News and Events

This section provides news releases and feature stories on STRASA project highlights and impacts, as well as, announcements of ongoing or upcoming activities. For any comments, suggestions or article contributions related to the project, please contact or send to:

Abdelbagi M. Ismail at

Maria Rowena M. Baltazar at

Most Recent Posts

  • Towards greater genetic gains in rice based agri-food systems in South Asia and Africa by Maria Rowena M. Baltazar and Debjani SamantarayNEW DELHI, India--Now on its final year of implementation, IRRI’s Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) Project ...
    Posted May 16, 2018, 10:34 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • As floodwaters recede, farmers’ hopes emerge in Bangladesh Excerpts from an article by Shahreen Haq in Rice Today Online, 22 Jan 2018, For thousands of Bangladeshi farmers in flood-prone areas, growing rice is a risk they have ...
    Posted Apr 4, 2018, 9:36 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • IRRI postdoctoral fellow wins NESA Junior Scientist of the Year Award Dr. Md Iqbal Raja Khan (extreme left in photo), postdoctoral fellow in plant                                               Photo: Md. Iqbal R. Khanphysiology at IRRI, was bestowed with the Junior Scientist of the Year ...
    Posted Apr 4, 2018, 8:27 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • IRRI hands over solar bubble dryer to Nepal The Kathmandu PostThe Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) handed over a solar bubble dryer, which allows immediate drying of grains and seeds, to the Nepal government on ...
    Posted Feb 7, 2018, 8:37 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • Of Rice and Men: Cultivating the Next Green Revolution by Alec Regino, The McGIll International ReviewYogendra Sahoo makes all of his income from cultivating rice in his 5-acre farm in the Jajpur District of Odisha, India. His ...
    Posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:29 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 50. View more »

Towards greater genetic gains in rice based agri-food systems in South Asia and Africa

posted May 16, 2018, 7:42 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated May 16, 2018, 10:34 PM ]

by Maria Rowena M. Baltazar and Debjani Samantaray

NEW DELHI, India--
Now on its final year of implementation, IRRI’s Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) Project convened in an annual review and planning meeting about 160 delegates from South Asia, Africa, Philippines, and USA, to assess the project’s challenges and milestones, and set directives for its operation until 2019.

Through STRASA's decade long implementation, about 230,000 tons of seeds were produced and distributed to nearly 8 million farmers in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and over 200 rice varieties in over 18 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, making the project a catalyst at a policy level; with IRRI and its partners ushering in a new level of rice diplomacy in Asia and Africa.

“We consider STRASA to be the most successful project in recent times, paving the way for a second Green Revolution in
Eastern India,” said  Dr. S. K. Pattanayak, the event’s guest of honor and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation, and Farmers Welfare. “India is going to reach 111 million tons of rice this year, and for this, credit should go to this Project,” he added.

In his inaugural speech as chief guest of the event, Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, the 
Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education and Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, acknowledged the positive impact of improved varieties such as Swarna-Sub1, Samba Mahsuri-Sub1, and DRR 42. “To double farmers’ incomes, we need to focus on holistic development of rice and rice-based agri-food systems. ICAR would be very happy to continue our partnership (with IRRI) and provide support.”

Highlighting the fruits of the strong partnerships and close networks, Dr. Gary Atlin, Senior Program Officer for Agriculture Research and Development of BMGF, said, "STRASA is the strongest partnership that I am aware of between regional and global breeding programs; between national systems and CGIAR Centers; and it’s been very strongly supported by governments. It is fitting that we consider how we can now build on what we’ve accomplished with STRASA and accelerate our contribution to productivity in the region.”

Reflecting on STRASA’s catalytic role in releasing high yielding stress tolerant varieties, Dr. Jacqueline Hughes thanked the governments, BMGF, NGOs and NARES partners, while congratulating the STRASA team--“I believe this will really help us have a collective voice not only to amplify the successes of STRASA, but to make greater impact for the people we serve, helping us plan ahead and have a legacy that will live on for future generations.”

On a mission to make Asia and sub-Saharan Africa more food secure, the STRASA Project, chiefly supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), was launched in 2008. Implemented for more than 10 years now, STRASA has brought forth a new era of scientific excellence in rice science, as evidenced by the following impacts: extensive network of research and development and expertise generated from stress-tolerant rice varieties’ delivery and extension; strengthened supply chain networks; shared platforms for varietal knowledge enhancement, production and training; and widespread diffusion reaching farmers and benefiting consumers worldwide.

