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 a.ismail@irri.org

Maria Rowena M. Baltazar at r.baltazar@irri.org

Most Recent Posts

  • 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)‎
  • IRRI gears up for a modernized rice breeding program by Maria Rowena M. BaltazarNEW DELHI, India—“Modernize your rice breeding program.” This is the challenge issued by Gary Atlin (left), senior program officer, Agricultural Research and Development of ...
    Posted May 11, 2017, 1:59 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • Climate-resilient rice help stabilize yields under droughts, says India’s agri minister by Mayank SharmaKOLKATA, 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 ...
    Posted Mar 2, 2017, 1:18 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • IRRI showcases technologies to help Indian farmers in agricultural fair By Showkat A. Waza, Amit Mishra, and Priyanka AnandThe International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) showcased various technologies developed and promoted by the institute for Indian farmers through its projects ...
    Posted Jan 23, 2017, 12:46 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
  • STRASA's Abdel Ismail to lead IRRI’s Genetics and Biotechnology Division 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 ...
    Posted Jan 11, 2017, 10:01 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 46. View more »

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 irri.org)

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)

Exhibit for seed producers held to increase adoption of high-yielding, climate-smart rice varieties in eastern India

posted Dec 16, 2016, 12:21 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Mayank Sharma



WEST BENGAL, India—A varietal exhibition was held in Birbhum to enhance key seed system players’ awareness of stress-tolerant rice varieties and help promote them. The activity also aims to improve seed supply and accelerate the adoption of suitable varieties by small and marginal farmers living in stress-prone areas in eastern India. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in India, facilitated the event through its project, Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), which organized the client-oriented varietal exhibition on 22 October as part of its strategy to reduce poverty and to stabilize rice production in rainfed ecosystems through the use of modern varieties and technology.

To support its project objective, STRASA brought together around 140 representatives from seed dealers, seed producers, private seed companies, state seed corporations, non-governmental organizations, progressive farmers and others from Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam to enhance their knowledge of new stress-tolerant rice varieties. The on-farm display featured all stress-tolerant rice varieties released in India along with some popular high-yielding varieties from eastern Indian states giving participants the opportunity to observe the traits of these improved rice varieties. 

“Engaging the private sector in the diffusion process is important and sustainable,” said Dr. Manzoor Dar, a development specialist in agricultural research at IRRI-India who initiated the idea of bringing these stakeholders in eastern India together. “Delivering these services directly to seed dealers has a greater impact on the spread of new varieties since they have incentives to spread this information to their customers. Increases in the demand for these varieties translate directly to increased profits for dealers.”  

IRRI-STRASA also held a worskhop on various aspects of seed supply chain to help the private seed sector develop better seed markets and strategies for scaling-up the production and adoption of these improved varieties. During the workshop, Dr. Gary Atlin (third from right in photo), senior program officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed the role of private seed companies and dealers in supplying quality products to the farmers and need to promote climate-resilient rice varieties. 

The workshop provided key seed players with a platform to give their feedback. 

“We encourage seed dealers and private seed companies to share their experiences and requirements on behalf of the farmers,” said Dr. George Kotch (extreme right in photo), head of Plant Breeding Division at IRRI. “This way the IRRI breeding program can be more effective in meeting the need of the farmers and the market.”

IRRI, through STRASA Project, is currently working to build the capacity to scale out stress-tolerant rice varieties in South Asia. 

“This includes partnerships with local NGOs and private seed companies to ensure adequate and sustainable seed supply and availability,” said Dar. “IRRI-STRASA has initiated forming a platform for all stakeholders in the seed sector who can be part of enhancing the delivery of  these varieties in the target areas.” (See similar article in IRRI News)

Odisha State holds training on quality rice seed production

posted Dec 16, 2016, 12:00 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

By Tara Chand Dhoundiyal and Showkat Waza



CUTTACK, India--IRRI, in collaboration with the National Rice Research Institute (NRRI), conducted training of trainers on “Quality Rice Seed Production, Storage, and Postharvest Management” in Cuttack (Odisha) from 28 September to 1 October 2016. The training was specifically designed for extension workers, NGO representatives, and seed growers in local Odiya language. It consisted of classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the field covering seed production, maintenance breeding, integrated nutrient management, pest and disease management, and seed processing, packaging, and storage. The training was conducted in two batches to ensure the participation of a larger number of partner institutions covering all of Odisha.
 
