Rice Today - adron.sr

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Rice Today - adron.sr

ARIEL JAVELLANA (2)How much are rice farmers in Asiabenefitting from higher prices? With differentgovernments trying different strategies,Rice Today looks at the situation in Thailand.MOUNDS OF RICE at a parboiling rice mill.Shaking theby Bob HillMany of Thailand’s 3.7 millionrice farmers are unhappy. Asthe producers of the world’sbiggest rice export crop,they believe their share of the 2008rice price bonanza should have beena lot bigger. They now see the highprices slipping away before they cantaste the sweetness of new wealth.Early in June, they threatened torally in Bangkok if the governmentdidn’t make some effort to halt theslide of rice prices from their peakin May, back toward “normalcy.”What the Royal Thai governmenthas done to prop up the high pricesis now a controversial part of thepolitical turmoil that grips thecountry and that tangles all aspectsof Thai life in a soap opera ofintrigue, suspicion, and accusation.World rice prices, which began toskyrocket in late 2007, were spurredby high demand and a decision bysome exporting countries to optout of the world market for the sakeof their domestic food security.A distinct minority of Thai ricefarmers—those who would normallybe regarded as wealthy; they cultivateirrigated land and produce as manyas five crops in two years—struck itrich. Others have been able to meettheir debts this year, while manypoorer Thai farmers in the rainfed(non-irrigated) environment haveyet to see any benefit at all. Ricemillers and any exporters who werenot badly burned in the explosivemarket of early 2008 (see TroublingTrade, on pages 13-17 of Rice TodayVol. 7, No. 2) are believed to havebeen the main beneficiaries.For most farmers, who are ableto grow only one crop per year, the26 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 2610/9/2008 8:27:31 AM


near-record prices of April and Maycame between crops, when they hadnothing to sell. Their dismay grew asthey watched the high prices dwindlebefore they could harvest again.At its peak in early-to-mid-May,the price for 5% white rice (an exportgrade comprising maximum 5%broken grains) was US$1,022 perton, and that for the premium gradeof Thailand’s legendary Khao HomMali (Jasmine rice) was $1,245 perton. Those exporters and millers withthe good fortune to have stocks onhand and the foresight to resist theurge to sell forward did very well.Others, learning from their earlymistakes, recovered to reap rewards.In the first 6 months of 2008,Thailand exported 5.97 million tonsof rice—46.7% more than was shippedin the first 6 months of 2007—worth almost $3.5 billion. In July,shipments were just short of 1 milliontons, and, in August, about 735,000tons. Industry representatives wereconfidently predicting a record yearwith exports totaling 10 million tons.Thailand’s gross domesticproduct rose by about 6% in thefirst half of the year, most of itcoming from increased worldprices for agricultural products,particularly rice. In that time, thevalue of the country’s exports leapedby about 30% compared with thecorresponding period in 2007.But, in the middle of May, pricesbegan to fall again. Vietnam resumedexporting, India looked set to returnto the global market, and importersstood back, waiting for cheaperdeals. In early September, 5% whiterice was selling for $760 per ton andHom Mali 100% grade A for $913.The small part of the briefbonanza that made its way downto the average farmer lost mostof its gloss for two big reasons:increased production costsand chronic indebtedness.The Thai Farmers’ Associationsays the cost of producing 1 hectare ofrice in 2004 was $695. In 2006, thisrose to $871, in 2007 to $1,019, and in2008 to $1,296. Thailand imports allbut a tiny fraction of the raw materialfor its fertilizer, and the cost hasrisen nearly 2.5 times in the past 4years. Pesticide costs and seed priceshave both doubled, and fuel costs formachinery have soared. The cost ofrenting land has also skyrocketed,affecting about one-quarter ofrice farmers across the country.About 80% of Thailand’s ricefarmers carry an amount of debtvariously described as relativelyhigh to alarming. Their debt risesand falls in a constant rhythm,following the crop cycle—leapingwith land preparation andplanting, falling and occasionallydisappearing with harvest.According to some economists,the amount of debt is a directconsequence of government policy.In 2001, the government ofdeposed prime minister ThaksinShinawatra introduced a debtmoratorium for farmers, allowingclients of the government-run Bankfor Agriculture and AgriculturalCooperatives (BAAC) to defertheir debts up to a maximum ofBt100,000 ($2,972) for 3 years,without any interest payments.The 2008 government ofSamak Sundaravej, after just afew months in office, reintroducedthe same scheme, giving farmersanother 3-year debt holiday.At the same time, as many as 95%of Thailand’s farmers—excluding onlythe very poor—have access to a widevariety of easy credit sources, fromcommercial and state-owned banksthrough to the undisciplined use ofgovernment money in local villagefunds. Relatively poor farmers nowhave a higher debt-to-income ratiothan their wealthier counterparts.While some farmers werelucky to get enough from the highprices to clear their debts, the rushof rice income into the countrycaptured the attention of Thailand’spoliticians. Two of the country’sRICE STACKED in jute sacks at a ricemill warehouse in Nakornluang District,Ayutthaya.most respected economists say theindustry has been perceived as theperfect vehicle for unscrupulouspoliticians to direct funds eitherinto their own pockets or into theirsupport systems in the countryside.As a consequence, the presidentof the Thailand DevelopmentResearch Institute and formerdean of economics at ThammasatUniversity, Nipon Poapongsakorn,and the head of the Departmentof Agricultural and ResourceEconomics in Kasetsart University’seconomics faculty, SompornIsvilanonda, fear irrevocable damageto the domestic rice market andThailand’s eventual decline as theRice Today October-December 200827RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 2710/9/2008 8:27:39 AM


BOB HILL (3)ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Somporn Isvilanonda: “Poorfarmers don’t get benefits from price intervention.Rich farmers get the benefits.”THAI RICE MILLS Association President VattanaRattanawong: “Price intervention is not onlysupported by farmers, but also by the citizensgenerally.”world’s leading rice exporter.Their concerns were exacerbatedby a flurry of government activityin early June. The prime ministerannounced the reintroduction ofprice intervention for the secondarydry-season crop, supposedly toassist farmers. Then, he accusedCommerce Ministry officials ofcollaborating with exporters at theexpense of farmers, and removedall responsibility for rice mattersfrom the Commerce Ministry andvested it in his own department, withassistance from the Finance Ministry.Prime Minister Samak thenformed three new committees,one each for the price interventionprogram, milling, and release.The new structure was additionalto the National Rice Committee,which in its role as the formulatorof rice industry policy, is routinelychaired by the prime ministerand attended by the ministers ofcommerce, finance, and agriculture,as well as their departmentalheads and other senior officials.Then, as the export price for5% white rice fell to about $856 perton, and under intense pressurefrom farmers, the governmentannounced its above-market-valueintervention prices for the 3-monthperiod between 15 June and 15September. It pledged $405 per tonfor white rice paddy (unmilled rice)with moisture content up to 15%.The price was progressively lowerfor higher moisture content, paying$361 to $376 per ton for paddywith a moisture content of 25%.Putting this in perspective, thepaddy sold by farmers for $376 perton, with a moisture content of 25%,would increase in value to about$434 after being dried by millersto reduce its moisture content to15%. After the paddy was milledinto 5% white rice it would thencost exporters about $781 per ton.Dr. Nipon and AssociateProfessor Somporn say the claimthat price intervention will help poorfarmers is a myth. They find supportfrom the Thai Farmers’ Association,which says that most farmers areincapable of delivering rice witha moisture content low enough toqualify for the top government prices.In a recent paper, 1 the economistscited the Commerce Ministry’sDepartment of Internal Trade asestimating the financial loss from ricemarket price intervention in 2005-06 at $314 million. The programhandled a record 8.65 milliontons of paddy in that season. As ofDecember 2007, the government stillowed the BAAC $1.783 billion forfunding price intervention schemesbetween 2001-02 and 2005-06.Moreover, the economistsdrew on figures from the PublicARIEL JAVELLANAWarehouse Organization, theOffice of Agricultural Economics,and Thailand’s National StatisticalOffice to show that the lion’s shareof benefits from price interventionwent to the richest strata of Thai%2520151050 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10Decile (1 = poorest; 10 = richest)DISTRIBUTION of benefits (in percentages) from theThai price intervention program by farmer incomedeciles, 2006 dry season and 2006-07 wet season(combined).GATHERING FRESHLY unloaded rice for millingat a parboiling mill.farmers. Using figures from the2006-07 harvest season, whenthe price intervention scheme cost$703 million, Thailand’s farmerswere divided into 10 equally-sizedgroups ranging from poorest torichest. The bottom four groupsreceived less than 18% of the benefits,while the top four received morethan 62% (see figure below).“The poor farmers don’t getbenefits from price intervention; richfarmers get them,” Prof. Somporn1Key Policy Issues in the Thai Rice Industry: Myths, Misguided Policies, and Critical Issues, delivered at a Rice Policy Forum organized by IRRI at Los Baños,Philippines, 18-19 February 2008.28 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 2810/9/2008 8:27:42 AM


confirms. “Wishing to help poorfarmers is a fine sentiment, butwhen the intervention price ishigher than the market price, youdestroy the market in the long run.Small operators cannot survive.”An immediate problem fromthis year’s price intervention schemewas the forcing of Thailand’s exportquotations above those being offeredby Vietnam. In the countryside,local wholesale rice trading has beenstrangled by successive years of priceintervention. Having been bypassed,smaller middlemen are closing theirdoors. One of the country’s biggestprivate rice markets at NakhonSawan, in the heart of the central ricebowl, has become a storage operation.In the first month of this year’s3-month intervention scheme, thegovernment-run BAAC bought508,506 tons of paddy, worth $200million, from 38,285 farmers. This,it said, represented 20% of its target.Earlier intervention schemeswere administered by major millers,but most commentators say the vast,confusing circus between the farmgate and retailers or exporters iswhere graft thrives. Dr. Nipon andProf. Somporn cite the board of thePublic Warehouse Organizationas saying that more than 200millers are being sued for breach ofcontract. Several years ago, therewere also widespread instances ofKhao Hom Mali being blended withlesser-quality grain while in thehands of millers. Many such caseshave been referred to the NationalCounter-Corruption Commission.Thailand has as many as 10,000rice millers. As with smaller traders,most millers, at the bottom end ofthe wealth and turnover ladder,are being bypassed or, at least,disadvantaged by the interventionscheme. Only about 220 rice millshave joined the program and areresponsible for receiving, milling,and helping to store the government’srice stockpile. And, with the first2008 price intervention schemejust finished, another is expectedto begin in November, to coverthe country’s main harvest.During the 2006-07 term of themilitary government that precededPrime Minister Samak, about 55millers were blacklisted for illegalpractices and cheating. There wasuproar in the industry in Augustwhen the Samak governmentannounced that blacklisted millerswould be allowed back in, to take partin the upcoming scheme. The millershad complained about the need topay fines amounting to about $42million, and said they were alreadysuffering because of the high marketprices. Their trade association alsoasked that millers be allowed to sharein government-to-government deals,a request the government not onlyacceded to by granting them halfof its government-to-governmentbusiness, but also undertook tofind financial support for them.Farmers and exporters wereoutraged, saying the decisionwas tantamount to encouragingthe guilty to re-offend.“Most of the millers are eitherpoliticians or are politically involved,”says Dr. Nipon. “Rice policy is nolonger based on business decisions,but on political decisions, and, if wecan’t halt this phenomenon, sooneror later, farmers will get hurt.”ARIEL JAVELLANAA MILL WORKER unloads rice for milling.As one of Thailand’s mostrespected analysts in the fieldof agricultural economics, Dr.Nipon says Thailand’s riceindustry has become a systemthat allows politicians todistribute largesse to their supportnetworks in the countryside.“Yes, exactly!” agrees thepresident of the Thai Farmers’Association, Prasit Boonchuey,saying that rice is being used as apolitical tool to create short-termpopularity for the governmentin rural communities.Mr. Prasit’s frustration withgovernment policy is clear. “Thegovernment should be thinking oflong-term development assistance,to allow farmers to help themselves.THAI FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION President PrasitBoonchuey: “Farmers don’t want to be the tools ofpoliticians.”Rice Today October-December 200829RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 2910/9/2008 8:27:44 AM


Instead, we’re stuck with short-termintervention. Farmers have becomedependent upon the government,and that is how the industryhas become a political tool.”Prof. Somporn is a memberof the National Rice Committee,which sets official rice policy, buthe is bitterly opposed to the way theindustry is being administered.“I argue with the prime minister,”Prof. Somporn says. “I say they shouldestablish a policy for the future,because the market is more dynamicthan they realize. I suggested anoption pricing system, to allow theprivate sector to function. They saidno. They are not at all knowledgeableabout the rice industry, and theyhave no use for academic analysis.They operate according to their ownpolitical feelings.” More thoughtfully,he adds: “I can’t leave, or there wouldbe nobody to argue with them.”The 3-month price interventionscheme for the dry-season crop hada budget of $743 million, coveringnot only purchases but also milling,storage, and fumigation. Thereal cost is a matter of debate.“In the paddy pledgingprogram, everyone benefits at theexpense of the taxpayer,” says Dr.Nipon. “Yet we don’t know howmuch is being spent. The systemis designed to hide these things.“Hundreds of rice millerswith political connections areinvesting in new silos because theyknow the government will renttheir storage space. When they get[government] rice in their silos,the first thing they do is sell it tobuy more rice. It’s like investmentcapital. When the government wantsits rice, they [the millers] simplybuy some more to replace it.“We don’t know what the costis to the public. The financial andeconomic cost of this programis never known. But we knowit is several billion baht.”At the other end of the scheme,selling the government’s stockpilesis another hot issue. Despite thestratospheric prices, the Thailandgovernment began the year with2.1 million tons of stockpiled rice,some of it from as long ago as2004. Throughout the high worlddemand, nothing moved. If thesecondary harvest scheme wentas expected, the stockpile shouldnow be more than 4 million tons.“I pushed hard for thegovernment to sell its rice whenthe price was at its peak,” saysProf. Somporn. “But it was worriedabout domestic food security. Thatwas before they learned that therewould be another harvest within4 months. But we still lost theopportunity to sell at peak pricesbecause the government’s decisionprocesses are extremely slow.”The government was quick, inApril, to dust off an old proposal forthe formation of a cartel of riceproducingcountries to effectivelycontrol the international price ofrice. The plan, to include Thailand,Vietnam, India, Pakistan, andChina—collectively accounting for79% of global rice exports—broughta storm of horrified reactionand was shot down by Vietnameven before it could be proposedto the would-be partners.In June, Thailand also missedan opportunity to sell 675,000tons of rice to the Philippines ina government-to-governmentdeal. The Philippine proposal wastaken off the Cabinet agenda inBangkok on 10 June and ignored.The move followed a visit to thePhilippines by Prime Minister Samak,ARIEL JAVELLANA (3)RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3010/9/2008 8:27:46 AM