In working with the government and other partners, IRRI has helped usher a new era of cross-country and regional cooperation. The signing of the Dhaka Agreement (2013), Kathmandu Agreement (2014), and Siem Reap Agreement (2017) accelerated the exchange of technology and varietal knowledge, and enhanced South-South collaboration.

The meeting comprised of sessions on drought, submergence, salinity, seed systems, and cross-cutting activities on biotic stresses--emphasizing challenges, successes, and future directions. Special sessions discussing genetic gain; trends in rainfed lowland rice breeding networks; future breeding; grain quality tools; product development; seed multiplication and dissemination; impact assessment; and gender issues were also held. By way of closing, key scientists and breeders were recognized for making significant contributions to the development, dissemination, and adoption of STRVs. STRASA’s 11th annual meeting was held from April 30-May 03 in New Delhi, India. 

Photo news bits for 30 April, 1 May, 2 May and 3 May.

As floodwaters recede, farmers’ hopes emerge in Bangladesh

posted Apr 4, 2018, 9:36 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

Excerpts from an article by Shahreen Haq in Rice Today Online, 22 Jan 2018

For thousands of Bangladeshi farmers in flood-prone areas, growing rice is a risk they have to take each season.

Jitendra Nath Sarkar, a 60-year-old farmer in Kurigram District of Rangpur in the northern part of Bangladesh, is all too familiar with the nourishing nature of the rain and rivers—and the frighteningly destructive force of their raging floodwaters.

In August 2017, an unusually harsh monsoon brought the worst floods in 40 years, affecting 41 million people across South Asia. These floods have devastated Bangladesh’s rice sector─ representing the country’s single most important crop. The government estimates that 61,877 hectares of cropland were “completely damaged.” Because most of these farmlands were left submerged, a food shortage looms in the coming months....

Water recedes, hope emerges
Fortunately, some farmers, such as Mr. Sarkar, have found a way to overcome this debilitating reality. Beginning in 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been working with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Africa Rice Center to ease the effect of floods on the lives of farmers.

IRRI, through the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, works closely with the national government in developing and promoting the use of rice varieties that can withstand environmental pressures, such as flooding, faced by millions of poor farmers. Developed by IRRI in conjunction with its national partners such as the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), these varieties include BRRI dhan51, a variety that can survive under floodwater for up to two weeks while most rice plants die in a matter of days.

Mr. Sarkar calls BRRI dhan51 a miracle variety due to the variety’s ability to survive floods. (Photo by Md. Ahadat Hossain)

During the 2010 aman season, Mr. Sarkar received some BRRI dhan51 seedlings from BRRI in Rangpur. He transplanted these on 250 square meters of his land. He also received training on quality seed production and seed preservation from STRASA.

Soon after, floodwater inundated his entire field for at least two weeks. He thought that, like the previous years, his crops were damaged beyond hope. But, Mr. Sarkar saw his BRRI dhan51 emerging from the rotten remains of his other crops. Within a few days, the flood-tolerant rice plants were growing as if nothing had happened.

A venture pays off
Farmers often perceive new technology as a risk. With no previous experience with a novel crop management method or a rice variety, farmers tend to be cautious. But, Mr. Sarkar’s venture paid off.

From his BRRI dhan51, he harvested a bumper crop of more than 7 tons of rice and sold it for nearly USD 3,700. Since then, his commitment to these new rice varieties has grown along with his family’s financial stability. In 2012, he produced almost 5 tons of rice and made USD 2,200 in profits. In 2016, Mr. Sarkar received nearly USD 2,000 from the 3.5 tons of rice he harvested. A second crop of BRRI dhan51 produced nearly 4 tons of rice and brought in nearly USD 2,100.

“The results were really terrific,” Mr. Sarkar said. “I experienced three- to fivefold increases in my rice yield due to the variety’s ability to survive floods. I planted and harvested it the usual way. It tastes the same as the other rice I have grown.”

He also noted that the variety needs less urea fertilizer. He calls BRRI dhan51 a miracle variety and believes that it changed his life.

“I have more food for my family and have extra rice to sell in the market to bring a little bit more money into the household,” Mr. Sarkar said. Today, his family is doing much better and he has saved enough money for his sons’ education.

