Rice scientists focus on Asia's poor

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IRRI-GRiSP Asia Science Week

Some of the world's leading experts on rice science convene this week at the Philippine headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to review research efforts toward making rice systems work better for the poor. They are focusing on Asia, where about 90% of rice is grown.

Matthew Morell, IRRI deputy director general, underscored the importance of reducing poverty and hunger as the key motivator for current partnerships and advancements in rice research. "There is a tremendous increase in rice production that we need to facilitate. By 2050, we need to be producing 830 million metric tons annually. That is 180 million metric tons more than what we produce today," said Dr. Morell.

The Asia Science Week of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), ongoing at IRRI from 26-30 January, focuses on several priority research areas by IRRI and its GRiSP partners that include breaking genetic ground; breeding high-yielding rice with desirable traits; raising productivity in Asia's rice bowls (also known as the mega-deltas); and determining a suitable strategy for India and Bangladesh, countries in the region with the most number of poor people.

IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler said that while rice research is done mostly in Asia, there are important things to learn from challenges and research done in other parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

"GRiSP became a platform in which research in various regions around the world became familiar with one another," said Dr. Zeigler.

The social aspects of technology adoption, changing dynamics in the rice-producing and -consuming worlds, and new ways to scale out innovations in rice production are also brought to the fore during science week.

A key part of the week-long event is the Young Rice Scientists session, in which a dozen rice scientists at the early stages of their careers will be presenting their work.

This week will also mark the groundbreaking for a facility named after Australian physiologist Lloyd T. Evans. The Lloyd T. Evans Plant Growth Facility will enable simulations of various types of rice environments and help researchers better understand the effects of climate change on the growth of rice plants.

Dr. Evans was formerly a member of the IRRI board of trustees.

The facility is being constructed with the support of the Government of Australia through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), a major IRRI partner.