Rice Today

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

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

N-Shobha-Rani-RT

N. Shobha Rani
Acting Director, DRR and Director of AICRIP (June-August 2014)
Head, Crop Improvement Section (retired), DRR
Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad, India

As we stepped into 2015, there was an inexplicable awareness that it is the Golden Jubilee of the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP)—a time to celebrate success, and a time to pause and reflect on the way forward in facing several new challenges. It is time to hear the heartbeat of rice farmers and come up with remedial measures with “farmers first” as our directive principle.

When India attained independence, the prospects for rice were bleak. The proliferating population, multitude of scattered and small landholdings, severely impoverished farmers, low rice productivity (0.668 t/ha in 1950-51), overdependence on the monsoon, poor water management systems, limited availability and use of fertilizers, and disorganized agricultural services were the factors that presented a dismal scenario with little hope of increasing the productivity of rice—the major staple food of Indian people.

Early rice improvement work was mainly confined to tall indica varieties that suited farm conditions of low-investment and low-returns rice culture that involved minimal amounts of fertilizer use, plant protection, water management, and weed control. Attempts to improve production through an indica × japonica breeding program produced a few varieties that, at best, were marginally better than those previously cultivated. Plant type, the key problem, had at that time not been recognized. However, the government of India had taken some enterprising policy initiatives relating to increased irrigation facilities, commissioning agro-chemicals, and strengthening of agricultural research, education, and extension systems, which were important in bringing incremental gains in rice production with the available know-how.

At that point, the introduction of the Taiwanese dwarf rice variety Taichung-Native 1 (TN1) through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in 1964 was a significant milestone in India’s rice culture. Despite the limitations of its pest-disease problems, TN1 raised the hopes of scientists and extension workers by recording a doubling in yield vis-à-vis local varieties. Thus, the higher yield potential of the semidwarf plant type outweighed its lacunae such as pest and disease vulnerability and gave the cue for more aggressive research programs to evolve varieties with good plant type possessing a wider choice in duration, grain type, and pest/disease resistance. The urgency of intensifying research leading to the development of locally acceptable technology was recognized immediately and resulted in the initiation AICRIP in 1965.


THE ALL INDIA COORDINATED RICE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

Shastry and Wayne Freeman All India Rice Improvement Program 1966 76ICAR approved the setting up of AICRIP with its headquarters in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. The Rockefeller Foundation, IRRI, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been associated with the project to enhance the pace of rice research in the country. The photo shows S.V.S. Shastry (right) and Wayne Freeman as AICRIP’s first joint coordinators.

AICRIP’s mandate at that time was the development of an integrated national network of cooperative experimentation on all aspects of rice production to accelerate breeding efforts with semidwarf varieties. The importance of rice required a closer spirit of cooperation with IRRI and USAID, which extended substantial personnel and financial support.

As a result, within a short time, AICRIP emerged as a major unifying force bringing cohesion to the national rice research effort. Rich dividends started pouring in with the release of IR8, acclaimed as miracle rice—the first semidwarf, profuse-tillering, photo-insensitive, fertilizer-responsive, nonlodging, high-yielding variety (HYV) developed at IRRI, which made history and transformed the face of agriculture across Asia.

Jaya-RaniThe first similar HYV of rice developed in India and tested through AICRIP was named and released as Jaya in 1968, which was even higher yielding and earlier in maturity than IR8. Both of these landmark varieties were accepted by farmers with alacrity and this triggered the Green Revolution in India (Fig. 1). During the 1960s and in the next two decades encompassing the 1970s and ‘80s, 158 varieties were developed and released for various ecosystems. Twelve of these were released by the central agency for cultivation across the country while the rest were released for specific states by state release authorities. The duration of the varieties ranged from 75 to 185 days and their yield potential from 3.0 to 7.5 t/ha. During these three initial decades, rice area increased from 34.1 million hectares to 40.1 million ha (17.6%). Production rose from 34.5 million tons to 53.6 million tons (55.1%) and productivity from 0.874 t/ha to 1.33 t/ha (53.1%). This remarkable gain in production and productivity extricated the country from the status of a begging bowl to a bread basket, bringing self-sufficiency and curtailing imports. In addition, India began to export surplus rice, thus earning high foreign exchange for the country since the 1990s.

Fig-1-Jaya-outperforms-IR8The modern photoperiod-insensitive HYVs helped farmers to grow two rice crops during the year in areas where good irrigation facilities existed and enabled the development of innumerable rice-based cropping systems depending on the local available resources. Although the profitability of rice farming increased with new varieties, the intense adoption of crop management practices, with a limited number of HYVs substituting for thousands of traditional landraces, reduced genetic variability and increased the vulnerability of the rice crop to insects and diseases. Therefore, during the 1980s, the problem of incorporating resistance to major insects and diseases into HYVs was addressed through strong resistance breeding programs. Large germplasm collections were screened and donors for resistance identified. Using these donors, improved varieties with resistance to three major diseases (blast, bacterial blight, and tungro) and three insects (brown planthopper, green leafhopper, and gall midge) were developed. Large-scale adoption of varieties with a broader genetic base has helped to stabilize rice yields.

Not only biotic stress tolerance but also quality were given importance since the early 1990s as consumer preference changed with increases in income. During this phase, the emphasis was also on the development of varieties with better grain quality suited to different regions of the country and for export. The traditional basmati rice that has great demand in national and international markets was improved and the world’s first semidwarf basmati varieties such as Pusa Basmati 1 and Kasturi were developed, which gave a tremendous boost to rice exports in general and basmati rice exports in particular.



Post-Green Revolution technologies

By the 1990s, stagnation of yield in rice was apparent with the HYVs, with the sd-1 gene for dwarfing having certain genetic limitations for further enhancement of yield potential. In order to keep pace with the growing population, the estimated rice requirement by 2025 is about 130 million tons. The plateauing of rice yields after the initial quantum jump with the first semidwarf varieties such as IR8 and Jaya and declining natural resources causing an impending water, land, and labor crises in the years to come made the task of enhancing rice production to the scale envisaged look insurmountable. Thus, the current alarming situation necessitated looking for some innovative technologies to boost rice production such as hybrid rice technology and rapid strides in harnessing the strengths of biotechnology.

Thus, the present Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) has been instrumental in successfully integrating two streams of research systems available under the central and state governments. It has extensively contributed to the development of appropriate rice varieties and production and protection technologies suitable for different seasons, conditions, and ecosystems and bringing in the much-needed gains to rice production. The unique concept of multi-location and multi-disciplinary testing with the underlying philosophy of cooperative effort in problem identification and action played a catalytic role in the adoption and spread of the first generation of HYVs and appropriate package of practices for varied ecosystems across the country.

The elevation of AICRIP to directorate status in 1975 added an additional mandate to conduct strategic and applied research in the major thrust areas of irrigated rice, which marked the beginning of the second phase, in which facilities were strengthened, new research networks initiated, and transfer of technology and breeder seed production activities undertaken. This impressive growth culminated in the largest network with 46 funded centers and more than 100 voluntary cooperating centers. The intellectual input of more than 300 multidisciplinary teams of scientists associated with AICRIP is its greatest strength.

During 2011-13, the magnitude of trials conducted at various experimental sites ranged from 2,049 (2012) to 2,324 (2011) from all the disciplines included in AICRIP activity, which include breeding, hybrid rice, agronomy, physiology, soil science, entomology, and pathology (Table 1). Reviewing only the breeding and varietal trials during the last three years, the total number of trials organized was 117, constituted by 2,878 nominations contributed by rice breeders from both public and private sector organizations from all over India, who are partners in this endeavor. The program is so extensive, with the total number of experimental test sites being 2,380 covering all ecosystems such as irrigated, rainfed uplands, shallow lowlands, semi-deep and deepwater areas, boro, problem soil situations, and hill regions, and is one of the biggest cooperative partnerships in India. As rice in India is grown on nearly 44 million hectares (the highest amount of area in the world), AICRIP has been through its massive targeted efforts attempting to find solutions to problems on hand with the emerging newer issues.

