Friday, December 18, 2015

IRRI News: External reviewer lauds CORIGAP's transdisciplinar...

IRRI News: External reviewer lauds CORIGAP's transdisciplinar...: Los Baños, Laguna  –  An external review of CORIGAP —a project working on closing rice yield gaps through environmentally sustainable me...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

IRRI News: External reviewers evaluate the first phase of COR...

IRRI News: External reviewers evaluate the first phase of COR...: Los Baños, Laguna - An external review of the Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprints (CORIGAP) project be...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

30 participants from 7 countries complete training on ecological management of rice pests

Participants have expressed their enthusiasm for applying their newly gained knowledge on the ecological management of some of the most destructive pests that Asian rice farmers face.
Thirty participants from the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam underwent intensive two-week training on the management of rodents, insects, and weeds in rice- based farming system at IRRI Headquarters on 2-13 November. The activities included lectures on the principles of integrated and sustainable management of insects, weeds, and rodents. Guided by IRRI’s pool of experts, participants identified common rice insect pests and their natural enemies, and conducted weed identification and screenhouse trials. They also had a participatory half-day session on population modeling.

“This training is very useful for my job as a researcher,” Ruwanthi Mandanayake shared. “In Sri Lanka, the Rice Research Development Institute is actively promoting sustainably produced agricultural crops, like rice. I have learned about practical management of rodent population, which I found very interesting.”

Budi Raharjo, postharvest and mechanization researcher at the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) in South Sumatra, Indonesia, said he gained a deeper appreciation and understanding about better pest management approaches that could help Indonesia produce environmentally sustainable rice. “The training furnished me with new knowledge on managing pests in tidal swamps in Indonesia, like South Sumatra,” Rhajaro said.  “The principles also complement the Integrated Crop Management promoted in Indonesia. This will ensure that we, in the AIAT, can provide up-to-date recommendations of best management practices in rice production to the farmers.”  
For Arriz Cabigting, a rice technician from the Philippines, the course gave him a new perspective on pest control.  “The ecological approach helped broaden my knowledge in increasing biodiversity in rice fields, while managing the pests in farmers’ field in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Aung Myo Thant, IRRI assistant scientist in Myanmar, shared his thoughts on how the course will help ramp up sustainable farming in Myanmar. “This course taught us that you don’t need to spray a lot of chemicals to control insects, weeds or rodents. Using the right technique at the right growth stage of rice is more effective than spraying a huge amount of chemicals to control pest population.”

“Understanding the nature of the pests and the ecosystem surrounding it is important before you apply your measure of control,” said Grant Singleton, training organizer and project leader of Closing Rice Yield Gaps with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP). “The participants will go back to their countries armed with sound pest management techniques and tools to facilitate collective action from the farming community.  Through this course, we hope that they would help their respective countries promote rice production that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.”

The CORIGAP project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the IRRI Training Center organized the training. IRRI’s partner agencies including the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development and the Philippine Department of Agriculture through its Food Staples Sufficiency Program, also provided financial support for the short-term course.

Posted from IRRI News 

30 participants from 7 countries complete training on ecological management of rice pests

Los Baños, Laguna -- A two-week training course on the ecological management of rodents, insects, and weeds in agro-ecosystems is being held at IRRI headquarters on 2-13 November.

Thirty participants from the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the training to gain and apply their knowledge of the ecology of rice pests for better rice farm management at a landscape level. They were trained in using decision tools to analyze pest problems and determine processes and factors that influence farmers’ decisions;  applying field protocols for monitoring insects, rodent and weeds; simple computer models; and the principles for effective transfer of knowledge to  extension officers, policymakers, and farmers.

IRRI scientists Grant Singleton (rodent ecology), Virender Kumar (weed management), David Johnson (weed ecology), Alex Stuart (rodent ecology), and Buyung Hadi (insect ecology) provided their expertise as resource persons.  They were joined by Professor Emeritus Charles Krebs, population ecologist from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

“A strong understanding of the population ecology of insect, rodent, and weed pests, and the behavior of rodents and insects is important to effectively manage them,” explains Dr. Singleton, coordinator of the Closing Rice Yield Gaps with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) project.

The first week’s activities included hands-on training on spooling and radio-tracking of rodents and rat-trapping in various outdoor settings at the IRRI experiment station—lowland rice fields, near screenhouses, grassy plots, and at the base of long coconut trees. The students caught 30 rodent pests from just 95 traps. They were then taught how to take key body measurements and examine in detail the breeding condition of the female rodents.

