In the early 1960s, Dr. Robert F. Chandler, Jr., said, “So far as rice is concerned, India is the most exciting place in the world today.” This is so because India has the largest rice area in the world, with varied ecosystems and abundant rich genetic diversity. Thus, there has been a firm partnership between IRRI and India in human resource development. The ICAR-IRRI collaborative program since 1974 aimed at genetic evaluation and use has helped India significantly in enhancing rice production and productivity. IRRI initiated a project similar to the AICRIP model called the International Rice Testing Program (IRTP) with India as a major partner in 1975. Later, the IRTP was renamed the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER). The main objective of INGER has always been the exchange of genetic material among researchers working under diverse rice-growing ecosystems around the globe. This effort has been instrumental in identifying and developing several hundred elite breeding lines that were either released directly or used extensively in breeding programs to develop varieties in various countries, along with India.
During the past four decades, the DRR (AICRIP) and IRRI (INGER) partnership played a vital role in strengthening the crop improvement program by facilitating access to world germplasm and India has been one of the major beneficiaries of the program. INGER nurseries covering cross ecosystems, that is, irrigated, rainfed upland, lowland, deep water, saline-alkaline, temperate, aromatic fine grain, Green Super Rice, pest/disease, etc., were conducted. Recently, during 2011-13, a total of 38 INGER nurseries with 2,072 entries were organized at 239 trial sites across India. India has immensely benefited from the germplasm and breeding lines received from IRRI.
The process over the years has resulted in the identification of 62 IRRI-bred lines and another 32 of exotic origin from other countries tested through INGER and released as varieties in India for commercial cultivation. In addition, 265 varieties released in the country have IRRI lines in the immediate parental background (Shobha Rani et al 2011-DRR Technical Bulletin No. 55/2011). Realizing the potential of hybrid rice technology, when ICAR launched a mission-mode project in 1989, IRRI actively collaborated by providing the needed germplasm and technical support. These concerted efforts enabled the country to enter into an era of development and use of hybrid rice technology, which resulted in the release of 67 public-/private-bred hybrids, with many having IRRI-bred CMS lines and restorer lines showing consistent yield superiority over local inbred varieties. Thus, the strong collaboration between ICAR and IRRI has been a standing testimony to the mutual benefit in terms of germplasm exchange and varietal improvement.
Through INGER, the exchange of germplasm and breeding material was freely effected and the germplasm supplied was screened and used in Indian breeding programs. Similarly, the rich and diverse germplasm resources of India contributed profusely to international breeding programs. Of 31 landraces used in IRRI-bred varietal release, 11 of these originated from India. Notable among them are Latisail, GEB 24, Co 18, O. nivara, Ptb 18, Ptb 21, Ptb 33, SLO 17, Soruchinnamali, N22, BJ1, Eswarakora, ARC 6650, etc. Pusa 150, developed by IARI, New Delhi, was one of the elite lines used in the development of IRRI-bred CMS lines and especially in the widely used IR58025A. Likewise, several germplasm accessions and breeding lines from India were used in breeding programs in many rice-growing countries across continents. Global adoption of 46 varieties of Indian origin emphasized the significant impact of INGER testing and added to the strength of Indian breeding programs.