IRRI postdoctoral fellow wins NESA Junior Scientist of the Year Award

posted Apr 4, 2018, 8:27 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

Dr. Md Iqbal Raja Khan (extreme left in photo), postdoctoral fellow in plant                                               Photo: Md. Iqbal R. Khan
physiology at IRRI, was bestowed with the
Junior Scientist of the 
Year Award 2017 by the National Environmental Science Academy (NESA), in New Delhi, India. The award was presented during the Valedictory Ceremony last December at the 30th annual meeting of NESA and the National Conference on Impact of Environmental Changes on Indian Ecosystems, held at Barkatullah University, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. 

Dr. Khan received the award for his overall achievements and contributions in the field of plant physiology. Dr. Khan is currently studying the physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in flooding tolerance. He is also looking for suitable germplasm donors for breeding under the supervision of Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI principal scientist and STRASA overall project coordinator. 

Working on the metabolism of plants under abiotic stresses, Dr. Khan has found a significant role of phytohormones in the regulation of plant growth and development. His research suggests that phytohormones are critical for plant growth and development and play an important part in integrating various stress signals and controlling stress responses and interacts in coordination with each other for defense signal networking to fine tune tolerance mechanisms. 

Dr. Khan has published more than 25 peer reviewed journal articles and has edited two books. He is also a manuscript reviewer for an impressive list of plant physiology journals including Scientific Reports, Physiologia Plantarum, Journal of Plant Physiology, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, and Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants.

IRRI hands over solar bubble dryer to Nepal

posted Feb 7, 2018, 8:36 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated Feb 7, 2018, 8:37 PM ]

The Kathmandu Post

The Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) handed over a solar bubble dryer, which allows immediate drying of grains and seeds, to the Nepal government on 22 January 2018.                                                                      IRRI Photo    

The machine dries grains and seeds to the correct moisture content after they are harvested thus minimizing fungal growth and infestation. It is expected to prevent post-harvest loss in grains that farmers in Nepal have been facing for a long time.

Sun drying is the most common method used in Nepal to dry grains by spreading them under the sun. However, when rain delays sun drying, the quality of the grains deteriorates. This leads to damage that reduces the market value of the commodity.

The solar bubble dryer can dry up to 1 ton of paddy or other types of grains at a time. In Nepal, farmers have been suffering from post-harvest loss, particularly during the spring paddy or ‘chaite dhan’ harvest.

According to Bhaba Prasad Tripathi, senior associate scientist at IRRI-Nepal and project coordinator for STRASA, farmers have been losing 10-30 percent of their paddy during the harvest period. Losses are highest in spring crops as they are harvested during the wet season, June to July.

“The dryer will be the solution for farmers,” Tripathi said. The machine that costs up to Rs400,000 was considered a helpful gift to the Agricultural Engineering Division of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC). The division will produce the technical manpower after testing the equipment. The private sector can also use the machine.

“It is costly, but it can last up to 14-15 years,” said Tripathi. Read full story here

Of Rice and Men: Cultivating the Next Green Revolution

posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:29 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Alec Regino, The McGIll International Review

Yogendra Sahoo makes all of his income from cultivating rice in his 5-acre farm in the Jajpur District of Odisha, India. His village is situated a bit above the coast, and every year Sahoo’s crops face rain, water scarcity, and damage from submergence. In 2015, he was the first farmer in his village to grow BINA Dhan 11, a submergence-tolerant rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Philippines. While most farmers faced a yield of 1,700 kg per acre for different varieties, Sahoo gained 1,200 kg per half an acre.

“The farmers who heard about the performance of this variety came to me and asked for seeds for the next kharif season,” Sahoo says. “More than 20 farmers from other villages also obtained the seeds from me.”

IRRI’s STRASA Project aims to create rice varieties that can survive in various types of stress. (from

Sahoo’s good fortune came from extensive research and testing from IRRI’s STRASA(Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia) Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by Abdelbagi Ismail, Head of the Genetics and Biotechnology division at IRRI. IRRI led the charge during the first Green Revolution in the 1960s by developing IR8, a rice variety that saved the developing world from a food insecurity disaster. Around this time, China had suffered from a famine caused by the Great Leap Forward, and Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb warned of mass starvation in the 70s and onwards due to overpopulation. (Read full story here.)

IRRI gears up for a modernized rice breeding program

posted May 11, 2017, 1:59 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Maria Rowena M. Baltazar

NEW DELHI, India—“Modernize your rice breeding program.” 

This is the challenge issued by Gary Atlin (left), senior program officer, Agricultural Research and Development of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), to the scientists and partners of the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) program, supported by the BMGF, during the annual review and planning meeting.