Table-1-Details-of-AICRIP-testing

Smaller networks exclusively devoted to the development and use of hybrid rice technology, rice biotechnology, improvement of quality rice for export, and evaluation of rice germplasm for biotic stresses and others have achieved impressive results in the realms of varietal and crop management advisories. The mission of DRR as outlined in vision 2025 is to develop technologies to enhance rice productivity, resource- and input-use efficiency, and profitability of rice cultivation without adversely affecting the environment. The mandate of DRR involves:

  • Coordinating multilocation testing at the national level to identify appropriate varietal and management technologies for all rice ecosystems.
  • Conducting strategic and applied research in the major thrust areas of irrigated rice aimed at enhancing production, productivity, and profitability and at preserving environmental quality.
  • Initiating and coordinating research networks relating to problems of national and regional importance.
  • Serving as a major center for the exchange of research material and information.
  • Accelerating the pace of technology transfer through frontline demonstrations, training programs, and ICT.
  • Developing linkages with national, international, and private organizations for collaborative research programs.
  • Providing consultancy services and undertaking contractual research.

For this purpose, the AICRIP multi-tier/multi-location testing program with the objective of developing suitable varieties and crop management advisories for diverse conditions was instrumental in developing and releasing 1,011 varieties, including 67 hybrids, up to 2012-13. Of these varieties, 623 (constituting 61.6%) are for irrigated areas while 380 (35.5%) are for rainfed ecosystems. Again, the Central Variety Release Committee approved the release of 147 varieties/hybrids (14.5%) for wider adaptability while 26 State Variety Release Committees released 856 (84.7%) varieties/hybrids. Among these varietal releases, 125 are for rainfed uplands, 186 for rainfed shallow lowlands, 40 for semideep and 17 for deepwater conditions, 42 for irrigated areas, 8 for upland hills, 41 for saline and alkaline areas, 19 for boro season, 67 basmati and aromatic short-grain varieties, and 4 for aerobic conditions (Fig. 2 and Table 2).

Emphasis was given to developing varieties with resistance to biotic stresses for endemic areas, as in some years crop losses caused by bacterial leaf blight (BLB) and rice tungro virus (RTV) among diseases and brown planthopper (BPH) and gall midge among insect pests were devastating in different parts of the country. Systematic breeding efforts of the last five decades resulted in the development and release of a wide choice of varieties with specific and multiple resistance. These include varieties predominantly resistant to blast followed by BLB, RTV, stem borer, green leafhopper, BPH, white-backed planthopper, and gall midge. These varieties have greatly accelerated rice production and productivity in the country. The spread of HYVs doubled from a meager 37.9% in 1966-67 to nearly 84% by 2010. Likewise, the demand for breeder seed shot up from about 250 tons in the mid-1990s to 5,552 tons by 2013-14, indicating the special efforts made by the government through the National Seed Project (NSP) to enhance the availability of pure seed of new varieties as it is vital that the gains of varietal technology reach farmers in the shortest possible time.

Varieties such as Swarna, Samba Mahsuri (BPT 5204), Cottondora Sannalu (MTU 1010), Vijetha (MTU 1001), Jyothi, Sarjoo 52, IR64, Jaya, IR36, and NDR 359 need a special mention since they have wide coverage across several states and are termed “mega-varieties” and many of them are also the recipient parents for the introgression of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance genes through molecular marker-aided selection (MAS). Some of the landmark MAS-derived products are Swarna-Sub1, exhibiting 12 days of submergence tolerance 4 weeks after planting, with the major SUB1 QTL introgressed from traditional flood-resistant Indian variety FR13A, and Improved Samba Mahsuri and Improved Pusa Basmati 1 introgressed with multiple BLB-resistance genes showing a high degree of resistance to BLB but similar to recurrent parents in all traits that are known for their excellent grain quality in nonbasmati and basmati segments, respectively.

Figure 2 High yielding rice varieties

Table 2 High yielding varieties

Table 3 Some popular rice varieties

Some of the popular hybrids that are widely grown are PHB 71, KRH 2, PA 6444, PA 6201, DRRH 2, Pusa RH10, and Sahyadri. Having realized the scope and potential of quality rice for export, special thrust was given to the genetic enhancement of quality rice in the country, which led to the release of 67 basmati and other aromatic varieties. Thus, a wide varietal choice of high-yielding basmati varieties is available, which raised the quantum of exports of basmati rice from the country. Becoming the top rice exporter in the world recently (in 2012), India earned US$564 million in 2012-13. Being a niche exporter for basmati rice, India exported about 3.4 million tons earning US$323 million. Some of the notable export-quality basmati varieties are Taroari Basmati, Basmati 386, and Basmati CSR 30 among the tall types, with the latter variety also having tolerance of sodicity, and Pusa Basmati 1121, Pusa Basmati 1, Pusa 1509,  Vasumati, Punjab Mehak 1, Vallabh Bsmati, etc.,  among the evolved highly productive basmati varieties released recently.

Likewise, in the rainfed rice ecosystem, no visible progress could be discerned for a long time. Augmented national effort together with the active participation of the IRRI-sponsored upland and lowland consortia resulted in the development and release of many promising strains. Tapping the yield potential of these varieties and their spread would bring the much-needed advancement in production to this vast long-neglected region. Savithri, Bahadur, Sona Mahsuri, Samba Mahsuri, Improved Samba Mahsuri, Swarna, Krishna Veni,  Kranti, Kanak, Swarnadhan, Shashi, and ADT 44 for rainfed shallow lowlands; Amulya, Utkal Prabha, Sabita, Jitendra, and Purnendu for semideep water; Jalmagna, Barah Avarodhi, Dinesh, Eremaphou, and Sunil for deepwater areas; and Tulasi, Varalu, PNR 381, Vandana, Kalinga III, Danteswari, Vana Prabha, Neela, and Narendradhan 97 for rainfed uplands are important varieties released for the rainfed ecosystem.


IRRI-India collaboration

In the early 1960s, Dr. Robert F. Chandler, Jr., said, “So far as rice is concerned, India is the most exciting place in the world today.” This is so because India has the largest rice area in the world, with varied ecosystems and abundant rich genetic diversity. Thus, there has been a firm partnership between IRRI and India in human resource development. The ICAR-IRRI collaborative program since 1974 aimed at genetic evaluation and use has helped India significantly in enhancing rice production and productivity. IRRI initiated a project similar to the AICRIP model called the International Rice Testing Program (IRTP) with India as a major partner in 1975. Later, the IRTP was renamed the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER). The main objective of INGER has always been the exchange of genetic material among researchers working under diverse rice-growing ecosystems around the globe. This effort has been instrumental in identifying and developing several hundred elite breeding lines that were either released directly or used extensively in breeding programs to develop varieties in various countries, along with India.

During the past four decades, the DRR (AICRIP) and IRRI (INGER) partnership played a vital role in strengthening the crop improvement program by facilitating access to world germplasm and India has been one of the major beneficiaries of the program. INGER nurseries covering cross ecosystems, that is, irrigated, rainfed upland, lowland, deep water, saline-alkaline, temperate, aromatic fine grain, Green Super Rice, pest/disease, etc., were conducted. Recently, during 2011-13, a total of 38 INGER nurseries with 2,072 entries were organized at 239 trial sites across India. India has immensely benefited from the germplasm and breeding lines received from IRRI.

