The Philippines, through the Department of Agriculture, is among IRRI's top 10 donors and Filipino rice farmers some of the fastest adopters of new varieties and technologies.
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna - Senior officials of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) said Monday that Filipino farmers and consumers are expected to benefit further from the ongoing research collaboration between the DA and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Agriculture officials expressed optimism regarding the various components of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) during a program review from 6-8 April 2015 at IRRI headquarters.
“The agriculture department, as an implementing agency, is assuming a scientific approach with interventions geared towards improving the productivity of our farmers. We need research breakthroughs for this," said Undersecretary for Field Operations Emerson Palad. "We want to enhance our decision-making by familiarizing ourselves with different factors affecting the rice sectors, both in the Philippines and globally."
“The cooperation between IRRI, PhilRice, and the DA is such that the approach towards improving the Philippine rice sector is comprehensive and scientific,” added Palad.
Sustained and accessible rice supplies, and globally competitive Filipino rice farmers— enjoying high productivity and higher income—are the overarching goals of the seven multi-disciplinary projects comprising the FSSP’s rice research and development component.
Central to the DA and IRRI's research agenda is helping the poorest farmers who till the most unfavorable soil. In addition to better varieties and technologies, the partnership includes strengthening the extension system and informing policy.
According to IRRI Deputy Director General Bruce Tolentino, “farmers in the Philippines are facing greater challenges with a continuously growing population and ever-scarcer land and natural resources. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges”. Tolentino added that improved agricultural technology developed through advanced scientific research is necessary to overcome these challenges in the long term.
Specifically, technologies that help increase productivity in areas suffering from negative effects of climate change are now being made available to rice farmers. Philippine and IRRI scientists are working to institutionalize farmer-level protocols on varietal evaluations to accelerate the development and deployment of new and improved rice varieties.
Philippine extension professionals will benefit from training and the use of tools that allow faster information transfer using information and communication technology. In addition, policies formulated through accurate and ground-validated information, as well as knowledge of policies that have spurred growth of rice sectors in neighboring countries, will help the country achieve food security.
Critical improvements are being made to IRRI’s breeding infrastructure, which needs to be more responsive to the requirements of current and future rice demand. Responsiveness requires increasing rice genetic gain in yield and pursuing an agenda that’s driven by what consumers need and prefer. Taken together, these improvements are called Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At Breeders' Week, several updates were presented, which include development of profiles of rice preferred in selected countries in Southeast Asia and Africa; market research on types of rice consumers prefer; updates on the irrigated variety development pipeline that now benefits from an expedited breeding process; breeding hubs in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; grain quality and how it integrates into the development of high-yielding rice varieties with desirable traits; managing information through bioinformatics; genotyping services; partnerships within the hybrid rice development program; and exploration of rice's diversity for breeding.
IRRI is part of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), a platform for impact-oriented rice research for development with more than 900 rice research and development partners worldwide.