognizes meritorious services to the state, particularly in economic and social development of rural areas.
20 May. In 2008, DDG-R Achim Dobermann received the 2008 IFA International Crop Nutrition Award in recognition of his pioneering research to raise rice yields and reduce nutrient losses, and his dedication to the principle that high food production, profitability, high nutrient-use efficiency, and minimal environmental impact are compatible and can be achieved through finely tuned crop management practices.
In 2011, DG Robert Zeigler was one of three persons of eminence conferred the honorary degree (honoris causa) of doctor of science by the Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUA&T) in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, India, during the University’s 27th Convocation.
In 2014, Phase 3 of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project was launched in New Delhi. With this phase, STRASA, a flagship project of IRRI, the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was extended an additional 5 years through 2018.
21 May. In 2008, IRRI hosted the 14th Inter-Institutional Communication Workshop (ICW) attended by more than 50 communication specialists from Philippine research institutions in the region.
22 May. In 2014, during the World Economic Forum for East Asia held in Manila, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler participated in a panel discussion on Agricultural Transformation in East Asia. "Climate change hastens the deterioration of rice-growing areas and of the condition of the poorest farmers, who already till unfavorable land to begin with," he said. "This also means, though, that with each successful targeted intervention, the poorest of the world’s farmers stand to benefit the most."
23 May. In 2008, Acting IRRI Director General Michael Jackson met with the Prime Minister of Thailand, Samak Sundaravej, at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Manila. Among many issues they discussed were new technologies for rice production, including varieties and hybrids that IRRI can share with Thailand. H.E. Sumak passed away on 24 November 2009.
24 May. In 1971, IRRI announced the naming of its fifth variety, IR24, with a traditional international announcement. In 1975, IRRI decided to stop this practice with IR34 being the last variety announced in this manner. IR varieties and their impact, by Gurdev Khush and Parminder Virk, provides an excellent background on the naming and release of IRRI’s varieties.
In 2011, Roland Buresh, IRRI principal scientist, was named a laureate of the 2011 Norman Borlaug Award of the International Fertilizer Industry Association. He was recognized for his work in "transforming the scientific concept of site-specific nutrient management to innovative knowledge transfer tools based on decision-support software, the Internet, mobile phones and field practices readily usable by rice growers."
25 May. In 1987, IRRI and CIMMYT in Mexico jointly received the USAID-U.S. National Research Council Science and Technology Development Award.
In 2005, the Environmental Radio Soap Operas for Rural Vietnam, an IRRI-Vietnam project, won a World Bank Development Marketplace Award. These soap operas proved to be an effective and rapid way to motivate farmers to act. These were used to reach and help more than 1 million farmers tackle virus disease outbreaks in the Mekong Delta .
In 2006, DG Robert Zeigler unveiled to staff IRRI’s new, BOT-approved strategic plan, Bringing Hope, Improving Lives. The plan, which is still a good read, has served IRRI well over the last decade and provides an excellent launching pad as we aim toward 2035.
In 2009, a new decision tool, Nutrient Manager for Rice, which helps rice farmers in the Philippines optimize their use of nutrient inputs, was made available on the Web.
26 May. In 1981, Sterling Wortman, who is considered one of the co-founders of IRRI and served as the Institute's assistant director (1960-62) and associate director (1962-64), passed away prematurely at age 58 in Greenwich, Connecticut. In his book, An Adventure in Applied Science: A History of the International Rice Research Institute, Bob Chandler emphasized that "Wortman's contribution to the progress of IRRI in those early years cannot be overestimated." Read more about Wortman's achievements at IRRI in Chandler's book.
27 May. In 1985, IRRI kicked off celebrations over the next 2 weeks to commemorate its 25th anniversary with: the 1st International Rice Genetics Symposium (IRG), the 25th Anniversary Symposium, and the FAO International Rice Commission meeting. It was also the first day of issue in the Philippines of IRRI's 25th anniversary postage stamps. In addition, two books were produced on the occasion of IRRI’s 25th anniversary—Impact of Science on Rice and International Rice Research: 25 years of Partnership.
In 2008, an external surveillance audit team awarded the ISO 14001:2004 to the IRRI Experiment Station in recognition of its commitment to environmental, safety, and health standards.
28 May. In 2009, IRRI director general Robert Zeigler received the 2009 E.C. Stakman Award for outstanding achievements in and contributions to plant pathology.
30 May. In 2009, IRRI's 2007 Annual Report on DVD won the Outstanding Professional Skill (OPS) Award in the 2009 Critique and Awards Program of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences. IRRI popular and technical publications have won many ACE awards over the years—it will be the subject of a future blog.
In 2013, Bangladesh’s first 5-ton flatbed rice dryer was installed at Rupdia, Jessore, through an agreement made between Ali Seed Farm and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia-Bangladesh (CSISA-BD), under its postharvest component. Al Schmidley, IRRI’s business model specialist, had an important role in this.
In 2014, IRRI began participation in the 5-day rice-themed Asian Book Festival of Children's Content in Singapore.
31 May. In 2011, Kshirod K. Jena, senior scientist for plant breeding and IRRI representative to the Republic of Korea, was presented an award by the Rural Development Administration (RDA) for his outstanding contributions and service to the development of agricultural research and cooperation between RDA and IRRI.
01 to 06 June
1 June. In 2001, Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, winner of the 1994 World Food Prize, future winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, and former member of the IRRI Board of Trustees (1988-94), visited the Institute and gave a seminar on The role of technology in poverty alleviation.
In 2006, the Crop, Soils, and Water Sciences (CSWS) Division and the entomology part of the former Entomology and Plant Pathology Division (EPPD) officially integrated to become the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD).
In 2009, IRRI and the CGIAR make the June issue of National Geographic Magazine in its feature, The global food crisis: The end of plenty. At that time, when funding for agricultural research was in a downward spiral, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler was quoted: "Governments thought we'd won the war on food security so they put money elsewhere." IRRI’s photo in the article had the following caption: "Skilled fingers separate good seed from bad at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños. Miracle rice varieties developed here in the 1960s doubled yields in Asia. Further growth has stalled since the mid-1990s, as investment in agriculture has declined."
2 June. In 2006, IRRI, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) of Vietnam and the World Bank, formally launched the Environmental Radio Soap Opera for Rural Vietnam and announced an environmental initiative in conjunction with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The objective was to reduce chemical pollution of the soil and farmer exposure to pesticides by developing a radio soap opera that educates farmers on environmentally sound farming practices. Read more about this unique and successful concept in the Crop Protection journal article, Entertainment-education and rice pest management: A radio soap opera in Vietnam, by K.L. Heong et al.
5 June. In 1967, IRRI kicked off its first 6-month international rice production training course with 35 participants from 6 countries, beginning a long tradition of general and specialized training courses at IRRI headquarters over the decades.
In 1996, IRRI, represented by Board Chair Roelof Rabbinge (right in photo), presented the first and only International Rice Award to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his Chitralada Villa in Bangkok, in recognition of his passionate and personal interest in and devotion to the well-being of rice farmers and consumers.
In 2001, more than 100 communicators from PhilRice, IIRR (International Institute of Rural Reconstruction), ADB, PCARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development), the IRRI Collaborators' Center, and the Los Baños Science Community attended an inter-institutional communication workshop at IRRI. Organized by our IRRI communication group, we discussed the timely topic of Science publishing using digital tools and solutions.
In 2008, China gave one of its most prestigious scientific awards, the 2007 International Science and Technology Award of the People’s Republic of China, to IRRI for making an "important contribution to improve grain output, agricultural efficiency, and income of farmers." China State Councilor Liu Yandong presented the award to IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler at a special award ceremony in Beijing. It was the first time the award was given to an organization rather than an individual.
In 2011, the IRRI community bade farewell to To Phuc Tuong, principal scientist in the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, who, for more than 20 years, served the Institute in different capacities: as water scientist, theme leader of the Challenge Program on Water and Food, division head, and acting deputy director general for research. View his farewell video.
7 June. In 1988, Robert F. Chandler, Jr., IRRI’s first director general, received the 1988 World Food Prize. You can watch an 8:07 YouTube video that was produced on the occasion of Dr. Chandler receiving this award, which was the second time this still new prestigious prize—what many call the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Agriculture if there were one—was given. M.S. Swaminathan had received the first prize in 1987. Since then, IRRI has had a historic bond with winners of the Prize, to date, nine, including A. Colin McClung, IRRI assistant director (1964-1966) and associate director (1967-1971) who shared the 2006 Prize, which was announced on 15 June 2006. Sadly, Colin passed away earlier this year on 2 Feburary.
In 2004, Dr. Mutsuo Iwamoto, then president of the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), an important IRRI supporter, visited IRRI headquarters.
In 2007, Ren Wang, outgoing deputy director general for research, gave his farewell seminar. He departed IRRI to become CGIAR director on 23 July 2007. He gave an overview of the major developments and achievements in IRRI’s research and product portfolio that he had witnessed in the 7-1/2 years that he was DDG-R. Just before he departed, he discussed challenges for IRRI during my pioneer interview with him.
After his stint in the CGIAR, Ren went on to be vice president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. Since 2013, he has been assistant director general of the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In January 2013, I made one more video clip with Ren, in which he discussed the importance of training the next generation of rice scientists at IRRI. The video was part of a successful presentation package to the Lee Foundation to convince this largest charitable foundation in Singapore to help support scholarships for promising young rice scientists—which happened later in 2013 on 10 June when the Foundation committed USD 3 million to the cause.
In 2014, a chapter on the Case for Golden Rice, by IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, appeared in the Springer book, Plant Biotechnology: Experience and Future Prospects. I learned a lot about the science of Golden Rice while working with Bob to develop this chapter.
9 June. In 1959, during an "ocular inspection" of the area, Rockefeller and Ford Foundation representatives discussed the feasibility of establishing IRRI and its possible location in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. That's IRRI co-founder George Harrar, then vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, at center in the photo.
In 2003, Harold John Nesbitt was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia on the Queen's Birthday Honours List for "Service to agriculture as project manager and agronomist on the Cambodia-IRRI-Australia Project (CIAP)." Harry joined IRRI in November 1988 as the leader of CIAP and IRRI representative in Cambodia, positions he held until the completion of the project in December 2001. Read more about Harry’s work on pages 14-19 in the very first issue of Rice Today magazine.
11 June. In 2013, a USD 12 million investment in rice research has returned more than USD 70 million in benefits to rice farmers and national economies in four Asian countries, according to a Special IRRI Report: Meta-impact assessment of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) that looked at a selection of natural resource management technologies rolled out by IRRI as part of the IRRC’s mandate in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It confirmed that the technologies delivered benefits such as increased productivity for rice farmers, improved livelihood and food security, and bolstered social cohesion.
12 June. In 2012, IRRI's 2010 annual report won the 2012 Outstanding Professional Skill Award (best of the best) in the Publishing category of the Critique and Awards Program of the U.S.-based Association of Communication Excellence (ACE) in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences, after already winning the Gold Award in the Electronic Publishing Class. View the YouTube video that we put together to show during the Award presentation in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. That Gold Award was the IRRI annual report's third such distinction in the last 4 years. The IRRI annual report won this award in the late 1990s as well when print formats only were still in vogue—see 15 June below.
13 June. In 1986, Amir U. Khan, IRRI agricultural engineer, received the International Inventor’s Award for Industry from King Carl Gustaf of Sweden at ceremonies held in Stockholm. The award recognized Dr. Khan's contributions to the farm machinery industry in developing countries such as the axial flow thresher.
In 2001, in Beijing, the China State Council presented Gurdev Khush, then IRRI principal plant breeder, with the International Scientific and Technical Cooperation Award of the People's Republic of China. On 22 June 2009, Gurdev began a 5-year stint as eminent professor at the Graduate School of Biotechnology of Kyung-Hee University in Suwon, South Korea.
In 2007, the project, Implementation plans to disseminate submergence-tolerance rice varieties and associated new production practices to Southeast Asia, was launched during a planning workshop at IRRI.