CORIGAP, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, organized the training activity with the IRRI Training Center.

Posted from: IRRI News

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

CORIGAP workshop focuses on future directions for closing yield gaps

By: Rona Azucena

The Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) project gears up for its second phase with a review of the progress made at sites in major granaries of lowland irrigated rice in six Asian countries.  The meeting reviewed plans for the last 15 months of Phase 1 of CORIGAP and then considered priorities, future development activities, and timelines for Phase 2, 2017–2020.

IRRI scientists and research and extension partners from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia came together for the two-day workshop on 6–7 October, IRRI headquarters.

Matthew Morell, deputy director general for research at IRRI, in his opening message said that “CORIGAP can provide a global strategic point of view as it brings together half of the world’s rice producing capacity.” He added that the project promotes cross-country learning and is an important part of the Global Rice Science Partnership.

Grant Singleton, CORIGAP coordinator, explains that “the success of the project is because of the strong partnerships built throughout the years since IRRC (Irrigated Rice Research Consortium).”

“It is time to capitalize on those partnerships and explore promising avenues for large-scale dissemination, especially the message that we can close yield gaps in an environmentally sustainable manner,” Dr. Singleton added.

The in-country developments made from research efforts on monitoring the ecological footprint of natural resource management (NRM) technologies, value chains, gender studies, and the field calculator were discussed, as well as the delivery and implementation of NRM technologies per country.

There also was an active exchange of ideas on communication plans for large-scale dissemination of CORIGAP technologies and practices.

The project aims to improve food security and gender equity, by optimizing the productivity (resource-use efficiency) and environmental sustainability of irrigated rice production systems, thereby closing rice yield gaps in a selection of major irrigated rice granaries in Asia.

CORIGAP is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Posted from IRRI News

CORIGAP conducts workshop on measuring ecological indicators for sustainable rice production

The Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) project conducted a two-day workshop on measuring ecological indicators and using the field calculator on 8-9 October 2015. IRRI scientists, led by Sarah Beebout, and key partners from China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam gathered together to discuss how to calculate 12 core environmental indicators from farmer field data collected from CORIGAP project sites.

 “One of the very important parts of CORIGAP is looking at the environment and examining whether we can measure ecological impact to see where we could make cropping systems more sustainable from an ecological perspective,“ Grant Singleton, CORIGAP project leader, said.

He lauded the continuing efforts of the project team in providing substantial input into creating indicators that will complement the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP). “If we get better measures, we can deliver key messages to policy makers so they can be the key people to take this initiative further,” he added.

“The vision is to build sound recommendations for sustainable practices in different countries for each planting season,” Sarah Beebout, lead scientist for the work on ecological indicators, explained. “For example, if a farmer uses low-carbon technology, does the nitrogen-use efficiency improve?”

Aside from ecological indicators, the participants were also taught how to use the field calculator, a tool to assess sustainability using the ecological indicators themselves. The participants brainstormed on how to use the field calculator further and who else might be its potential users.

Myanmar: Lessons in postharvest identified by Learning Alliance members in wrap-up meeting

Bogale, Myanmar — The Learning Alliance (LA) in Bogale Township in Myanmar was established in July 2013 to improve Bogale rice quality and obtain higher market prices. The members, composed of farmers, millers, NGO partners, and other rice value chain actors, had a wrap-up meeting on 29-30 June 2015. The 20 members (4 female, 16 male)  shared what they experienced and learned from the different LA activities conducted from 2013 to 2015, and developed plans to continue the alliance.  The event is part of the final review program of the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which aims to improve food security livelihoods in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady Delta.

Using interactive group learning activities, the participants traced their key learning from trying postharvest options, i.e., flatbed dryers and lightweight threshers that will help improve paddy quality. Members also recalled visiting wholesale and export markets in Yangon.  LA members identified that the flatbed dryer provided by the LIFT project enabled them to dry their grains even during bad weather and risky conditions.
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U Aung Kyi, a rice farmer in Kyee Chaung village, used the dryer and shared his experience to LA members from other villages. “During the 2014 monsoon 2014 season, I was able to dry my wet paddy overnight using the flatbed dryer. I used it again in the 2015 summer season and was able to sell my paddy  in Yangon,” he shared.