BOB HILLduring which he promised to sell riceat “friendly” prices to the Philippineson a government-to-governmentbasis, on the condition that no bids orprior Cabinet approval were required.When there was no bid fromThailand, the Philippines announcedit had struck a deal with Vietnam.Perhaps predictably, theThai Rice Mills Associationsees no likelihood of damageto the rice industry from theprice intervention schemebecause it says the interventionlevel is not extremely high.The association’s president,Vattana Rattanawong, says it isexpected that about one-quarterof the country’s main rice cropwill enter the scheme. This willamount to about 5.7 million tonsif the main crop reaches its usual23 million tons of paddy.“If exports continue at thepresent volume, there will be nomarket collapse,” Mr. Vattana says.“In fact, we expect exports willrise year after year. This schemeis not only supported by farmers,but also by the citizens generally.“Rice exporters don’t agreewith the scheme because they wantto control the market; they wantthe lowest prices. Rice millers arecloser to farmers. We have to supportfarmers, because farmers must infuture grow the same quantity ofrice on a smaller area of land. Thiswill demand new varieties of rice.”The Rice Mills Associationclaims the government spends nomore than $119 million per year onthe pledging scheme. “When that’sdivided among 20 million farmers,it’s not much,” Mr. Vattana says.DR NIPON Poapongsakorn.Prof. Somporn says that, by hiscalculation, intervention has cost$892 million over the past 3 years: “Ifthe government prolongs this policy,it will damage the Thai rice industry.”Dr. Nipon says he’s been trackingdown the real cost to the Thaitaxpayer. “By early next year, I shouldhave the figures, and I will make themknown to both farmers and society.We must get rid of this system.”Mr. Prasit of the Thai Farmers’Association claims the governmenthas been losing $535 million peryear because of price intervention,but adds: “Farmers are not gettinganywhere near that much.”As for the future, the Thai RiceExporters’ Association predicts thatThailand’s export volume will fallto 8 million tons next year becauseprice intervention will make theThai product uncompetitive.However, the Thai CommerceMinister says the coming harvestwill see the highest interventionprices ever—$446 per ton for whiterice paddy and $565 for KhaoHom Mali. The prime minister hasraised the idea of a governmentdepartment to especially handlethe rice industry, and says thegovernment’s stockpiles in 2009will rise to about 5 million tons.“If this government screws up,it will mean less rice for the world,”declares Dr. Nipon. “Thailand willcease to be the leading and mostreliable supplier of rice in the world.RICE BEING UNLOADED from trucksat a parboiling rice mill.“Exports will decline becauseThailand’s price will be higher thanothers. Then the government willhave to inject more and more moneyinto its price support system untilit gets to the point where it says:‘we can no longer afford to do this.’Then the whole thing will collapse.”After this article was written,Samak Sundaravej was removedas the Thai prime minister by thecountry’s Constitutional Courtbecause he had contravened theconflict of interest provisions ofthe Thai Constitution by hostingTV cooking shows while in office.Members of the ruling coalitionlater boycotted a Parliamentarysession in which he was expectedto accept his party’s nomination toresume the top office and he wasforced to stand down. The samecoalition has since elected SomchaiWongsawat as its new leader.The Commerce and AgricultureMinisters have not changed.Bob Hill is a Thailandbasedwriter specializing inscience and technology.Note: Apart from export prices,which are quoted internationally inUS$, all US$ figures were convertedfrom Thai baht at the 29 September2008 rate of US$1 = Bht34.15.Rice Today October-December 200831RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3110/9/2008 8:27:57 AM


Managementmade easyA new decision-making tool is helping rice farmersoptimize their use of nutrient inputsby Roland BureshThe largest expense forrice farming after laboris typically the purchaseof fertilizers. Fertilizerprices have dramatically increasedin recent months, making it evermore important that rice farmersuse the most profitable fertilizermanagement practices for theirgrowing conditions. This requiresfarmers to select a combination offertilizer sources, timing, and dosagesthat provides the highest incrementalincrease in rice yield per addedcost. Such a selection can involvecomplex decisions for farmers,which are made even more dauntingby the myriad available fertilizersources and recommendations.Fortunately, a partnership ofnational and International RiceResearch Institute (IRRI) scientistsacross Asia have, through nearly15 years of research, developedan improved site-specific nutrientmanagement (SSNM) approachfor rice. This approach—whichenables farmers to effectively applythe three major plant nutrients(nitrogen, phosphorus, andpotassium) as and when needed bytheir rice crop—has consistentlyincreased rice yields and profit inon-farm evaluations across Asia.The SSNM approach is arelatively knowledge-intensivetechnology in which optimumfertilizer management for a ricefield is tailored to specific localconditions for crop yield, growthduration of the rice variety, cropresidue management, past fertilizeruse, and input of nutrients fromorganic materials and sediments.Such knowledge requirements haveslowed the wide-scale promotion anduptake by farmers of SSNM. Uptakeby farmers has also been constrainedby confusion arising from thecontrasting, and often contradictoryand competing,recommendationsfor nutrientmanagementreceived fromdifferent sources.IRRI hasconsequentlyworked withpartners in boththe public andprivate sectorsto consolidateexisting knowledgeon nutrient bestmanagementpractices intoconcise principlesand guidelinesaccepted andpromoted acrossFARMERS IN INDONESIA mixing fertilizer(potassium chloride and urea) for applicationto rice at panicle-initiation stage.MONINA ESCALADAmultiple research and extension(technology dissemination)organizations. Now, to facilitate theconsolidation and disseminationof such intensive knowledge,scientists have developed easyto-use,interactive computerbaseddecision tools for extensionworkers and farmers.In Indonesia, IRRI and partnerorganizations within the IndonesianAgency for Agricultural Research andDevelopment have worked togetherto consolidate divergent soil testing,soil mapping, and plant-basedapproaches into one concise national32 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3210/9/2008 8:28:02 AM


ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONSIRRI’s newly developed nutrientmanagementdecision-making tool asksthe following questions, allowing farmersor extension agents to determine theoptimum fertilizer applications for theirrice crop.IRRI CONSULTANT Mira Pampolino demonstratesa nutrient-management module in Indonesia.nutrient management guideline forrice now disseminated throughoutthe country. Scientists developed in2008 software named PemupukanPadi Sawah Spesifik Lokasi (RiceFertilization for a Specific Location).PuPS, as it is known, consolidatesexisting knowledge from yearsof research. PuPS, along with anassociated training module, wasceremonially released by PresidentSusilo Bambang Yudhoyono duringthe Indonesian National RiceWeek in July 2008. The PuPS CDis being distributed to extensionworkers across the country throughIndonesia’s Assessment Institutesfor Agricultural Technology.In the Philippines, IRRIscientists, in partnership with publicandprivate-sector organizations,have developed a similar tool.Named Nutrient Manager forRice, it is tailored to rice-growingconditions in the Philippines. InSeptember 2008, the PhilippineDepartment of Agriculture begandistributing the Nutrient ManagerCD—which is available in fivedialects—to local extension agenciesthroughout the country. In the fourthquarter of 2008, country-specificversions are set for evaluation inBangladesh, Vietnam, and theIndian state of West Bengal.Nutrient Manager for Riceand PuPS are designed to helpagricultural technicians quicklyformulate fertilizer guidelinestailored to specific rice fields orrice-growing areas. These decisiontools consist of about ten multiplechoicequestions that can easily beanswered by an extension workeror farmer. Based on responses tothe questions, a fertilizer guidelinewith amounts of fertilizer bycrop growth stage is provided forthe rice field. This helps farmersincrease their yield and profitby applying the right amountof fertilizer at the right time.These tools enable farmersto select the least expensivecombination of fertilizer sourcesfor meeting the nutrient needs oftheir rice crops. Fertilizer rates andtiming are adjusted to accommodatea farmer’s use of organic sourcesof nutrients. They accommodatetransplanted and direct-seeded rice,including inbred and hybrid varietieswith a range of growth durations.The guidelines are consistent withthe scientific principles of SSNMfor rice, which are based on yearsof research across Asia. Theseprinciples are available in the bookRice: A Practical Guide to NutrientManagement, which was releasedin July 2008 in Bahasa Indonesiaand is now being released acrossAsia in other local languages(http://tinyurl.com/6lp8zj).PJ SINOHIN1) What is the rice variety?2) Is rice transplanted or direct seeded?Answers are used to provideguidelines on the optimal number ofdays after crop establishment to applyfertilizer nitrogen (N). This ensuresthat N is applied when most neededby the crop.3) What rice yield is typically attained?A crop’s need for nutrients increaseswith an increase in yield. The answeris used to adjust fertilizer rates to theneeds of the crop.4) Is rice straw retained or removedfrom the field after harvest?Straw contains about 80% of thepotassium in a mature rice plant. Theanswer is used to adjust the rate offertilizer potassium to the farmer’smanagement practices.5) What source and amount of fertilizerwas applied in the previous season?The answers together with theanswer on yield are used to estimatewhether soil phosphorus fertility hasbeen built up or depleted. Fertilizerphosphorus rates are adjustedaccordingly.6) What source and amount of organicfertilizer will be applied?The answers are used to estimatenutrients supplied from organics,when used by a farmer, and toadjust rates of inorganic fertilizeraccordingly.Dr. Buresh is a senior soil scientistat the International Rice ResearchInstitute. For more information onnutrient management, seewww.irri.org/irrc/ssnm.Rice Today October-December 2008 33RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3310/9/2008 8:28:06 AM


Thefun isin thedirtby Meg MondoñedoARIEL JAVELLANARice Today interviews Achim Dobermann, soil scientist and new deputydirector general for research at the International Rice ResearchInstitute (IRRI), about life, work, and what could have been…“If you were to interviewIRRI’s deputydirector general forresearch, what wouldbe your first question?”Achim Dobermann thinks for amoment, then says, “If you had thechoice, which of your responsibilitieswould you drop?” then laughs.“And would you liketo answer that?”“No,” he says with a straightface, then a chuckle, then silence.It’s impossible to put Dr.Dobermann in a box. He is seriousyet funny, modest but outspoken,focused but far-reaching.Now, after working as aresearcher for nearly 20 years,he believes that he can make hisbiggest contribution by applyinghis broad experience to managingand directing science—to helpingother scientists succeed in theinterest of a larger institution.Dr. Dobermann, a soil scientistand agronomist, has led research onglobal issues of cereal production,crop management, and climatechange in Asia, North America, andEurope. As deputy director generalfor research, he oversees IRRI’sresearch on rice improvement,management of rice systems,genetics and genetic resources,policy, information management,and capacity building. He haspublished more than 200 researchpapers, including 90 papers in peerreviewedinternational journals.He is an elected Fellow of theAmerican Society of Agronomy andthe Soil Science Society of America,and he has received numerousinternational and national awardsfor his contributions to agriculturalresearch and development.A fan of great minds“Certain people have influenced me,”he says, “whom I’ve read about butnever met, because most of themdied a long time ago, but who haveimpressed me with their strengthof character or contributionsthey have made to society.”On top of his most-influentialpeoplelist is Charles Darwin for“the amount of dedication he gaveto science and his struggle to put hisscientific discoveries in line with theprevailing values.” Nelson Mandelaand Mahatma Gandhi come next“for their enormous passion anddedication to a cause and stayingon course for a long, long time.”34Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3410/9/2008 8:28:12 AM


WILLIAM STA. CLARAThen, there are people he knows,who have had a more direct influence.“I had a very good professor incollege back in Germany,” he says. “Asoil scientist who was able to teachscience in a visual, engaging way;without him, I wouldn’t have beeninterested in science and agriculture.”A day in the life…“Typically,” says Dr. Dobermann,“I try to be at the office by 7:30a.m. to get some quiet timebefore things get really busy.”Then there’s reviewing policiesand research agendas, writing papers,attending meetings, and talking withscientists. In between all that, he hasto answer around 100 emails a day,many of which require some sortof attention or decision-making.“I also spend a lot of timemeeting with individual scientistsin their offices, in the field, or inthe lab to keep a close eye on what’sgoing on in a research sense.”One of the responsibilities of aDDGR is to ensure that the instituteis focusing on the kind of researchthat will benefit rice farmers andconsumers. Dr. Dobermann mustlook at things critically from abroad perspective and, whennecessary, challenge people.“An institute can onlysurvive if it has the ability tocritically self-evaluate what it isdoing,” he says. “That’s a veryimportant role for me to play.”Despite the workload, though,“Science is wonderful. Getting paidfor doing something I love is great.I’m happy to be in a position whereI can help make decisions that makea positive impact on others. It’s thatbig mission of contributing to aneven bigger goal here at IRRI.”Date with fate“I had no clue what a soil scientisteven was until I started college,” Dr.Dobermann recalls. “It was the veryfirst class I took. I had this excitingprofessor and it immediately clickedwith me. It was very much by chance;I didn’t even know it existed. Asa teenage kid, I went through theusual phase of not knowing what Iwanted to be. At one point, I thoughtI’d become a lawyer or a chemicalengineer or—whatever—until I was,more or less by chance, pushed intoagriculture. And I stuck with it.”Where’s the fun in soil science?“The fun is in the dirt,” he says.“Many people have no clue what’sbeneath the surface. They look atit as an abstract brown or red oryellow material that can be usedto build houses but the real fun isunderstanding what the soil is, howit was formed; why are there rockshere, no rocks there? Soil is a livingthing; there are bugs in there andall sorts of things you can’t see—andthat’s exciting. It’s as exciting asthe stuff that’s goingon above-ground.”Did you know…?Dr. Dobermann grewup as part of a farmingfamily in a smallvillage of about 300people in southernEast Germany.As a child, hewas exposedto agriculture.“But it reallydidn’t excite me thatmuch,” he says. “Atone point, I wanted tobecome a professionalsoccer player. I wasquite good, I think. I must havebeen 12 or 13 when I was supposedto go to a training camp held by oneof the leading soccer clubs in EastGermany, where they would selectthe next talents. But, when the daycame, I was so scared that I didn’tshow up. So that was the end of myprofessional soccer career. If I’d gone,I might not be here at IRRI now.”Nine years in the PhilippinesDr. Dobermann likes pork adobo [aFilipino dish of meat cooked in garlic,vinegar, and soy sauce] and sinigang[meat cooked in tamarind soup withlocal vegetables]. But, most of all,he appreciates the friendliness andstrong family orientation of Filipinos.On the media“I like it when interviewers askquestions that imply that theyhave a distorted view of the life ofa scientist. Often, the public’s viewof a scientist is the weird lookingnerd with a wild haircut, sitting inthe lab, brewing things up, with nofamily life whatsoever. But scienceis a bit like art. It’s not dull, drywork. You need to be very creativeand you need to have fun with it.”Ten years from now…“IRRI five to ten years from nowneeds to be bigger and morefocused at the same time,” says Dr.Dobermann. “It needs to be moreflexible and be able to provide aneven better environment and facilitiesfor the staff to work well. We needto find new ways to help solve themajor development challenges. ”He also emphasizes the need toexpand IRRI’s partnerships and workmore closely with a much wider rangeof public- and private-sector partners.“As DDGR, I constantly thinkabout the four most importantaspects of my job: Are we doingthe right science? Do we have theright people in the right place?Do they have the right resourcesand partners? How can I protectthem and help them succeed?”Trying to answer thesequestions is what makes him oneof the busiest people around.Rice Today October-December 2008 35RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3510/9/2008 8:28:16 AM