In 2008, IRRI and the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM) conducted the first-ever Farm Mechanization Field Day in southern Mozambique. More than 40 people, including local equipment manufacturers and dealers, agricultural extension officers, IIAM research staff, and farmers benefitted from the demonstrations of small-scale equipment for rice production, including 2-wheel tractors, threshers, cleaners, a drum seeder, cone weeders, IRRI Super Bags, and the IRRI moisture meter.
15 June. In 1999, again, as part of the Critique and Awards Program of ACE, IRRI received three Gold Awards and a Bronze Award for its work on the 1997-98 Corporate Report on Biodiversity: Maintaining the Balance, the 1999-2000 IRRI Publications Catalog, the Riceworld website, and photography depicting germplasm conservation in Bhutan. The Publications Catalog also received an Outstanding Professional Skill Award. IRRI has had a long history of winning awards for its high-quality popular and technical publications. For other cases in point, see also 12 June above and 25 June below.
In 2000, a major 3-day scientific gathering honoring the memory of Dr. Robert F. Chandler, Jr. kicked off at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The proceedings, Rice Research and Production in the 21st Century, is a good read. I co-authored one of the chapters, The evolving relationship between the CGIAR and national agricultural research systems, with then Director General Ron Cantrell.
In 2009, the keys to the new office of the IRRI Fund Singapore (IFS) were formally handed over by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IFS was the first of three IRRI Fund offices to be established; the two others are in Hong Kong and New Delhi.
17 June. In 2000, more than 150 scientists, scholars, and dependents attended the IRRI alumni reunion held at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The reunion followed the international symposium on Rice Research and Production in the 21st Century, honoring the late Robert F. Chandler, Jr. held on 15-17 June at Cornell (see 15 June above).
The historic photo shows some illustrious IRRI alumni who attended that day: (from left) Loyd Johnson (Engineering); Randy Barker (Economics); Ben Vergara (Plant Physiology); Akira Tanaka (Plant Physiology); Lina Vergara (Library); Kwanchai Gomez (Statistics); Colin McClung (Administration); S.K. De Datta (Agronomy); Ronnie Coffman (Plant Breeding); Harold Kauffman (Plant Pathology); Hank Beachell (Plant Breeding); and Amir Khan (Engineering).
In 2002, the IRRI intranet portal officially debuted. However, it has been down for some time for restructuring and more relevance to the IRRI community. Watch for its debut soon!
In 2007, I humbly accepted the 2007 International Award of Excellence from my professional organization, ACE. I owe this recognition to all the support I have received over the last 20 years from the incredibly professional staff of IRRI’s Communication and Publications Services (CPS), now known simply as "Communication." All the ACE publications awards that CPS won over the last two decades have truly been due to the effort of this team.
19 June. In 2000, Genoveva Loresto (at left in photo I took in Bhutan in 1997) retired after 37 years of outstanding and valuable service to IRRI in many capacities, including training and from senior associate scientist to project scientist in the Genetic Resources Center. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Eves, particularly during a 2-week germplasm collection expedition in Bhutan in October 1997 during which I went along to document. That trip is described on pages 20-23 of that award-winning 1997-98 IRRI annual report mentioned above. Unfortunately, Eves passed away on 5 April 2012 in Cebu after a long battle with cancer. Michael Jackson, former head of IRRI’s Genetic Resources Center, who worked with her for many years, writes eloquently about her, in his blog: All about Eves…
21 June. In 2002, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) hosted the first Steering Committee Meeting of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) in New Delhi, India.
22 June. In 2007, IRRI was awarded a certificate for ISO 14001, which is an internationally recognized standard for environmentally sustainable systems, and as such demonstrates IRRI’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
23 June. In 2008, IRRI hosted a 3-day International Conference on Rice Planthoppers, which have devastated millions of acres in southern China and Vietnam in recent years where increasing insecticide resistance has become a concern. Download the 406-page proceedings, Planthoppers: New Threats to the Sustainability of Intensive Rice Production Systems in Asia.
24 June. In 2002, with some fanfare, IRRI cross number IR80,000 was seeded. A little over 10 years later on 29 November 2012, we all celebrated the making of milestone cross number 100,000!
25 June. In 2013, Kaiima Bio-Agritech, an Israel-based seed and breeding technology company, and IRRI announced their partnership to develop new rice varieties.
In 2014, IRRI's 2014 Wall Calendar, Feathers in the Fields: the Birds of IRRI, won a Silver Award in the Promotional Publication Class of the Publishing Category in the Critique and Awards Program of ACE. The award was presented during ACE's annual international meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA.
26 June. In 1996, IRRI’s first web presence was launched at www.irri.org. Constant improvement of the site has been an ongoing process throughout the years.
27 June. In 1997, 250 former IRRI scientists, scholars, and dependents kicked-off the 3-day 3rd IRRI Alumni Reunion in Gainesville, Florida.
In 2007, Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and IRRI signed an agreement to expand their existing bilateral cooperation in the field of rice variety development to add increased value to Thailand's important staple. The agreement was signed by Minister Thira Sutabutr and IRRI DG Robert Zeigler.
28 June. In 2013, as part of the 2013-16 IRRI-India Work Plan, the Institute and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) signed a memorandum of understanding at TNAU to promote research, training, and exchange of information and technology on rice and its farming systems and value chains.
1 July. In 1991, Michael Jackson arrived as the first head of IRRI's Genetic Resources Center (GRC). He stayed in that role at IRRI until 2001, when he was appointed Director of Program Planning and Communication, the position he held until his retirement in 2010. You can read interesting and entertaining excerpts from my Pioneer Interview with Mike in the July-September 2010 issue of Rice Today. Related video clips are on YouTube.
In 2008, Reiner Wassmann, coordinator of IRRI’s research on rice and climate change, was formally recognized by the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for having made substantial contributions to the IPCC’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize award.
5 July. In 1999, Francis C. Byrnes, 82, IRRI's first head of Communication, passed away at his home in Reston, Virginia. This pioneer communicator served at IRRI from 1963 to 1967. In April 1998, just a year before his death, I had the honor to meet him when then Acting IRRI Director General Robert Havener introduced him to me. We had a nice chat for an hour or so. Unfortunately, I had not yet come up with the idea of doing the IRRI Pioneer Interviews. Frank, pictured at right in his IRRI office in 1965, would have made a great interview, talking about the communication and training challenges at IRRI in the 1960s. I foolishly did not even get a photo of the visit. In any event, Frank achieved a lot at IRRI during the early days from what I gleaned in Bob Chandler's book, An Adventure in Applied Science. His work after IRRI is chronicled by the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center.
7 July. In 2004, an environmental soap opera series for radio was launched in Vinh Long, Vietnam using the principles of entertainment-education (E-E) and designed to communicate integrated pest management (IPM) principles and reduced pesticide practices to Vietnamese rice farmers. This innovative approach to reach farmers with this important message would win a number of international awards, including the 2005 World Bank Development Marketplace award.
In 2008, IRRI conducted a successful 2-day Regional Plant Breeder Workshop in Tanzania.
9 July. In 2012, the IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding Hub at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, was inaugurated by IRRI DG Robert Zeigler and ICRISAT DG William Dar. The hub is part of IRRI's strategy of targeted breeding efforts for South Asia, done in collaboration with national partners in various countries in the region, and is a step toward achieving the objectives of the CGIAR Research Program on Rice-Based Production Systems through GRiSP.
10 July. In 1963, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand visited IRRI. They were among the first heads of state to visit IRRI in the early days. In the photo, His Majesty is briefed on the Institute’s research program by IRRI Associate Director Sterling Wortman.
11 July. In 2007, as part of the Public Knowledge Project, IRRI was one of more than 110 institutions that participated in the First International PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A paper presented by communication staff members was titled Scholarly Publishing Initiatives at IRRI: Linking Users to Public Goods via Open Access and published later in October in First Monday, one of the first openly accessible peer-reviewed journals on the Internet. I enjoyed working as one of the co-authors with the Communication-Library team at that time to produce the paper.
12 July. In 1986, D.L. Umali, IRRI’s special consultant and part-time liaison scientist to China (1983-92), was conferred the rank and title of National Scientist of the Philippines by President Corazon C. Aquino. He is known as the Father of Philippine Plant Breeding. He passed away in 1992 at age 74.
13 July. In 1997, IRRI’s 1995-96 Corporate Report, Listening to the Farmers, won an Outstanding Professional Skill Award, two Gold Awards and one Silver Award for writing, design, photography, and cover at the annual international Conference of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. These awards for this annual report kicked off a long string of ACE awards for IRRI up to the present day. This annual report (of which I was co-managing editor) was my first major project after my arrival at IRRI in 1995. I’m really proud of the communication on-assignment team at that time (some 18 years ago) who traveled within the Philippines, and to Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Lao PDR, and far-off Madagascar and put it all together—Carolyn Dedolph (co-managing editor), Ram Cabrera, Ariel Javellana, Sylvia Inciong, Lingkod Sayo, and the late great Bob Huggan.
In 2000, Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), IRRI principal plant breeder, received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from the University of Cambridge, England.
In 2004, the The Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance (PETRRA) Project, in partnership with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and funded by DFID, UK, organized a 1-day closing program to officially close and celebrate its successful 5-year run (1999-2004) in the country.
14 July. In 1988, Thomas Hargrove, head of the then Communication and Publications Services (CPS), received the Professional Award and the International Award of Excellence from the ACE. Read more about the late great Tom Hargrove in my January blog.
In 1997, Ramiro Cabrera, IRRI graphic designer in CPS, took his turn to win the International Award of Excellence from ACE.
In 2004, the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST) named Glenn Gregorio, then IRRI's rice breeder for Africa, as the 2004 Outstanding Young Scientist in the field of genetics.
In 2009, IRRI's Rice Database, maintained by the IRRI Library, received the Oberly Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries Science and Technology for Bibliography in the Agricultural or Natural Sciences.
In 2009, in partnership with the Asia Congress, IRRI began a 3-day Postharvest Rice Conference and Exhibition in Bangkok at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.
In 2011, after a global search, IRRI announced the appointment of Eero A. J. Nissilä as its Head of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) Division and leader of GRISP Theme 2: Accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of improved rice varieties.
In 2013, 29 members of the media, representing more than 20 agencies, attended IRRI’s Media Day, or Kanin Get It, at IRRI headquarters. The event focused on promoting IRRI’s research on high-nutrient rice and grain quality.
16-20 July. In 2014, IRRI headquarters took a direct hit from Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) on 16 July and then remained closed through 20 July to clean up and make repairs. Thank God there were no casualties. But there was much property damage, especially to the Service Building and the Cantrell Building, which forced our Communication group to move to the Library for many weeks.
See the photo showing me in my roofless office in Cantrell as drizzle from the departing storm was still coming down through the rafters. I also took a video of the storm's aftermath in IRRI staff housing—in 20 years living there, I had never seen so many downed trees! See some photos on flickr of the devasatation at IRRI and in the region. A Typhoon Glenda Task Force for Staff Support was created to assist IRRI staff affected by the storm.
18 July. In 2008, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler assumed the presidency of the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) from Luis Rey I. Velasco, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, during a turnover ceremony in conjunction with the R&D Symposium celebrating SyenSaya, the Philippines’ first science tourism event at UPLB.
Also in 2008, Science magazine featured the importance of rice research and IRRI's work in a major article, Re-inventing rice to feed the world. Then DDG-Research Achim Dobermann, among others, is quoted, "Scientists are using molecular techniques to boost resistance to diseases and pests. But with biotic stresses, it is more complicated because you’re defending the plant against pathogens and insects that are evolving." Also, IRRI’s then new 3-week Rice Research to Production Training Course was featured.
In 2009, IRRI lost a great friend when former IRRI Board of Trustees member (2001-2003) Mike Gale passed away. Dr. Gale was a John Innes Foundation Emeritus Fellow; a Professorial Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia; and a Member of the CGIAR Science Council.