Through the alliance, five farmers from Pa Dae Kyaw village were able to try the lightweight TC-800 thresher, and shared how easy it was to use.

IRRI postharvest expert Martin Gummert and project consultant Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw discussed with the LA members the future activities of the alliance, which will include provision of solar bubble dryers for mobile drying, and business models for the flatbed dryer with group storage to ensure that the smallholder farmers will continue producing good-quality grains to help increase their income.

Some LA activities were co-funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, through the project Closing the Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint project.

Posted at IRRI News

Myanmar: Learning Alliance reviews impact of improving rice production and linking farmers to market

Members of the Postharvest Learning Alliance reviewed the impact of its activities on trying new varieties, exploring market options, testing postharvest technologies, and sharing rice-based management options with farmers in Maubin Township. The Learning Alliance (LA) aims to bring  farmers, scientists, extension agents, and other stakeholders together to field-test, refine, and adapt integrated rice production systems, and learn and share good practices.

The 38 farmers who participated in the activities shared their experience in growing the salt-tolerant Sin Thwe Latt (use less input) and the Sin Thu Kha (use more input) in the previous cropping seasons. They also discussed key information on seed production methods and crop production practices they gathered from interacting with the Shwebo farmers who produce high quality Paw San variety and reported a better understanding of how rice quality affects prices after visiting different markets in Yangon.

U Nay Lin Oo, a farmer from Tar Pat village in Maubin Township, shared his experience using the IRRI-designed TC-800 lightweight thresher.“I was able to thresh faster and improved the quality of grains,” he said.

In addition, members planned their future activities that include planting Pyi Taw Yin that they have selected from the participatory varietal trial for its good yield. They also discussed how the project could further help farmers and other end users to boost their rice production with the review team from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Department of Agriculture officials.

The Postharvest Learning Alliance is implemented through Diversification and Intensification of Rice-based Cropping Systems in Lower Myanmar (MYRice), an ACIAR-funded project in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Research, and key private sector partners.  The meeting was held in Maubin Township on 25 May.

Posted from IRRI News 

Philippines: IRRI conducts laser leveling training to make rice farming more climate friendly

By Carlito Balingbing

Twelve participants (10 male, 2 female) from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines underwent a rigorous hands-on training course on  laser land leveling at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters.

Laser land leveling is a climate-smart agriculture practice helps save scarce resources while increasing yields and farmers’ incomes. “A number of benefits can be obtained from a laser level field,” says Joseph Rickman, IRRI senior scientist with specialization in mechanization and production systems. “These include efficient water use, better weed and nutrient management, increase in farm area due to consolidation of smaller fields, uniform crop maturity, and increase in grain and head rice yields.”

Ms. Lin Lin Ho from Trimble, the company that introduced commercial laser leveling technology in 1996, says, “Around 500,000 hectares of land have been made climate friendly through the use of laser leveling system.” Ralph Go of Go Traktora, a local distributor of Trimble equipment gave a presentation on local distribution and after sales service of laser leveling system.

The laser leveling module, second offering of the course, covered the following topics: 1) understanding the principles and benefits of laser leveling; 2) conducting topographic surveys; 3) making field plan for efficient laser leveling;  4) conduction of laser leveling in an IRRI field; and 5) learning the economics of laser leveling technology.

“This training unpacked the ease and practicality of using the laser leveler technology,” says Roger Barroga, a participant from the Philippine Rice Research Institute. “By proper land leveling, we can better manage water, weeds, and fertilizer, and increase the yield of our rice crop,”

The Postharvest Unit of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division in collaboration with the Training Center conducted the course that also included a module on tractor operation and maintenance. The module on tractor operation covered the principles of operation and maintenance of a 4W tractor and underwent actual driving lessons. The course was held on 18-21 May.

Thailand: Agriculture staff learn laser leveling of rice fields

by Carlito Balingbing

Twenty-three participants from the Thailand Rice Department, Agricultural Engineering Department, and CTA-Trimble attended training on using laser land leveling technology. Laser leveling precisely level fields and has been demonstrated to improve the use of water and allow farmers to reduce seeding by 50% in rain-fed rice fields and increase yield by 15-20%.