y Dilantha GunawardanaRice production in Sri Lanka has a long and regal history—but thecountry faces steep challenges if its future is to be as bountiful as its pastThe term “serendipity” wascoined by author HoraceWalpole in 1754 afterreading an ancient fairytale titled The three princes ofSerendip. The word described theaccidental discovery of fortunatethings, after the many fortuitousfindings by the story’s heroes.The Arabic term “Serendib” (alsospelled “Serendip”) has been usedto describe the island of Sri Lanka,regarded as an isle of unparalleledbeauty and enumerable naturalresources, since as early as AD 361.Among the many naturalblessings that mark Sri Lanka isvast, fertile terrain well suited forthe growth of many crops, includingrice, the staple food for the 21 millioninhabitants of this South Asiannation. The importance of rice withinSri Lanka, however, extends wellbeyond its status as the primary foodsource, with integral roles in culturalidentity, tradition, and politics.Rice is grown primarily onirrigated land in Sri Lanka’s “dryzone,” an area spanning most ofthe country’s north-central andnortheastern regions, and secondarilyon rainfed (nonirrigated) land bysmallholder farmers across thecounty. In 2007, Sri Lanka’s riceindustry made up 5% of the nation’sgross domestic product. Almostone-third of the labor force is directlyinvolved in the rice sector. Currently,the per-capita consumption of riceis 108 kilograms per year. Althoughrice, until recently, offered minimalfinancial return for farmers, its social,cultural, and political significancehas ensured that successivegovernments since independencehave paid it due attention.The current state of the riceindustry in the Serendib isle is thus astory of sound research, investmentin irrigation, and organizedextension (technology dissemination)spanning two millennia. Over thattime, the country has remainedself-sufficient, or close to it, inrice. In recent times, however, thegrail of self-sufficiency has provedsomewhat more elusive, despitesurplus years in 2004 and 2005.The Sri Lankan rice industry canbe traced back to the ancient kingdomof Anuradhapura, the first capital ofthis island nation, which flourishedbetween 161 BC and AD 1017. Manyancient kings of this early kingdomdeveloped large reservoirs and mazesof interconnected canals to irrigatethe rice fields of their constituents.Reservoirs and waterways built bythe kings of this golden era are to thisday being used by rice farmers in thedry zone for irrigation. Many of theseancient works have been rehabilitatedand maintained under theMahaweli River diversion program,implemented during the 1980s toensure reliable water availability.A more recent renaissance ofthe rice industry can be sketchedback to the establishment of the RiceResearch and Development Institute(RRDI) in 1929 in Bathalagoda, aquaint rural town 110 kilometersnortheast of the capital, Colombo.RRDI’s successes include an improvedvariety, released in 1968, named Bg11-11, which achieved yields of up to8–9 tons per hectare. The 1970s and1980s were dedicated to developingSRI LANKAN FARM workers prepare to plantrice on a farm in Bathalagoda.36 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3610/9/2008 8:28:19 AM


DILANTHA GUNAWARDANAhigh-yielding varieties resistant to ahost of pests and diseases prevalentin Sri Lankan rice fields such asbrown planthopper, bacterial leafblight, rice blast, and rice gall midge.Current research at RRDIconcentrates on the development ofhigher yielding hybrid rice varieties,the effects of climate change on riceproduction, soil fertility and nutrientmanagement, and weed control.Hybrid varieties in particular havereceived recent attention througha project supported by the AsianDevelopment Bank, the InternationalRice Research Institute (IRRI),and the Food and AgricultureOrganization (FAO) of the UnitedNations. Technical assistance isbeing provided by IRRI and thegovernment of China. The FAO hasalso approved US$329,000 for hybridrice development and popularization.In 2007, the first moderncommercial hybrid rice variety, Bg407H, was developed at RRDI bya team led by senior plant breederS.W. Abeysekera. Approximately1,000 kilograms of Bg 407H seedwas distributed island-wide. Ableto achieve yields of up to 11 tons perhectare, Bg 407H is also resistantto rice blast and many naturalpests, is salt tolerant, and possesseshigh grain quality, including longand strong grain body, favorablearoma, and short cooking time.Since high-quality seed iscrucial for hybrid rice farming,RRDI researchers have introduceda technique to improve seedgermination without additionalfinancial and labor costs. Themethod, termed “parachute sowing,”involves placing seeds in speciallydeveloped trays possessing 434wells, each 2 centimeters deepand filled with soil. One to threeseeds are sown in each well and, 12days later, the emerging plants areremoved with the surrounding soilintact. The seedlings are then handsowninto the field. The parachutelikeappearance of the soil “cap” isresponsible for the technique’s name.Over the past two decades, SriLanka has been able to produce morethan 85% of the rice needed to feedits population. In 2004-05, favorableweather during both cultivatingseasons—Maha (September to March)and Yala (April to August)—resultedin a national surplus. However,10–15% of the country’s rice hasbeen routinely imported fromThailand, Vietnam, Myanmar,RRDI (2)A CLOSE-UP VIEW of “parachute”rice seedlings.Bg 407H IS THE first commercially distributedmodern hybrid rice variety developed by SriLanka’s Rice Research and Development Institute.Rice Today October-December 200837RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3710/9/2008 8:28:23 AM


RRDI (2)A FARM WORKER holds stacksof 12-day-old rice plantsready to be sowed usingthe parachute method.and, to a lesser extent, India.Despite years of regalintervention, historical and moderninfrastructure suited for yearroundirrigation, efficient research,sound management and extensionservices, and gradual innovation,Sri Lanka was not immune to theglobal food crisis of 2008. Food andfuel prices have risen sharply and,combined with high governmentspending, caused inflation to hita dangerous 28% in June 2008.The effects of high prices foressential consumables are being feltby both urban and rural residents,PARACHUTE RICE seedlings immediatelyafter planting.the poorer of whom suffer fromworsening malnutrition andsusceptibility to disease. At thesame time, higher prices have forcedcutbacks in food aid and school mealprograms. It is within this economicclimate that both the Sri Lankangovernment and its national andinternational research and extensionpartners have initiated numerousprograms to boost food production.The Sri Lankan government hasinaugurated a broad, multifacetednational program titled Apiwawamu rata nagamu, whichdirectly translates to “we cultivateand develop the country.” The ricecomponent of this program aims toincrease production by 30% from2008 to 2010. It is projected that22.5% of the improvement will comefrom improving the productivity ofexisting rice varieties—to a nationalaverage of 5.2 tons per hectare fromthe current 4.3 tons per hectare—withthe remaining 7.5% achieved throughfarming unused or abandonedcultivable lands. Other plans toimprove rice production includethe production of high-quality seedand the incorporation of higherefficiencypostharvest (drying,milling, and storage) technologies.The FAO is also involved in thedevelopment of the rice sector inSri Lanka in four key areas: reliableseed certification and efficientmethods of seed dissemination;cultivation of 40,000 hectares ofabandoned farmland mainly fromthe north-central and easternprovinces; production improvementsin smallholder rainfed farms inA RICE RESEARCH and DevelopmentInstitute research center at Bathalagoda.DILANTHA GUNAWARDANART7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3810/9/2008 8:28:30 AM


NASATOPOGRAPHICAL mapof Sri Lanka.ANURU ABEYSEKERA (right) andIRRI associate scientist Ofie Namucolook at promising rice varieties withpotential to compete against weeds.SANTO PANINGBATANthe wet zone (in the country’ssouthwest) by incorporatinguncultivated or abandonedlands and boosting productivitythrough the implementationof efficient managementpractices; and better postharvestmanagement to limit losses.The first of these is a partnershipbetween the public and privatesectors, with the Department ofAgriculture of Sri Lanka providingseed certification services andprivate companies, such as CICAgri Business, contributing to seeddissemination. The contributionof the private sector to the SriLankan rice industry extends to thedevelopment of niche markets forrice and rice-based products—suchas basmati rice, rice flour, andrice noodles—for both domesticconsumption and export.For Sri Lanka to reach, maintain,and even surpass self-sufficiencyin rice production, a long-termvision, careful planning, innovativeresearch, good management, andefficient extension services will beneeded. Given its densely packedand fast-rising population, this tinyisland needs to squeeze every bit ofproductivity out of its limited landarea. Changing weather patterns,Aside from water shortage and floods, weeds have become a major problem in the ricefields of Sri Lanka. More than 90% of farmers practice direct seeding in nonpuddledfields as opposed to transplanting seedlings into flooded fields. With the shift fromtransplanting to direct seeding, and without the protective layer of water, different hard-tomanageweed species have infested the fields. Weedy rice, in particular, has become a majorthreat to rice fields in different parts of the country.Weedy rice is believed to be either a natural hybrid of cultivated (Oryza sativa) and wildrice species (O. rufipogon and O. nivara) or a result from the “de-domestication” of cultivatedrice.In Sri Lanka, weedy rice was first detected in 1992 but was not seen as a serious threat,says Anuru Abeysekera, senior weed scientist and head of the Plant Protection Division atthe country’s Rice Research and Development Institute (RRDI). Last year, however, in Amparaand Puttalam districts, many farmers complained that they could not cultivate their fieldsbecause of weedy rice, and yield losses were estimated at 30–100%. Now, RRDI is studyingthe longevity of seed viability of weedy rice seeds collected from different areas in Sri Lanka.Dr. Abeysekera first began collaborative research with IRRI in the late 1990s with weedscientist Martin Mortimer. In 2004, she started working with David Johnson under theIrrigated Rice Research Consortium’s (IRRC) Weed Ecology Work Group (now the LaborProductivity Work Group). Maintaining a strong partnership with the IRRC, in 2005-07, sheconducted field surveys and experiments at RRDI, studied weedy rice, and compared cropestablishmentand weed-control practices to reduce yield losses to weeds in different riceenvironments.Dr. Abeysekera’s philosophy is simple. “If the farmer is happy, reduces losses due to weeds,and gets a good yield,” she says, “I have done my duty.”brought by global climate change,are bound to present an extrachallenge in the coming years.Time will reveal Sri Lanka’sdestiny as a rice-producing nation,a destiny that has been woveninto the country’s rice fields formore than 2,000 years. Riceproduction is in the hands of thecurrent and next generations of ricescientists, agronomists, farmers,and politicians. Serendipity inthe Serendib isle has relied onand always will rely on far morethan mere good fortune.Dr. Gunawardana, a Sri Lankanby birth, is a postdoctoral fellow atIRRI. For assistance in researchingthis article, he acknowledgesDr. D.S.P. Kuruppuarachchi(assistant representative, FAO–SriLanka), Mr. S.W. Abeysekera(senior plant breeder, RRDI),Dr. W.M.W. Weerakoon (senioragronomist, RRDI), and Dr.W.M.A.D.B. Wickramasinghe(deputy director research andsenior soil scientist, RRDI).Rice Today October-December 200839RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 3910/9/2008 8:28:38 AM


RICE FACTSRice crisis:THE AFTERMATHWhat has happened, what has changed, and what are the challenges ahead?by Samarendu MohantyHead, IRRI Social Sciences DivisionCompared with the prices ofother cereals such as wheatand maize, rice prices wererelatively subdued for muchof 2007. In late 2007, however, pricesbegan to zoom upward to levelsnot witnessed in more than threedecades. Between November 2007and May 2008, export prices almosttripled (Figure 1). Since then, priceshave softened but remain high.Several factors such as adverseweather in key producing countries,high oil prices, and pro-ethanolpolicies combined with speculativetrading and government tradeinterventions to control domesticprices contributed to the recent spike.Despite media and publicattention to the recent price surge,a steady increase in rice prices from2000 went largely unnoticed. From2001 to 2007, rice prices nearlydoubled primarily because of adrawing down of stocks to meet thedeficit arising out of deceleration$ per ton10008006004002000Aug05Oct05Thai 100% Grade BWheatMaizeSoybeansDec05Feb06Apr06Jun06Aug06Oct06Fig. 1. Monthly crop prices.Data source: various issues of Crop Outlook Reports, USDA.Dec06Datein yield growth (Figure 2). Currentglobal rice stocks have declinedfrom a 135-day supply to a 70-day supply in the last 7 years—a44% drop from 147 million tons in2001 to 82 million tons in 2008.Rice crisis aftermathThe 2008-09 rice market is likelyto remain tight even with projectedrecord global production of 432million tons 1 (milled rice)—a 1%increase over last year’s 428 milliontons. Production in 2007-08, nearly2% higher than the 2006-07 level of420 million tons, was also a record.$ per ton600500Stock-to-use ratioThai 100% Grade B400300200100097/98 99/00 01/02 03/04 05/06 07/08YearsFig. 2. Rice price and stock-to-use ratio.Data source: Production, Supply, and Distribution Database andRice Outlook Report, USDA.Feb07Apr07Jun07Aug07Oct07Dec07Feb08Apr08Jun08The projected increase in globalproduction is based primarilyon increased area with averageprojected yield nearly unchangedfrom the previous year. Accordingto the United States Departmentof Agriculture (USDA), rice areais projected to increase by almost1 million hectares from 154.4million hectares in 2007-08 to155.3 million hectares in 2008-09. India will account for morethan half of the total increase.Despite higher prices, riceconsumption is expected to remainstrong because of substitutionaway from more expensive food%403020100such as fruits, vegetables,and livestock products.Global consumption in2008-09 is projected to bearound 426 million tons,an increase of around 1%from the previous year.After reaching a recordlow of 73 million tons in2004-05, global rice stockshave been steadily rising andare projected to reach 82 milliontons in 2008-09, compared with78.5 million tons in 2007-08.Despite expectations that globalstocks will continue to increase inthe coming year, prices are likelyto remain high partly in responseto export restrictions imposedby key rice-producing countries.Making matters worse, alreadydepleted stocks in the U.S.—oneof the few countries that resistedimposing export restrictions duringthe recent crisis—are projected todecline further, further destabilizingthe market in the coming months.However, as the bulk of the1Production, Supply, and Distribution (PSD) database published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).40 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 4010/9/2008 8:28:42 AM


