Importance of Germplasm Exchange between India and IRRI via the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER)

Seshu RT

D.V. Seshu
Former Global Coordinator of INGER,
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Consultant, International Agricultural Research
Rockville, Maryland, USA

It gives me immense pleasure to write about the successful collaboration between the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) and the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER), as I had the unique privilege of being one of the founding members of both these programs. I congratulate AICRIP on its Golden Jubilee and INGER (formerly the International Rice Testing Program), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015.

Indian rice culture covers a large geographic spread representing a wide range of ecosystems. Thus, AICRIP, a well-structured crop improvement network, has become imperative for augmenting yield and national production to levels that keep pace with the growing demand. The accomplishments of AICRIP over the past 50 years fully justified its establishment.

The national experience I gained in India served me well when I joined IRRI to coordinate INGER, despite the fact that it was more challenging to coordinate at the international level where the platform for mutual cooperation had to be built across geographic boundaries and political restrictions. With the active cooperation and committed inputs of several scientists from more than 70 countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania, INGER is now the world’s largest agricultural research network and an epitome of veritable synergy.

Although the agro-ecological diversity of rice posed a daunting challenge, the geographic diversity provided the opportunity for international cooperation. I am highly privileged to have coined the name INGER and to have directed it for more than 20 years.

The multi-disciplinary research at IRRI and in various national agricultural research and extension systems, combined with the multi-country and multi-organizational evaluation of test materials through INGER, identified several promising finished varieties as well as sources of genetic resistance to/tolerance of various biotic and abiotic stresses suitable for an array of ecosystems across the rice-growing world. Apart from that, significant information has been obtained on the nature of biotype and pathogenic variation in major rice pests and diseases, and on the interaction of rice with major weather variables. The pooled test materials from different countries represent a much-needed genetic diversity.

India has been a very significant participant of INGER since the latter’s inception. It contributed useful test material and conducted yield trials and screening tests nationwide, sharing those results with the international community of rice researchers.

Even before INGER, breeders at IRRI successfully used several traditional varieties and landraces from India for accessing traits of economic importance such as TKM 6 for stem-borer resistance and Oryza nivara for grassy stunt resistance. Around 40 Indian entries in INGER were used in IRRI-bred varietal releases. Furthermore, 35 Indian rice lines have been released as 46 varieties in 28 countries.

India has equally benefited from its partnership with INGER by directly releasing 70 entries from diverse sources to date as varieties for cultivation in different states and using several hundred test entries as parents in various breeding programs that led to the release of another 252 varieties in 24 Indian states. INGER entries were also used directly as either restorer or CMS lines that led to the release of around 40 hybrids in India.

The above accomplishments, among many others, amply testify to the extraordinary success in achieving productive collaboration between India (through AICRIP) and INGER. I fervently hope that this cooperative venture will be further fortified and carried forward to address the future needs of rice farmers, particularly in relation to water scarcity, as threats of global warming loom on the horizon. I wish both organizations much success.