19 July. In 2005, IRRI donated 70 computers to the Los Baños National High School (LBNHS) under a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the Institute and the school.
20 July. In 2004, IRRI scientists began a 1-week visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea) to assess the country's rice R&D needs and explore possible opportunities for technical cooperation.
In 2013, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler was conferred with the 2013 Leadership in Science Public Service Award by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB).
21 July. In 2008, President of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono graced the third Indonesian Rice Week at the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR), Sukamandi, West Java. Seven IRRI scientists, six from headquarters, also attended.
23 July. In 2014, in observation of Philippine Nutrition Month, IRRI organized a Forum on Food Nutrition and Security. Philippine Senator Cynthia A. Villar gave the keynote address. View some photos on Flickr.
26 July. In 2005, Haruhiko Kuroda (at right in photo with IRRI DG Robert Zeigler, left, and Deputy Director General for Research Ren Wang), the new president of the Asian Development Bank, one of IRRI’s most important and committed donors, visited the Institute.
27 July. In 1986, Hitoshi Kihara, Japanese geneticist and a member of IRRI's founding Board of Trustees and its first chair of the Program Committee, officiating at the committee's first meeting, passed away in Japan. He also gave the opening address at the very first Internatioal Symposium on Rice Genetics and Cytogenics , held 4-8 February 1963.
In 2007, for the first time, IRRI was simultaneously featured on the front page of the prestigious Wall Street Journal newspaper in New York and the front page of the Asian Wall Street Journal in Asia. An online version includes a slide show on rice and IRRI as well as a video report that summarizes the newspaper article.
31 July. In 1961, IRRI closed its first offices located at the Trinity Building in Manila and opened a new office at the Manila Hotel. IRRI Director General Robert F. Chandler moved his office from Manila to the new Los Baños headquarters, temporarily in the Service Building.29 July. In 2009, a research team led by IRRI published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) findings that emanate from the scrutiny of the genomes of 20 different types of genetically diverse rice used in international breeding.
In 2000, an international audience first became aware of Golden Rice thanks to a Time magazine cover story, This rice could save a million kids a year. With this, Ingo Potrykus became the face of Golden Rice, just 4-1/2 months after he brought the first packets of GR seeds to IRRI. See more in my January blog.
1 August. In 1990, IRRI donated 10 tons of rice to the Philippine government through then Secretary of Agriculture Senen Bacani to help victims of the earthquake in the Philippines that happened in Luzon on 16 July 1990. The earthquake's epicenter was near the town of Rizal, Nueva Ecija, northeast of Cabanatuan City. An estimated 1,620 people were killed in the earthquake, with most of the fatalities located in Central Luzon and the Cordillera region. One of the more prominent buildings destroyed was the Hyatt Terraces Hotel (see photo of damage), where at least 80 hotel employees and guests were killed. Only a few months earlier in January, Aurora and I stayed in that very same hotel. I remember looking up into its relatively hollow center structure that gave the illusion of terraced floors, and mentioned in passing to Aurora how such a structure would fair in an earthquake—well we found out much sooner than we thought.
In 2000, the Information Center, then made up of Communication and Publications Services (CPS); Visitors, Exhibition, and Conference Services (VECS); and the Library and Documentation Services (LDS), was dissolved. It seems change is inevitable every few years as units shift from one place to another or receive different names. Such is the institutional culture, I guess.
In 2012, research by Tufts University and others published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the beta carotene produced by Golden Rice is as good as beta carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children. The study demonstrates that, children, who are among those most vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency, could benefit from Golden Rice as a steady source of the nutrient.
2 August. In 1999, the IRRI Hour radio program debuted on DZLB 97.4—the UPLB FM station. It had interesting programming and features for the short time it was on the air, but the broadcast range was limited. I remember having to stand near one of the screened windows in our house to act as an antenna to pick up the signal of the broadcast! But, a noble effort nevertheless.
In 2001, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited IRRI for the first time. She was there on the occasion to unveil the first modules of the Rice Production Training series as shown here in the photo with IRRI DG Ron Cantrell. The ceremony was seen as especially appropriate by those who recalled that it was the father of President Macapagal-Arroyo, former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal, who formally inaugurated IRRI in 1962 and so launched the very first rice production training course soon after. Read more about the President’s visit in the September 2001 issue of Sandiwa.
5 August. In 2002, the IRRI Training Center first launched the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB). It has since gone through many improvements, now showcasing rice production techniques, agricultural technologies, and best farming practices based on IRRI’s pool of knowledge from research findings, learning and media resources, and in-country projects. Listen to a brief video on the history of the RKB from the head of Training Center, Noel Magor.
7 August. In 2011, The International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) paid tribute to IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler by presenting him with an International Plant Protection Award of Distinction during its annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was recognized for his outstanding contributions to international plant protection—first for his research, then for his work in agricultural development and research leadership and management contributions.
Also note that, on 7 August 2015, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, former IRRI director general among many other things, will celebrate his 90th birthday. Arguably, no living person has done more than he has to improve the lives of the poor and the marginalized. Stay tuned for more coverage of his birthday celebration, including a special article by Dr. Glenn Denning, on the legacy of MSS, to appear in Current Science.
8 August. In 2013, IRRI marked its first-ever Women in Rice Farming Day to recognize the role of women in agriculture, particularly in rice farming. The event was attended by 213 participants from the national and local government, including the Philippine legislature, the academe, media, NGOs, and the private sector. View more photos on Flickr.
Also in 2013, one of the Golden Rice field trials at Pili, Camarines Sur, Philippines, was vandalized. It was disappointing news, but as Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships, said, "It is just one trial and we will continue our Golden Rice research to improve human nutrition.” Read more and view Dr. Tolentino’s statement on YouTube, which emphasized the importance of Golden Rice research. In a petition, more than 6,000 persons and counting have given their support to Golden Rice Research.
9 August. In 2003, IRRI plant pathologist Hei Leung was named a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). And on 23 August 2013, he also received the "Lifetime Achievement for Rice Blast Research" award at the 6th International Rice Blast Conference in Jeju, South Korea.
10 August. In 2005, William G. Padolina, then IRRI Deputy Director General for Partnerships, was selected as one of the joint winners of the 2005 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Science and Technology Meritorious Award for his “qualifications and significant contributions to the development and application of science and technology in the ASEAN region.
In 2006, a gene (Sub1A) that enables rice to survive complete submergence for up to 17 days was identified by a team of researchers at IRRI and the University of California. It was announced in the journal Nature. Sub1A is an ethylene-response-factor-like gene that confers submergence tolerance to rice. The rest, as they say, is history. The time-lapse YouTube video, uploaded back in April 2011, never ceases to amaze me. Seeing is certainly believing! I’m sure there is a World Food Prize sometime in the future for the team that did this incredible work (see author list of the Nature article)!
11 August. In 2003, the Malaysian Plant Protection Society (MAPPS) selected K.L. Heong, IRRI entomologist, to receive its inaugural Award of Excellence in Plant Protection.
In 2004, the 10-nation ASEAN agreed to establish formal relations with IRRI, the beginning of the first-ever official ties between the Institute and the world's largest formal grouping of rice-producing nations.
In 2005, in the journal Nature, the participants in the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (in which IRRI played a role, specifically IRRI bioinformatics specialist Richard Bruskiewich who, as a co-author of the paper, provided annotation and analysis) present a map-based, finished quality sequence that covers 95% of the 389-megabase genome.
12 August. In 2008, H.E. President and Madame Pascal Couchepin of the Swiss Confederation visited IRRI. The group also visited the International Rice Genebank and the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment. Switzerland has been a long-time supporter of IRRI's research through its Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The photo shows Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton (left) and Dr. Zeigler (partly hidden, right) with President Pascal and his wife, Madame Brigitte.
14 August. In 1996, International School Los Baños (ISLB) opened its doors to children of international staff members, grades kinder through 6—a major development for the little ones. I know it was important for our two young children at the time not to have to take that long bus ride into Makati back in those days! Read in my April blog where I give former IRRI DG George Rothschild the lion’s share of the credit for opening ISM’s school doors at IRRI HQ—something unprecedented at the time.
16 August. In 1999, M.S. Swaminathan was named among the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Time magazine. Any guesses as to what part of Dr. Swaminathan’s anatomy makes up part of the composite Time cover?
17 August. In 2000, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen visited IRRI headquarters.
18 August. In 1994, the massive 7.5-ton MOMI sculpture of renowned Japanese artist Mitsuaki Tanabe was unveiled at the future site of the IRRI Riceworld Museum. Mr. Tanabe (at left in photo with Dr. Zeigler) recently passed away on 30 March 2015 as reported in the IRRI Bulletin.
20 August. In 2003, IRRI, represented by William Padolina, Deputy Director General for Partnerships, attended its first-ever ministerial meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
22 August. In 2011, IRRI was named one of the recipients of the first Mobile Bayani Awards in Manila for its development of the Nutrient Manager for Rice application, which enables farmers and extension agents to obtain site-specific fertilizer advice using a simple mobile phone.
25 August. In 2004, IRRI BOT Chair Keijiro Otsuka, DG Ron Cantrell, and Spokesperson Duncan Macintosh paid a courtesy call on His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in Bangkok and recognized his life-long commitment to improving the lives of poor rice farmers and consumers.
26 August. In 2009, five years later, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler (pictured with the King) and Spokesperson Duncan Macintosh have a royal audience with Hi s Majesty at the King's Klai Kangwan Palace in the coastal city of Hua Hin. They discussed the International Rice Genebank and IRRI's work in Thailand.
In 2014, during the 35th convocation ceremony of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India, IRRI director general Robert S. Zeigler was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science. View 4:12 acceptance speech on YouTube.
29 August. In 1991, H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand visited IRRI to witness the signing of a Thailand-IRRI memorandum of understanding for regional research on deepwater rice. It appears that late August is the time to confer with Thai royalty.
30 August. In 1962, Philanthropist Laurance Spelman Rockefeller (center in photo), son of John D., visited IRRI to get an overview of its work.
In 2008, in a Newsweek article, The price of survival, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler reacted to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) new Asian poverty line. The revised poverty lines don't reflect a sudden drop in conditions. Instead, they represent an attempt by development economists to, as Dr. Zeigler put it, get their "arms around the definition of poverty and articulate it in a way that [policymakers] can use effectively." To accomplish that, ADB proposed scrapping the USD 1-per-day poverty measure popularized by the World Bank in 1990 as an estimate of the per-person cost of procuring the 2,100 calories a day deemed necessary for human health.
In 2011, Southeast Asian rice farmers were harvesting an extra USD 1.46 billion worth of rice a year as a result of rice breeding—the science that brings new rice varieties to farmers—by IRRI, according to an Australian report. View related animated YouTube video.
In 2014, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler appeared on Radio Australia's RN First Bite Program to participate in the GMO-Golden Rice debate. While Dr. Zeigler admitted that more work has to be done to improve yields, with the latest field trials showing ‘mixed’ results and lower yields than non-GM varieties, he said the science has shown without doubt that eating Golden Rice improves vitamin A levels for those who need it. Access the audio (Zeigler appears in segments between 15:00 to 23:25)
1 September. In 1979, the USSR’s All-Union Academy for Agricultural Research in Krasnodar and IRRI signed a memorandum of agreement for scientific and technical cooperation.
In 2012, Bas Bouman, formerly head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, assumed the directorship of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP)—the CGIAR research program for rice. Bas thanked his staff and colleagues, saying it "is not really goodbye" as he will be staying at IRRI in his new role and interacting with many of the same people.
2 September. In 1999, fire broke out in Chandler Hall, severely damaging the auditorium and temporarily closing the Riceworld Museum.
4 September. In 1998, the International Rice Research Notes (IRRN) went online with an electronic version of its issues via the IRRI website. Of course, IRRN eventually ceased publication on 31 January 2013 after having served its purpose for many years. It expedited communication among particularly younger scientists concerned with development of improved technology for rice and rice-based cropping systems for nearly 4 decades. It was a mechanism to help scientists keep each other informed of current rice research findings. The concise scientific notes were meant to encourage rice scientists to communicate with one another to obtain details on the research reported and to give younger scientists a repository to publish their work, which may not yet have been ready for prime time in major refereed journals. All past issues dating back to 1976 are archived on Scribd. It is a great body of information that covers the 37-year existence of the publication.