The training aimed to address the various constraints faced during quality rice seed production and improve the capacity of extension and agricultural development officers, NGO staff, seed growers, dealers, and farmers to strengthen the seed system and increase rice productivity in the state. A total of 95 participants attended the training, representing the State Department of Agriculture at the district and block level, seed companies, seed dealers, and NGOs.

The training was inaugurated by the director of NRRI, Dr. Himanshu Pathak. In his inaugural address, he applauded IRRI’s role in establishing a genuine platform of public-private partnership linking the various stakeholders involved in agricultural development, including research and extension organizations, policy institutions, public-private seed companies, NGOs/community-based organizations, self-help groups, and farmers.  Importantly, this platform will be bringing in farmers and national and international organizations together to enhance the knowledge base and generate awareness among stakeholders on new and potential technologies. In addition, this platform focuses on farmers and is market driven. This is envisaged to ensure the availability of and accessibility to quality seed, a major input to increase rice productivity as well as promote skill and entrepreneurship development among the farmers. To deliver the potential benefits of these new technologies to larger numbers of the farming community, a strong communication mechanism will be needed with which all the stakeholders can be actively involved in exchanging ideas and experiences, he added.

Dr. O.N. Singh, head of the Crop Improvement Division (NRRI), emphasized the importance of seed as a basic input for high and sustainable crop yield. He stressed that seed is not a lone ingredient; rather, it is a constituent assembly of numerous technologies around pest-disease resistance, mineral composition, and stress tolerance, etc., thereby remaining as the most important component in overall crop production.

Dr. R.K. Sahu, senior scientist and nodal officer for seed, NRRI, was the chief training coordinator for this collaborative program. He conducted the training in both the classroom and field through interactive and participatory sessions moderated in the local language to reach out to each and every participant. He skillfully dealt with various issues and probable solutions for quality seed production in rice.

Dr. Manzoor Hussain Dar, IRRI, presented an overview and the objectives of the training and shared his experiences on the performance and potential of stress-tolerant rice varieties in South Asia with the participants.

On behalf of the participants, Mr. K. Mohanty, Mr. Vijay Kumar Jena, and Ms. Bhanu Priya shared feedback on the training. All appreciated the joint efforts of IRRI and NRRI in conducting this important training in Odisha.

The training program concluded with the distribution of certificates to the participants by the director of NRRI and a vote of thanks delivered by Mr. T.C. Dhoundiyal. 

Recommendations: Based on feedback from the participants, IRRI and NRRI teams discussed the training module and decided to broaden the scope of the training to make it more field intensive in the future. Both teams agreed to develop a detailed work plan for the next year’s training. (See also similar story in Rice Today Online)


West Bengal farmers learn more on drought-tolerant rice varieties and their management

posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:43 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Ashish Kumar Srivastava


WEST BENGAL, India—
The International Rice Research Institute and Rice Research Station-Chinsurah (government of West Bengal) jointly organized a one-day farmers’ meeting-program on “Drought-tolerant rice varieties and conforming management in West Bengal” at the Zonal Drought-Resistant Paddy Research Station (ZDRPRS), Hathwara, Purulia, on 26 September 2016.

Fifty-five farmers from Purulia I, Purulia II, and Arsha blocks of Purulia District attended the meeting. The meeting focused on providing information regarding newly available stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) and management practices such as crop establishment, nursery raising, main field management, and weed management, and targeting rice fallow to improve system productivity. 

Mr. U.S. Ray, assistant botanist, ZDRPRS, welcomed the chief guest, Dr. M.C. Dhara, joint director agriculture (Rice Division), other delegates, and the farmers. In his address to the farmers, Dr. Dhara emphasized the importance of STRVs in raising the productivity of the rainfed environment of Purulia District. Undulated land is a typical characteristic of Purulia’s agricultural land. Although this year more than normal rain has been received in Purulia, the undulated land makes it difficult to use the excess rainwater for the crop. Suitable short-duration drought-tolerant rice varieties will be a boon to poor marginal farmers to harness the productivity potential of these areas. 