The process over the years has resulted in the identification of 62 IRRI-bred lines and another 32 of exotic origin from other countries tested through INGER and released as varieties in India for commercial cultivation. In addition, 265 varieties released in the country have IRRI lines in the immediate parental background (Shobha Rani et al 2011-DRR Technical Bulletin No. 55/2011). Realizing the potential of hybrid rice technology, when ICAR launched a mission-mode project in 1989, IRRI actively collaborated by providing the needed germplasm and technical support. These concerted efforts enabled the country to enter into an era of development and use of hybrid rice technology, which resulted in the release of 67 public-/private-bred hybrids, with many having IRRI-bred CMS lines and restorer lines showing consistent yield superiority over local inbred varieties. Thus, the strong collaboration between ICAR and IRRI has been a standing testimony to the mutual benefit in terms of germplasm exchange and varietal improvement.

Through INGER, the exchange of germplasm and breeding material was freely effected and the germplasm supplied was screened and used in Indian breeding programs. Similarly, the rich and diverse germplasm resources of India contributed profusely to international breeding programs. Of 31 landraces used in IRRI-bred varietal release, 11 of these originated from India. Notable among them are Latisail, GEB 24, Co 18, O. nivara, Ptb 18, Ptb 21, Ptb 33, SLO 17, Soruchinnamali, N22, BJ1, Eswarakora, ARC 6650, etc. Pusa 150, developed by IARI, New Delhi, was one of the elite lines used in the development of IRRI-bred CMS lines and especially in the widely used IR58025A. Likewise, several germplasm accessions and breeding lines from India were used in breeding programs in many rice-growing countries across continents. Global adoption of 46 varieties of Indian origin emphasized the significant impact of INGER testing and added to the strength of Indian breeding programs.


Present scenario and future concerns

Rice production has witnessed major advances during the last five decades because of the wide-scale adoption of Green Revolution technology. At the global level between 1966 and 2009, the population increased by 90% but rice production has overtaken it by 166%, from 257 million tons in 1966 to 684 million tons in 2009. Although in India the population more than doubled, rice production went ahead by 3.5 times from 30.4 million tons in 1966 to 105.2 million tons in 2012 (Table 4). This commendable achievement was mainly possible because of the development of plant type-based, fertilizer-responsive high-yielding varieties for all ecosystems with pest/disease resistance. But, what causes concern is the fact that the growth rate decelerated in the 1990s from what had been witnessed in the ‘80s because of the practice of intensified agriculture.

Therefore, the anticipated increase in production has to necessarily come from surmounting the problems of yield plateauing, declining trends in total factor productivity, the depleting natural resource base, and coping with climate change while making rice farming a profitable venture for farmers. If the growth trend of recent years is any indication, it will not be an easy proposition to achieve the targeted production of almost 130 million tons by 2025 (Fig. 3). The challenge ahead is therefore sustaining productivity growth without endangering the natural resource base that exists and producing more. This warrants enhancing current rice productivity from 2.9 t/ha in the irrigated ecosystem to almost 3.9 t/ha and in the rainfed ecosystem from 1.3 t/ha to 2.5 t/ha at the current or even reduced level of irrigation and input use. Assuming that the total rice area in the country would stabilize around 43 million hectares within this time frame, average rice productivity should reach 3.2 t/ha from the present 2.05 t/ha by 2025.

Figure 3 Population production

Table 4 Trend in area


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.

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.

Rice and Climate Change: India and IRRI Collaboration

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

PramodAgrawal RT

Pramod Aggarwal
Regional Program Leader (South Asia)
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS)

Global climate change—characterized by increasing temperatures, more variable rainfall, sea-level rise, and melting glaciers—is projected to significantly impact rice production in India and neighboring countries, and affect the food and livelihood security of millions. Besides bearing the brunt of the impact of climatic changes, flooded rice production, to some extent, adds to the problem through methane gas emissions. In the early 1980s, rice cultivation was blamed for its major contribution to global warming through its methane emissions.

India and IRRI share a long research collaboration studying the relationship between rice and the climate. IRRI worked with scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to set up automatic methane gas measuring facilities. This research was instrumental in producing revised estimations of methane gas emissions, leading to a downward evaluation of emissions from the agricultural sector.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) is committed to studying the synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation in farming systems, including rice-based cropping systems, that can lead to long-term sustainable solutions. Its mission to scale out climate-smart agriculture will help build farmers’ resilience to climate change, increase food security and income, and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions whenever possible.

As part of this endeavor, the Climate-Smart Village project, a community-based approach to sustainable agriculture, engages local partners and institutions to tackle climate change and climate variability. IRRI, along with other CGIAR centers, is a key partner with CCAFS in this project. Several Climate-Smart Villages have been set up in India.

IRRI and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center are working on GHG emission estimations under different management practices in research and in farmers’ fields in several Climate-Smart Villages in India and South Asia. These studies will lead to the development of more robust measurement, reporting, and verification systems for methane gas emissions in rice paddies that can be employed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other agencies.

Also, farmers in Climate-Smart Villages in eastern India have been introduced to drought-tolerant rice varieties such as Sahbhagi dhan and flood-tolerant varieties such as Swarna-Sub1, among many other adaptive practices. Water-saving and low- emission practices such as alternate wetting and drying and direct-seeded rice are an integral part of the climate-smart portfolio in these villages.

IRRI, together with several Indian national agencies, is also implementing an information and communications technology project in eastern India to provide climate-informed agro-advisory services for field-level crop and postharvest management in rice and wheat systems. The cloud-based mobile phone app aims to increase farmers’ adaptive capacity for increased food security and income.

We hope that the historic partnership between India and IRRI, which led to the Green Revolution in rice in the 1960s and 1970s, will provide new directions for ensuring food security in the face of climate change for the vast rice-dependent population in India.

The Importance of Training Programs in the India-IRRI Relationship

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

Mano Pathak RT

Mano D. Pathak
Former Director,
Research and Training (1974-89)
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

The establishment of IRRI, with its ultra-modern laboratories and highly qualified teams of national and international scientists and administrators, was a bright ray of hope for rice farmers in the tropics and subtropics where rice yields were stagnating at a meager 1 to 1.5 tons per hectare.

Along with intensive research to improve various aspects of rice and rice-based cropping systems, a series of professional advancement training programs were started to support all levels of the existing staff of national programs. These included MS, PhD, and postdoctoral research programs as well as short-term nondegree programs such as training on rice production, pest management, soil management, and postharvest technology, among others. Many of these intensive training programs were of 3 to 6 months’ duration.

An estimated 15,000 professionals worldwide have received IRRI training. Since 1965, more than 1,000 Indian scientists have attended IRRI’s short- and medium-term courses. Scientists trained under these programs are making significant contributions to the quality and volume of research in their respective countries, as well as in the overall improvement in the production of rice and associated crops.

Indian scientists who have participated in these training programs are part of a global IRRI alumni network. These scientists are occupying key leadership positions, and are making significant contributions to the overall improvement of rice crop production and use.

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

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

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.

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

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

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.

India-IRRI timeline spans the decades

Compiled by Gene Hettel | Photos from IRRI archives

 timeline LP

Over the last five decades, this selection from IRRI’s historical timeline has many Indian connections tied to people and events.

1965

S.V.S. Shastry  and Wayne FreemanBenjamin Pearey PalThe Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) established the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) in Hyderabad. Indian breeder S.V.S. Shastry and Wayne Freeman, IRRI’s representative in India, were designated as the first joint coordinators.

Benjamin Pearey Pal became the first director general of ICAR. He later served as an early member of IRRI's board of trustees (1967-70).

 

1967

Andhra Pradesh farmer Nekkanti Subba RaoIndian plant breeder Dilbagh S. AthwalIndian plant breeder Dilbagh S. Athwal joined IRRI’s management team and ultimately served as the Institute’s first deputy director general.

Andhra Pradesh farmer Nekkanti Subba Rao tested IR8 on his farm and supervised its first large-scale demonstration and multiplication.

