Five decades of AICRIP: its growth and contribution to the rice revolution in India

Strategies to move forward

 In the last five decades, the accomplishments of AICRIP have been many and it won several accolades. The program received the Best AICRIP-Rice Award for its organization, conduct of experimentation, and significant achievements. Rice productivity has doubled and production has tripled, peaking at an all-time high of 105 million tons. Wide varietal choice of more than 1,000 HYVs/hybrids is now available because of the success of AICRIP multi-location testing of elite breeding lines and sound integrated and validated crop management practices that can further tap the unexploited potential of present-day varieties and hybrids. More than a dozen hybrids are being aggressively marketed and the area under hybrid rice has surpassed the 2 million hectare mark in the country.

Precision breeding using molecular marker technology is reaping rich dividends on account of its proven efficiency and accelerated line development. To achieve another quantum jump in yield to meet the compelling future demand for more rice, basic, strategic, and anticipatory research programs of an innovative nature in the form of networks or consortia and, more importantly, bridging the gap between technology development and its adoption through vibrant technology transfer programs are dire requirements.

Various strategies for enhancing yield potential include (1) prebreeding for widening the genetic base to further increase yield potential; (2) breaking the yield barrier through wide hybridization, exploiting hybrid vigor, allele mining, and gene discovery; (3) accelerated efforts at breeding Green Super Rice varieties suitable for Indian conditions that can withstand abiotic and biotic stresses for sustainability under changing climatic regimes; (4) tackling hidden hunger by enhancing the nutritive value of rice through conventional and genetic modification approaches; (5) agronomic manipulations to harness maximum output from shrinking resources such as land, water, and other inputs through increasing resource-use efficiency and through integrated nutrient and crop management strategies, organic farming, and Integrated crop management approaches for the sustainability of rice farming; (6) arresting  yield losses caused by biotic stresses through host-plant resistance, integrated disease and pest management strategies, and eco-friendly methods; (7) the efficient use of biomass on the farm to achieve higher energy sufficiency and the use of solar, wind, and water energy that can provide much-needed additional energy in farming systems; (8) making rice farming remunerative to rice farmers and making rice, which has become an item of commerce globally, more competitive with quality assurance; and (9) developing effective transfer of technology networks using modern information and communication technologies by giving special emphasis to the creation of online dissemination of knowledge. Futuristic and high-level research programs also include (1) the development of C4 rice and (2) designing a rice plant with biological nitrogen-fixing ability, etc.

In this context, the mature interinstitutional collaboration that exists between India and IRRI is the cornerstone for the implementation of innovative programs. The symbiotic interactions and partnerships between national and international research centers to learn, develop, and acquire from each other technologies and skills and the interpolation of this knowledge to find solutions to the emerging challenges need to be further strengthened and nurtured. A new way of organizing collaborative agricultural research was conceptualized by IRRI as the consortium approach to research, especially for rainfed environments, hybrid technology, mobilizing biotechnology approaches for rice breeding, crop modeling, germplasm management, etc. NARES and IRRI partnerships would thus have synergistic benefits, shortening the time needed to solve problems, and the knowledge so developed can be extrapolated across complex rice-growing conditions in finding viable solutions for meeting the future demand for rice.