IRRI’S Collaborative Agronomy Research with India

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

De Datta RT

S.K. De Datta
Retired Principal Agronomist and Head,
Department of Agronomy (1964-91)
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

IRRI’s collaborative research with India was launched when the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) established the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) in Hyderabad. ICAR appointed Dr. S.V.S. Shastry, a distinguished breeder and geneticist, as its coordinator and project leader while the Rockefeller Foundation designated Wayne Freeman as the joint coordinator of AICRIP. Dr. Freeman also served with distinction as IRRI’s representative in India.

For agronomy research on rice, AICRIP appointed Gopalakrishnan Pillai while IRRI appointed Dutch agronomist Helenius Tjarks ten Have. Both coordinated AICRIP and other collaborative agronomic research at Rajendra Nagar and other sites in India.

As an agronomist at IRRI, I helped established joint research on nitrogen (N) responsiveness and yield potential of modern germplasm developed by both IRRI and AICRIP with Dr. Pillai and Dr. ten Have. This ensured quick evaluations of advanced breeding lines for their productivity and N-fertilizer responsiveness under wide ecological conditions in India. This helped in quickly establishing the yield potential of advanced breeding lines for comparison with the best local varieties and Taichung Native 1, then the best modern semidwarf, high-yielding variety.

The AICRIP-IRRI team selected promising breeding lines for evaluation in India. From trials at IRRI headquarters in the Philippines and collaborative trials with AICRIP, India was able to release a number of outstanding varieties most suitable to the country. Some of them were even suitable throughout South and Southeast Asia. We also initiated a number of research activities such as deep placement of N fertilizer for greater efficiency using mudballs, urea supergranules, and urea briquettes developed by the International Fertilizer Development Center.

AICRIP also participated in multi-country fertilizer efficiency research as part of the International Network on Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Efficiency in Rice, which I established. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation partially supported this very successful network. We also evaluated a number of low-cost herbicides such as 2,4-D and MCPA for grassy weed control in transplanted rice and several ecologically safe selective herbicides such as butachlor, thiobencarb, and molinate for weed control in direct-seeded flooded rice.

These and many other collaborative agronomic research activities between IRRI and AICRIP quickly became a model for several other national programs throughout South and Southeast Asia.