In 2001, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology and the National Academy of Science and Technology awarded Benito Vergara (left), former plant physiologist and director for administration of IRRI, the rank and title of national scientist.
In 2006, the Council of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World named K.L. Heong (right) the recipient of the prestigious TWAS Prize in Agricultural Sciences for 2006 in Angra dos Reis, Brazil, during the 10th General Conference of the Third World Academy of Science.
5 September. In 2011, (1) a 4-day fourth steering committee meeting of the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC) kicked off at the All-Russian Rice Research Institute (ARRRI) in Krasnoda, Russia. The meeting was unique as it was attended by 85 scientists from 16 TRRC member countries, including scientists from IRRI and ARRRI. (2) The Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ZAAS) and the Rice Planthopper Project, headed by IRRI's K.L. Heong, jointly organized a workshop at ZAAS in Hangzhou, China, in which several advanced methods for insecticide resistance research and monitoring were discussed and planned.
6 September. In 2000, the IRRI GIS website at the newly expanded IRRI GIS/IP Laboratory of the Social Sciences Division in Umali Hall was launched. Since then, IRRI has included a lot more information on mapping.
In 2002, IRRI and PhilRice found that the transgenic rice variety, IR72, with the Xa21 gene (TT103), shows good agronomic performance in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines.
7 September. In 1960, Higamot Hill (at the center of this U.S. Air Force photograph) awaited leveling to make way for construction of the first buildings of IRRI on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. See progressive disclosure of the transition.
In 2001, IRRI signed a new 25-year lease with the University of the Philippines (UP) for the approximately 230 hectares of land housing its headquarters and experimental station in Los Baños.
In 2007, to celebrate the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute's (CLRRI) 30th anniversary, six IRRI staff members—Grant Singleton, Abdelbagi Ismail, Darshan Brar, Robert Zeigler, Il-rong Choi, and T.P. Tuong—were awarded medals in recognition of their many contributions to rice research in Vietnam.
In 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Singapore between IRRI and Syngenta to closely collaborate on undertaking rice research, building scientific capacity, and establishing a Scientific Know-how Exchange Program (SKEP).
In 2012, three IRRI scientists were among the recipients of the 2012 Ho Chi Minh Medal Prize, awarded during the 60th anniversary of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. They were Reiner Wassmann (senior scientist and coordinator, Rice and Climate Change Consortium), Gerard Barry (leader, Golden Rice Project, and coordinator, Golden Rice Network) and Romeo Labios (consultant, CLUES project; recently announced to be acting as IRRI representative in Myanmar).
9 September. In 2013, Myanmar’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MoAI), with the support of IRRI, kicked off a conference and workshop to develop the Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy and Program. Key officials of the Myanmar government and senior representatives from IRRI and donor organizations came together at the meeting in Nay Pyi Taw to recommend actions for building the country’s rice sector and identify rice research and development to support.
9-11 September. In 2012, the 3-day 6th International Hybrid Rice Symposium kicked off in Hyderabad, India, gathering scientists and policymakers from around the world to discuss developments and issues on hybrid rice. Addressing about 450 delegates from 32 countries were China's Yuan Longping, the "Father of Hybrid Rice"; IRRI DG Robert Zeigler; S. Ayyappan, director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and secretary for agricultural research and education; and Ashish Bahuguna, Indian secretary for agriculture and cooperation.
10 September. In 1997, H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed, prime minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, visited IRRI.
In 2007, DG Robert Zeigler announced the creation of the IRRI Golden Jubilee Committee to prepare for the activities that will take place during IRRI's 50th anniversary in 2010.
In 2014, the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc., recognized a paper about IRRI's Mult-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) populations project as the best paper during its annual National Science and Technology Week. View an 11-minute video on YouTube about MAGIC.
14 September. In 1995, the K.J. Lampe Laboratory (housing the transgenic greenhouse) was dedicated to IRRI's 5th Director General, Klause J. Lampe (1988-95).
16 September. In 2002, the 1st International Rice Congress (IRC) began in Beijing, attracting more than 1,000 delegates from 20 countries. President Jiang Zemin joined the 1,200 Chinese and foreign agricultural scientists and officials at the opening. He noted that it is very important that countries and world institutions meet to discuss issues concerning the development of the rice industry
17 September. In 1993, the D.L. Umali Laboratory was dedicated. Among those present were Philippine Senate President Eguardo Angara, IRRI Board Chair Walter Falcon, IRRI Director General Klaus Lampe, and Dr. Umali's widow, Zenaida Umali. Dr. Umali was a special IRRI consultant and given the rank of National Scientist of the Philippines. He passed away in 1992.
In 2012, the temperate rice research took on a new direction as the Temperate Rice Research Consortium (TRRC) revised its research strategies during its 3-day steering committee meeting at the Trakya Agricultural Research Institute in Edirne, Turkey.
19 September. In 2000, Bienvenido O. Juliano, chemist and former head of IRRI's Cereal Chemistry Department, was named a Philippine National Scientist by President Joseph Estrada.
20 September. In 1963, the International Bibliography of Rice Research was first published.
In 2007, as a part of the IRRI Board of Trustees meeting in Laos, Chair Keijiro Otsuka and Director General Robert S. Zeigler (center) visit Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh at his office in Vientiane.
21 September. In 2000, R.K. Singh, IRRI's representative and liaison scientist in India, received the Millennium Award for the promotion of the Hindi language.
22 September. In 1994, the IRRI Riceworld Museum and Learning Center, located in Chandler Hall, opened its doors. Now, for almost 21 years, the museum has presented information on rice, rice culture, and IRRI's research outputs to give the public a better appreciation of rice and its importance in the survival of billions of people, its role in the culture of many countries, and its significance as a form of livelihood for millions of rice-farming families.
20-25 September. In 2014, during a series of high-level meetings with the ministers and senior officials of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, IRRI urges ASEAN to nurture a new generation of rice scientists and extension professionals.
23 September. In 1974, the IRRI phytotron, a gift of the Government of Australia, was dedicated.
24 to 30 September
25 September. In 2014, speaking during a Brookings Institution panel discussion on eliminating hunger by 2030, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler said that immediate changes in rice production practices are necessary to offset volatile climates, limited water supply, and diminishing agricultural land. Listen to the podcast and view the transcript.
26 September. In 2006, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, H.E. Peter Beckingham, visited IRRI to get a first-hand overview of the Institute’s research activities.
27 September. In 1976, the largest addition to IRRI’s research and training operation, the Laboratory and Training Conference Center, and the D.L. Umali Laboratory (housing entomology, plant pathology, and computer services), were dedicated.
In 2010, a task force report, Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia, was jointly released by the Asia Society and IRRI during a special event at the Ford Foundation in New York City. See video, Never an empty bowl, produced by the Asia Society especially for this event.
28 September. In 2006, powerful and rain-laden Typhoon Milenyo (international name: Xangsane) makes a direct hit on IRRI with the eye passing over in the late morning. While this storm did not pack the winds of Super Typhoon Rosing on 3 November 1995 (which many use as a benchmark of recent times), it carried much more rainfall, which made it particularly destructive.
In 2009, (1) Gurdev Khush, former IRRI principal breeder, received the 2008 Mahathir Science Award from Mohd Najib, Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is Malaysia's most prestigious award for the tropical sciences. (2) IRRI began to assist affected families in the Los Baños and Bay areas in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy.
In 2011, 120 staff members of IRRI's Crop and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) and 21 from other IRRI units participated in the first PestEval. The event showcases management practices for common pests at the IRRI farm and greenhouses.
29 September. In 2002, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and IRRI co-sponsor the Asia and the Near East Agriculture and Food Security Workshop in Manila.
30 September. In 2005, IRRI presented two important proposals during the 5th ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Plus Three (AMAF Plus Three) Meeting in Tagaytay City. It was a historic event in that it was the first time ever that IRRI participated in an ASEAN meeting. The ministers noted the good progress made in conducting the activities of the pilot project in the East Asian Emergency Rice Reserve (EAERR).
In 2010, Give2Asia, in collaboration with the Asia Foundation and the Asia Society, hosted an event in San Francisco to introduce the Asia Society-IRRI task force report mentioned previously on 27 September. Discussed were the current findings in rice research which will affect food security and sustainability in Asia. See the video clips below that cover the question-and-answer session between the guest speakers and the audience.
In 2013, (1) IRRI began a busy week hosting the 13th Meeting of the CGIAR Consortium Board. Back-to-back with the CB meeting was a retreat of the board chairpersons and the directors general of the various CG Centers. View a 6-video playlist.
(2) A week-long rice awareness workshop, Walking in the shoes of farmers, kicked off for MARS ambassadors.
1 October. In 1976, the first issue of the International Rice Research Newsletter (IRRN) was distributed to rice scientists worldwide. However, less than 7 years after its 30th anniversary, as I already pointed out in my September blog, to cut costs, among other reasons, the journal ceased publication on 31 January 2013. All past issues dating back to 1976 are archived on Scribd.
In 1990, HRH Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, visited IRRI.
In 2014, more than 400 farmers from around the Philippines attending Araw ng Magsasaka sa IRRI (Farmers' Day at IRRI) learned about the latest rice-farming technologies and the effects of climate change. View more photos on IRRI’s Flickr site.
4 October. In 2003, an exhibition, with numerous IRRI contributions, on the Art of Rice: Spirit and Sustenance in Asia opened a 7-month run at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History on the UCLA campus in California, USA. My wife, Aurora, and I contributed a chapter, Let’s hope the bile is good, in the book of the same title, published for distribution during the exhibition. We also contributed a video, Preserving the Heritage of the Ifugao Rice Rituals, which looped in the exhibition hall during the event. Aurora and I attended the 4 October opening to much pomp and circumstance.
7 October. In 2008, Achim Dobermann and Marco Wopereis, the DDG-Rs for IRRI and the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), respectively, discussed how the two centers were working together to improve rice production in sub-Saharan Africa. After their presentations, WARDA DG Papa Seck and IRRI DG Robert Zeigler joined them in a panel discussion and answered questions from the audience (photo, from left, Drs. Wopereis, Zeigler, Seck, and Dobermann). View a 2:09 YouTube video.
In 2011, members of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) met at IRRI headquarters for a review of all GRiSP work in Asia and for the GRiSP Global Forum (photo). DDG-R Achim Dobermann gave a good overview. Also, as part of the event, M.A. Hamid Miah, retiring IRRI liaison scientist for Bangladesh, was recognized for 10 years of service to the Institute.
In 2013, the International Society for Plant Anaerobiosis (ISPA) kicked off its 5-day 11th international conference at IRRI headquarters. The conference drew 130 members and other scientists from around the world (photo) who are involved in research on plant responses to impeded aeration. View this video I shot of David Mackill's presentation on flood tolerance work at IRRI before Sub1. Also, see some photos on flickr.
8 October. In 2001, with more than 5,000 images available, IRRI’s Rice Photo Bank debuted online (later on, the photo collection was moved to flickr where it has grown to nearly 60,000 photos available to clients worldwide using a creative commons license).
In 2009, during a book launch for Integrated Crop and Resource Management in the Rice-Wheat System of South Asia at the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank in Manila, IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler reviewed the importance of the long-term IRRI-ADB partnership in conducting rice research. See the 5:14 YouTube video clip. This was my first of many videos shot at such occasions using my trusty hand-held Sony video camera. This one is a bit shaky because I had not yet figured out that I needed to combine a “baby” tripod with my handheld camera technique!
In 2013, Bayer Crop Science, IRRI, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) kicked off an inaugural 2-day Rice Future Forum in New Delhi. The event brought together key stakeholders from around the world to discuss challenges and opportunities for the rice industry. In the photo, GRiSP director Bas Bouman speaks to the participants.
