flag of IndiaIRRI-India's success began with the introduction of high-yielding rice variety IR8 dubbed "miracle rice," which helped save India from a massive famine in the 1960s. This was only the beginning of a productive partnership that has led to more than 400 improved rice varieties with resistance to pests and diseases, streamlined rice production practices, extensive information exchange with Indian scientists, and strong capacity building activities.

  • India and IRRI

  • Rice research and capacity building

  • Rice in India

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IRRI and India have been successfully collaborating for more than four decades. India has been actively involved in IRRI's priority setting, strategic planning, scientific advising, and implementation of research across South Asia. The results of this collaboration have been outstanding and have set an example in international research collaboration.

India began its partnership with IRRI through the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1967 when Indian scientists from ICAR's two main rice research centers — the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Cuttack and the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) in Hyderabad— began regularly visiting IRRI.

In 1974, director generals M.S. Swaminathan and N.C. Brady of ICAR and IRRI, respectively, signed their first memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation in research and training. This paved the way for the two institutions to sign work plans every 4 years reviewing the progress of research and identifying opportunities and areas for collaboration.

The synergy of the partnership resulted in advances in developing disease- and insect-resistant varieties suited to various rice environments, developing and releasing hybrid rice varieties bred through government and private sector programs, streamlining rice production practices, and improving postharvest technologies for improved sustainability and productivity. Both institutions trained scientists, conducted socioeconomic research, and provided equitable access to information. From 2009 to 2012, ICAR and IRRI worked together on 37 research projects including two major regional initiatives— Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) projects.

India's extensive partnership with IRRI involves about 250 institutions all over the country. Under the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), the collaboration between India and IRRI is further expanded and strengthened. Opportunities to widen the focus of partnership with India in upstream and innovative research have opened up and will facilitate the transfer of new technologies to farmers and other stakeholders along the rice value chain. A new regional rice breeding hub has also been established in India and operates in close collaboration with ICAR, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and other public and private sector institutions. The hub will help strengthen the rice breeding programs of rice-growing countries in South Asia and Africa.

ICAR and IRRI have developed an exciting and forward-looking research and development agenda for 2013-2016, which was drafted in consultation with various institutions in India. Sixteen projects have been formed under this agenda,with a focus on upstream research for crop improvement, future intensive rice systems, and others. In addition, eight new strategic projects have been proposed under GRiSP. These projects are led by Indian research institutions, with additional funding sought from the government of India.

Download the country brochure to know more about various projects and technologies brought by India-IRRI partnership.

IRRI’s work in India is supported by contributions from ICAR, the DAC; state agricultural universities (SAUs); the Government of India and its Department of Biotechnology; state agriculture departments (MOA); Asian Development Bank (ADB); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); International Initiative for Impact Evaluation; SARMAP; German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF); CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Research Program (CCAFS); Generation Challenge Programme (GCP); Japan's Ministry of Finance; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the UK (BBSRC), the Department for International Development (DFID); and the European Commission (EC).

Farmers' Interaction Meeting on BMZ Supported Project: "From Genes to farmers' Field: Enhancing and Stabilizing Productivity of Rice in Submergence-prone Environment" in India

India strengthened its rice production capacity through concerted efforts by India and IRRI to develop rice varieties with resistance to pests and diseases and stresses such as drought and flooding; to commercialize hybrid rice; to streamline production practices so they would be profitable, sustainable, and environment-friendly; and to extensively exchange information with Indian scientists and researchers along with capacity building.

Current research and development with India

Breeding better rice varieties

IRRI is developing new rice varieties for India that are tolerant of drought, flooding, salinity, and other stresses.

Exploring rice genes

IRRI is identifying rice genes that are responsible for agronomically useful traits such as reproductive stage drought tolerance to help breed improved rice varieties.

Improving grain quality and nutritional content

Through the International Network for Quality Rice (INQR), IRRI is helping Indian partners and industry players improve texture, amylose content, and other rice grain qualities.

Fine-tuning rice farming systems

IRRI aims to raise the productivity, profitability, and resilience of Indian rice farming systems while ensuring their environmental sustainability. IRRI works with Indian farmers on various crop management options such as resource-conserving technologies, direct seeding, mechanization, and postharvest to streamline production practices for both rainfed and irrigated systems.