The India-IRRI partnership intensified when scientists from AICRIP and the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack began to visit IRRI headquarters in the Philippines.

 

1968

Indian farmer K.N. Ganesan with his son, IR8After threshing his first full harvest of IR8 resulting in a bumper rice crop, Indian farmer K.N. Ganesan saw that this variety, which ushered in the Green Revolution, would be changing his family's future. He was so impressed with the variety's performance that he named his second son, born that same day, IR8–IR-ettu (Irettu) in Tamil.

 

1974

S.V.S. ShastryThe first formal memorandum of understanding for cooperation in research and training was signed by the directors general of ICAR and IRRI.

In 1974, Dr. S.V.S. Shastry (who served on the IRRI board of trustees, 1970-73) won the Borlaug Award for distinguished service of an Indian citizen to agriculture.

 

1981

IRRI Agronomist and Principal Scientist S.K. De DattaPrinciples and Practices of Rice Production, 1981The seminal book, Principles and practices of rice production, by IRRI agronomist and principal scientist S.K. De Datta, was published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. It was the model for many future IRRI books picked up by reputable science publishers. In 1986, Dr.De Datta received the first International Soil Science Award from the Soil Science Society of America.

 

1982

M.S. SwaminathanM.S. Swaminathan became IRRI’s fourth director general. He later won numerous honors and awards. In 1987, Swaminathan Hall at IRRI headquarters was dedicated in his honor. In 1991, he won the John and Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the Honda Prize. In 1999, he was named among the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Time magazine.

 

1982

Amir KhanAmir U. Khan, IRRI agricultural engineer, received the International Inventor’s Award for Industry from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf during ceremonies held in Stockholm. The award recognized his contributions to the farm machinery industry in developing countries such as the axial flow thresher.

 

1996

IRRI Principal Plant Breeder Gurdev KhushG.S. Khush, IRRI principal plant breeder, won the World Food Prize, with H.M. Beachell, former IRRI plant breeder. He has also won the Rank Prize for Nutrition in London (1998) and the Wolf Prize in Agriculture (2000). In 2002, in recognition of his 29 years as head of IRRI’s Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division and leader of various research programs, the Collaborators’ Center building was renamed Gurdev S. Khush Hall. The week-long 3rd International Hybrid Rice Symposium was held in Hyderabad.

 

2002

IRRI Plant Breeder Sant VirmaniICAR hosted the first steering committee meeting of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE) in New Delhi, India.

Sant Virmani, IRRI plant breeder, was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the International Service in Crop Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America. In 2005, he received India’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award and Japan’s International Koshihikari Rice Prize.IRRI Soil Nutritionist J.K. Ladha

J.K. Ladha, IRRI soil nutritionist, was named a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy. Other recognition he has received includes: fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (2004), fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009), and the International Service in Agronomy Award from the American Society of Agronomy (2011).

 

2003

IRRI agronomist Vethaiya BalasubramanianAgronomist Virendra Pal SinghIn New Delhi, the achievements of agronomist Virendra Pal Singh were recognized as he departed IRRI after serving the Institute for 30 years where he worked to improve the rice-farming systems in unfavorable environments.

IRRI agronomist Vethaiya Balasubramanian received the International Fertilizer Industry Association International Award.

 

2006

His Excellency A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, president of the Republic of IndiaHis Excellency A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, president of the Republic of India, and party visited IRRI Headquarters. He interacted with staff scientists, seeking solutions to problems faced by Indian farmers.

2nd International Rice Congress (IRC) held in New Delhi, IndiaThe 2nd International Rice Congress in New Delhi attracted nearly 1,400 rice researchers, traders, millers, farmers, and agriculture ministers, including 400 delegates from 46 countries.

 

2007

Darshan Brar, head of IRRI's PBGB divisionDarshan Brar, head of IRRI's Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division, won the Koshihikari International Rice Prize, recognizing his rice research body of work. He also received the CGIAR Outstanding Scientist Award, honoring his original work that furthered CGIAR goals.

 

2008

Subba RaoMore than 40 years after his work with IR8, Mr. Subba Rao distributed seed from his harvest of flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub1 to other farmers who multiplied it, ultimately leading to the significant spread of the variety in the region.

In New Delhi. the South Asian wing of the project, Stress-tolerant rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), was inaugurated.

 

2009

ICAR-IRRI logoAn international agreement was signed between ICAR and IRRI to support and facilitate India's rice research, helping the nation's rice production at a time of unprecedented price volatility and subsequent need for revitalization of food production.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) was established to promote durable change at scale in the region's cereal-based cropping systems. CSISA India’s activities focus on areas of the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains dominated by small farm sizes, low incomes and comparatively low levels of agricultural mechanization, irrigation, and productivity.

 

2011

IRRI Director general Robert Zeigler receives an honorary degree from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology in Meerut honored IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler by naming its new soil- and plant-testing laboratory after him. He was also conferred with the honorary degree of doctor of science by the Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Pantnagar. In 2014 (photo), he was conferred with an honorary degree of doctor of science during the 35th convocation ceremony of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore.

IRRI Economist Sam MohantySam Mohanty, IRRI economist and Social Sciences Division head, won the prestigious Glory of India Award in New Delhi.

 

2012

IRRAS logoThe project, Improved Rice-based Rainfed Agricultural Systems in Bihar, was launched in India by the Catholic Relief Services and IRRI. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it targets drought- and flood-prone environments.

Inauguration of IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding HubDr. Zeigler inaugurated new and added office space for the IRRI India Office in New Delhi located at Rajendra Place.

The IRRI South Asia Rice Breeding Hub at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, was inaugurated by Dr. Zeigler and Dr. William Dar, director general of ICRISAT.

The 6th International Hybrid Rice Symposium was held in Hyderabad. Around 450 delegates from 32 countries.

Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India Ashish Bahaguna with IRRI Director General Robert ZeiglerAshish Bahuguna, secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, signed a memorandum of agreement with IRRI to further strengthen IRRI’s collaboration with India.

The global rice research agenda was the focus of a plenary talk given by Dr. Zeigler during the Third International Agronomy Congress held at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi.

In his Coromandel lecture, Cutting-Edge Rice Science for Food Security, Economic Growth, and Environmental Protection in India and Around the World, Dr. Zeigler noted that IRRI and India have been working together since the mid-1960s to develop and deliver ways to help Indian rice farmers improve their rice productivity.

 

2013

Coromandel logoCoromandel International Limited signed a memorandum of understanding with IRRI for cooperation in promoting and disseminating improved rice research technologies in India.

As part of the 2013-16 IRRI-India Work Plan, the Institute and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University signed a memorandum of understanding to promote research, training, and exchange of information and technology on rice and its farming systems and value chains.

Bas Bouman during the Rice Future Forum in New DelhiBayer CropScience, IRRI, and ICAR sponsored an inaugural 2-day Rice Future Forum in New Delhi. Bas Bouman, director of Global Rice Science Partnership, was one of the presenters.

Senior officials from India’s Ministry of Agriculture visited IRRI for a 2-day series of awareness and consultation meetings, particularly to discuss STRASA.

 

2015

ICAR IRRI logosIn its Golden Jubilee year, the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad is given national institute status under the ICAR umbrella. It is now the Indian Institute of Rice Research. It has been IRRI’s privilege to have worked, trained, and learned together with Indian scientists over 5 decades to help improve the lot of rice farmers and to help feed the world's hungry.

 

 

DRR and IRRI: 50 years of collaborative rice research

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

Babu RT

V. Ravindra Babu
Project Director,
Directorate of Rice Research
Hyderabad, India

From being a net importer of rice and other food grains in the 1950s, India has transformed itself into a surplus producer and has been meeting its food production targets for the last three decades. 