9 October. In 2006, the week-long 2nd International Rice Congress brought to New Delhi, India, 1,383 rice researchers, traders, millers, farmers, and agriculture ministers, including 400 delegates from 45 countries other than India. This largest gathering of rice workers at the time deliberated on various aspects of rice production, commerce, and international cooperation, with a special focus on the latest research, science, and technology.
In 2008, IRRI and the National Taiwan University (NTU) reached a research cooperation agreement that established a partnership in rice-related research to boost global rice production. The agreement, signed by NTU President Lee Si-chen and IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, came at a time when global rice stocks were at their lowest in a quarter of a century.
10 October. In 1976, an IRRI group led by Director General Nyle Brady traveled to China for a historic 3-week trip that took them to most of the institutions conducting rice research as well as rice-growing communes where they interviewed actual farmers. Others in the group were economist Randy Barker, agronomist S.K. De Datta, breeder G.S. Khush, and pathologist S.H. Ou. Read Randy Barker’s recollection of that trip in a January-March 2009 Rice Today article.
11 to 17 October
11 October. In 2009, a workshop organized by IRRI on rice and drought began as a satellite event of the 3rd International Conference on Integrated Approaches to Improve Crop Production Under Drought-Prone Environments in Shanghai, China.
12 October. In 2007, IRRI was awarded the 6th Iue Asia Pacific Culture Prize during the Asia Pacific Forum of the Awaji Conference in Kobe, Japan. The prize certificate states: "Your institute has made many great contributions to reduce poverty and solve environmental problems and, through your efforts, we expect that, in the future, you will further lead the way to a multicultural society in the Asia Pacific Region."
In 2014, IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Matthew Morell began an 8-day travel in India to review ongoing collaborative activities and projects with the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), IRRI's South Asia Breeding Hub at ICRISAT, and the Bihar Agricultural University (BAU).
13 October. In 2009, in Yangon, Myanmar, U Ohn Myint, deputy minister of the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation; Carmen Thoennissen of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; and Noel Magor, head of the IRRI Training Center officially launched the website, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Irrigated Rice now the Rice Knowledge Bank, developed by IRRI through the International Rice Research Consortium.
14 October. In 2004, in Des Moines, Iowa, DG Ronald Cantrell is a guest speaker at the World Food Prize Symposium: Rice,Biofortification, and Enhanced Nutrition. In his presentation, he says, "With IRRI's strategy for the the 21st century, we will keep on target as we work with our partners, Including Monty Jones and Yuan Longping, the joint winners of the 2004 World Food Prize, to help the world's rice farmers grow their crop in an environmentally sustainable way.
In 2010, During the World Food Prize ceremonies at the Iowa State Capitol, Ms. Lauren Schefter of Mount Vernon, Iowa, was presented with the Elaine Szymoniak Award for her work as an IRRI intern in the Grain Quality, Nutrition, and Postharvest Center.
In 2013, the week-long, IRRI-hosted GRiSP Asia Review and Planning Forum began, which included presentations by young rice scientists working at the Institute and partner organizations. Videos I shot during the activities included the welcome dinner and closing remarks. IRRI Consultant Michael Joyce made a nice video of some of the participating young rice scientists.
15 October. In 1986, Philippine President Corazon C. Aquino dedicated IRRI’s new Biotechnology and Seed Health Building to the rice scientists and farmers of the world during her World Food Day visit. View this 1:28 video clip.
In 2001, a long tradition of technical reporting on rice research at IRRI came to an end with the publishing of the last Program Report (for 2000).
In 2004, IRRI's Rice Knowledge Bank passed 5 million hits since its launching in September 2002.
In 2007, Gary C. Jahn, then entomologist and IRRI coordinator for the Greater Mekong Subregion, was honored at the International Plant Protection Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, for his major contributions to the promotion of global plant protection.
In 2012, IRRI and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) celebrated World Food Day 2012 at ADB headquarters in Manila during a 2-day food bazaar and exhibition. As part of the event, Rochie Cuevas, cereal chemist at IRRI's Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (GQNC), staged a brown and white rice-tasting activity for ADB staff and visitors. I participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony with (from left in the photo) Julian Cribb, founding editor of Science Alert; me; Father Francis Lucas, chairperson emeritus of the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC); Aristeo Portugal, representative of FAO Philippines; Regente Dioneda, supervising agrarian reform officer, Department of Agrarian Reform, Philippines; and WooChong Um, deputy director general for Regional and Sustainable Development at ADB. View a video I shot of Rochie serving rice to Julian Cribb and others.
16 October. In 1982, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (center in photo flanked by IRRI agronomist S.K. De Datta and Director General M.S. Swaminathan) visited IRRI to give an address on World Food Day. I was there that day in 1982, having just arrived for my 15-month stint as a visiting editor. I took the photo. It was quite a spectacle with Imelda Marcos there too (obscured by Dr. Swaminathan in the photo).
In 1989, Klaus Lampe, IRRI director general, accepted Indonesia’s Bintang Jasa Utama, or Highest Merit Award, from President Suharto during the World Food Day ceremonies in Wonogiri, Central Java, in recognition of IRRI’s role in helping Indonesia achieve rice self-sufficiency.
In 1995, the 3rd International Rice Genetics Symposium (Rice Genetics III) began, attracting around 500 scientists. Editing the proceedings for this symposium, held at the Edsa Plaza Hotel in Manila, was one of my first major projects and products upon arriving at IRRI earlier in the year. I believe it was the first time that such an event was held in Manila instead of IRRI HQ to better handle the large number of participants logistically.
17 October. In 1986, Robert Chandler, Jr., IRRI’s first director general, received the U.S. Presidential End Hunger Award in Washington, D.C.
In 2006, IRRI participated in the 5th World Rice Commerce Conference (WRC2006) in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, attracting a record crowd of more than 200 paying delegates from around the world.
In 2011, in conjunction with World Food Day, the Science Centre Singapore and the International Rice Research Institute Fund, Singapore (IRRI Fund) teamed up to present a month-long, thought-provoking exhibition titled “9 Billion Mouths to Feed.” The exhibition and accompanying series of educational programs (at the Science Centre) takes a hard look at food security, particularly Asia’s rice supply.
18 to 24 October
18 October. In 2014, a protocol on regional cooperation that applies to rice varieties developed by IRRI was signed by IRRI and the secretaries of agriculture of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal (photo). The agreement fast-tracked the release across the three countries of any rice variety undergoing proper release protocol in any one of the countries.
19 October. In 1982, IRRI received the first biennial King Baudouin International Agricultural Research Award for its development of IR36, awarded by the CGIAR. IR36 was the first improved rice variety to have multiple resistance to all the major diseases and insects in the Philippines, including blast, bacterial blight, tungro, grassy stunt, green leafhopper, brown planthopper, and stem borer, and, in Sri Lanka and India, it had resistance to gall midge.
In wetlands, it was tolerant of soil salinity, iron and boron toxicity, and zinc deficiency; in drylands, it was tolerant of iron deficiency and aluminum toxicity, and also had a moderate level of drought resistance.
Since 1976, when Philippine farmers first planted IR36, it had become the most widely grown variety of any food crop the world has ever known. Almost 11 million hectares of IR36 were planted worldwide. I believe that is still the record. The only other grain varieties that come close to matching IR36 in farmer acceptance are Bezostaya 1, a wheat variety developed in the USSR, and an aggregation of several semidwarf wheat varieties selected from a CIMMYT cross, 8156.
20 October. In 2002, IRRI plant pathologist Tom Mew won the Friendship Prize 2002 awarded by the Jiangsu Provincial Government for his contribution to rice protection and production in China.
21 October. In 2008, at a meeting of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, the ministers of agriculture unanimously endorsed the seven-point action plan presented by IRRI. IRRI DG Robert Zeigler told the ministers that IRRI needed an additional USD 15 million a year for the next 10 years to adequately support the ASEAN Rice Action Plan. "At a time of trillion-dollar bailouts for the global financial sector, USD 15 million a year is barely the annual bonus of a former Wall Street executive," Dr. Zeigler said. The Rice Action Plan was developed by IRRI earlier in 2008, during the rice price crisis, in consultation with its partners around the region. ASEAN includes two of the world’s largest rice exporters, Thailand and Vietnam, and several importing nations as well. Just recently, on 12 September 2015, there has been much progress in the ASEAN-IRRI relationship.
Also in 2008, Rice Today magazine—the voice of rice—began a collaborative 4-year experiment with a new partnership announced in Thailand between IRRI and The Rice Trader, Inc. (TRT), publisher of the world’s premier publication on rice trade issues. The joint arrangement ended with the October-December 2012 issue.
22 October. In 1998, IRRI was awarded a Silver award in the region’s first Asian Innovation Awards conducted by The Far Eastern Economic Review.
In 2000, IRRI hosted and kicked off the 5-day 4th International Rice Genetics Symposium (Rice Genetics IV) with more than 500 participants from 28 countries, the largest meeting, to date, ever held at IRRI headquarters in Los Baños.
23 October. In 2001, IRRI soil scientist Roland Buresh was selected as a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and IRRI plant breeder Sant Virmani was selected as a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA).
25 to 31 October
25 October. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack (the only person to serve in this post for President Obama’s two terms), U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney (the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to both the Philippines and Thailand), and Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap visited IRRI to discuss rice production in the Philippines and how rice research can help improve the health and welfare of farmers and consumers, result in a better environment, and cope with climate change. In one photo, they tour the IRRI plots with IRRI DG Robert Zeigler. In the other, Aurora and I greet him in the receiving line. See the YouTube video of Secretary Vilsack’s visit.
26 October. In 2000, Senior Associate Scientist Alberto Barrion was named Outstanding Local Scientist for 2000 by the CGIAR, in Washington, D.C.
In 2007, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler was awarded the distinction of being a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
In 2009, the Municipality of Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines, unanimously approved a council resolution that extended to IRRI "our deepest gratitude and thanks for helping and giving their all-out support in the form of financial/medical assistance and other materials/goods to our constituencies as victims of Typhoon Ondoy on 26 September 2009."
27 October. In 2008, the first phase of IRRI's 7th External Program and Management Review (EPMR) began. Greg Edmeads (in photo with me during a review break), chair of the EPMR Panel, reported that “on all significant measures, IRRI meets the high standards it has set for itself. The Center is well managed, financially sound, strong in science, and appropriately engaged with partners worldwide to bring the best efforts of rice science to bear on the immense challenges on food and the environment faced by developing countries.”
In 2011, a partnership spanning almost half a century was the backdrop of the visit by the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, to IRRI headquarters. IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler, officials of the Laguna provincial government, and Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala received President Sang and his delegation, with Dr. Zeigler briefing the Vietnamese officials about IRRI’s work with Vietnam.
In 2014, the 4th International Rice Congress (IRC2014) kicked off a week long set of activities in Bangkok at the International Trade & Convention Centre (BITEC), under the patronage of the Royal Government of Thailand and organized by IRRI. Called the "Olympics of Rice Science", the event attracted around 1,500 delegates from 69 countries to discuss "Rice for the World" and its implications for half of humanity's food security.
Coverage involved the keynote presentation of IRRI DG Robert Zeigler (plus a 5:36 YouTube video highlight) and an 11-video playlist on YouTube. Also read about the 5th Temperate Rice Conference incorporated into IRC2014 and the Investors' Forum during IRC2014. Also view a pile of photos on the IRRI Flickr site.
28 October. In 2004, during the CGIAR annual meeting in Mexico, the Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains, in which IRRI has been an important major player, received the King Baudouin Award for promoting conservation agriculture, benefiting large numbers of farm families in the Indo-Gangetic plains of South Asia. Thanks to the efforts of the consortium and partners, zero tillage is now practiced on over 1.3 million hectares lowering land preparation costs and increasing farmer incomes. In 2003 alone, farmers in India and Pakistan derived USD 100 million in net estimated benefits. The consortium helped farmers plant different crops such as quality protein maize, pigeon pea, mungbean, chickpea, lentil, faba beans, potatoes, and vegetables for increasing incomes and household nutrition security.