 “By modernizing the rice breeding program, we will be able to help Africa and South Asia partners sustainably increase the rate of genetic gains they deliver, especially for the smallholder farmers,” added Dr. Atlin.

The IRRI-led STRASA was recognized for its “wise leadership” that led to its successful implementation. Around 180 participants from IRRI headquarters and partners from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Africa, attended the Phase 3 Annual Review and Planning Meeting held on 30 April–2 May at the National Agricultural Science Complex, India.

Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research Education and director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), welcomed the participants with a declaration to support the STRASA call to deliver higher rates of genetic gains to farmers and increase the rate of varietal replacement in the region.

Meanwhile, the Chief Guest, Sh. Shobhana K. Pattanayak (right), secretary of the Department of Agriculture-Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, reiterated Sec. Mohapatra’s remarks in his inaugural address. “It is now a policy of India not to promote rice varieties that are more than 10 years old,” added Pattanayak.

The STRASA meetings began with concurrent sessions on its four major objectives groups (drought, submergence, salinity, and seeds dissemination), and the cross-cutting groups on biotic stresses and grain quality. The concurrent sessions reviewed the progress made during the last year and discussed next year’s workplans and activities. (Read more here)

Climate-resilient rice help stabilize yields under droughts, says India’s agri minister

posted Mar 2, 2017, 1:18 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Mayank Sharma

KOLKATA, India—“Climate-resilient rice varieties are performing well under drought in past years and helped stabilize crop 
production,” said Shri Radha Mohan Singh, the Union Minister of India’s Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The Minister, speaking at the inauguration of Indian Seed Congress 2017, added that quality seed is undoubtedly essential for crop productivity. He also cited the contributions of the various scientists who developed the varieties in improving crop productivity and the income of farmers.

The demand for climate-resilient rice varieties promoted and disseminated by the Stress-tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project in India has been steadily increasing. These rice varieties captured 27% of the total order for kharif cropping season 2017, according to data available on Seednet India Portal. Out of 310 rice varieties, flood- and drought-tolerant varieties like Swarna-Sub1, Sahbhagi dhan, DRR42, and Samba- Sub1 are among the top 10 varieties in terms of seed production demand.

The Indian Seed Congress, held in Kolkata on 12-14 February, was organized by the National Seed Association of India in line with the vision of this government to bring prosperity to farmers. The main objective of the congress is to strengthen the Indian seed sector and increase the availability of certified and quality seeds to farmers. The Minister assured the representatives from various private seed sectors that the government is taking all possible efforts to help grow the seed sector where the public and private seed producers can work together for the betterment of the farmers. 

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is continuously trying to streamline the regulatory framework for the industry in order to make it transparent and progressive,” Singh said.

The STRASA project began in 2007, with the International Rice Research Institute in collaboration with the Africa Rice Center, to develop and deliver suitable rice varieties to the millions of farmers in the unfavorable rice-growing environments. (Read also in Rice Today Online)

IRRI showcases technologies to help Indian farmers in agricultural fair

posted Jan 23, 2017, 12:46 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

By Showkat A. Waza, Amit Mishra, and Priyanka Anand

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) showcased various technologies developed and promoted by the institute for Indian farmers through its projects Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) in a regional farmers’ fair. The event was organized by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research in Modipuram Village, Uttar Pradesh, from 28 to 30 November 2016. The theme of the fair was “Tikkau Kheti - Khushal Kisan (Sustainable Agriculture for Happy Farmers).”

The event was primarily aimed at providing an effective platform for creating awareness among farmers. A large number of farmers from six northern states of India (Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand) attended the event. This provided a good platform for reaching farmers and providing them with information on the latest technologies and machinery such as stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs), Crop Manager for Rice-based Systems, safe alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology, use of the turbo seeder for rice residue management, publications on seed production and postharvest techniques, the manual rice transplanter, the community mat nursery, and performance charts for the STRVs. In addition, IRRI representatives Dr. Showkat A. Waza (left photo) and Dr. Amit Mishra (lower right photo) demonstrated the various technologies developed by IRRI. 

Farmer-friendly literature of IRRI was also distributed among the farmers and students. This fair also gave an opportunity for the scientists, farmers, and input dealers to interact, which greatly benefited the farmers.

STRASA's Abdel Ismail to lead IRRI’s Genetics and Biotechnology Division

posted Jan 11, 2017, 10:01 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

Abdelbagi Ismail has been appointed as the head of the Genetics and Biotechnology (GB) Division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) starting 
1 January 2017. Dr. Ismail succeeds Dr. Hei Leung, the interim GB head, who will focus on guiding IRRI’s research initiatives in China and Japan.