India has the world’s largest area under rice, cultivated year-round in some parts of the country, with more than 44 million hectares of area spread across diverse ecosystems. It has the second-highest production in the world, with an annual production of more than 106 million tons. India has consistently been the highest rice exporter in the world market for the past three years. In 2014, India produced about 268 million tons of food grains, of which rice contributed about 107 million tons.

However, projections indicate that the current levels of production may not be sufficient to feed the ever-increasing population of our country. In order to meet the food demand for the future, India should produce about 120 million tons of rice by the year 2025—about 1.5 million tons of additional rice every year. This intensified production has to come from increased productivity rather than increased rice production area and considering declining soil, water, and other natural resources. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) can tackle these challenges, which are common to most rice-growing countries.

AICRIP and DRR: At the forefront of rice research in the country


Before the 1960s, most of the rice varieties cultivated in India were tall and leafy with a low harvest index of around 0.3, long duration, photosensitive, and susceptible to lodging when a higher level of fertilizer was applied. The average productivity was less than 1 ton per hectare. In order to address these lacunae, IRRI was established in 1960 to conduct integrated rice research with a global mandate. In 1966, scientists at IRRI developed IR8, a semidwarf variety having the gene Sd1 possessing sturdy stems, photo-insensitivity, fertilizer responsiveness, and high yield. The new variety became quickly popular with farmers and ushered in the Green Revolution in rice in Asia. This land-saving technological innovation enabled farmers to increase food production without extending cultivation to marginal lands.

The All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) was established in 1965 in Hyderabad as a coordinated program for rice research in India by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). In 1968, semidwarf high-yielding variety Jaya was developed in India because of the concerted efforts of scientists from India and IRRI. It was released in 1968 through AICRIP. In 1975, AICRIP was renamed the Directorate of Rice Research, wherein lead research targeting mainly the irrigated ecosystem was included in the mandate.

The varietal improvement component of AICRIP involved pooling of breeding material generated in more than 100 regional rice breeding stations and testing it under different groups designed for different rice ecosystems and agro-climatic zones. The greatest advantage of the system has been the free exchange of genetic material both nationally and internationally (through the International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice or INGER at IRRI) and rapid identification of promising breeding lines.

The success of AICRIP over the past 49 years of intensive testing program is reflected in the release of 1,070 varieties and hybrids. Some of the varieties have resistance to/tolerance of major pests and diseases of rice and a few of these have multiple resistance to more than one pest or disease. These varieties have greatly accelerated the production and productivity of rice in the country.

The spread of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) doubled from a meager 37.9% in 1966-67 to nearly 79% by early 2000. Likewise, the demand for breeder seed increased from about 250 tons in the mid-‘90s to 550 tons in 2013. This reflects the efforts by the government to enhance the availability of pure seed of new varieties through the National Seed Project (NSP) to reach farmers in the shortest possible time.

Varieties such as Jaya, IR64, IR36, Swarna, Samba Mahsuri (BPT 5204), Cottondora Sannalu (MTU 1010), Vijetha (MTU 1001), Jyothi, Sarjo 52, NDR 359, PR 106, PR 111, PR 113, and Pantdhan 4 need a special mention since they have wider coverage across several states and are termed “mega-varieties.” Many of them are also the recipient parents for the introgression of biotic stress tolerance genes through molecular marker-aided selection (MAS).

Pusa 44, Kavya, Lalat, Krishna Hamsa, Triguna, Shanthi, Tella Hamsa, Ranjit, Pantdhan 12, HMT Sona, Pusa Basmati 1, Vasumati, Pusa Basmati 1121, Taroari Basmati, and a host of other varieties are also popular. The products developed using MAS have also been released in the country, which is a landmark achievement. These include Improved Pusa Basmati 1 and Improved Samba Mahsuri possessing bacterial leaf blight resistance. The former is a popular export-quality basmati variety while the latter is a fine-grain nonbasmati variety with excellent quality features.

IRRI’s role in furthering rice research varietal development in India


IRRI has immensely contributed to the development of Indian rice varieties and hybrids, with at least 156 progenitors from IRRI being used in Indian rice breeding programs. Interestingly, some of them, such as Dee-geo-woo gen, Latisail, Peta, IR8, IR20, IR36, IR64, etc., have been used multiple times in the development of several popular Indian rice varieties and hybrids. The Indian hybrid rice breeding program has progressed closely with the program at IRRI and a single WA-CMS line has been used for the development of many public and private sector rice hybrids.
INGER is a popular collaborative program wherein a lot of promising rice genotypes have been exchanged and objectively evaluated jointly by India and IRRI, and the promising entries identified through INGER have been used in Indian rice breeding programs to a significant extent. India and IRRI jointly provided stewardship for the International Program on Rice Biotechnology (IPRB) sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1990s. Through IPRB and the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network (ARBN), more than 50 rice researchers of India have been trained in biotechnology and molecular biology. ARBN, through its shuttle breeding network involving scientists from India and IRRI, has helped in the development of several promising prebreeding materials in India and elsewhere. In recent years, Indian scientists have been actively collaborating with scientists from IRRI to develop rice with better quality and nutrition; submergence-, flood-, drought-, and salinity-tolerant rice; rice resistant against multiple pests and diseases; and rice with tolerance of various other soil-related stresses by the introgression of genes from wild relatives and landraces.
These collaborative activities are also carried out under various initiatives such as the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia, and the Rice Knowledge Management portal, which is a one-stop shop for rice-related information developed by DRR. In short, the collaborative program between Indian partners, particularly DRR, and IRRI has been mutually beneficial, in which expertise and materials have been gainfully shared by each other.
DRR and IRRI are working together toward bringing a paradigm shift in rice research to meet the challenges of the future decades for ensuring food security. In particular, the partnership should include key areas such as
• Coordinated evaluation and use of rice germplasm
• Identification and use of novel gene sources for breeding multiple biotic stress-resistant rice varieties
• Gainful exploitation of rice genome sequence information through the development of novel and breeder-friendly molecular markers for developing varieties possessing multiple traits of agronomic importance
• Biofortification of rice to enhance its nutritional profile
• Improving rice grain quality
• Addressing climate change-related issues affecting rice production and breeding drought-, salinity-, and submergence-tolerant rice varieties
• Development and demonstration of labor-saving technologies
• Revolutionary research areas such as C4 rice, biological nitrogen fixation in the rice ecosystem, and the use of genomics tools for enhancing yield

These should be integrated with pragmatic improvement in rice production, technologies for resource conservation and protection of natural resources, and seamless technology diffusion among farmers through extension.
IRRI has been a key R&D partner of DRR for the last 50 years—and this has been mutually rewarding for both. I am sure that, through the continued collaboration between DRR and IRRI as equal partners, we will be able to meet future challenges to rice production and productivity.

Rice Today special issue on India: Celebrating 50 years of impact through rice research

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

ICAR IRRI logosThe April-June 2015 issue of Rice Today is observing 50 years of successful rice research in India and the country’s partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). So, in addition to what is in the issue’s regular print version and its online counterpart, some special online-only features are presented here.

 

A time to celebrate, pause and reflect…
Revisiting 50 years of Indian rice research

RT India testimonials LP

Brief recollections and testimonials from a cadre of renowned Indian rice scientists and administrators espousing the exceptional partnership between India and IRRI. Compiled by Gene Hettel

View the testimonials

India-IRRI timeline spans the decades

timeline LP

Over the last five decades, this selection from IRRI’s historical timeline has many Indian connections tied to people and events

View the timeline

RICE TODAY COVERAGE ON INDIA

RT-India-covers-LP

 A collection of 40 stories featured in Rice Today Magazine over the past 12 years covering some of the most noteworthy events and developments in India's rice sector

View the articles

Rice Today coverage on India

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

RT India covers

India is one of the world’s largest rice-producing and -consuming countries in the world, not to mention one of IRRI’s most important partners in rice research. So, since Rice Today began publishing in 2002, we have provided a cornucopia of coverage on India—four covers and more than 40 stories and features on a range of topics important to Indian farmers and consumers. See the listing and links to those stories below.

