IRRI’s association and collaboration with ICAR and State Agricultural Universities in India

MV Rao RT

M.V. Rao
Former Special Director General,
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
President, Agri Biotech Foundation,
Hyderabad, Telangana, India

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), I warmly congratulate all the rice workers for all the significant contributions they have made to increase the rice production of India and make India the second-largest producer of rice in the world. They not only increased yield and productivity, but they also developed varieties that are tolerant of or resistant to different biotic and abiotic stresses. This is a joint effort of not only the ICAR institutions and all the state agricultural universities (SAUs) of India but also of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines.

The father of the Indian nation, Mahatma Gandhi, said that “independence is good but interdependence is also important.“ This applies to the collaborative success of scientists of India and IRRI. I recollect that India, after independence, was desperately trying to increase its production of cereals, particularly rice and wheat, to stop its large dependence on imports. We had the Intensive Agriculture Development Program and the Intensive Agriculture District Program to concentrate on areas that had opportunities to increase rice production. In spite of all these efforts, production did not increase—as we did not have the right plant type that could respond to intensive agriculture.

All local Indian rice varieties were tall and had weak stems and they would lodge or fall down whenever more fertilizer inputs were applied. As such, any amount of application of inputs had no response. What we needed was short phenotypes with strong stems that could respond to inputs. In rice, the first time the semidwarf rice variety, namely, “Taichung Native 1” from Taiwan, was introduced, this variety responded to inputs and farmers showed keen interest in obtaining more seeds of these semidwarf varieties.

At this juncture, the semidwarf variety IR8 from IRRI was introduced and it spread like wildfire in the country. Subsequently, a number of improved IRRI varieties such as IR11, IR20, IR36, IR58, and IR64 were introduced, which also spread rapidly in the country. The germplasm exchanges between ICAR, SAUs, and IRRI helped Indian scientists develop a number of rice varieties by crossing Indian varieties with IRRI varieties. All this brought the much-needed rice revolution and food self-sufficiency to India.

India also greatly benefited from training its scientists at IRRI through short-, medium-, and long-term assignments. India received considerable value from this international collaboration and I hope it will continue to address additional challenges such as malnutrition, climate change, water shortage, and producing more rice with fewer inputs.

My best wishes for success for the AICRIP’s 50th Annual Rice Group Meeting.