New chapter in rice research history opens

April 4th, 2008 - 8:43 pm ICT by admin  

Los Banos ( Philippines), Apr.4 (ANI): A major new partnership between the public and private sectors was made official here this week (3-4 April) with an aim to increase rice production across Asia via the accelerated development and introduction of hybrid rice technologies.
The innovative new effort to increase rice production - and support for rice research - comes at a crucial time for Asia as the region struggles to deal with near record rice prices caused by stagnating yields.
Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research (IRRI), which convened and hosted this inaugural meeting of the Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC), said during the opening session that there is no question this meeting represents the first pages of an entirely new chapter in the history of rice research.
“Certainly, the success of hybrid rice in China is well known,” added Dr. Zeigler, “and the potential for hybrid rice to have an impact across the rest of the rice-growing world is something that we all believe is real,” Zeigler added.
IRRI and its partners in the public and private sectors have led research, development, and use of hybrid rice technology in the tropics for almost 30 years. Hybrid rice varieties have the potential to raise the yield of rice and thus overall rice productivity and profitability in Asia. Successful deployment of hybrid rice, however, requires a more effective cooperation between public research institutions and private sector companies to study ways to overcome the current constraints.
Paresh Verma represented one of the 19 founding private-sector company members (from seven countries) of the HRDC attending the inaugural meeting at IRRI. Director for research at DCM Shiram Consolidated Ltd., Hyderabad, India, Dr. Verma said, “This is really a unique idea, which can strengthen public and private sector collaboration. In recent weeks, we have been noticing newspaper headlines around the world warning of a likely shortage of rice, the world’s most important food crop. We know that, in the last 20-25 years, the productivity of rice has not increased despite continuous increase in the population. Increasing rice productivity is really the biggest challenge before us as researchers and policy makers.”
Participants at the two-day gathering, which also included 15 public sector institutions from China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, considered it fortunate that this consortium is beginning now.
“We have before us a world in which we see rice prices increasing dramatically. Since rice is the food of the world’s poor, any increase in the price of rice has a serious impact on those poor. There is no question that we need technologies that will improve the productivity of rice and certainly hybrid rice is at or near the top of the list of technologies that will help us increase the availability of rice for the world,” Dr. Verma said.
The HRDC has the potential of being a trend-setting model on how the private and public sectors can amicably work together. This is an undertaking that will surely be watched very closely around the world.
Dr. Verma said his company joined the HRDC because he and his associates believe that, in the future, any significant increase in rice productivity will come through increased adoption of hybrid rice.
During this first HRDC gathering, the participants learned about new plant genetic resources available or under development at IRRI, reviewed research on hybrid rice management, discussed new research priorities, and made decisions on other Consortium activities such as capacity building for both sectors.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines, with offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving 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 of 15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. (ANI)

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