Also in 2004, a team of IRRI scientists (Marta Vasconcelos, Karabi Datta, Norman Oliva, Mohammad Khalekuzzaman, Lina Torrizo, Sellapan Krishnan, and Swapan K. Datta) won the Science Award for the 2004 Outstanding Scientific Article, Enhanced iron and zinc accumulation in transgenic rice with the ferritin gene, published in Plant Science.
In 1993, Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos visited IRRI to open the third session of the Environmental Committee of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.
29 October. In 2002, IRRI Day, one of the early events of the 2002 CGIAR annual general meeting (AGM), brought more than 280 visitors—led by CGIAR chairman Ian Johnson—to IRRI Headquarters.
In 2003, Filipino researchers at IRRI—this time in the Genetic Resources Center (GRC)—won, for the third consecutive year, the CGIAR Excellence in Science Award for a scientific support team during the CGIAR’s Annual General Meeting in Nairobi. The winning team comprised 33 NRS in GRC who manage the International Rice Genebank and play a central role in the center’s significant scientific advances in the conservation and use of rice genetic resources.
30 October. In 2001, IRRI was the only CG center to pick up two Excellence in Science Awards during the CGIAR’s Annual General Meeting in Washington. The Institute’s hybrid rice breeding team won the award for Outstanding Scientific Support Team, and the paper, Genetic diversity and disease control in rice (Youyong Zhu, Hairu Chen, Jinghua Fan, Yunyue Wang, Yan Li, Jianbing Chen, JinXiang Fan, Shisheng Yang, Lingping Hu, Hei Leung, Tom W. Mew, Paul S. Teng, Zonghua Wang and Christopher C. Mundt) published in Nature, was chosen as the Outstanding Scientific Article.
In 2006, IRRI contributed to a major report published by the British government on the economics of climate change, authored by Sir Nicholas Stern, which suggested that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.
In 2007, Darshan Brar, head of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology, was chosen as one of two winners of the Koshihikari International Rice Prize, named after the popular rice variety grown in Japan. The Prize recognized rice researchers working in universities and international, national, and local agricultural research stations.
In 2013, the new headquarters building for the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Rice Research and Development Hub was opened and dedicated (photos) on the campus of the National University of Burundi in Bujumbura. The new building was named in honor of IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler in recognition of his many years of work in development agriculture as a scientist and research leader in Africa and other parts of the world.
In 2014, during the gala dinner of the 4th International Rice Congress, IRRI recognized another crop of five outstanding alumni, truly innovators in rice science (read about them in Rice Today), and 29 young rice scientists for their research (view 2:25 Michael Joyce video about them). Also Dr. Ramani Kumar Sarkar was the winner of the Yoshida Award for Rice Physiology Research for 2014 and Ms. Thelma Fermin Padolina was the winner of the Senadhira Rice Research Award for 2014.
31 October. In 1961, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman (center in photo) visited IRRI. He served in this post from 1961 to 1969 under both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He nominated JFK for President at the 1960 Democratic Party national convention. He passed away from complications of Alzheimer's disease on 20 February 2003 in Minneapolis. Other U.S. secretaries of agriculture who visited IRRI over the years were Earl Butz (10 April 1974) and Thomas Vilsack in 2009 (see 25 Oct. above).
In 2014, during the 4th International Rice Congress, a new IRRI-led effort was launched to seek significant reductions in greenhouse gas emmissions from rice cultivation—part of the Agriculture Initiative of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). You can also read a related article on SciDevNet.
1 to 6 November
1 November. In 1999, the IRRI website reached 10,000 international user sessions per month, during which more than 1,800 hours were spent online. By comparison, the IRRI site in 2015 has registered more than 72,000 user sessions during nearly 156,000 hours spent online.
In 2008, I went along during a 9-day tour of research stations and farms in Bangladesh and India with IRRI scientists and collaborators (photo) led by David Mackill, former IRRI senior rice breeder. It marked the successful completion of the project, From genes to farmers’ fields: enhancing and stabilizing productivity of rice in submergence-prone environments, funded for 5 years by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). See a 1:41 YouTube video that I shot of the ceremonial harvest of a Sub1 rice plot at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Rangpur. Also see the April 2009 Rice Today story that came up from this trip.
This validation of the very successful transfer of the flood-tolerant Sub1 gene to farmers’ varieties was just around 3 months from the date (31 July 2008) that IRRI Director General Bob Zeigler pointed out was the start of the second Green Revolution. For more on this, see the report on Bob’s keynote at the 4th International Rice Congress in October 2014 and my July blog.
3 November. In 1995, Super Typhoon Rosing (International name: Angela) inflicted considerable damage to infrastructure at IRRI headquarters in Los Baños. It was a catastrophic Category 5 typhoon with 180 mph (290 km/h) sustained winds. It caused PHP 9.33 billion (1995 peso) in catastrophic damage across the Philippines, resulting in 882 fatalities. At that time, it was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in 25 years. I remember that there was no power in the Los Baños area for almost a month.
Although IRRI has its own generators for the research center and staff housing, those machines were not designed to run 24-7 indefinitely. So, all IRRI staff and families had to pitch in to conserve energy. We had real blackouts when the generators were shut down for maintenance during the month of November 1995. There was also a shortage of diesel fuel in the region because so many small generators were being used by individual households to power small generators. I believe IRRI came dangerously close to not being able to keep the storage facilities in the genebank from melting down. Here is a video that I shot out the window of our place back then (where Ricardo and Nadia Oliva now live) at the IRRI staff housing.
5 November. In 1985, with encouragement from IRRI, the proposal for the establishment of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) was submitted to President Ferdinand E. Marcos who signed Executive Order 1061 (EO1061), creating PhilRice. PhilRice’s headquarters, originally located at the UPLB Campus, could not meet the envisioned manpower and program expansion. So, upon the suggestion of Prof. Kenzo Hemmi, then IRRI’s BOT chair, PhilRice sought infrastructure and technical assistance from the Government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Since its creation, PhilRice has stood by its reason-for-being: to help respond to the needs of struggling rice farmers and the country’s endeavors to attain self-sufficiency in rice.
In 2004, during the Word Rice Research Conference (WRRC) in Japan, IRRI launched its Environmental Agenda (IEA) to renew focus on the development of sustainable strategies to feed half of the world’s population that depends on rice. About 1,200 participants from 42 countries attended the WRRC, the culminating
event of the International Year of Rice 2004. Later (23 November), Director General Ron Cantrell announced the establishment of the IRRI Environmental Council (IEC), of which I was a member, with the mandate to provide a mechanism to ensure the long-term implementation, continued development, and evolution as well as success of the IEA. Now, 11 years later, I recommend to the new Director General, Matthew Morell, that IRRI Management undertake a major review of this initiative.
In 2007, DG Robert Zeigler discussed IRRI's research agenda with H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (at left in photo) during the opening ceremonies for BioAsia 2007 in Bangkok. The event featured two major scientific conferences, the 6th Asian Crop Science Association Conference and the 2nd International Conference on Rice for the Future. These conferences covered a wide range of topics from breeding, genomics, and nutrition, with more than 50 invited international speakers and more than 250 scientific posters.
Also in 2013, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler gave a presentation, The continued need for more food--contributions from the CGIAR, during a meeting of the Working Group on Bread and Brain, Education and Poverty, in Vatican City. He pointed out, “As the global population increases to a predicted nine billion by 2050, pressure mounts to produce more food without destroying the planet.” He adds that, “CGIAR is bringing donors together for better results and enabling scientists to focus more on the research through which they develop and deliver big ideas for big impact. CGIAR centers collaborate with research and development partners to solve development problems.”
As an aside to the DG’s visit to the Vatican, I tongue-in-cheek recommended to Bob that he get a Rice Today-around-the-world photo op with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the current Pope Francis. However, all he was able to send me was this shot of himself flanked by two Swiss Guards. Because he had to rush off back to IRRI for the RG7 (see below), Bob missed a great photo-op when, later in the week, Pope Francis blessed a sample of Golden Rice in the presence of GR’s inventor, Ingo Potrykus.
And finally on this busy day in 2013, the 4-day, IRRI-hosted 7th International Rice Genetics Symposium (RG7), began, which attracted more than 700 top researchers in the field of genetics and related disciplines to Manila. “Rice is an incredibly special crop, providing more than half of the planet with food every day,” said RG7 convener Eero Nissilä (at left in photo during the opening day with Segfredo Serrano, undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture, and Secretary of Agriculture Proceso Alcala). “Importantly, for plant breeders, rice has an extraordinarily diverse genetic resource base that spreads across at least 24 different species of rice,” he added.
To see what happened during this significant event, you can access a 7-video YouTube playlist that I compiled during the event—this includes clips from the media event, Let’s talk GM rice!. You can also view 58 photos on Flickr.
6 November. In 2003, K.L. Heong received the International Green Apple Environment Award from the Green Organization based in the United Kingdom. The award recognized IRRI’s insecticide reduction initiative in Vietnam, which Dr. Heong headed. Monina Escalada, Nguyen Huu Huan, and Vo Mai comprised his team in the research project. The Green Apple Environment Awards are part of an annual international campaign that recognizes, rewards, and promotes environmental best practices around the world. On 21 November 2011, for his contributions to the agricultural sciences and sustainable development, K.L. was inducted into the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) at its headquarters in Trieste, Italy.
In 2014, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler appeared on a segment of Channel NewsAsia's public affairs program, Insight, entitled "The Hungry Planet." He stated that "climate change and the effects of increasing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will change and make more challenging rice production scenarios in the future. Rising sea levels and rising temperatures are a reality."
7 November. In 2007, Roland Buresh was awarded the 2007 International Soil Science Award by the Soil Society of America (SSSA) for his leadership in formulating and disseminating practices of site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) through partnerships with national research and extension organizations and the private sector in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
In 2012, a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony opened a month-long exhibit with the theme, Building the next generation of rice scientists: Beyond 50 years of IRRI scholarships, at IRRI headquarters. The posters in the exhibit celebrated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first scholar at IRRI in April 1962. It was sponsored by the IRRI Training Center and the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees, and Residents of IRRI (AFSTRI). Reynaldo Lantin (photo), one of those early scholars (1 June 1962-1 June 1964) did some recollecting, which I recorded and placed on YouTube (27:22).
8 November. In 2012, the first IRRI Young Scientists Conference (IYSC), Sustaining excellence in rice research, was held at IRRI Headquarters with more than 300 IRRI staff and researchers (photo; where’s Waldo errr Gene?) from other countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, India, Iran, and Tanzania) attending. View a 2:47 video that I shot of a tree-planting ceremony to kick-off the conference.
In 2013, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) that battered the central Philippine islands and cited as the worst storm ever to hit the Philippines, if not the worst storm to make landfall in the recorded history of the planet, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler sent a message to the Filipino people, “In my many years in the Philippines since 1992, I have never seen devastation of this scale. Like many of you, I am deeply saddened by the great loss of life and massive destruction caused by this typhoon. We thank everyone for sending their support to the Philippines during these dark times. We’ve had many staff asking how to help so we have set up a “Yolanda Drive” that IRRI will forward to those in need.”
Also in 2013, The Temperate Rice Research Rice Research Consortium (TRRC) held its annual review and planning meeting at IRRI for the first time, attracting 50 participants from 18 countries. IRRI DG Robert Zeigler encouraged the consortium to ensure that research programs are closely aligned to consumer demand, and to embrace new challenges such as nutritional value, grain quality, and tolerance for temperature extremes (both heat and cold) during growth, which will become increasingly necessary.
10 November. In 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino presented the Golden Heart Presidential Award to M.S. Swaminathan, then IRRI director general. Over the years, the awards continued to accumulate. On 15 November 1991, Dr. Swaminathan was awarded the 1991 Honda Prize in Tokyo for his leading role in the Green Revolution movement that saved the Indian subcontinent from a serious food crisis, as part of his involvement in global activities for environment protection. See more about IRRI’s fourth DG in my April blog.