2008 crop enters the market inOctober, prices may soften.Long-term challengesDespite some reassuring supplynumbers for 2008-09, there arehuge uncertainties regarding thesource of future growth in globalrice production. The annual riceyield growth rate has droppedto less than 1% in recent years,compared with 2–3% during theGreen Revolution period of 1967-90.Declining investments inall areas of rice research andinfrastructure development(including irrigation) have beenlargely responsible for such dramaticslowing in yield growth. The same isnot true for many other field cropssuch as maize, soybeans, and cotton,for which increased investmentin the development of improvedvarieties and infrastructure hasresulted in impressive yield growth.Increasing rice productionthrough area expansion is alsounlikely in most parts of theworld because of water scarcityand competition for land fromnonagricultural uses such asindustrialization and urbanization.World rice area has fluctuatedbetween 145 and 155 million hectaresover the past two decades, withthe current level very close to thehistoric high. It would be prudentto assume that world rice area willremain in or even fall below thisrange in the next 10 to 15 years.Changing consumption patternsGlobal rice consumption remainsstrong, driven by both populationand economic growth in manyAsian and African countries.This is particularly true for mostcountries in sub-Saharan Africa(SSA), where high populationgrowth combined with changingconsumer preferences is causingrapid expansion in rice consumption.However, global average per-capitarice consumption has been flatfor the last 5 years, with decliningper-capita consumption in somecountries (China, Thailand, SouthKorea, Japan, and Taiwan) offsetby rising per-capita consumptionin others (the United States, India,Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines,Bangladesh, and SSA countries).In rapidly growing developingcountries, income growth,urbanization, and other long-termsocial and economic transformationsmean that consumer demandpatterns are likely to move toward theconsumption patterns of developedcountries. A recent analysis bythe International RiceResearch Institute(IRRI) projects that, asthe standard of living inthe developing countriesrises in the future, overallper-capita consumptionwill decline slightly from64 kilograms in 2007 to63.2 kilograms in 2020.Among major riceconsumingcountries,both Chinese and Indian000 tons500,000400,000300,000200,000per-capita consumption during thisperiod is projected to decline by4.2 and 3.5 kilograms, respectively(Figure 3). Nevertheless, even withsuch a decline in per-capita ricekilograms120100806020002015200720204020World India ChinaFig. 3. Per-capita rice consumption.consumption, total consumptionin these two countries is projectedto increase by 18 million tonsbecause of population growth.Overall, China’s and India’sshare in total world consumptionis projected to fall from 52% in2007 to 49% in 2020. The declinein per-capita consumption is alsoprojected to continue in Japan,South Korea, Thailand, andTaiwan. For many other countries,including the Philippines, Myanmar,Bangladesh, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia,and many African nations, percapitaconsumption is projected toincrease over the same period. Anincrease in per-capita consumptionis also projected for many developedcountries in North America andthe European Union because ofimmigration and food diversification.Overall, 59 million tons ofadditional milled rice—equivalentto around 89 million tons of paddy(unmilled) rice—will be needed by2020 above the 2007 consumption of422 million tons (Figure 4). However,2020 consumption projections may59 million tons200020022004200620082010201220142016YearFig. 4. Total milled rice consumption.20182020go even higher if prices of other fooditems (livestock products, fruits, andvegetables) remain high, causingslow progress in diet diversificationin developing countries.What does this mean for IRRI?The current crisis serves as a timelywakeup call for governments,multilateral organizations, anddonors to refocus on agriculture.Various national and internationalbodies have called for a secondGreen Revolution to feed theworld in the face of a growingpopulation and shrinking landbase for agricultural uses.Unlike the first Green Revolution,in which productivity growth wasachieved with the introduction ofmodern varieties in tandem withassured irrigation and inputs (suchas fertilizer), and guaranteed prices,the second Green Revolution needsto achieve the same goal in the face ofseveral 21st-century challenges. Thesechallenges include water and landscarcity, environmental degradation,skyrocketing input prices, andglobalized marketplaces. In short, thesecond Green Revolution will have toexpand productivity in a sustainablemanner with fewer resources.Rice Today October-December 200841RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 4110/9/2008 8:28:42 AM


grain of truthBY ACHIM DOBERMANN & DAVID DAWECan organicagriculturefeed Asia?Rising fertilizer prices andmisperceptions aboutenvironmental degradation inintensive agriculture have stimulatedclaims that so-called “low-input”technologies relying on organicnutrient sources may provide a moresustainable means of producing foodcrops and increasing farmers’ income.However, the sole use of organictechnologies would likely perpetuatefood insecurity and poverty inAsia because theyare typically anexpensive source ofessential nutrientsand confer few if anybenefits in terms of sustainabilityand the environment.The effects of organic matterapplications on soil quality and cropyields become clear only after severalyears of continuous applications.Numerous long-term experimentsconducted in a wide range of ricebasedcropping systems havedemonstrated that the continuous useof organic amendments, at affordablerates, does not lead to significant yieldadvantages compared with systemsthat are managed with judicious andbalanced use of mineral fertilizers.Organic practices can result innutrient imbalances (both excessesand deficiencies). Short-term yieldreductions are common and organicagricultural systems appear to requireboth premium prices and governmentsubsidies to remain economicallyviable on a large scale. They alsorequire large amounts of organicnitrogen (N) sources or diversion ofland to accommodate rotations withleguminous crops (green manures)that can capture atmospheric nitrogen.Diverting land to grow nonfoodor low-yielding leguminous cropsreduces food production. This maybe feasible in some industrializedcountries, but, in developing countrieswith high population densities andlimited agricultural land, it canthreaten national food security andpoverty reduction by leading to higherfood prices. Moreover, recent researchsuggests that there are no provenenvironmental benefits in organicsystems, such as less N leaching orlower gaseous-N losses, when theenvironmental impact is expressedon a per ton food-produced basis.In all cropping systems, nutrientsare constantly removed in the formof crops harvested. If these nutrientsare not returned, the system cannotbe sustainable without further inputfrom outside. Organically managedsystems are no exception to this rule.Organic fertilizers produced withinthe boundaries of a farm do not addCereal production in Asia will depend primarilyon mineral nutrients to meet future demandnutrients to the cropping system as awhole; rather, they transfer nutrientswithin the system. In contrast, mineralfertilizers add nutrients to the system.In most low-input systems that relyon organic sources, the nutrientcontent and quantity of availableorganic fertilizers are insufficient toachieve high yields for most crops.Irrigated rice, with its floodedfields, is the only major food crop thatcan achieve stable yields with up tothree harvests annually, without theneed for rotation, for decades. Uniquefeatures of carbon and nitrogencycling in submerged soil mean thatsoil organic matter actually tends toaccumulate in such systems, even ifno manure is applied or much of therice straw is removed from the field.In such systems, applying organicmatter in addition to crop residueshas relatively less benefit for eithercrop productivity or the sustainabilityof the overall cropping system.Because the environmental andsustainability benefits of organicfertilizer in rice production are smallor nonexistent, use of organics shouldbe governed by profitability. But thenutrient content of organic fertilizer istypically low and much more variablethan that of inorganic fertilizer,necessitating large quantities. Thus,if organic fertilizer needs to betransported over a long distance, costscan be prohibitively high. Further,given organic fertilizer’s variablenutrient content, farmers often havetrouble judging how much to apply.With inorganic fertilizer, farmersare relatively sure of the nutrientquantities and can more easilyadjust nutrient rates and proportionsto match site-specific needs.When manure or other organicmaterials are readily available, ricefarmers should apply them as part oftheir overall management strategy.For example, applying organics ina primitive production system thatdoes not use mineral fertilizers willprobably increase profits and foodproduction. But,most Asian ricefarmers alreadyuse mineralfertilizer, so higherprofits are likely only if organics areused to supplement—not replace—conventional inorganic fertilizers.Many commercially producedorganic fertilizers that are widelypromoted and even subsidized inrice-growing countries of Asia do notprovide proven profitable yield gains.Although high fertilizer prices haveadded additional pressure to farmersand policymakers alike, governmentsshould limit subsidies and investinstead in technologies that, coupledwith appropriate supporting policies,enable farmers to improve yields andfertilizer efficiency in their fields.Dr. Dobermann is deputy directorgeneral for research at IRRI. Dr.Dawe is a senior economist at theUnited Nations Food and AgricultureOrganization. The views expresseddo not necessarily represent officialpositions of the authors’ organizations.42 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 4210/9/2008 8:28:43 AM


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44 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p24-44)_FA.indd 4410/9/2008 8:28:46 AM


16-19 November 2009Manila Hotel, PhilippinesFor further information:RiceScience1960-2010forInternational Rice GeneticsSymposiumInternational Rice ResearchInstituteDAPO Box 7777Metro Manila,Philippines(63-2) 580-5600;Fax: (63-2) 580-5699Email: rg6@cgiar.orgCo-organizer andRG 6 Secretariat:aBetter WorldThe International Rice GeneticsSymposium is one of the world’sbiggest and most important riceresearch conferences. It provides animportant forum for reviewing the latestadvances in rice research and for in-depthdiscussion and exchange of information onclassical genetics and genomics.This four-day event builds on the excitementgenerated by the sequencing of the rice genomeand what this means for the international riceindustry. Rice Genetics 6, together with the 7thInternational Symposium on Rice FunctionalGenomics, will showcase the latest developmentsin the field, including research on evolutionarygenetics, genome structure and organization,functional genomics, developmental genetics, traitdissection (abiotic and biotic stresses, yield, heterosis,agronomic traits, grain quality, and nutrition), andplant breeding applications.The program will include plenary and concurrentsessions, evening workshops and satellite meetings,and a postmeeting field tour to the InternationalRice Research Institute in Los Baños, around60 kilometers south of Manila.205 Henderson Road#03-01 Henderson Industrial ParkSingapore 159549Tel: (65) 6319-2668Fax: (65) 6319-2669Email: secretariat@ricegenetics.comwww.ricegenetics.com2 Rice Today October-December 20087th InternationalSymposium onRice FunctionalGenomicsRT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 210/9/2008 8:23:13 AM


contentsEDITORIAL ................................................................ 4Unleashing Africa's rice potentialNEWS ......................................................................... 5Global food situation at a crossroadsFood shortages as rat plague spreadsMyanmar recovering after cyclonePEOPLE .................................................................... 10Keeping up with IRRI staffMoving onPartners in progressNEW BOOKS ............................................................ 11The rice tungro virus disease: a paradigm in diseasemanagementAppreciating RicePopong eats his riceRECIPE ..................................................................... 11Hainanese chicken riceTHE LONG ROAD .................................................... 20Forty-five years of painstaking research have shownthat modern, intensive rice farming is sustainableand can even improve soil healthSNAPSHOT .............................................................. 22IRRI’s Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experimenthas shown that intensive rice production can besustainableMANAGEMENT MADE EASY .................................. 32A new decision-making tool is helping rice farmersoptimize their use of nutrient inputsTHE FUN IS IN THE DIRT ........................................ 34Rice Today interviews Achim Dobermann, soil scientistand new deputy director general for research atthe International Rice Research Institute, about life,work, and what could have been…HARVESTING SERENDIPITY .................................. 36Rice production in Sri Lanka has a long and regalhistory—but the country faces steep challenges ifthe future is to be as bountiful as the pastRICE FACTS .............................................................. 40Rice crisis: the aftermathWhat has happened, what has changed, and whatare the challenges ahead?GRAIN OF TRUTH ................................................... 42Can organic agriculture feed Asia?MAPS ....................................................................... 12Simulating water stressA FLOUR BLOOMS .................................................. 14Rice flour-based products are booming in Japan,forcing the country to change the way it thinksabout agricultureTHE IRRI PIONEER INTERVIEWS ........................... 16Kwanchai Gomez: Figures, fake guns, and fund-raisingMOVING UP IN ETHIOPIA ...................................... 24If successful, initiatives to boost rice production inEthiopia can help the country achieve food securitySHAKING THE INVISIBLE HAND ........................... 26How much are rice farmers in Asia benefitting fromhigher prices? With different governments tryingdifferent strategies, Rice Today looks at the situationin Thailand.On the cover:Ethiopian farmerZeineba Taha in herrice field at Chewaka.cover photo Tareke Berhepublisher Duncan Macintosheditor Adam Barclayart director Juan Lazaro IVdesigner and production supervisor Grant Lecetacontributors Gene Hettel, Meg Mondoñedo, Bill HardyAfrica editor Savitri Mohapatra (Africa Rice Center – WARDA)photo editor Chris Quintanaphoto researcher William Sta. Claracirculation Lourdes Columbresprinter Print Town GroupRice Today is published by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’sleading international rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and withoffices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused onimproving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers,particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research(CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. For more information, visitthe CGIAR Web site (www.cgiar.org).International Rice Research InstituteDAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, PhilippinesWeb (IRRI): www.irri.org; www.irri.org/ricetodayWeb (Library): http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.orgWeb (Rice Knowledge Bank): www.knowledgebank.irri.orgRice Today editorialtelephone: (+63-2) 580-5600 or (+63-2) 844-3351 to 53, ext 2725;fax: (+63-2) 580-5699 or (+63-2) 845-0606; email: a.barclay@cgiar.orgResponsibility for this publication rests with IRRI. Designations used in this publicationshould not be construed as expressing IRRI policy or opinion on the legal status of anycountry, territory, city, or area, or its authorities, or the delimitation of its frontiers orboundaries.Rice Today welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. Potential contributorsare encouraged to query first, rather than submit unsolicited materials. Rice Todayassumes no responsibility for loss of or damage to unsolicited submissions, which shouldbe accompanied by sufficient return postage.Copyright International Rice Research Institute 2008This magazine is copyrighted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and islicensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0License (Unported). Unless otherwise noted, users are free to copy, duplicate, or reproduce,and distribute, display, or transmit any of the articles or portions of the articles, and to maketranslations, adaptations, or other derivative works under the following conditions:Attribution: The work must be attributed, but not in any way that suggests endorsementby IRRI or the author(s).NonCommercial: This work may not be used for commercial purposes.ShareAlike: If this work is altered, transformed, or built upon, the resulting work must bedistributed only under the same or similar license to this one.For any reuse or distribution, the license terms of this work must be made clear to others.Any of the above conditions can be waived if permission is obtained from the copyright holder.Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.Fair dealing and other rights are in no way affected by the above.• To view the full text of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 310/9/2008 8:23:36 AM