2002: Spreading the word

A religious sister shares the benefits of modern agricultural science with poor subsistence farmers in eastern India.

Continue Reading

2004: India ink

IRRI recently garnered a fair splash of press coverage in South Asia, including India.

Continue Reading

2004: Gathering momentum in India

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Directorate of Rice Research conduct various International Year of Rice activities to enhance public awareness about rice.

Continue Reading

2006: The direct approach

A return to the ways of their forefathers has seen Indian and Bangladeshi rice farmers reduce their need for water and address the growing problem of labor shortages.

Continue Reading

2006: Conserving the future

As India’s rice-wheat belt grapples with declining soil health and water tables, a vanguard of young, innovative farmers and researchers is leading a new approach that could hold the key to revising the region’s waning productivity.

Continue Reading

2006: India hosts world’s largest rice gathering

During each day of the second International Rice Congress (IRC) 2006, delegates from 47 countries crisscrossed through the office block lobby of the impressive New Delhi headquarters of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Agricultural Science Complex (NASC).

Continue Reading

2006: IR8 breeding history

In story on the 4th anniversary of IR8’s release, featured is Indian farmer K.N. Ganesan who named his son after the new high-yielding rice variety.

Continue Reading

2009: Rice Facts—A look at India

“Rice is life” truly lives up to its meaning in India.

Continue Reading

2010: No-cook rice

Indian scientists have developed high-yielding soft rice that requires no cooking.

Continue Reading

2010: Rice Facts--A snapshot of India (subsection)

A village survey is conducted in Kushinagar district in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Continue Reading

2011: IRRI in India

“The IRRI-India collaboration is a success story. Through germplasm exchange, hybrid rice development, and capacity building, it helped India enhance its rice production and boosted the country’s productivity.”

Continue Reading

2011: Even grounds

Laser land levelling is fast changing the face of traditional farming in India and rest of South Asia.

Continue Reading

2011: Ready for climate change

Indian farmers are fast adopting stress-tolerant varieties of rice to head-off yield losses.

Continue Reading

2011: Tamil Nadu farmers get their groove back

Drum seeding finds its way to Tamil Nadu as farmers learn how to control weeds effectively and maximize profits using the technology.

Continue Reading

2011: Technologies meet farmers

Hundreds of thousands of Asia farmers, including those in India, are adopting a range of IRRC-facilitated technologies because of the many impressive economic, social, and environmental benefits.”

Continue Reading

2011: What’s cooking? Chicken Biryani—Indian version

IRRI economist Sam Mohanty put on a chef’s hat to demonstrate the preparation of this tasty dish.

Continue Reading

2011: Rice map: Who eats the most rice?

India and China alone account for more than 50% of the world’s rice consumption.

Continue Reading

2012: Striking a Balance

India’s 2010-11 bumper crop and low export price soften the impact of historic flooding in the Mekong Delta and of the Thai rice mortgage program.

Continue Reading

2012: Rice facts--Odisha: The future granary of India

The poor state of Odisha has to overcome first the human-made constraints to high yield and the challenges of climate change to become India’s future granary.

Continue Reading

2012: Waking up a giant in the Global food industry

India is emerging as the frontliner in agriculture and could become the global food market.

Continue Reading

2012: Cosmic rice

Long ago, farmers in Kerala State of India turned to stars to determine when to plant and harvest rice.

Continue Reading

2012: A day in the life of an Odisha rice Farmer

Small-scale farmer Gagan Bihari Pradhan is visited by IRRI head economist Sam Mohanty.

Continue Reading

2013: Global rice trade faces uncertainty

All eyes are on the rice policies of Thailand and India, China’s growing imports, and, global rice production in the face of climate change.

Continue Reading

2013: Breaking the barriers: from housewives to breadwinners

Three women in India are taking up new challenges beyond their traditional roles.

Continue Reading

2013: Fields of plenty

It’s 2063. Indian farmer Prabhjit Kumar finds herself running a profitable environmentally friendly business, thanks to agriculture rice research.

Continue Reading

2013: News item: Farm mechanization, a must in India

The agricultural sector in India is facing an acute shortage of laborers, and mechanization of farming practices can definitely help overcome the crisis.

Continue Reading

2013: What’s cooking? Masala dosa

The preparation of this popular southern Indian rice dish is demonstrated.

Continue Reading

2013: Rice diplomacy in South Asia

Rice science is building bridges across the political borders of Bangladesh and India.

Continue Reading

2014: Happy birthday rice!

Once upon a time the people of Kerala, India, held a birthday bash for a very special celebrator: rice.

Continue Reading

2014: Odisha’s food for a goddess

Odisha farmers embraced flood-tolerant rice not only as food on their table but as a worthy offering to Lakshmi, their goddess.

Continue Reading

2014: How to support smallholder farmers throughout the world

M.S. Swaminthan points out that smallholder agriculture is practiced by families (including one or more households) using only or mostly family labor.

Continue Reading

2014: Creating an oasis with rice

Under the scorching sun and cloudless skies, Indian farmer Prabhawati Devi builds her oasis using a rice variety that defies the drought that often parches her land.

Continue Reading

2014: When there is rice in the barn, all else will follow

Rice plays a central role in the culture and economy through the barter system of the Ao Naga tribe in Nagaland, state in eastern India.

Continue Reading

2014: What’s cooking? Bhuna khichuri

The preparation of this popular dish in Bangladesh and parts of India is demonstrated.

Continue Reading

2014: A bigger rice bowl

IRRI director general Robert Zeigler declares the start of the second green revolution started in Palia Goa village, Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 31 July 2008.

Continue Reading

2014: Red pearls of the Himalayas

Red rice varieties, nearly abandoned by farmers in Himachal Pradesh in India, are now getting the attention they deserve.

Continue Reading

2014: Smitten by science

Krishna Jagadish and Impa Somayanda studied at the same university in Bangalore, India before they joined IRRI.

Continue Reading

2014: Rice on the move

In India, the area for both wet and dry seasons is increasing. The wet season crop (kharif) has moved to the northwest by some 180 kilometers over 50 years and has increases slightly.

Continue Reading

2014: Rice in South Asia

India has the largest rice area in the world with 43 million hectares (more than a quarter of the global rice area) and contributes to a little less than a quarter of global production.

Continue Reading

2014: Grain of Truth: India makes access to food a right, not a privilege

Opinion piece from Rita Sharma, IRRI board member and secretary to the National Advisory Council of the Government of India.

Continue Reading

The All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI): A Testimonial on Cooperation

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

SV Shastry RT

S.V.S. Shastry
Former Project Coordinator, AICRIP, Hyderabad, India and
Retired Director of Research,
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Having been associated with AICRIP and IRRI as project head and board member, respectively, I would like to make a few observations on the research achievements of both institutes. Efficiency has been the signature of IRRI, as set by the first director—the dynamic and inspiring Robert Chandler. For example, my proposal for germplasm exploration in West Africa was approved within half an hour of its presentation. The resident scientific team in Los Baños was spared from performing routine activities, so they could devote their full time to research. It is no wonder that IRRI articulated the plant type as the breeding objective for tropical rice and came up with the miracle rice, IR8, in the first five years of its active functioning.

When my turn to manage the AICRIP came in 1966, I accorded priority to program implementation over infrastructural development, memoranda of understanding among cooperators, and streamlining of the administration. The focus was on semidwarf cultivars, which covered the entire research area of the AICRIP center.