In 2002, during its 20th anniversary celebration in Manila, the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) presented IRRI with an award for working jointly in the formidable task of enabling disadvantaged farmers to become responsible and productive members of society, aided in part through salt-tolerant and tungro-resistant rice lines.
In 2012, Shri Ashish Bahuguna, secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, signed a memorandum of agreement with IRRI DG Robert Zeigler to further strengthen the institute’s collaboration with one of the largest rice-producing and -consuming countries in the world. View a 4:27 video that I shot of Bob welcoming the Secretary as well as some brief remarks from both.
In 2014, in Beijing, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler exchanged views with Chinese Vice Minister Li Jiayang on strengthening science and technology cooperation between China and IRRI. Dr. Zeigler commended the efforts and contribution made by CAAS in promoting China-IRRI partnership, and expressed IRRI's strong willingness to upgrade its cooperation with China and broaden cooperation areas. He added, “I am looking forward to the working level consultation on details of the abovementioned cooperation between IRRI and CAAS.”
11 November. In 2003, after months of scanning and doing OCR, I launched IRRI's online publications archive, which contained high-res and searchable rice research topics found in more than 480 historical scientific books (approximately 90,000 pages via 4,350 searchable pdf files) published by IRRI and collaborators since 1960. These files were transferred to Google Book Search in 2008 and, since then, have received an incredible amount of book views (> 3 million), page views (> 30 million), and pdf downloads (>164,000). This would never have been possible with these titles in hard copy format only. Many books that normally would have no longer seen the light of day, being hidden on some dusty storage shelf, suddenly were given a new life! The wonders of the digital age!
In 2012, after many hours of intense hacking to produce apps for rice research over the weekend at IRRI, the first SMART-supported BigAs Hackathon successfully culminated with the announcement of winners. The Hackathon was a two-day event that brought together computer programmers, software developers, graphic designers, and others in the IT industry to try and use their skills to solve technological challenges in agriculture, especially some of those at IRRI. View a 12-video YouTube playlist that I shot and compiled showing demonstrations of the winners and comments of supporters. Also view a pile of photos on Flickr.
12 November. In 2012, planning for the project on diversification and intensification of rice-based systems in lower Myanmar was done in Maubin Township, Ayeyarwady. The 4-year project includes research on cropping options to increase and sustain productivity of both rice-rice and rice-pulse cropping systems in the Ayeyarwady Delta. This is one component of a program on improving food security and farmer livelihoods in Myanmar.
15 November. In 2001, Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong visited IRRI. In the photo, the president (left) is inspecting IRRI's long-term continuous cropping experiment (LTTCE) with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan and IRRI DG Ronald Cantrell. It was his second visit to IRRI, illustrating the strong ties between IRRI and one of its most important national partners. Read more about the visit on page 2 of the December 2001 issue of Sandiwa.
16 to 22 November
16 November. In 1996, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori visited IRRI. In the photo, he is at left in the IRRI genebank with IRRI DG George Rothschild and GRC head Michael Jackson.
In 2006, rice production in Southeast Asia, arguably the region’s most important industry, received a major boost with the endorsement of three new strategies by the agricultural ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the 28th meeting of the Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF). Implemented and coordinated by IRRI, the new measures are aimed at three major challenges facing rice production in ASEAN, these being: (1) the environment, (2) getting the latest knowledge and information to rice farmers, and (3) developing the next generation of rice farmers and scientists.
“To have ASEAN member countries endorse these very important activities at the ministerial level is obviously a crucial step forward, and we are very grateful for such high-level political support,” said IRRI DG Bob Zeigler. “With major Asian rice producers such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar now officially part of these activities, we hope to reach out to other countries in Asia—especially China and India—for their support also.”
This was the beginning of what has become a very successful interaction among the ASEAN nations and IRRI, the most recent activity being the visit to IRRI of the ministers and dignitaries on 12 September 2015 as part of the 37th meeting of the AMAF.
In 2009, her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand officially opened the 6th International Rice Genetics Symposium with a ribbon-cutting ceremony (along with IRRI DG Robert Zeigler) at the Manila Hotel. Recognizing the significance of rice genetics in her special presentation, HRH emphasized that genetics is an essential part of a solution to the problems in the rice industry. She also mentioned other important factors such as technology transfer and capacity building, handling of rice from farmers to end consumers, and sociocultural and policymaking processes. See a 2:52 YouTube video.
The 3-day conference was attended by 777 scientists, researchers, exhibitors, and members of the media and was, to this day I believe, the largest gathering of scientists ever hosted by IRRI in the Philippines. In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Zeigler told the delegates, “The next agricultural revolution will be driven by advances in plant genetics.” This was actually the kick-off to IRRI’s incredible year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary throughout 2010, which moved down to IRRI HQ the next day, along with HRH Sirindhorn. You can read Rice Today coverage of the symposium. There are also a pile of still photos of the event on IRRI’s Flickr site. See also 17 November below and my April blog for links to various birthday celebration events in 2010 and see This month in IRRI History for November for some reminiscences of the grand finale.
17 November. In 2009, IRRI embarked, on its 50th anniversary celebrations to acknowledge how rice science has helped address food security, and to emphasize the ongoing need for rice science to tackle the challenges of poverty and climate change. HRH Sirindhorn formally launched IRRI's 50th anniversary at HQ; view the 5:25 video that I shot of HRH and IRRI DG Bob Zeigler at the ribbon-cutting ceremony (the second one in as many days). Following that, Bob stated, “The plight of over 1 billion people stricken with poverty, 70% of whom live in Asia and depend on rice as their staple food, is the driving force for our research. We must find solutions to help increase rice yields and improve the sustainability of rice production because, as rice yields increase, the incidence of poverty decreases.” The next 12 months would have special activities to draw the world’s attention to rice—the crop that feeds half the world—and opportunities to achieve global food security.
18 November. In 2004, in celebration of the International Year of Rice 2004, Host-Country Day held at IRRI attracted approximately 125 officials from various branches of the Philippine Government.
19 November. In 2005, More than 700 rice scientists and researchers from 20 countries arrived for the 5-day 5th International Rice Genetics Symposium at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel in Manila, which was the largest scientific meeting that IRRI had ever hosted in the Philippines until RGVI came along in 2009 (see 16 November above). The proceedings is available.
In 2012, The Rice Book for Kids by Norma O. Chikiamco was launched before a wide-eyed audience of children from schools near IRRI. I was the MC at this IRRI-hosted event. The 32-page book is a visual and colorful collection of facts about rice—how it is produced and processed, and how it is an important part of many cultures—written in simple and exciting language.
I said during the event, “IRRI believes that it is important to get the message out to our young people about the importance of rice.” I think this book speaks to an important audience. As future consumers, producers, or even as scientists working to improve the crop, we need to get kids excited about rice. In the photo from left in front of me are: the author Ms. Chikiamco, Ben Vergara (IRRI scientific legend who passed away on 24 October 2015), and Ms. Karina A. Bolasco, the book’s publisher from Anvil Press. View a 2:08 YouTube video clip of the event. There are also around 50 photos of the event on Flickr.
20 November. In 2009, the 3rd Foundation Day Lecture of the KIIT School of Rural Management, a constituent of KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology) University, was delivered by IRRI DG Bob Zeigler. Bob discussed Orissa State’s role as a rice bowl for eastern India and the challenges for global food security. While at KIIT, Bob and Dr. A. Samanta, KIIT founder, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of IRRI and KIIT University, respectively, to promote collaborative research work in improving the rice production and marketing system in India and neighboring countries.
Also in 2009, around 370 out of the 777 participants in the 6th Rice Genetics Symposium held in Manila came to IRRI for a tour of the research complex and experimental plots.
21 November. In 2000, the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in Phnom Penh was inaugurated. CARDI is the fruit of many years of work involving the Cambodia-IRRI-Australia project (CIAP). January 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of IRRI’s post-war (“killing fields”) involvement in a remarkable episode in agricultural history. With funding from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), CIAP was ultimately created in 1987 to solidify that effort. The January-March 2016 issue of Rice Today will feature much more on this amazing story.
In 2014, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler was featured in a Wall Street Journal weekend interview in which he is depicted as both a plant scientist and environmentalist who is Growing a second Green Revolution and championing Golden Rice, which could save millions of children from blindness and death. The author, Hugo Restall, described Bob as “an avuncular 63, but he maintains a grueling schedule.”
On GM food, Dr. Zeigler was quoted, “Ideally I would like to see the public and private sectors working on GM food in parallel, each focused on what it does best. A partnership of that sort underpinned the original Green Revolution, but it has been lost. That’s because the world has become complacent about food security. The assumption is that grain shortages are a thing of the past and we can concentrate on better nutrition and how to meet the demand for meat. While those are legitimate goals, if we take our eye off the basic staples, we could run into trouble.”
Also in 2014, Observing the 20th anniversary of IRRI's Riceworld Museum (1994-2014), the Institute held a special event for local students in the region. View a 5-video playlist of the event that I shot and compiled.
22 November. In 2002, Sant Virmani, IRRI hybrid rice breeder, received the International Service in Crop Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and J.K. Ladha, soil nutritionist, was named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). J.K. is such a great “fellow” that he was also selected as a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) on 24 November 2004.
23 to 30 November
23 November. In 1962, Princess (later Queen) Beatrix of The Netherlands visited IRRI headquarters for a brief 30 minutes, so DG Robert Chandler (left) and Associate Director Sterling Wortman gave her a quick whirlwind tour of the campus.
In 2003, David Mackill, head of the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biochemistry Division, was selected as a fellow of the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). And, in 2004, Shaobing Peng, senior crop physiologist, was named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA).
24 November. In 2010, Mun-Hue Heu, considered to be the Father of the Korean Green Revolution, passed away. With IRRI's assistance, he brought the Green Revolution to Korea. He was instrumental in developing Tong-il. a modern rice variety that helped Korea achieve self-sufficiency. It was in 1965, while working with IRRI breeder Hank Beachell, that he made the first cross between Yukara, a Japonica variety, and T(N)1, an indica variety, which ultimately led to Tong-il.
25 November. In 2009, in the face of unrelenting pressure on Asian rice production, IRRI launched a USD 300 million fund-raising campaign during a special program held in Singapore to support rice research for sustainable solutions. Via a special video prepared ahead of time for the event (see below), Jeff Raikes, then CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gave an enthusiastic message of support for the campaign (view the 1:51 YouTube video). At the same time, The IRRI Fund and its website were unveiled.
26 November. In 2014, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler signed with Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, a host country agreement that will facilitate more robust international exchange among Vietnamese and IRRI scientists and experts who will refine and implement Vietnam's rice sector strategy. This also makes IRRI the first international agricultural research center to be officially recognized as an international organization by the Government of Vietnam.View 1:40 video on YouTube.
27 November. In 2012, in Ludhiana, India, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler attended the opening of the 3-day international conference, Sustainable Agriculture for Food and Livelihood Security, part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Addressing more than 1,100 participants, Dr. Zeigler commended the PAU for having served agriculture well in the past 50 years and expressed hope that the university continues to produce the next generation of scientists that will help bring about global food security.
28 November. In 2012, in his Coromandel lecture, Cutting-Edge Rice Science for Food Security, Economic Growth, and Environmental Protection in India and Around the World, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler noted that IRRI and India have been working together since 1967 to develop and deliver ways to help Indian rice farmers improve the productivity of their rice crops. “Climate change-ready rice varieties, water-saving technologies, more nutritious rice, better access to rice market information, and mobile apps to deliver advice to farmers are just some of the technologies that will help reduce poverty and improve food security.”
In 2013, the Rice Crop Manager was launched in the Philippines. The use of the Rice Crop Manager will hopefully bring an increase in yield or productivity, and also raise the income of farmers by about PHP 4,000 per crop per hectare. “IRRI fully supports the provision of relevant technologies and decision support tools, like RCM, that improve farm production and help the Philippines in its goal to be rice self-sufficient,” said Julian Lapitan, head of Partnerships and the Philippine Desk at IRRI.