4 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 410/9/2008 8:23:57 AM


JOSE RAYMOND PANALIGANDeclining agriculturalproductivity andcontinued growing demandhave brought the world foodsituation to a crossroads.Failure to act now througha wholesale reinvestmentin agriculture—includingresearch into improvedtechnologies, infrastructuredevelopment, and trainingand education of agriculturalscientists and trainers—could lead to along-term crisis that makes the pricespikes of 2008 seem a mere blip.This stark warning, in line withcalls from organizations such as theWorld Bank, the World Food Program,and Asian Development Bank (ADB),was issued by members of the Board ofTrustees (BOT) of the International RiceResearch Institute (IRRI) followingtheir meeting on 16-19 September atInstitute headquarters in Los Baños,Philippines.The global community needs toremember two key things,” said BOTChair Elizabeth Woods. “First, thatgrowth in agricultural productivityis the only way to ensure that peoplehave access to enough affordable food.Second, that achieving this is a longtermeffort. A year or two of extrafunding for agricultural research isnot enough. To ensure that improvedtechnologies flow from the research anddevelopment pipeline, a sustained reinvestmentin agriculture is crucial.”Dr. Woods pointed out that theannual rice yield growth rate hasdropped to less than 1% in recent years,Export prices for riceUS$/tonIRRI BOARD Chair Elizabeth Woods.1,1001,000US 2/4%Thai 100%B900Viet 5%Pak Irri-25%800Thai A1 Super700600500compared with 2–3% during the GreenRevolution period of 1967-90. Based400on projected income and populationgrowth, annual productivity growth300of almost 1.5% will be needed at leastuntil 2020.200The meeting coincided with therelease of a report by the Food andAgriculture Organization of the UnitedSource: FAO Rice Price Update October 2008Nations stating that higher food pricesare partly to blame for the number of with favorable weather, helped boosthungry people growing by 75 million to planting area and production inaround 925 million worldwide. several countries, including IndiaHigher prices have already forced and Pakistan. India is maintaining itsthe Philippine government to scale export restrictions on non-Basmatidown efforts to overcome malnutrition varieties, although there is talk ofamong children. The government has eliminating or loosening them in thecut its Food for School Program from coming months.the top 40 food-poorest provinces to Despite a 7.4% drop in volumethe top 20. The country, which was because of export restrictions, highthe world’s largest importer in 2007, is prices allowed Vietnam to earn aroundexpecting to import around 1.5 million $2.4 billion—up almost 90% fromtons of rice in 2009.2007—from rice exports in the firstAnother ADB report, released nine months of 2008. Thailand, one ofin September, argued that, for Asian the few major exporters not to imposecountries to prevent future food price restrictions, was on track to hit 10surges, agriculture needs wide-scale million tons of exports this year. Fromstructural reform and that, with January to 18 September, Thailanddemand remaining higher than supply, exported 8.08 million tons of rice, aany supply shock 39% jump over the same period in 2007.RICE VENDORS at a market would further At $4.91 billion, the value of exportsin Manila, Philippines. increase cereal was more than double that for the sameprices. Although period in 2007.the export price The current crisis serves as aof rice has settled timely wake-up call for governments,from more than multilateral organizations, and donorsUS$1,000 per ton to refocus on agriculture. Variousin May to around national and international bodies have$700 per ton, it called for a second Green Revolution—is still double the one that needs to increase productivityprice of 1 year sustainably, with ever-fewer resources—ago.to feed the world in the face of a growingThe higher population and shrinking land base forprices, along agricultural uses.NEWS http://ricenews.irri.org 5Global food situation at a crossroadsCHRISANTO QUINTANASep-07Nov-07Jan-08Mar-08May-08Jul-08Sep-08Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 510/9/2008 8:23:59 AM


NEWS http://ricenews.irri.orgFood shortages as rat plague spreadsPeople living in thebordering areas ofIndia, Bangladesh, andMyanmar continueto struggle againstthe rat plague thatis destroying theirrice production. Therat population inthis area explodesevery 50 years or soin parallel with theflowering of a nativespecies of bamboo,which provides foodfor the rodents. Whenthe bamboo supplies KEN APLIN/CSIROare exhausted, the ratsturn to the region’s rice fields (for more,see Preparing for the rat race on pages34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 6, No. 3).Mizoram State in India, ChinState in Myanmar, and the ChittagongHill Tract in Bangladesh have all beenaffected badly. An August report bythe Chin Human Rights Organizationestimates that around 200 villagesare affected by severefood shortages andmore than 100,000people are in need ofimmediate food aid.In Mizoram,around 150,000families have beenaffected. Accordingto the Mizoramgovernment, thestate’s rice harvest wasdecimated, droppingfrom 73,600 tons in2005 to around 8,500tons in 2007.The AustralianAgency for InternationalDevelopment contributedUS$400,000 in humanitarian aid toBangladesh for the Chittagong HillTract through the World Food Programand the United Nations DevelopmentProgram. However, it is anticipatedthat substantial further assistance willbe required to help the affected peopleget back on their feet.Major biotech event for ThailandMinistries, government agencies, andthe private sector will join forces inThailand to stage one of Asia’s largest-everbiotechnology events in Bangkok on 25-27November 2008.The Thailand Center of Excellence forLife Sciences, together with the NationalCenter for Genetic Engineering andBiotechnology and exhibition organizerPico (Thailand), will stage BioAsia 2008,a major international biotechnologyconference and exhibition.The event aims to stamp Thailandas an Asian biotechnology hub bybringing together more than 5,000researchers, academics, investors, andcommercial developers of biotechnologyproducts at the Queen Sirikit NationalConvention Centre, as well as more than40 distinguished speakers from aroundthe world.Dr. Juan Enriquez, the Founding Directorof the Harvard Business School LifeSciences Project and author of the globalbestseller As the Future Catches You, willdeliver a keynote address at the event.More information is available atwww.bioasiabangkok.com or by emailinginfo@bioasiabangkok.com.$500,000 donation for IRRIIRRI has received a donation of materialsworth $500,000 from 5 PRIME, aGermany-based company that producestechnologies and reagents for molecularbiology applications. The donationincludes technologies and reagentsfor DNA isolation, amplification, andmolecular analysis and will strengthenIRRI’s research capabilities in itswork to achieve more efficient andcheaper rice production, including thedevelopment of drought-tolerant ricevarieties. “We are very proud to supportthis extremely important researchmission with our technologies,” said 5PRIME chief executive officer BerndHaase. “Molecular biology is one of thekeys to generating scientific advancesthat may not only reduce hunger indeveloping countries but also sparktheir subsequent economic growthand ultimately lift more people out ofpoverty.”Vietnam flood planThe Vietnamese government plans tospend around $146 million betweennow and 2010 to build dikes andrelocate thousands of rice farmersbecause of heavy seasonal floodingin its fertile Mekong River Delta. Theprogram would help 33,000 familiesresettle in areas away from landslidesand floods. About one-fifth of Vietnam’s86 million people live in the Cuu Long(Mekong) River Delta, which producesmore than half of the country’s paddyoutput and supplies more than 90%of its commercial rice. Funding willcome from the state budget, grants,and loans from the state-run VietnamDevelopment Bank. Floods arrivebetween August and November eachyear in the Delta.Yield gene discoveredA team of scientists has identified a genethat controls the size and weight of ricegrains. The study, by Chinese and U.S.researchers, shows that it is possible toincrease rice’s yield by enhancing theexpression of a particular gene. Thescientists initially found strains of ricethat exhibited underweight grains. Inone such strain, the cause was identifiedas a mutation in the GIF1 gene, which isresponsible for controlling the activityof invertase, an important enzymeinvolved in the formation of starchwithin developing grains of rice. Ifinvertase is inactive, the rice plantcannot produce edible grains. Invertaseactivity in the mutant strain was only17% of that in the normal strain. Theteam then created transgenic lines ofrice in which GIF1 is overexpressedand found that, compared with normalstrains, the rice had larger and heaviergrains. The study was published on 28September in an early online edition ofNature Genetics, and will be featured inthe journal’s November print issue.6 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 610/9/2008 8:24:02 AM


Myanmar recovering after cycloneImproved agricultural productivity rice production during the coming dryseasoncrop and the 2009 wet-seasoncan help developing countries reducetheir reliance on emergency food relief crop. On 27 August, the team visitedfollowing natural disasters. This is two townships (Kun Yangon of Yangonone of the conclusions of a team of Division and Daedaye of AyeyarwaddyIRRI scientists who visited cyclonedevastatedMyanmar in August.U San Nyunt, general managerDivision) in Nargis-affected areas.Cyclone Nargis devastated of MAS Seed Division, said that theMyanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) key rice needs of Myanmar are moreDelta area on 2-3 May, leaving more fertilizer for high-yielding varieties andthan 140,000 people dead or missing improved production of high-qualityand causing an estimated 1.2-millionton(6%) drop in rice production, for seeds of salt-tolerant rice varieties,seed. The government has asked IRRIjeopardizing the country’s food security and the MAS Seed Division needsand exports. In hard-hit areas closer to equipment to monitor salinity levels inthe coast, planted area was down 25% farmers’ fields and on seed farms.because of a lack of labor, infrastructure, Salt-tolerant high-yielding varietiesequipment, and draft animals. will be important, particularly to replaceOn 26 and 28 August, IRRI the low-yielding varieties being grownscientists T.P. Tuong, David Johnson, in coastal areas. IRRI plans to provideAbdelbagi Ismail, Grant Singleton, and some of its more than 800 salt-tolerantRuben Lampayan met in Yangon with breeding lines for testing by MAS.representatives from the United Nations IRRI, through the IrrigatedDevelopment Program, the Food and Rice Research Consortium and theAgriculture Organization, and the Consortium for Unfavorable RiceMyanma Agriculture Service (MAS) to Environments, will provide guidance ondiscuss IRRI's role in plans to increase best-management options. The InstituteA FARMER shows the height ofthe Cyclone Nargis tidal surge.also plans to support Myanmar’s workto improve seed storage and can helpfarmers save irrigation fuel costs throughthe use of water-saving technologies.“A disaster of Nargis’s scale willhurt any country,” said Dr. Tuong,“but a robust and efficient agriculturalsector helps people get back on theirfeet faster and with less need foremergency aid.”GRANT SINGLETONRice in blood pressure?Scientists from Tokyo University havedeveloped transgenic rice plants withhigh levels of nicotianamine (NA), asubstance that inhibits the function ofa key enzyme involved in hypertension(high blood pressure). Inhibition ofangiotensin I-converting enzyme(ACE) leads to reduced hypertension,the leading cause of cardiovasculardisease and cerebral stroke,affecting around 1 billion individualsworldwide. The scientists found thatNA derived from the transgenic ricestrongly inhibited ACE activity, evencompared with commercially availableantihypertensive medicine. The workappears in the September 2008 issueof Plant biotechnology journal.New zinc testA new zinc fertilizer test kit enablesbuyers, distributors, and researchers toevaluate the purity of their zinc fertilizerprior to field use. Launched in thePhilippines on 12 August by PhilippineDepartment of Agriculture SecretaryArthur Yap, the kit has potentialacross Asia, where zinc deficiency isan increasingly important problem inrice production. The kit, developed byIRRI scientists Jack Jacob and SarahBeebout, provides a rapid color-chartbasedtest to determine the zinc contentof zinc sulfate fertilizer, without theneed for a laboratory or electricity.2,300-year-old riceA pot of rice has been recovered from asoil layer believed to belong to the 3rdcentury BC from the archaeological sitein Tissamaharamaya, Sri Lanka. Thesoil layer, 4.5 meters below the surface,recently yielded ruins of a residentialcomplex of noblemen. Tissamaharamayais believed to have been the capital ofthe Magama Kingdom in Ruhuna, andAkurugoda, the site of the excavations,is believed to be the inner city of thekingdom. Excavations are conductedjointly by the Sri Lankan ArchaeologicalDepartment and the ArchaeologicalInstitute of Germany.Terraces lose development fundThe Philippine Department of Tourism(DOT) has turned down a plan todevelop the Ifugao rice terraces. A$930,000 proposal to develop a touristvillage in the area was not included inthe proposed 2009 budget because itwould push the department beyondits budget ceiling for next year. TheDOT had proposed the purchase of 25hectares of rice terraces for the village.Many farmers were no longer tendingtheir terraces because doing so is nolonger economically viable. The UnitedNations Educational, Scientific andCultural Organization (UNESCO) hasincluded the rice terraces on its list ofworld heritage sites since 1995.Rice Today October-December 2008 7RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 710/9/2008 8:24:03 AM


