The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners released forty-four new and improved rice varieties in 2013. 21 of these were released in the Philippines, six in Bangladesh, five in Myanmar, three in Nigeria, two in Tanzania, two in India, and one each in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mozambique and Rwanda. The new releases include nine salt-tolerant varieties in the Philippines, three flood-tolerant varieties in South Asia, and six in sub-Saharan Africa.
Overall, IRRI has released around a thousand improved rice varieties across 78 countries since its establishment in 1960, says Dr Eero Nissil?, head of IRRIs breeding division. These are considered global public goods. Hence, our partners are free to release these for farmers use or for more breeding work to suit local needs in their countries.
We are excited over these varieties, especially those released in Nigeria. These are the fruits of many years of collaboration that I have personally been a part of during my posting at the Africa Rice Center station in Nigeria, said Dr Glenn Gregorio, senior rice breeder at IRRI. IRRI worked hard and closely with national breeding programmes, and we know that this will lead to more collaboration as demand for rice increases in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Gregorio said.
In addition to stress tolerance, quality is also a pressing requirement in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). "Releasing these rice varieties in ESA, including the aromatic ones, is a step toward meeting the demand of the region," said IRRI scientist Dr RK Singh. Dr Singh coordinated IRRI's regional plant breeding activities in ESA.
An independent assessment by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) found that Southeast Asian rice farmers in three countries are harvesting an extra US$1.46 billion worth of rice a year as a result of the research work done by IRRI and its partners. A 13% boost in yield gave returns of $127 per hectare in southern Vietnam, $76 per hectare in Indonesia, and $52 per hectare in the Philippines.
Similarly, a study commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) on the impact of investments in rice research suggested that a $12 million investment in rice research has returned more than $70 million in benefits to rice farmers and national economies in four Asian countries. The countries covered in the study were Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Half of the global population about 3.5 billion people rely on rice for their sustenance and livelihood.
This article is adapted from a piece published on IRRIs website on Wednesday 19th February 2014.