Mapping rice areas and monitoring impact

IRRI is working with partners to map India's rice areas and provide yield estimates or potential losses from droughts, floods, or other stresses through satellite and geographic information systems.

IRRI is also monitoring the impact of adopted varieties and rice technologies through extensive household surveys and assessment of outcomes from identified metrics and indicators of development.

Coping with climate change

Through the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Research Program, a research that focuses on the development and adaptation of climate-smart technologies for sustainable intensification of farming systems in South Asia is in progress.

Similarly, a climate-informed, ICT-based agro-advisory service for major food crops is being tested for use in the region.

Addressing regional seed policies

IRRI is working closely with Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, and ICAR to speedup the process of varietal release and outscaling and facilitate the seed business across the South Asia.

IRRI facilitated signing of a protocol on cooperation by Bangladesh, India and Nepal on 18 October 2014, where all three countries agreed to share the evaluation data and varieties released in their respective countries for release and commercialization.

Key achievements

Conservation and exchange of rice germplasm

Institutions across India have deposited at IRRI duplicate samples of their rice collections. More than 17,000 types of rice at the International Rice Genebank are from India. Many of these have contributed to rice breeding programs, such as Pokkali for salinity tolerance, N22 for drought and heat tolerance, FR13A for submergence tolerance, and Oryza nivara for resistance to grassy stunt virus.

Delivery of new rice varieties, practices, and technologies

The success of the partnership between India and IRRI began with the introduction of the high-yielding rice variety IR8, dubbed miracle rice. This helped save India from a massive famine in the 1970s. This was only the beginning of a partnership that has led to more than 400 improved rice varieties that have resistance to pests and diseases, streamlined rice production practices, and extensive information exchange with Indian scientists, and capacity building.

Breeding of stress-proof rice

India was the first country to get the submergence-tolerant trait bred into local mega-varieties, through collaborative programs with IRRI. Many single and multiple stress-tolerant lines (flash flood, stagnant flood, drought, salinity, etc.) introduced by IRRI in India are now being evaluated or promoted nationally. These varieties are helping enhance and stabilize rice productivity under the ever-changing climate in the region.

Swarna-Sub1, the first flood-tolerant rice variety, was released in India in August 2009. It reached more than 1 million farmers during the wet season of 2011 and more than 3 million in 2014. Swarna-Sub1 is estimated to have covered approximately 1.5 million hectares of rice land in 2014.

Improved roll-out of hybrid rice

Hybrid rice research made a significant advance, thanks to partnership between India and IRRI. With IRRI's support, India now ranks second only to China in the commercial production of hybrid rice.

Capacity building

Between 1962 and 2014, 276 Indian researchers participated in education and training programs at IRRI. Indian scholars who have undergone training and done research at IRRI includes 110 PhDs, 16 MScs, 136 interns, and 14 research fellows. More than 1,000 Indian scientists attended short-term courses run by IRRI.

women farmers in India

Some 7,000 years ago present during India's oldest and most extensive civilization in the Indus Valley, rice farming began as a small but important part of culture. Though intensive farming may not have been possible in the areas of Mahagara, Chopani-Mando and the Vindhyan Hills, migrants in these areas likely spread rice farming down into the Ganges valley, the fertile plains of Bengal, and beyond Southeast Asia.

Apart from being widely used in a variety of dishes and as a form of sustenance, rice in India forms a significant part of the culture. During weddings, it is customary to throw rice at newlyweds or for the bride to offer rice as the first food to her husband in that rice is associated with prosperity and fertility. According to a popular Indian saying, "Two brothers should be like a grain of rice, close but not stuck together."

Early Sanskrit texts have also made references to rice. Those from the first millennium B.C. show that the god of weather, Indra, was asked for good monsoon rains and a bountiful harvest. It is believed that the scientific name of rice, Oryza, was derived from ''arisi,'' the Tamil word for rice.

India is considered to be one of the original centers of rice cultivation, covering 44 million hectares. Its rice harvesting area is the largest in the world. Around 65% of the total population in India eats rice and it accounts for 40% of the nation's food production. Rice-based production systems provide the main source of income and employment for more than 50 million households.

To know more facts about rice in India, go to

Dr. Nafees Meah

IRRI Representative for South Asia

IRRI India

1st Floor, CG Block, NASC Complex
Dev Prakash Shastri Marg, Pusa
New Delhi-110012, India
Tel: +91-1166763000