NEWS http://ricenews.irri.orgBoost for troubled farmersThe Food and Agriculture Organizationof the United Nations (FAO) will provide$500,000 to increase rice production inconflict- and flood-affected districts ofSri Lanka. The project Input supply tovulnerable populations under Initiativeon Soaring Food Prices has beenfunded in response to a request by theSri Lankan government for assistancein combating the soaring food prices.FAO will provide funds to renovate6,000 hectares of former rice land anddistribute seed to the farmers in theproblem areas. Six hundred metric tonsof certified seed will be distributed tothe target families in collaborationwith the Department of Agriculture inBatticaloa, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, andAnuradhapura districts.IRRI memorial fundThe Asia Rice Foundation USA hasestablished an IRRI memorial fund tomemorialize with a donation in theirnames former IRRI staff memberswho have passed away. The Foundationestablished the fund in 2005. Half ofthe income is used for a program tosupport young scholars involved in riceresearch. The other half is invested togrow an endowment fund for long-termsupport of rice research. Donationsthrough July 2008 total $12,500.The U.S. Internal Revenue Servicehas given Asia Rice Foundation USA,Inc. nonprofit status and all donationsare tax-deductible. Donations canbe sent to Hugh Murphy at Asia RiceFoundation USA, Inc., 150 Kala HeightsDrive, Port Townsend, WA 98368, USA;email h.murphy@cgiar.org.Of all the people…Of all the people in all the world isan exhibition that uses grains of riceto bring abstract statistics to life ina startling way. According to theexhibitors, “Each grain of rice equals oneperson and you are invited to comparethe one grain that is you to the millionsthat are not.” Over a period of days, ateam of performers carefully weighs outquantities of rice to represent a host ofhuman statistics, including populationsof towns and cities; global or regionalnumbers of doctors versus numbersof soldiers; the number of people whoare born and who die each day; and thenumber of people who die in disastersand warfare. The statistics, which arearranged in labeled piles that form anever-changing landscape of rice, “canbe moving, shocking, celebratory, witty,and thought-provoking.” For moreinformation on the UK exhibition, seewww.stanscafe.co.uk/ofallthepeople.Less water = less arsenicRice grown “aerobically” in unfloodedfields (like wheat and maize)accumulates less arsenic than ricegrown in puddled conditions, accordingto a study by a team of UK and Chineseresearchers. In several countries,including Bangladesh and India, riceis a major source of human exposure toarsenic, which has been linked to cancerand other diseases. The problem occurswhen farmers flood rice paddies witharsenic-contaminated irrigation water.The scientists compared rice plantsgrown in flooded soil in greenhouseconditions with rice plants grownunder aerobic conditions—a techniquedeveloped initially to conserve water.The aerobically grown rice’s arseniclevel was 10 to 15 times lower thanthat of flooded rice. Their study waspublished in the 1 August issue ofthe American Chemical Society’sEnvironmental science & technologyjournal.LetterDear Executive Editor,My respects to you all. I am writing to Rice Today because I will give itsarticles and those of RIPPLE to some low-price journals and magazinesfrom a private media group. I will distribute interesting articles on riceproduction development and rice science for media groups and somepublic libraries free of charge as a general volunteer worker. I am a lowincomeperson. I do various personal work, part-time nonprofit work,and charitable work.I will use those articles for interested persons from various sections.… I really hope that many farmers or persons interested in farmingwill obtain some general knowledge in local language, Myanmar, afterI distribute articles about rice science and rice production. I have beenaware that natural disasters happened in the Philippines and around theworld. Please pray for all people who died from these natural disastersand all the rest who survived around the world, including those inMyanmar.With best wishes, yours respectfully,Mr. Than Htaik (a) MananTRAINING COURSES AT IRRILeadership Course for Asian Womenin Agriculture R&D and ExtensionIRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines, 2–13 March 2009Topics include Asian women in the workplace; mainstreaming genderconcerns in the workplace; leadership and management; personalitydevelopment; developing work-related knowledge and skills; andrelating to others.For more details, contact Dr. Thelma Paris (t.paris@cgiar.org) or Dr. NoelMagor (IRRITraining@cgiar.org).Ecological management of rodents, weeds,and rice diseases—biologicaland social dimensionsIRRI Training Center, Los Baños, Philippines, 16–27 March 2009The themes for the course are ecologically-based pest management withan emphasis on rodents and weeds; applying social science knowledgein decision analysis of pest and disease problems; farmer participatoryresearch. Presenters at the course include Emeritus Professor CharlesKrebs, Dr. Grant Singleton, Dr. David Johnson, Dr. Serge Savary, Dr. FlorPalis, and Dr. K.L. Heong.For more details, contact Dr. Grant Singleton (g.singleton@cgiar.org).8 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 810/9/2008 8:24:04 AM


TERRY JACOBSEN, IRRI head of operations, admonishessome Italians who didn’t eat their rice. TheChiesa dei Morti (Church of the Dead), in Urbania,Italy, has been home to 18 mummies since 1833.The bodies were naturally preserved by a mold thatabsorbed the corpses’ moisture.GREAT WALL of rice: IRRI crop physiologistTanguy Lafarge and sons Nathan (left) andRèmi take the magazine to China.THE CITY of love becomes, at last, the city ofrice. IRRI scientific editor Tess Rola with RiceToday in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.EYES ON the rice: former IRRI scientistRhulyx Mendoza about to score yetanother goal for Rice Today.Rice Today October-December 2008 9RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 910/9/2008 8:24:05 AM


PEOPLEKeeping up with IRRI staffGraham McLaren, whoheaded the IRRI-InternationalMaize and Wheat ImprovementCenter (CIMMYT) Crop ResearchInformatics Laboratory (CRIL) fromits formation in 2006, has left theInstitute to head the GenerationChallenge Program, which harnessesmolecular biology and crop geneticresources to develop plants that meetfarmers’ needs. Dr. McLaren willbe based at CIMMYT headquartersin Mexico. Thomas Metzbecomes interim head of CRIL.Plant biotechnologist InezSlamet-Loedin joined the Instituteon 4 August. Her duties will includethe development of transgenicproducts carrying agronomicallyimportant genes and validation ofthe function of candidate genes.Kyung-Ho Kang, senior scientist(plant breeding), joined IRRIon 11 August to work under theproject “Germplasm Utilization forValue Added.” Molecular biologistAjay Kohli started at IRRI on29 September. His duties includedissecting genetic pathways forkey agronomic traits and applyinggenomics tools to validate genefunction. Entomologist FinbarrHorgan is scheduled to arrive atthe Institute in October. His dutiesinclude the development of strategiesto integrate plant resistance withnatural biological control and cropmanagement practices to enhancesustainable pest management.Fiona Farrell, new head of IRRI’sHuman Resource Services, arrivedin September. She replaced actinghead Paramjit Sachdeva.Devendra Gauchan andH.N. Singh have been appointedas postdoctoral fellows under theBill & Melinda Gates Foundationproject on stress-tolerant rice.Dr. Gauchan, based at IRRI’sPhilippine headquarters, willconduct socioeconomic research,including analysis of livelihoodsystems of farmers in stress-pronerainfed (nonirrigated) environments.Dr. Singh, based in India, willprovide technical and logisticalURBITO ONGLEOACHIM DOBERMANN, IRRI deputy director general for research (left), demonstrates a drum seeder at the2008 Annual Development Cooperation Conference of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation(SDC), held on 22 August in Fribourg, Switzerland. This year’s conference focused on the Mekong Region,around the themes of food security and sustainable globalization. IRRI’s exhibit included the drum seeder,a grain quality kit, the rice “super bag,” a leaf color chart, and a collection of diverse rice varieties.support in the planning, design,coordination, and implementationof farmer participatory research.D.C. Bhandari, leadcoordinator at the IRRI-IndiaOffice in New Delhi, departed theInstitute on 1 August to return tothe National Bureau of Plant GeneticResources as principal scientist andhead. Vijay Kumar, previouslyexecutive secretary at India’s NationalAcademy of Agricultural Sciences,takes over from Dr. Bhandari.Moving onFormer IRRI photographer (1961-89) Urbito (“Bito”) Ongleopassed away on 6 September in LosBaños, Philippines, at age 74. Hismost famous photo (below) showedU.S. President Lyndon Johnson in aplot of Green Revolution rice varietyIR8 with Dr. Robert Chandler,Philippine President FerdinandMarcos, and IRRI breeders PeterJennings and Hank Beachell.University of Minnesota RegentsProfessor Emeritus VernonRuttan died on 18 August froma brief illness, aged 84. ProfessorRuttan worked at IRRI as anagricultural economist in 1963-65.Statistician K.M. Palaniswamy,an IRRI scholar in 1968-70, diedtragically in a road accident on 5December 2007. He was workingon a book titled Guidelines forRice researchers in the estimationof some plant parameters, towhich his daughter, Usha RaniPalaniswamy, contributed,and hopes to complete soon.Partners in progressThomas Rosswall hasbeen selected as chair of theCGIAR Challenge Program onClimate Change, Agriculture,and Food Security. ProfessorRosswall, a microbial ecologistand ecosystem scientist withextensive research experience inagriculture and climate change, iscurrently executive director of theInternational Council for Science.Parashuram Lal Karna hasbeen appointed acting executivedirector of the Nepal AgriculturalResearch Council. He replaces NandaP. Shrestha, who retired on 3 July.NICOLAS RATZENBOEK/SDC10 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1010/9/2008 8:24:13 AM


NEW BOOKS www.irri.org/publicationsThe rice tungro virus disease:a paradigm in disease managementEdited by E.R. Tiongco, E.R. Angeles, andL.S. Sebastian; published by the PhilippineRice Research Institute (PhilRice); PhilippinesP1,000, developed countries US$60,developing countries $30. Shipping andHandling costs: Philippines: P120 to P150(via post or fast courier), international(depending on zones): $25 to $65.This book highlights the most importantrice virus diseasein tropicalAsia. Althoughmuch is knownabout tungro, itremains a majorthreat, loweringproduction by upto 80% in severecases. Twelvechapters, writtenby expert rice scientists, pathologists,and economists, contain comprehensiveinformation on tungro, including viruspathology, transgenic resistance totungro viruses, and improved tungromanagement approaches. For orders,email prri@philrice.gov.ph. Make checksor postal moneys order payable to thePhilippine Rice Research Institute.Appreciating RiceA.S. Roque; published by PhilRice.This book contains a wealth of knowledgesourced from the Philippine RiceResearch Institute, the International RiceResearch Institute, and various riceindustryexperts and practitioners. Theauthor, an educator-journalist, wrotethe book in an easy-to-understandstyle for people with little experiencein the rice production process—growing, harvesting, postharvest, andmore—from field to the dining table.For orders, email prri@philrice.gov.ph.Popong eats his riceC.G. Ocampo with illustrations by G. Dy;published by the Philippine Bureau ofAgricultural Research (BAR); 34 pages.The book narrates the story of a child,Popong, and his Wizard-of-Oz-likeadventure with the Rice Prince in theworld of rice. The Rice Prince, whoappeared in Popong’s dream, teachesthe boy important lessons about eatingrice and not wasting it. In the words ofa schoolteacher who used the bookwith her second-grade students, “Thischildren’s story book is very usefulbecause the words used are simple andthe illustrations are clear and very colorful.They make the difficult task of explaininghow rice is grown entertaining and fun.”To order, contact BAR on +63 2 926 2538.RECIPEHainanese chicken riceServes 4–6Time: 1½ hours, plus restingA classic Singaporean/Malay dish developed byimmigrants from the southern Chinese islandof Hainan.IngredientsChicken and riceSalt and freshly ground pepper1 whole (1.4–1.8 kg) chicken (trim excess fat)3–4 cloves smashed garlic1 teaspoon minced garlic3–4 slices fresh ginger1/4 cup peanut (or corn or canola) oil3 shallots or 1 small onion, roughly chopped2 cups long-grain rice1/4 cup minced spring onions (scallions)2 cucumbers, peeled and slicedChopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leavesHTTP://FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JETALONEChili-garlic sauce: 5 fresh red chilies; 2-cm chunk of ginger; 3 garliccloves; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon lime juice; 2 tablespoonschicken stock (from the boiled chicken)Ginger sauce: 75 grams ginger; 6 garlic cloves; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1teaspoon lime juice; 2 tablespoons chicken stock (from the boiledchicken)Sauce for chicken: 1 tablespoon garlic oil; 1 teaspoon sesame oil;5 tablespoons light soy sauce; 1½ tablespoons sugar (to taste); 3tablespoons chicken broth (from boiled chicken)PreparationAdapted from the New York TimesChicken and riceBring a large pot of water to a boil andsalt it. Add chicken to pot (completelysubmerge) along with smashed garlicand sliced ginger. Cover, reduce heat tomedium, and cook for 10 minutes. Turnoff heat and let chicken remain in water,covered, for 45–60 minutes or until it iscooked through.Remove chicken from pot (keep the stock)and let it cool to room temperature. Putthe peanut oil in a frying pan over mediumheat (add trimmed chicken fat if desired).When oil is hot, add shallots and remaininggarlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirringoccasionally, until lightly browned. Addrice and stir until glossy. Add 4 cups ofthe chicken stock and bring to a boil, thenreduce heat to low and cover. Cook forabout 20 minutes, until rice has absorbed all the liquid. Add saltand pepper to taste.Chili-garlic and ginger sauces: add all ingredients into a blender,and mix until ingredients are well blended. Add salt or sugar totaste.To serveChop chicken (keep or discard skin, as preferred). Put chickenand rice on plates and garnish with cucumbers, remaining springonions, and cilantro. Combine ingredients for the chicken sauceand drizzle over the chicken. Serve with sauces and a bowl of theremaining stock.Rice Today October-December 2008 11RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1110/9/2008 8:24:14 AM


MAPSSimulatingby Robert HijmansPrioritization of agriculturaltechnology development—such as breeding fornew varieties—should,among other things, be based onexpectations about the adoptionof the technology by farmers, andon the consequential economicand environmental benefits. Thatis easier said than done. A majorobstacle to estimating adoptionand benefits is that the value ofagricultural technologies is locationspecific.That is, their utility candepend strongly on spatially variableenvironmental factors, such assoil type and climate, and socialand economic circumstances.The effect of environmentalvariability on crop growth canto some extent be estimatedwith crop growth models. Suchmodels encapsulate knowledge ofeco-physiological processes andallow simulation of crop yield forspecific varieties and locations. Inthis way, complex location data,such as daily weather data, canbe summarized with an easy-tointerpretindex such as crop yield.The map shows the yield of ricegrown in lowland conditions (flat,flooded fields) without irrigationrelative to yield with full irrigation1Bouman BAM, Kropff MJ, Tuong TP,Wopereis MCS, ten Berge HFM, vanLaar HH. 2003. ORYZA2000: modelinglowland rice. IRRI. Available at www.knowledgebank.irri.org/oryza2000.(we refer to this as the “relativeyield”), as computed with theORYZA2000 simulation model. 1 ForRELATIVE RICE yields for irrigated versusrainfed lowland (flat, flooded fields) conditionsfor variety IR72 computed with theORYZA2000 simulation model. Only resultsfor areas with a significant amount of cropland (see The Asian exception: irrigation onpages 34-35 of Rice Today Vol. 7, No. 2 formore information) are shown, irrespectiveof whether (and how) rice is grown thereor not.example, in red areas, rice grownwithout irrigation would achieveless than 15% of the yield expected12 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1210/9/2008 8:24:17 AM


with irrigation. It is a highly stylizedexample that shows simulationresults for only one variety (IR72).It used 9 years of daily weatherdata 2 to compute average andrelative yields (with and withoutirrigation) over this period. Manyother known sources of variation,such as local hydrological processesand differences in soil types, are nottaken into account in this example.It nevertheless shows some basicfacts about rice and water. Thereare some places where you cannotgrow much rice without irrigation.This does not necessarily meanthat water stress is an importantproblem there. In fact, some of themost productive rice areas are foundthere, including the Punjab in Indiaand the Nile Valley in Egypt. On theother hand, if water becomes scarcein these regions—as is happening inmany areas—water-saving irrigationtechnologies and appropriatevarieties would be very useful.Most areas with a relative riceyield of below 50% have little rainfed(nonirrigated) rice production. 3But this does not mean there is noirrigated rice in wetter areas wherefarmers could produce a reasonablerice crop without irrigation. Forexample, in southeastern China,farmers could produce rice withoutirrigation. However, supplementalirrigation increases production,particularly in dry years, and allowsfor the production of rice or anothercrop outside the main rainy season.The map shows the relationbetween maximum rainfed yield(in the rainy season) and yield ofirrigated rice in the off-season (anyseason that would allow the highestyield if irrigation were available). Ittherefore reflects a yield increasepartly by reduced water stress andpartly by shifting toward growingseasons with more solar radiationand perhaps lower temperatures.Drought tolerance would seemparticularly relevant in areas withpredominant rainfed productionwith a moderate to large yieldreduction (50–70% relative yield).Such areas include Bangladesh andeastern India. Current research 4aims to refine the approach byimproving the data used to run themodels, and by running modelsfor different rice ecosystems andfor different varieties to contrastexisting versus new droughttolerantvarieties, and to contrastcurrent cropping practices versuswater-saving technologies.Dr. Hijmans is a geographer in theIRRI Social Sciences Division.2Estimated from satellite observations byNASA, data available athttp://earth-www.larc.nasa.gov/cgibin/cgiwrap/solar/agro.cgi.3Compare this map with the rice areaby ecosystem map on pages 20-21 ofRice Today Vol. 6, No. 3 (www.irri.org/publications/today/pdfs/6-3/20-21.pdf).4Together with colleagues at theInternational Food Policy ResearchInstitute and the University of Minnesota,see www.harvestchoice.org.Rice Today October-December 2008 13RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1310/9/2008 8:24:17 AM