The bread and butter of crop improvement is genetic enhancement and crop husbandry, and the modus is one of matching genotypes with the biological and physical environments in which the crop is grown.

IRRI and AICRIP pursued different routes in meeting the challenge, guided by the competence and vision of scientists at these institutes. Scientists from IRRI assembled promising germplasm lines in the Philippines and sent them to national programs for the selection of suitable cultivars. AICRIP, with more than 100 research stations spread across the country and encompassing a wide range of growing environments, pursued a structured three-tier yield-testing program. The cooperators from different states participated on an “open membership” basis and without financial support. A named cultivar thus became a by-product of the testing program rather than the product of the scientists who developed it.

The first task of AICRIP was to critique Taichung Native 1 (TN-1), which was introduced by IRRI, and evangelically promoted by the late Dr. G.V. Chelam. This cultivar was both prolific (high yield potential) and controversial (because of susceptibility to bacterial leaf blight). However, this was the first semidwarf cultivar that was commercially grown on more than 1,000 hectares within three years of its introduction, recognized to have ushered in the Green Revolution of rice in India.

When IRRI named IR8, AICRIP was the sole cooperator that provided comparative yield data showing its superior performance over TN-1.

The AICRIP trial results provided the basis for “selecting” promising IRRI-bred lines and releasing them in India, rather than automatically releasing them as the cultivars named by IRRI. For example, AICRIP did not release IR5 named by IRRI but a sister line of IR5 with higher yield. It delayed the release of IR20 until Tamil Nadu vouchsafed its suitability and did not release IR22 because it had no particular merit in any region of India. Dr. Chandler corroborated AICRIP’s view on IR20 and IR22 during the review of the germplasm lines that led to the development of Sona.

Although plant-type-based breeding has doubled the yield potential of rice as it did in wheat, the acceptance rate of the new rice varieties was not as dramatic as that of dwarf wheats. IRRI responded to the situation by undertaking a MINIKIT program that distributed small quantities of seed, fertilizer, and pesticide to farmers. Considering the soaring costs of fertilizer and the need to demonstrate the superior performance of the modern varieties at all levels of fertilizer management, AICRIP distributed seeds, to cover an area of 50 m2, to thousands of farmers in a district. The new variety under demonstration was also matched with the best local cultivar that it expected to replace. The management practices concurrently demonstrated for best performance of semidwarfs included thin seedbed, thick main field, and delayed topdressing of nitrogen (N) fertilizer to fully exploit the native fertility, and efficiently use the topdressed N fertilizer.

IRRI led AICRIP in disease (blast, bacterial leaf blight, tungro virus) and insect resistance screening (stem borer, brown planthopper), which AICRIP adopted in toto. AICRIP led in breeding for resistance to gall midge, and accorded priority to bacterial blight over rice blast, and to gall midge and brown planthopper over stem borer and tungro.

The gall midge resistance breeding had a long history of success. Dr. T. Venkata Swamy made landmark progress in transferring the resistance from the variety Eswara corra to Warrangal lines (“improved” cultivars albeit with poor plant type), which humbled the IR8-type semidwarf with “no yield” under the insect pressures prevailing in Warrangal during late wet-season plantings. AICRIP’s debut into this came at a late stage when this insect resistance could not be transferred to semidwarf plant types. The AICRIP program not only succeeded in this but also combined the consumer-preferred long-slender grain and intensified selection to retain a high yield potential. Some of these lines of semidwarf varieties (for example, Phalguna) combined the yield potential of Jaya, disease resistance of Eswara corra, and consumer-preferred long-slender grain. It is no wonder the gall midge-endemic areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have been transformed into gall midge-free areas. The insect lost its pest status—erasing the skepticism on insect resistance per se, its endurance over time, vast geographic territory (India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia), and across biotypic diversity.

It was in this context that IRRI recognized me as the international coordinator for gall midge research. Similarly, the joint coordinator for AICRIP, Dr. W.H. Freeman of the Rockefeller Foundation, served as IRRI liaison scientist in India.

AICRIP pioneered the Assam Rice Collection (ARC) in the transition zone of indica and japonica rice, which became a cornucopia for stress-resistance breeding. At one time, the only source of resistance to grassy stunt virus was a single accession of Oryza nivara supplied by AICRIP. The ARC numbers dominated the stress-resistance narratives of IRRI reports in the 1970s.

AICRIP also provided a program-based selection of trainees to IRRI, thereby contributing to elevate the impact of IRRI training programs from the pregraduate to postdoctoral level.

AICRIP celebrates its 50th anniversary in an active, vibrant “gain-and-give” cooperation, drawing the best from IRRI and adding value to it with a mature two-way relationship. The AICRIP team needs to be congratulated for maintaining such a relationship with IRRI for half a century.

A particular mention needs to be made of the exceptional personal qualities of Dr. Chandler. His single-minded devotion to the programs, absolute lack of parochialism, ability to inspire scientists at all levels, and attitude of celebrating the successes of cooperating national programs made all the difference. He was a true leader in letter and spirit. IRRI and the rice world have been extremely fortunate to have such a dynamic leader preside over the initial international efforts to successfully raise rice yields to a significant level.

Soil and Water Management Research: India-IRRI collaboration

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

PK Sharma RT

Pradeep Sharma
Vice Chancellor,
Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu (SKUAST-Jammu)
Main Campus Chatha
Jammu 180009,
Jammu & Kashmir

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is proudly celebrating its 50th Annual Rice Group Meeting of the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP). Soil and water today are the two natural resources that are threatened by overexploitation and misuse as well as by climate change. Sustenance of soil health is a major issue in rice-based cropping systems because of the unique tillage practices in rice, especially puddling and submergence.

Puddling destroys the soil structure while continuous submergence lowers soil redox potential, sometimes to the extent of creating serious nutrient imbalances and phytotoxic elements. These tillage practices cause crop establishment problems and lower productivity. With regard to water resources, rice has a poor water-use efficiency. The total water requirement of irrigated rice (750−2,500 mm) is three to four times or more that of many cereal crops (300−400 mm). Its transpiration ratio (250−350 cc) is equal to or less than that of upland cereal and dry-land crops (200−300 cc). Hence, increasing agricultural water productivity is a major issue in rice-based cropping systems.

Significant research has been done in India and at IRRI, independently as well as in a collaborative mode, to overcome problems in rice-based cropping systems related to soil and water management. These include puddling effects on soil properties and processes; crop establishment methods (upland rice, aerobic rice, the System of Rice Intensification, reduced tillage in wheat, etc.); organic residue recycling; irrigation scheduling; percolation management; water, fertilizer, and tillage interactions; nutrient-use efficiency (real-time fertilizer use, slow-release fertilizers, methods of fertilizer placement, bio-fertilizers, etc.); the development of nutrient- and water-efficient cultivars, and others.

But, increasing water productivity in rice is still a big challenge. Fertilizer-use efficiency continues to be low. Factor productivity in agriculture is declining. Assessment of soil health remains an unanswered question. Pollution of soil and groundwater sources in several locations has reached toxic levels.

Research should focus on the use of modern techniques such as nano- and biotechnology to improve water- and nutrient-use efficiency in crop plants (the development of nano-products, water- and nutrient-efficient germplasm). The transpiration ratio of rice comparable in magnitude to that of other cereal crops offers hope to lower its total water requirement. Soil health parameters need to be defined and technologies developed to sustain soil health without compromising food productivity (soil-C sequestration, conservation tillage, efficient use of chemical fertilizers, safe disposal of rice crop residues, etc.). Studies must be undertaken to understand the significance of soil health for plant, animal, and human health in an effort to produce safe and nutritional food. There is also a need to address the problem of labor scarcity through mechanization to make agricultural operations time- and energy-efficient, and cost-effective.