Dr. Ismail, a Sudanese national and plant physiologist by training, brings 24 years of professional experience to lead the GB division. Currently serving as the coordinator of the project, Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), he has spent a significant part of his career developing rice varieties that can withstand harsh environmental conditions such as flooding, salinity, and soil problems.

“Indeed, it is an honor to serve as the GB head and to follow and build on the dynamic leadership of Hei Leung,” said Dr. Ismail. “I am delighted to take up this responsibility and to work vigorously with our colleagues towards a more productive, results- and impact-oriented research. We need to continue tackling current and future challenges and ensuring secured food and wellness of rice farmers and consumers.”

Aside from STRASA, Dr. Ismail has provided leadership to more than 20 projects at IRRI since 2005. He has been involved in the generation and management of major research grants totaling more than USD100 million. His research work aims to improve the lives of marginal farmers in different parts of the world who are most vulnerable to climate change adversities by sustainably increasing their rice productivity and income.

Some of his research has focused on refining screening methods, identifying tolerant donors, and establishing the genetic and physiological basis of tolerance. He has also assisted in developing tolerant breeding lines using standard and molecular methods and then evaluating and selecting them in farmers’ fields. He has developed and validated sets of best management practices for different abiotic stress conditions to maximize expression of genetic tolerance and mitigate stress effects. (Click link for full article)

Traveling interactive meetings convince farmers in Odisha to switch to stress-tolerant rice varieties and farm mechanization

posted Dec 16, 2016, 12:29 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by N.C. Banik, P. Anand, and A. Kumar

ODISHA, India—A traveling seminar and an interactive meeting with farmers was organized in Puri District to show the benefits of growing stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) using sustainable intensification technologies. 

The event, held on 22 November, showcased flood-tolerant CR 1009-Sub1, Swarna-Sub1, and BINA dhan11 and the drought-tolerant DRR-42 planted in farmers’ fields in Danogahir, Achhuasahi, and Srikanthapur during kharif 2016 using (direct-seeding drill and mechanical transplanter. In addition to the improved varieties, best management practices such as optimal seed rate and planting time, fertilizer scheduling, and integrated weed management were also highlighted.  

The field demos attracted the interest of about 65 farmers, village agriculture workers, NGO partners, and service providers. Farmers across different sites were impressed with the STRVs because of the vigorous crop stand, resistance to lodging, and higher yield compared to traditional varieties. Some farmers were initially apprehensive about using STRVs and direct seeding—being totally new interventions in the area. However, they were eventually convinced to adopt the technologies for next year’s cropping season as they realized the added assurance of higher yields even with heavy rainfall or flooding. 

“In coastal Odisha, the BINA dhan-11, being short duration and flood-tolerant variety, could be a good option for re-sowing or transplanting late in the season in areas where floods have damaged crops planted earlier,” said Dr. Narayan Chandra Banik, an agronomist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-India.  

The participating farmers were also impressed with the direct-seeding drill and mechanical transplanters because of the immediate benefits such as significant savings in labor, energy, cost of cultivation, and reduced drudgery. 

New service providers created by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and farmers who opted to use mechanical transplanting said they could transplant rice seedlings in time at a reduced cost. They also obtained higher rice yield than from manual transplanting.
The main concern of stakeholders about direct seeding is weed management and limited knowledge on the proper use of herbicides. “Integrated weed management with newly recommended pre- and post-emergence herbicides and manual and mechanical weeding could be an effective option for controlling weed in direct seeded rice,” explained Dr. Ashok Kumar, IRRI coordinator of the  CSISA Odisha hub. “Training of input dealers and service providers on herbicides could also be helpful.”

While the majority of participants opined that the large-scale adoption of the technology was limited by lack of awareness and availability of the equipment, agriculture officials emphasized nursery enterprise development could enable a wider dissemination of mechanical tranplanters.  Service providers can avail of the government’s subsidy scheme for purchasing trays for rice mat nurseries and provide service for  nursery and paddy transplanter. Current existing trained service providers can also target selected villages to increase awareness of mechanical transplanters, which in turn will increase their enterprise.

The traveling seminars and interactive meetings were organized by CSISA in collaboration with the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project coordinated by IRRI and the state’s Department of Agriculture.  Similar efforts to demonstrate and out-scale these technologies are being conducted in Khurda, Cuttack, and Jagatsinghapur in Puri Districts. (See also story in IRRI News)

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