A FLOUR BLOOMSby Masaru Yamada and Satomi Tamai in TokyoSTARBUCKS COFFEE JAPANRice flour-based products are booming in Japan, forcing the country to changethe way it thinks about agricultureYuko Kimura, a chef atFukusoen, a traditionalnoodle restaurant inTsuruoka City in YamagataPrefecture, is riding the crestof a wave. After launching the“Haenuki Men” rice noodle in June2007, Fukusoen, owned by a localagricultural cooperative known asJA, sold 18,000 of the meals by theend of March 2008. Then, from Aprilto June 2008, the restaurant soldalmost the same amount again.Instead of soba, the traditionalbuckwheat used for noodles, riceflour is the main ingredient ofHaenuki Men noodles. By addingsome starch from a domestic potato,says Kimura, “We could develop anoodle with a great texture that isn’tavailable with traditional soba.”With rice-flour noodlesgaining popularity, riceconsumption in Japanhas increased. Theamount of rice destinedfor noodles is overtakingthat used for breads. Riceflour began to be usedfor breads about 5years ago as partof a Japaneseschool lunchprogram developedto encourageA NEW rice-flour productlaunched by YamazakiBakery company, thebiggest bread maker inJapan.YAMAZAKI BAKERYthe use of locally produced food,including vegetables and rice. Withlocal government support, morethan 8,000 schools—one-thirdof all lunch-serving schools inJapan—serve rice-flour breads now.And the trend is not limited tothe public sector, with an increasingnumber of private companiesalso interested in rice flour.Lawson, a company that owns 24-hour convenience stores, announcedearlier this year that they wouldbegin to sell rice-flour breads ataround 8,500 shops from September.In Japan, the new demand forproducts such as those made fromrice flour is currently responsible forthe consumption of around 6,000tons of rice per year. It is believedthat Lawson’s contribution alonewill more than double this figure.Yamazaki Bakery, a majorbaking company that alsosells rice-flour breads, hasexpanded its market to thewhole of Japan, selling about50,000 loaves of rice-flour breadper month. According to aYamazaki representative,“The novelty of usingrice flour and the useof local rice appealto consumers. Weplan to offer a rangeof rice-flour breads.”Improvements inmilling technology areextending the advantagesof rice flour. The finerit is milled, the “stickier”A NEW RICE noodle product, which won a prize inthe national food contest held by the agriculturalministry in 2007.rice flour becomes—a property thatgels with consumer tastes. In thislight, Starbucks Coffee Japan beganoffering rice-flour rolls in June.“The sticky taste goes withcoffee very well,” says a Starbucksspokesperson. “And, because wheathas become much more expensive,the price difference between wheatand rice flour has dwindled.”This point underlies the factthat Japan, which is self-sufficientin rice but must import much ofits wheat, was not directly affectedby the rice-price spike in 2008.Rice flour itself is not newto Japan, which has a history ofthousands of years of rice production.However, breads, noodles, cakes,and many other products previouslythought to require wheat as amain ingredient are now beingmade from rice flour—and theyare gaining great favor in Japan.So, what are the reasons?MASARU YAMADA14 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1410/9/2008 8:24:19 AM


STARBUCKS COFFEE Japan, Ltd., is now making rollswith 100% rice flour.allergic to flour can eat rice-flourcakes and cookies without anxiety.Awareness of rice-flour productsis growing fast. In 2003,less than 7% of Japaneseconsumers knew of riceflourbread; in 2006, thenumber jumped to 44%.Although it is becomingsmaller, there remains a hugegap between Japan’s domesticrice prices and international prices.The Japanese government is,however, trying to close that gap. Forinstance, the government has givenaway free rice to companies that tryother crops, some simply give uptheir land because alternative cropsusually require more skilled labor.Rapidly growing demandfor rice flour therefore loomsas a golden opportunity to fixsome of the problems faced byJapan’s farming communities.But farmers in Japan have notbeen so enthusiastic. Selling rice asa traditional staple is much moreattractive than selling it for the newdemands. Traditional buyers paysubstantially more than newcomersdo, although farmers are eligible fora subsidy to compensate for this.SATAKEFirst, skyrocketing internationalgrain prices have made Japaneserice, which is segregated from theinternational market by high tariffs,more competitive. Second, recentscandals with many imported fooditems have prompted Japaneseconsumers to seek more locally grownfood, which is seen as safe and tasty.Another advantage of rice flouris that it isn’t always necessary to addgluten, which can cause allergies.Although products such as bread,which uses rough rice flour, requiregluten, products such as cakes andcookies, which use finer rice flour,do not. So, even people who areMANY DIFFERENT types of rice-flour bread—available at Lawson 24-hour convenience stores—have increasedconsumers’ awareness of rice flour.to develop new rice-based food.With Japan only 40% selfsufficientin food (on a caloricbasis), the Japanese governmentis encouraging farmers to producemore rice for these new purposes,because eating more domesticallygrown rice in any form booststhe self-sufficiency ratio.In the 1960s, Japan’s averageper-capita rice consumption was118 kilograms. Now, the averageJapanese citizen eats less than 60kilograms. This long-termtrend causes problems forJapanese agriculture. Around40% of the country’s rice fieldsare kept fallow to maintainthe supply-demand situation.Nearly 10% of farmland inJapan is now abandoned,with lack of labor beingone of the main reasons.Even though farmers areeligible for a subsidy if theyset aside rice production and produceTo beef up rice production, newmeasures taken by the governmentare directly aiding farmers whogrow rice for new uses. More aidwill be paid to such farmers thanto those growing other crops in idlepaddy fields. Farmers growing ricefor rice flour and livestock feed willreceive 500,000 yen (US$4,800) perhectare per year. This is 30% higherthan the amount of aid awarded tofarmers who grow soybeans andwheat, for example. The governmenthopes that this will provide sufficientincentive to grow rice for flour.One of the most importantlessons from recent years is the valueof innovative thinking. For a longtime, the Japanese rice industrydid not develop alternative riceflour–based products because itthought rice should be eaten only asa traditional staple. Now, though, itis clear that more consumers want toeat less conventional items. And, theindustry is jumping at the chance.LAWSONTHE COMPACT MILL (0.7 m in length by 1.1 min width by 1.4 m in height) made by Satake, atraditional maker of grain-milling equipment,will help small bakeries and farmers to producerice-flour products.Mr. Yamada and Ms. Tamai arejournalists based at The JapanAgricultural News, Japan’slargest agricultural newspaper.Rice Today October-December 2008 15RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1510/9/2008 8:24:25 AM


THE IRRI PIONEER INTERVIEWSConducted by Gene HettelJERBY AGUIHON (3)Figures, fake guns, and fund-raisingFor 25 years from July 1967, Thailand’s Kwanchai Gomez was the International Rice Research Institute’s chief statistician.She was also IRRI’s first female international scientist in what was then a very male-dominated field. In 1993, Dr. Gomezmoved out of statistics to work on donor relations as the head of the new Liaison, Coordination, and Planning Unit, whichfocused on an innovative experiment at the time: fund-raising. She returned to Thailand in December 1996 to spend 2years at IRRI’s Bangkok office and round off more than 3 decades with the Institute. Dr. Gomez, who remains in Bangkok,is currently executive director of the Asia Rice Foundation, which is based in IRRI’s Philippine hometown of Los BañosA new bride with astatistics degreeHow did I get to IRRI? Bymarrying, in April 1967, aFilipino, Arturo A. Gomez[who was professor ofagronomy at the University of thePhilippines at Los Baños]. I hadearned a PhD in statistics from NorthCarolina State University, the placewhere I met my future husband. Afterour wedding in Bangkok, I decidedto resign from my teaching job atChulalongkorn University and moveto Los Baños to be with my husband.I hoped to find a job there instead ofin Manila because going to Manilaevery day back then would havebeen horrible because of the terribleroads. Luckily, BurtonOñate, who was then chiefstatistician and head ofthe Statistics Departmentat IRRI, was going to takesabbatical leave at theAsian Development Bankin Manila for 1 year.So, he heard aboutthis new bride with adegree in statistics whowas nearby. He contactedme and suggested I applyto be his “temporary”IRRIreplacement. Bob Chandler [IRRIDirector General, 1960-72] andColin McClung [IRRI assistantdirector (1964-66) and associatedirector (1967-71)] interviewed andhired me and the rest is history.As a statistician at a researchinstitute like IRRI, my goal was tosee that all rice researchers, be theyin the field or laboratory, used theproper statistical techniques andprocedures. To my surprise when Icame, statistics—be it experimentaldesigns or statistical analyses—werenot appreciated, understood, orused very much in any of IRRI’sexperiments. That was a challengefor a very young person like me, awoman—the only lady scientist fora long, long time atIRRI, not to mentionbeing an Asian fromThailand. It wasdifficult working withthese very renowned,relatively older,scientists and tellingthem that they oughtto be using statisticsin their experiments.Things changed forthe better when I talkedto Hank Beachell, thenDR. GOMEZ at IRRI in the 1960sthe chief plant breeder [and eventualWorld Food Prize winner in 1996].I thought, if I could convince him,maybe I could convince the othersas well. So, I asked him why he wasnot using statistics in his yield trials.He looked at me and said, “What doyou statisticians know about fieldexperiments and the problems webreeders face every day? You guyssit in your air-conditioned roomand expect to tell us what to do inthe field.” I was taken aback, but notangry. I thought about this overnight.A good perspectiveThe next day, I went to Beachell andthanked him profusely for havinggiven me a very good perspective.Maybe I could win him and theothers over about using statistics if Iconducted my own field experiments.Now, I didn’t know anythingabout field experiments. I didn’tknow much about rice researchto start with. When Chandler andMcClung interviewed me, theyasked me two questions: “Whatexperience do you have with riceresearch and what knowledge do youhave about rice?” I said the closestI ever got to a rice plant was whenI was traveling from Bangkok to16 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1610/9/2008 8:24:32 AM


Ayutthaya, in the Central Plain ofThailand, and I saw the rice plantsalong the road as the car passed by,and that I also knew nothing aboutrice research. I thought that wouldbe the end of the interview, but itcontinued and they hired me anyway!I went to Bob Chandler and askedhim for some resources to conductfield experiments because until thenthe Statistics Department had neverdone any field experiments and thusno resources were available. Chandlersaid: “Take whatever you need; Iam pleased that you’re going out tothe field.” He said this because, atthe time, our chief world-renownedsoil scientist, Felix PonnamperumaGENE HETTELARIEL JAVELLANA[IRRI’s first soil chemist, 1961-85],only worked in the lab. Chandlerhad tried to push him out to the fieldbut he never succeeded. So, after Istarted conducting experiments, hewent to Ponnamperuma and said,“If Kwanchai can go to the field, socan you.” It worked. Ponnamperumadid go out and conducted fieldexperiments after that.I learned a lot by conducting fieldexperiments. S.K. De Datta [IRRIagronomist, 1964-91], my mentorand teacher, taught me everythingI needed to know about conductingrice field experiments. I have alwaysbeen grateful to him for that.After that, I was able to talk to theOn Kwanchai Gomez and the importance of statistical analysisNyle Brady, IRRI director general (1973-81), inhis pioneer interview: “Kwanchai Gomez wasa great organizer. For the Genetic Evaluationand Utilization (GEU) Program, she was the onewho kept the records of what was going on.I remember going to meetings during whichshe said: ‘Now you guys I know have beendoing some studies to determine resistanceto various insects and diseases, but I don’thave any records of what you’ve done. I can’t write it up if you don’t tell meabout it.’ So she got on their backs and she was remarkable in that way.”Ronnie Coffman, plant breeder (1971-81), said: “If I had to identify the personmost responsible for the development ofIR36 [at one time the most widely plantedrice variety in the world], it would probablybe Kwanchai Gomez. She designed thesensitive, quadruple-lattice yield trials thatcaused us to notice it. IR36 was an open planttype, not very attractive to the eye. Prior tothe establishment of those yield trials, wewould have almost certainly thrown it away. Prior to 1971, the IRRI breedingprogram did not replicate its yield trials, much to the chagrin of Kwanchai.”Graham McLaren, Dr. Gomez’s successor as chief statistician and headof the IRRI Biometrics Unit and its various incarnations (1993-2008), said, “Itwas the GEU that allowed the introduction of new methodologies. Today, it’sdifficult to find opportunities to introducenew methodologies and that’s a frustration.Teaching statistics and bioinformatics is achallenge as well. There is huge demandfor training in this area, but it is also a verydifficult topic to teach and to keep people’sattention so they grasp the principles withoutgetting bogged down in the detail.”GENE HETTELresearchers much more easily andwas able to convince them of the needto use proper statistical proceduresin their experiments. I probablywas the first statistician anywherewho conducted field experimentsto get closer to the scientists.Helping behind the scenesThere are certain professions thatmay be doomed to be behind thescenes. Statistics is one of those.We were used to it and we did notmind it very much. We took pridein seeing researchers using properstatistical procedures in theirresearch. I appreciate the commentsof Ronnie Coffman [IRRI plantbreeder, 1971-81], which affirmthat the use of statistics at IRRIhas really helped the scientists.Regarding Coffman’s commentabout the statistics situation before1971, that the yield trials were notreplicated [see box, below left], Imust defend Beachell. Actually, hewas right. In those days, he reallydid not need statistics for his yieldtrials. In the late 1960s, some ofthe new varieties were yielding8–9 tons [per hectare] while thetraditional ones were yielding 1–2tons. For that kind of difference, youcan see it with your eyes! You didnot need statistics to prove it.Of course, those were the goodold days of Hank Beachell. Such largeyield differences did not last long. So,as time passed, researchers had tostart looking for smaller differences—3, 2, and even 1 ton per hectare. Forthat, statistics were needed to detectdifferences that were becomingsmaller and smaller. Researchersrequired more precision in makingmeasurements, and in controllingexperimental errors so that smalldifferences could be detected.IRRI researchers beganrecognizing the importance ofstatistics not only because I wentto the field to conduct experimentsbut also because the situationhad changed. Statistics becamea hit because the researchersknew they could not detect thosesmaller differences scientificallyby themselves. So, they cameRice Today October-December 2008 17RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1710/9/2008 8:24:34 AM