Mr. Susanta Dutta, assistant director of agriculture (information) of Purulia District, gave a brief history of the changing cropping patterns of Purulia. He informed the farmers of the initiative taken by the government of West Bengal to improve the productivity potential in these rain-deficit areas. The government of India and the government of West Bengal, in close association with IRRI, have been continuously disseminating seeds of Sahbhagi Dhan, DRR42 (IR64-Drt1), and DRR44 through the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) for the past four years. Several progressive farmers had already started using these STRVs instead of the common local landraces/cultivars and they have doubled their production and household income. 

Dr. Ashish Kumar Srivastava (standing in above photo), assistant scientist (physiology), provided an overview of agronomic management practices for these newly released STRVs. He emphasized that matching management practices can produce 1 to 1.5 t/ha additional yield over these STRVs when grown using existing management practices. Dr. Somnath Saha, agronomist, pulse and oil seed research, Berhampore, provided an overview of the impact assessment of EC-IFAD drought activities in Purulia. He explained how the resource-poor farmers of neighboring villages were targeted and STRVs were distributed with information on management practices to them. Plots with local varieties/landraces were also kept to highlight the effect of STRVs and conforming management over traditional varieties when grown using farmers' practices. STRVs in combination with crop establishment methods such as dry/wet direct-seeded rice (DSR) and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) benefited the farmers a lot. 

Mr. Kaushik Maji, assistant director agriculture, Arsha block, shared an overview of EC-IFAD on-farm activities in Arsha block. Mr. M.K. Bhowmick, assistant agronomist, RRS-Chinsurah, informed the farmers about weed management in DSR. Appropriate doses of pre- and postemergence herbicides should be used as per the recommendation in the field. Mr. Manoranjan Jana, assistant botanist, RRS-Chinsurah, provided information regarding the availability of STRVs in West Bengal. Mr. Rajpati Prasad Mahato, Krishi Karmadhakshya, Purulia II, shared an update on government of India and government of West Bengal initiatives for farmers’ welfare. He emphasized the Pradanmantri Sichai Yojna (Prime Minister Irrigation Scheme) and crop insurance.

These deliberations were very useful and helped the farmers become acquainted with new advances in agricultural research and development. The session concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr. U.S. Ray.

Odisha and IRRI to start new project for improving rice farmers’ productivity and income in the state

posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:21 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎

by Alaric Santiaguel



LOS BANOS, Philippines—The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment (DAFE) in Odisha approved the implementation of new 5-year scheme that aims to improve the productivity of rice-based cropping systems and the incomes of farmers in the state.
 
“This is a milestone for the India and IRRI cooperation,” said Corinta Guerta (second from right above photo), director for External Relations. “India is a very important partner of IRRI for the past 4 decades.” 

The collaborative project between DAFE and the International Rice research Institute (IRRI) was signed in September. In connection with the new project, Manoj Ahuja (center in photo), principal secretary of DAFE, Vice Chancellor Surendranath Pasupalak of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, and Commissioner and Director Pramod Kumar Meherda of the Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production visited IRRI on 27-28 October. The party met with IRRI scientists and toured institute’s various facilities to observe some of the ongoing research activities and technologies 

 “We are interested in everything you have to offer,” said Secretary Ahuja.

During a briefing, they received an overview of some of IRRI’s projects in India. Among the projects discussed were the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) which focuses on accelerating the dissemination of improved rice varieties in the region. The Secretary and his associates were also updated on IRRI’s collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in developing new rice varieties for the region using the latest breeding technologies. Of the 200 IRRI projects in India, 30 are being conducted in Odisha.

“STRASA uses innovative approaches and regional cooperation for promoting stress-tolerant rice varieties not only in India but in South Asia,” said Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail (extreme right in photo), project leader of STRASA. “We have shortened the time for these varieties to reach farmers by almost half.” Prior to the new strategy, the process took 10 to 15 years.

Dr. Kshirod Jena, a principal scientist at IRRI, also presented some of the results of the collaborative breeding activities between ICAR and the institute to upgrade popular Indian rice varieties by incorporating rice genes responsible for high-yield and stronger resistance to pests and diseases. 

“Early reports showed dramatic increases in the yield of the MUTU 1010, Samba Mahsuri, and Swarna with the new genes,” said Jena. “They also show better resistance to pests and diseases affecting rice production in Odisha.”

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