Rice, Climate Change, and Environment: Achievements in the India-IRRI Collaboration

H Pathak RT

Himanshu Pathak
Center for Environment Science and Climate Resilient Agriculture,
Indian Agricultural Research Institute,
New Delhi, India

Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, and national agricultural research, education, and extension systems in India have been successfully collaborating on rice, climate change, and environment for the last four decades. The studies on the impacts of climate change on rice productivity began at IRRI and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, in the 1970s.

A major milestone of this collaboration was the Methane Emission from Rice Fields project implemented at IARI and the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Cuttack, Odisha, in the 1990s. This project helped in developing infrastructure and human resources for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Subsequently, through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security, several technologies, including multiple stress-tolerant rice genotypes such as Swarna-Sub1 and climate-smart crop management practices, were introduced in India by IRRI.

The collaborative research between India and IRRI also resulted in increased productivity and reduced environmental pollution from rice production systems. During the 1990s and 2000s, IRRI took the lead role in developing the research strategy for nutrient and pest management under different climate change scenarios in the Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains (RWC). During the last two decades, the RWC and, subsequently, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia led to the development of resource-conserving technologies such as laser-guided land leveling, zero tillage, direct-seeded rice, and use of the leaf color chart for managing nitrogen fertilizer. These technologies have considerable positive impacts on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

A major achievement of India-IRRI collaboration is in capacity building, particularly in the field of simulation modeling (SARP and SysNet projects, for example) for climate change impact assessment and resource optimization for environmental sustainability.

Scientists from India participated in various training programs, workshops, and conferences on climate change and environment. The continuing success of collaboration between India and IRRI on rice, the mainstay of Indian food security, and the emerging problems of climate change and environmental degradation affecting rice productivity will go a long way in achieving sustainable livelihoods for millions of Indians.