knocking at my door. We becamequite popular because the scientistsneeded us. When they first arrivedin my office, they would sayapologetically, “Oh, by the way, wedon’t know anything about statistics.”And I would say, “Oh, but I don’tknow anything about your field ofdiscipline either, so let’s talk.”I want to reiterate that thenegligible application of statisticsin the early years of IRRI was notanybody’s fault. But I appreciatethe remarks of Coffman and Brady[see box]. Of course, the GeneticEvaluation and Utilization (GEU)Program was Brady’s baby. He createdit and I only helped him organize it.The GEU was truly multidisciplinary.The scientists of different disciplineswere not used to working together.They argued a lot, but that wasokay. It was never a personal thing.I enjoyed those years. It was noteasy, but it was fun. We made theGEU a success and a lot of good ricevarieties—like IR36—came out of it.Applying statistics worldwideMy goal as a statistician wasto get statistics applied in riceexperiments—not only at IRRI butthroughout Asia and the rest of theworld. I think that, in my small way,I achieved that. IRRI became a userof statistics. During those years, itbecame the model. National programresearchers came and saw what IRRIwas doing in the area. Of course,they followed and put statistics to usein their rice experiments as well.We had many nondegreetraining programs in those years.Statistics became a key course inthose programs, accounting for2–4 hours to 20–30 hours percourse. I think that helped our causegreatly—for many years, everybodywho passed through IRRI for traininglearned something about statisticalapplications in rice research. So,when they went back home, theywere able to apply the concepts.I must thank IRRI for enablingme to do two things that I believehelped greatly in my efforts. Oneis that, while on sabbatical leaveat Stanford University, I wrote abook with my husband [StatisticalProcedures for AgriculturalResearch]. That book has beenread and used not only in Asia,but all over the world. [Indeed, itis the most popular book IRRIhas ever produced.] This hasbeen one of my greatest joys—toproduce an effective tool thatcan help achieve my goal ofteaching people about statisticswhether they are studentsor working scientists.The book was written32 years ago, updated a bitin a 1984 second editionpublished by Wiley, andis still available. In thosedays, desktop computerswere not accessible toeverybody, so I put inthe book all the statisticalcalculations in detail. Many people,especially statisticians, asked mewhy I had to detail each and everystatistical analysis, step by step.My reply: if you use a computer,suddenly the answer comes out. Youdon’t know what went on because theprogram did it for you automatically.My detailed explanation in the bookhelps researchers to understandwhy and how a certain statisticalanalysis was computed. This wouldhelp them to understand how tointerpret the results better as well.The second thing that IRRIenabled me to do was to developa statistical computer packagecalled IRRISTAT and make itfree to everyone who needed it.IRRISTAT became one of the mostwidely used statistical packagesavailable in Asia since, at thattime, most Asian rice researchersdid not have ready access to otherexisting but Western-designedstatistical packages due to theirhigh costs. In recent years, a slightlydifferent Windows-compatibleversion, called CropStat, has beendeveloped by Graham McLaren’sgroup and is now available onlinevia the IRRI Web site (www.irri.org/science/software/cropstat.asp).[Local politics and advances inthe discipline led to gradual changes.The Statistics Unit became ProjectManagement Services and Biometricsin 1990, simply Biometrics by1992, then expanded to Biometricsand Bioinformatics in 2001, andfinally became the Crop ResearchInformatics Laboratory in 2006.From 1993, Dr. McLaren headed theunit until September 2008, when heleft IRRI to work in Mexico for theGeneration Challenge Program.]From statistics to fund-raisingStatistical knowhow was notrequired to head IRRI’s new Liaison,Coordination, and Planning Unit[created by Klaus Lampe, the IRRIdirector general at the time, in1993 to focus on establishing closerelationships with IRRI donors],and I was thus reluctant to take onthe job. I finally agreed to take thejob—for two reasons. First, IRRIwas having financial difficulties andsomeone needed to go out and lookfor funds to sustain its operations.I believed that I owed IRRI a lot. Ihad gained a good reputation in thestatistics discipline because of IRRI.So, I wanted to repay. A special unitfor donor relations was never triedbefore. Somebody had to set up thesystem and I was pleased to help.Second, even though I wasn’tsure if I had the right qualifications18Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1810/9/2008 8:24:36 AM


JOSE RAYMOND PANALIGANKWANCHAI GOMEZ and her “statistical” successor Graham McLaren inspect a plot of IR36 at IRRI. Some attribute the selection of this famous rice variety—onceone of the world’s most widely planted—to the use of proper experimental design and statistical analysis.to do the job well, I knew that Lampetrusted me and I trusted him, whichwas an important ingredient forthe success of such a unit. Besides,Lampe was a good fund-raiser andhad in fact taught me a lot. I knewthat I could always count on himto help me out when I needed it.A call to armsWhen Lampe arrived as directorgeneral in 1988, I was just a workingscientist and never had much ofa chance to see him. However,one day, he called me to his officesaying there was a problem: “Yourson Victor [who was 10 years oldat that time] brought a fake gun tothe international school today,” hefrowned, “and he had a ‘real’ bulletas well. The school principal wasn’tvery happy about that.” I thoughtto myself, “Oh, my god, how couldVictor bring a real bullet to schooland where did he get it from? Then,Lampe immediately said, “Youknow any boy at his age might dosomething like that. Don’t worrytoo much about it.” With a greatsigh of relief, I said, “Oh, ok, thankyou,” and left his office in a hurry.Now, I didn’t know Lampe wellbefore this and it was the first timewe had really ever talked. But, twodays later, he called me again tohis office. I thought to myself, “Oh,what did Victor do this time?” ButI was wrong; it had nothing to dowith Victor. Lampe told me IRRIwas being asked to do strategicplanning. It would be the first timefor such an exercise at IRRI and heneeded somebody to organize thegroup that would prepare the planand he would like me to handle it.He added that this task wouldreally take a lot of my time and Imay not have time to do statistics.At the time, I thought he just wantedme out of statistics, but then maybehe saw something in me earlier inthe week when we discussed gunsand bullets. I thought long and hardabout his request and finally said:“Ok, I will agree as long as I stillcan be in the Statistics Department.Strategic planning shouldn’t take thewhole day, so he said, ‘Sure, sure,sure.’” Of course, not many yearslater, he changed his mind about mestaying in statistics. But, anyway,we became close coworkers, more sofor me than with any other directorsgeneral during my 32 years at IRRI.So maybe Victor was responsiblefor bringing us together. Otherwise,he may have never noticed me.Go to www.irri.org/publications/today/Pioneer_Interviews.asp to read thefull transcript of the Kwanchai Gomezinterview in which she discusses moreabout her IRRI experiences, includingher recollections of six directors generaland other colleagues and her worktoday with the Asia Rice Foundation.Rice Today October-December 2008 19RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 1910/9/2008 8:24:37 AM


WILLIAM STA. CLARA (2)THEby Adam BarclayLONG ROAForty-five years of painstaking research have shown that modern, intensiverice farming is sustainable and can even improve soil healthJust outside the town of LosBaños, around 60 kilometerssouth of Manila, sits a onehectarepatch of land that is,quite possibly, some of Asia’s mostvaluable real estate. It’s not for saleand, even if it were, you wouldn’tbuild a house, or a car park, or ashopping mall on it. But, for thepast 45 years, this patch of land hasrevealed an extraordinary thing.In recent years, peoplehave begun to argue thatmodern, intensive agriculture isunsustainable—that it degradesthe soil and, eventually, rendersthe land incapable of supportingworthwhile crops. However, newevidence tells us that, when it comesto rice, this is far from true.Since 1963, the InternationalRice Research Institute (IRRI) hasgrown first two, then, from 1968,three crops of rice per year onthat one hectare, in what is knownas the Long-Term ContinuousCropping Experiment (LTCCE).As Rice Today went to press, the134th crop is under way. The timebetween harvesting one crop andplanting another has been minimal(2 to 3 weeks), and crop residue hasbeen removed after harvest, ratherthan incorporated into the soil.What did IRRI’s researchersfind? The answer flies in theface of what many people nowbelieve. In short, with appropriatefertilizer management, not onlycan yields be maintained, but soilhealth can be improved as well.A recent paper 1 by RolandBuresh, Mirasol Pampolino, andEufrocino Laureles from IRRI,and Hermenegildo Gines fromthe Philippine Rice ResearchInstitute (PhilRice), summarizedthe decades of LTCCE informationin a report on the soil health infour long-term trials managedby IRRI, including two at theInstitute’s Los Baños headquarters.According to the paper, “Theresults suggest that continuouscultivation of irrigated rice withbalanced fertilization on submergedsoils maintained or slightly increasedsoil organic matter and maintainedsoil nitrogen (N)-supplying capacity.”Soil organic matter—whichcomprises living organisms andthe decomposing remains of oncelivingorganisms, including animals,plants, and microorganisms—isa vital component of healthy soil.High amounts of soil organic matterenhance the soil’s water- and nutrientholdingcapacity and improvesoil structure for plant growth.Healthy soils can also reduce theseverity and costs of such problemsas drought, flood, and disease.Over a 15-year period (1983-98), the study also found no declinein the amount of N able to besupplied to rice plants by the soil.In other words, it is possibleto farm rice intensively, to doit for a long time, and to usemineral (nonorganic) fertilizerwithout degrading the soil orthe land’s productivity. In fact,if you manage the crops well,you can improve things.According to Achim Dobermann,IRRI deputy director generalfor research, the experiment is1Pampolino MF, Laureles EV, Gines HC, Buresh RJ. 2008. Soil carbon and nitrogen changes in long-term continuous lowland rice cropping. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 72:798-807.20 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 2010/9/2008 8:24:43 AM


ADA RAINBOW arches over IRRI’s Long-Term ContinuousCropping Experiment, now in its 45th year. Farm workers(left and center) plant the experiment’s 134th cropin September 2008.ARIEL JAVELLANAa testament to the painstakingdedication, attention to detail,and quality of managementand measurement that dozensof Institute staff have appliedover the past 45 years.“The big message,” says Dr.Dobermann, “is that, with theright amount of fertilizer and goodmanagement, we can produce 18or more tons of rice per year on avery sustainable basis. Intensiverice monocropping can actuallybe a very sustainable system.”Dr. Buresh, who took overas the LTCCE’s lead researcherin 2000, explains that uniqueproperties of submerged soils makerice different from any other crop.Because of prolonged flooding, hesays, farmers are able to conservesoil organic matter and also receivefree input of N from biologicalsources. This biological N fixationamounts to around 25 kilogramsper hectare per crop, enough tohelp ensure a stable yield of about3 tons per hectare per crop inthe absence of applied fertilizerN. And, this has been sustainedfor the 45 years of the LTCCE.“None of the world’s other majorcropping systems has these features,”says Dr. Buresh. “It’s for these reasonsthat rice monoculture systems havebeen around for thousands of yearsand sustained whole civilizations.”Another unique feature ofcontinuous (double or triple) ricecroppingsystems revealed by theLTCCE is that, at least under tropicalconditions, farmers need not applymanure or other organic materialsto maintain soil organic matter.Nor is it necessary to retain largeamounts of crop residue (straw).“High-input, intensive agricultureis often sustainable agriculturetoo,” says Dr. Dobermann. “Thereare many misperceptions aboutthe impact of mineral fertilizers.The LTCCE routinely yieldsnearly twice as much rice perhectare per year than an averagerice farm. This is possible onlythrough judicious use of fertilizers.Although the LTCCE field has neverreceived any organic fertilizer, itis a very sustainable system.”Dr. Buresh points out thattypical Asian rice farmers haveaccess to limited amounts of organicfertilizer. IRRI therefore focusessimply on the principles of nutrientmanagement and soil fertility thatcan achieve high yields year in,year out, without compromisingsoil or environmental health.“To do this, we need to equipfarmers with better knowledge andsimple tools that they can use foradjusting nutrient inputs to theirlocations and needs,” explainsDr. Buresh. “Farmers who haveaccess to organic fertilizers on aneconomical basis should use them,but, in many cases, they will needto supplement them with mineralfertilizers because organic fertilizersoften contain insufficient nutrientsfor optimizing rice yields.”The significance of the LTCCE isperhaps best summed up by RobertZeigler, IRRI’s director general. “Iknow this might sound silly,” he says,“but when I read the LTCCE paper,I felt shivers of excitement rollingover me as I internalized what 45years of experimentation means.”The story does not end here.With support from PhilRice staff,similar observations were made inlong-term trials with double-croppedrice systems at two other locationsin the Philippines. With the LTCCE,many of these trials will continue toprovide vital information about thesort of agriculture that will be neededto feed the world in the decades tocome. Moreover, the trials are usedto address short-term objectives suchas testing promising varieties underhigh-yield management, and tryingnew nutrient-management strategies.Worryingly, it is increasinglydifficult to find support for suchlong-term work. Dr. Zeigler notesthat it would be a momentous loss ifthe LTCCE—which could almost beconsidered a world rice heritage site—were compromised by lack of funding.Yet, he points out, “It is investment inthis sort of research that can answerquestions of truly global importance.”Rice Today October-December 2008 21RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 2110/9/2008 8:24:50 AM


William Sta. Clar aRice 22 Today October-December 2008, Vol. 7, No. 4 Rice Today October-December 2008RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 2210/9/2008 8:24:55 AM


Farm workers tr ansplant the 134 th crop of an IRRI Experiment Rice that Today has October-December shown that long-term 2008 intensive rice production can be sustainable. 23RT7-4 (p1-23)_FA.indd 2310/9/2008 8:24:57 AM

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