Participants learned how to survey fields, use laser-controlled leveling equipment and tractors as well as cost benefit analysis for land leveling. Fields were surveyed using standard laser equipment as well as the latest in vehicle mounted computer controlled GPS systems supplied by CTA-Trimble. The GPS equipment is already being used for sugar cane production in Thailand but not yet for rice, according to  Mr. Thanach Songmetahakrit from CTA-Trimble.

“This was the first skill-based training course on laser leveling given within the department,” Mr. Boondit from the Thai Rice Department said. Large-scale trials and demonstrations will now be conducted on research stations and farmers’ fields in the northeast  and central plains areas of Thailand later this year.

Joe Rickman, an expert on mechanization and production systems from the International Rice Research Institute, headed the training. The course was held at the Roi-Et Rice Research Center and Land Development Station in North East Thailand on 11 to 14 May.

Posted from IRRI News 

Myanmar: Learning alliance introduces rice farmers to benefits of using flatbed dryer

by Reianne Quilloy

About 30 farmers from various villages in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun Townships participated in an activity comparing grain drying using the traditional sun-drying method and a flatbed dryer. The event was conducted by the Learning Alliance through the United Nations Office for Project Services-funded Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LiFT) project in Kyee Chaung Village on 3 April.  

The farmers assessed the flatbed dryer installed by the International Rice Research Institute,  Professionals for Development (GRET), and Welthungerhilfe (WHH) in Kyee Chaung. Farmers who had tried the flatbed dryer shared their experiences using the two methods in terms of the quality of paddy they obtained, cost, and how sun drying and flatbed drying performed under different weather conditions.

Participants also discussed possible mechanisms they can organize to encourage more farmers from Kyee Chaung and  other villages to try the flatbed dryer. They also planned to distribute flyers and leaflets, and posters to these villages.
Flatbed dryer removes water from wet grains by forcing heated air through the grain. This model is easy to operate and gives better quality grain compared with sun drying.  Its simple design allows local production and ensures easy maintenance and repair. More than 300 flatbed dryers have been installed in Myanmar and about 35,000 farmers are already benefiting from them.

IRRI News: Myanmar: Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun farmers receive training on improving the quality of their rice

by Reianne Quilloy

The Learning Alliance team conducted training in grain quality assessment for about 30 farmers from different villages in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun Townships on 4 April. The event consisted of lectures and hands-on exercises on using the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) grain quality assessment kit. The IRRI kit can be used to quantify quality traits of paddy and milled rice either by direct measurement or by calculation. Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw, postharvest consultant of the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LiFT) project, taught the farmers to measure moisture content, identify dockage, cracked grains, and assess seed purity and discolored grains.

At the end of the activity, the farmers expressed their appreciation for the first-of-its-kind training. They also identified other topics that they are interested to learn such as cooking quality and better production management practices to enable them to produce better quality rice and obtain higher profit. Rice from Bogale Township command low market price due its poor quality.

The event was funded by the LiFT project through its Improving livelihoods of rice-based rural households in the lower region of the Ayeyarwady delta initiative. Under the initiative IRRI, Welthungerhilfe (WHH),    and other nongoverment partners of Learning Alliance collaborate to help improve food security and livelihood in Myanmar.

Myanmar: Learning Alliance trains more farmers on rice quality and marketing

The Postharvest Learning Alliance (LA) conducted a second joint meeting to train on 31 farmer-participants rice quality and marketing in Yangon on 13-14 February.

The farmers visited the Wardan wholesale market to gain more awareness on the importance of rice quality and facilitate stronger linkages between farmers and traders at wholesale markets. They also visited the Hmawbi Seed Farm to observe seed production techniques.  The meeting also facilitated sharing of rice varieties and production practices for quality and marketing among farmers from Shwebo, Maubin, and Bogale. Shwebo is particularly known in Myanmar for its high-quality Paw San rice.

After the event, the participating farmers made plans to use the seed selection techniques they learned at the seed farm. They will also pool about 20 tons of rice and sell it to a new trader in Yangon they met through the meeting.

“The end goal of these efforts is for rice farmers to get high profits by meeting the quality standards required by the market,” said Martin Gummert, postharvest expert at IRRI. “In order to do this, farmers should choose varieties with traits that the market requires, and improve postharvest practices to prevent quality deterioration of their grains after harvest.”

Myo Aung Kyaw, IRRI consultant and a member of the millers and traders’ association , facilitated the educational visit and will continue linking farmers with traders who are willing to pay premium price for high-quality rice.

Posted at IRRI News