IRRI has been supporting soil and water management research in India by training students, scientists, and rice workers. It supports collaborative research programs, professional visits, and organizing symposia, seminars, and workshops. Several of the research activities undertaken at IRRI are directly applicable to the Indian subcontinent. However, many significant challenges remain and require more concerted efforts between India and IRRI.

The Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions and IRRI

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

Paroda RT

Raj Paroda
IRRI Board of Trustees (1990-93)
Executive Secretary, APAARI (1992-2014)
ICAR Director General (1994-2001)

It is heartening to know that the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. Also, I am pleased that IRRI is bringing out a special issue of Rice Today for the proposed 50th Rice Workshop to be held in Hyderabad on 9-13 April 2015.

The Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) and IRRI have a long research partnership through which several activities around rice research for development started in the region. To begin with, based on the advice of IRRI, APAARI published Hybrid Rice in China, which launched hybrid rice research in India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Today, all three countries have adopted hybrid rice technology. In India, hybrid rice is currently grown on around 2 million hectares.

The International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) at IRRI worked under the umbrella of APAARI for germplasm exchange and sharing pre-breeding materials, thus benefiting a large number of rice researchers in India. INGER became very successful in the region during the Green Revolution. Subsequently, at the insistence of APAARI, IRRI started another regional initiative, the Consortium on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA), in 1996, with the vision to enhance the effectiveness of the various partnership mechanisms between IRRI and its partners to meet the challenges of the global rice research system through sound policy and a research and development strategy.

IRRI and APAARI also initiated the Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains, a regional program on conservation agriculture. APAARI members were also pleased to endorse the Global Rice Science Partnership, the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, involving major rice-growing countries around the world, including India.

The IRRI-APAARI partnership has also enabled a number of rice researchers from India to participate in various regional and global consultations and conferences.

On the 50th anniversary of the AICRIP of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, I take this opportunity to extend my best wishes on behalf of APAARI to all the rice researchers in India. I also hope that partnership between IRRI and the Indian rice research program will become further strengthened with an aim to extend greater benefits to rice farmers in India.

Finally, I give my compliments to IRRI for bringing out this special issue of Rice Today.

IRRI and the Green Revolution in India

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

Khush RT

Gurdev S. Khush
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Adjunct Professor, University of California, Davis
Former Head, Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division, IRRI

The Green Revolution had a remarkable impact on food security in India. During the 1960s, India imported up to 10 million tons of food grains per year. For the past 10 years, India has exported 4 to 6 million tons of food grains every year. The quantity of rice exported in 2013-14 was 10.7 million tons—more than any other country. Considering that the population of India has increased from 350 million in 1960 to 1.3 billion at present, this is a remarkable achievement.

The present food grain situation in the country is the result of the unprecedented increase in rice and wheat production because of wide-scale adoption of Green Revolution technology. For example, wheat production increased from 10.3 million tons in 1960 to 97 million tons in 2013-14. Rice production increased from 34.6 million tons in 1960 to 154 million tons in 2013-14.

The rice revolution in India started with the introduction of the experimental line IR8-288-3, the first semidwarf and stiff-strawed rice variety. Later named IR8, it was tested in yield trials in India during 1965-66 and yielded more than 10 tons per hectare at the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack. Yields of this magnitude were unheard of before. Rice scientists in India started testing semidwarf IRRI breeding lines and changed the direction of their breeding programs to develop varieties with similar plant types. The farming community adopted the new varieties rapidly.

IR8 was named as a variety by IRRI in 1966 and it was released in India in 1968. Numerous improved IRRI breeding lines with plant types similar to that of IR8 were supplied to Indian rice scientists every year based on their requests. Starting in 1975, IRRI breeding lines were also shared with Indian scientists through the International Rice Testing Program (now the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice).

Indian scholars also took seeds of IRRI materials with them upon completion of their studies. These were evaluated in various coordinated trials conducted by the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project as well as by rice scientists of various universities. Some of the promising lines were released as varieties and others were used as parents in local breeding programs. To date, more than 50 IRRI breeding lines have been released as varieties in India. Some of them, such as IR36 and IR64, are still widely grown.

Rice breeding programs in India are very strong and productive, with more than 1,000 improved rice varieties developed by Indian rice breeders. Most of these varieties have IRRI germplasm in their ancestry. Wide-scale adoption of these varieties, management practices, and benign public policies have contributed to the present status of food security.

Collaboration between IRRI and Indian rice breeding programs continues to be strong. IRRI germplasm materials are now primarily used as building blocks for new varieties. I would like to conclude that I have had 35 years of fond memories of my interaction and collaboration with Indian rice scientists.

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.

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and IRRI

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

Swapan Datta RT

Swapan Datta
Former Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR
now Pro-Vice Chancellor,
Visva-Bharati University
Santiniketan, India

Rice is life. It is a vital staple crop for sustainable food and nutrition security for more than 1.2 billion people in India. India has a long history of ric e research and crop diversity and it has had a partnership with IRRI over the last 50 years.

In 2015, the Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), established through the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), is celebrating its 50th Rice Workshop—a milestone in Indian rice research. In its Golden Jubilee year, the DRR will transform itself into a national institute and will be renamed the Indian Institute of Rice Research.

IRRI and ICAR have been natural partners working on rice research activities for more than 50 years. The dynamic nature of this relationship has changed in recent times and both agreed to focus on IRRI-ICAR work plan activities and develop next year’s program during the 50th Rice Workshop in India. About 30 scientists from IRRI will attend the workshop and interact with about 400 Indian rice scientists participating at the event.

This research program became very successful and beneficial for both partners. Considering the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), new developments in global partnership with the private sector, germplasm exchange under the agreement and obligations with ICAR, rice workshops, state agricultural universities, and private sector involvement in rice research are becoming more important and vital. We now require global science, partnership (national and international) supported by single/multiple donors, including national programs supported by the Government of India and international donors aiming to focus outcomes that must deliver benefits to the farmers and consumers of India.

All stakeholders from India and IRRI, along with other research collaborators, must ensure the sustainability of this friendly partnership for years to come to safeguard the food security of billions of people.

India has benefited from IRRI since its founding in 1960. Both have worked on all aspects of the crop’s improvement, including in biotechnology. Both are firm believers that farmers can produce more rice with built-in plant protection and with enriched nutrition at an affordable price.

The Rockefeller Foundation supported the Rice Biotechnology Program, and later the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network (ARBN) led by IRRI. This resulted in significant human resources and capacity development in biotechnology research and rice improvement programs in India. Using marker-assisted selection (MAS), allele mining, and gene (Xa + Pi) pyramiding, rice breeders developed IR72 with the Xa2 gene, the first transgenic rice resistant to bacterial blight. Other MAS-based rice varieties with disease and pest resistance and submergence tolerance have been shared with India and other countries.

A large number of PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scientists from India and IRRI are involved in collaborative rice research. For the next 20 years, IRRI and India’s key collaborative research activities in the genomics era will include next-generation genome sequencing, the use of plant genetic resources for prospecting for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance genes/traits, C4 rice, and genome-editing.

Revisiting 50 years of Indian rice research

Written by Kenneth Lojo.

RT India testimonials

A time to celebrate, pause and reflect…

Compiled by Gene Hettel

In December 2014, I noted that 2015 would mark the 50th anniversary of India’s Directorate of Rice Research (DRR) and the annual April rice meeting of its All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP). So, at that time, J.K. Ladha, the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) representative in India, and I encouraged a cadre of renowned Indian rice scientists and administrators to provide some brief recollections and testimonials, particularly espousing the exceptional partnership between India and IRRI. We also asked a long-time DRR breeder to provide her unique look at AICRIP’s legacy.

Responses were heartening, enthusiastic—and enlightening. In addition to historical perspectives, topics ranged from achievements in hybrid rice and building India’s scientific capacity to addressing climate change. The complete set of contributions can be accessed below.