29 November. In 1966, IRRI officially announced the name of its first rice variety, IR8. It was once said that IR8 was to tropical rice what the Model T Ford was to automobiles—a rugged variety that could go almost anywhere. View an article that recounts the interesting breeding history of IR8.
In 2011, the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), which aims to make rice production and consumption more sustainable, was launched at an international forum held at IRRI. The SRP is a multi-stakeholder platform to promote resource efficiency and sustainable trade flows, production and consumption operations, and supply chains in the global rice sector. It is co-convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and IRRI. In late October 2015, the SRP launched the world’s first standard for sustainable rice, which sets new and more efficient standards for rice cultivation.
1 to 8 December
2 December. In 2008, DG Robert Zeigler attended the first meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to be held outside the United States in Hong Kong. He was on hand to witness the announcement of an IRRI commitment, Rice power: Using rice residues for bio-energy and climate change mitigation. Photo shows Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president, making the announcement and congratulating Dr. Zeigler.
Also in 2008, during the CGIAR annual general meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, IRRI's revitalized International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) won the 2008 CGIAR Science Award for its Outstanding Scientific Support Team on the national staff. Read my article about INGER on the occasion of its 40th anniversary in 2015.
In 2013, IRRI and the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) announced the discovery of a rice gene that in preliminary testing increases production by 13-36% in modern long-grain indica rice varieties.
3 December. In 2012, an agreement to help Filipino rice farmers produce more rice under the Philippines' Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) was signed by Philippine Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and IRRI DG Robert Zeigler. There are now around seven joint projects and initiatives under this program.
4 December. In 2006, at the CGIAR annual general meeting in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Alliance of CGIAR centers, IRRI DG Robert Zeigler gave a major keynote presentation titled Climate Change and Agriculture in the Tropics and Subtropics: Preparing for the Worst with a Winning Approach. He said, “The situation is urgent and the global community is demanding action and that the longer we wait, the more difficult the situation we will face.” Of course, Earth’s changing climate continues to be a big news item as the 21st Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP Paris 21) is underway as I write this. IRRI continues to work on pressing climate issues in agriculture.
In 2007, at the CGIAR annual general meeting (AGM) in Washington, D.C., Darshan Brar received the 2007 Outstanding Scientist Award, which honored original work by a senior scientist whose contributions have actual or potential regional or international significance that furthers CGIAR goals. See a 2:30 YouTube video that we prepared for the presentation, which summarizes Dr. Brar's extensive research and achievements.
Also during the 2007 AGM, the team of scientists from IRRI and the University of California (Riverside and Davis) won the CGIAR Outstanding Scientific Article Award for 2007. The article, Sub1A is an ethylene response factor-like gene that confers submergence tolerance to rice, appeared in the 10 August 2006 issue of the prestigious journal Nature. I can’t resist linking to the famous 40-second time lapse video that dramatically shows the results of this work.
And in busy time for IRRI’s recognition within the CGIAR, the 2007 AGM also presented entomologist K.L. Heong with the USD 10,000 CGIAR COM+ Award for communicating science for people and the planet through the Environmental Soap Opera Series for Rural Vietnam.
5 December. In 2006, the CGIAR genebank community, which includes IRRI's T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center, received the CG's Science Award for Outstanding Partnership at the CGIAR Annual General Meeting in Washington, D.C.
In 2008, for their landmark research leading to the development of flood-tolerant rice that can benefit farmers in flood-prone areas worldwide, Julia Bailey-Serres of UC Riverside, Pamela Ronald of UC Davis, and IRRI's David Mackill (right to left in photo) were honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the 2008 USDA National Research Initiative Discovery Award. The three scientists are, or have been, principal investigators on grants the USDA has awarded them for rice research. Their research achievements were celebrated at a ceremony at UC Riverside.
In 2012, Deputy DG for Research Achim Dobermann and Experiment Station Head Leigh Vial began the IRRI Agronomy Challenge 2, the continuation of a unique special project—or might we say IRRI’s own reality show—in which they demonstrate how to grow a productive rice crop in a 25 × 100-meter field on IRRI's research farm. Watch the saga unfold through to April 2013 in this video playlist.
In 2013, Myanmar President Thein Sein (at right with IRRI DDG-R Achim Dobermann) renewed his country’s partnership with IRRI as Myanmar launched an agricultural revolution to ensure food security and become a major producer of rice in the Asian region. Since 1965, IRRI has been involved with researchers, extension personnel, and farmers in Myanmar in introducing rice breeding material, hybrid rice technology, and locally adaptable designs of rice transplanters and threshers View a 2:54 video on YouTube and 37 photos on Flickr.
7 December. In 2001, IRRI hosted the very first Microarray and bioinformatics training workshop attended by 70 NARES (national agricultural research and extension systems) collaborators from China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Korea, Japan, and Iran.
In 2004, more than 300 bags of relief goods and supplies worth PHP 75,000 were transported by IRRI to Infanta, one of the municipalities in Quezon Province, Philippines, hit the hardest by the onslaught of November typhoons Unding, Violeta, Winnie, and Yoyong.
8 December. In 1998, Gurdev Khush, IRRI principal plant breeder, received the Rank Prize for Nutrition in London.
9 to 15 December
9 December. In 2004, long-time IRRI consultant, Gelia Castillo, received one of five 2004 Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Awards given to pioneering Filipinos by the Philippine Jaycee Senate. See an 11:08 excerpt from my IRRI Pioneer Interview with Gelia.
In 2013, IRRI committed 13 tons of high-yielding rice seeds for multiplication and distribution in the areas (central Visayas region of the Philippines) hardest hit by Typhoon Yolanda on 8 November. View eight photos on Flickr.
10 December. In 2007, Reiner Wassmann, coordinator of IRRI’s Rice and Climate Change Consortium, was formally recognized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for having made substantial contributions to the IPCC’s winning of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
11 December. In 2000, T.T. Chang, former principal geneticist and head of the Genetic Resources Center, was named a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science by Pope John Paul II. T.T. is another IRRI pioneer that I regret not interviewing as part of my audio history series. I actually had scheduled an interview at his home in Taiwan in May 2006, but then he passed away on 24 March 2006. Read more about T.T.’s legacy in my March blog.
In 2013, three new lowland rice varieties, products of the breeding efforts of IRRI, the University of Port Harcourt, and Africa Rice, were officially released in Nigeria, benefitting millions of the country's farmers.
12 December. In 1977, the Genetic Resources Laboratory was formally dedicated.
In 2001, IRRI management announced the freezing of eight vacant—or about to be vacated—internationally recruited staff positions tied to expected budget cuts in 2002. Read more about these budget-crunching times on pages 6-8 of the December 2001 issue of Sandiwa.
13 December. In 2004, the two buildings that comprised Communication and Publication Services (CPS)—where I have worked for the last 21 years—were named the Ronald P. Cantrell Building, which was part of the farewell program for IRRI's seventh director general. In 2004, the two buildings were connected by an enclosed breezeway that became the main entrance, hence they technically became one building. Also, on the same day, Ron planted a fire tree (Delonix regia) out in front of Chandler Hall—view the 0:54 video that I shot back then. In it, Ron asks, “What if the tree dies?” IRRI spokesperson Duncan Macintosh says, “If it dies, you’ll never hear about it.” Read more about Ron Cantrell’s time as IRRI DG in my September blog.
In 2006, H.M. "Hank" Beachell, IRRI’s rice-breeding pioneer and 1996 co-World Food Prize Laureate, passed away at his home in Texas. Hank had just celebrated his 100th birthday 83 days earlier on 21 September 2006. As with Ben Vergara (who passed away on 24 October 2015), I’m sorry that I was not able to do an IRRI Pioneer Interview with Hank. I bet he was full of interesting anecdotes. In any event, see this 7:22 YouTube video clip, produced in 1994, on his contributions to IRRI and the world’s poor through his rice-breeding efforts with fellow breeder Peter Jennings and geneticist T.T. Chang. Together they are considered to be the “three fathers” of IR8, the rice variety that started the Green Revolution of the 1960s.
In 2009, IRRI celebrated its 50th birthday with a fiesta for all staff members and families at headquarters. See the 5:36 YouTube video that I shot of the stunning fireworks display to conclude the evening’s festivities. And of course, how can we ever forget the performance of the Mocha Girls that evening.
14 December. In 2001, the IRRI-Korea Office (IKO) was formally inaugurated. This followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between South Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA) and IRRI in 2000. In 2010, RDA committed USD 2.09 million for cooperation, training, and support to INGER and other ongoing projects. The partnership between Korea and IRRI continues to flourish.
15 December. In 1986, S.K. De Datta, principal scientist and head of IRRI’s Agronomy Department, received the first International Soil Science Award from the Soil Science Society of America. In the photo, S.K. participates in the 138th harvest of the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment (LTCCE), which was ceremoniously harvested as part of IRRI’s 50th anniversary celebration in April 2010. S.K. managed the LTCCE from 1968 to 1991.
In 2004, IRRI officially opened its new Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (GQNC). Read the 2002 proposal of Robin Graham to create the GQNC at IRRI. Robin, a plant nutrition expert from the University of Adelaide, is at right in the photo, witnessing his proposal coming true. At left, Bienvenido Juliano, head of grain quality research at IRRI (1963-91) cuts the ribbon, while Melissa Fitzgerald, GNQC head (2004-11), and IRRI DG Ronald Cantrell look on. It was Ron’s last official act before he departed. For the last 11 years, the GQNC has helped IRRI develop rice varieties of improved visual, sensory, and nutritional quality. It has also served as a training hub where scientists from national agricultural research systems learn the most up-to-date, efficient, and cost-effective methods of evaluating rice quality and nutrition.
Also in 2004, Fazle Hasan Abed, IRRI BOT member (2001-06) and founder and chairperson of Brac, was awarded the 2004 United Nations Development Programme Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development. Of course, Sir Abed, earlier this year, won the 2015 World Food Prize. See more about this great humanitarian in my October blog.
16 to 31 December
17 December. In 2015. IRRI announced the appointment of Jacqueline d'Arros Hughes (photo left) as its eighth deputy director general for research. She will assume her duties on 30 March 2016.
18 December. In 1997, H.E. Khamtay Sikphandone, prime minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, visited IRRI.
19 December. In 2002, IRRI entered into a landmark research and capacity-building agreement with Japan's National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NIAES), paving the way for the next stage of discovery to reveal the genetic makeup of rice.
21 December. In 1987, M.S. Swaminathan Hall, which houses the Training Center, was formally dedicated in honor of M.S. Swaminathan, IRRI’s 4th director general (1982-87).
23 December. In 2012, Dennis J. Greenland, former IRRI deputy director (1979-87), passed away in the UK. An internationally renowned soil scientist, Dr. Greenland contributed more than 180 papers to scientific journals and wrote three books, including Cherish the Earth (1994) and the IRRI book, The Sustainability of Rice Farming (1997). Also see the tribute from the British Society of Soil Science.
24 December. In 2012, Yujiro Hayami, agricultural economist at IRRI (1974-77), passed away in Tokyo. A large part of the achievements of Yujiro, an internationally recognized agricultural economist, came from his experience at IRRI, including his intensive investigation over four decades of one village in eastern Laguna. Among his many works is the classic, A Rice Village Saga: Three Decades of Green Revolution in the Philippines, co-authored with Masao Kikuchi. In this post, Shenggen Fan, IFPRI director general, remembers Professor Yujiro Hayami
31 December. In 1999, U.S. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (center in photo) visited the Institute, here pictured in the rice plots with IRRI Director General Robert Chandler (gesturing with his hand), IRRI agronomist S.K. De Datta (far right), and IRRI Associate Director Colin McClung (far left). According to a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune, Agnew had attended the 30 December inauguration of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to his second term. Agnew is the only U.S. vice president to visit IRRI. Read more in my December blog.