Drones and deep learning: Researchers develop a new technique…

  • Drones and deep learning: Researchers develop a new technique to quantify rice production

    Rice, a major food crop, is cultivated on nearly 162 million hectares of land worldwide. One of the most commonly used methods to quantify rice production is rice plant counting. This technique is used to estimate yield, diagnose growth, and assess losses in paddy fields. Most rice counting processes across the world are still carried out manually. However, this is extremely tedious, laborious, and time-consuming, indicating the need for faster and more efficient machine-based solutions.

    Researchers from China and Singapore have recently developed a method to replace manual rice counting with a much more sophisticated method, involving the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

    According to Professor Jianguo Yao from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications in China, who led the study, "The new technique uses UAVs to capture RGB images—images composed primarily with red, green, and blue light—of the paddy field. These images are then processed using a deep learning network that we have developed, called RiceNet, which can accurately identify the density of rice plants in the field, as well as provide higher-level semantic features, such as crop location and size."

    Their paper has been published Plant Phenomics.

    The RiceNet network architecture consists of one feature extractor, at the front end, that analyzes the input images, and three feature decoder modules that are responsible for estimating the density of plants in the paddy field, the location of plants in the paddy field, and the size of the plants, respectively. The latter two features are particularly important for future research on automated crop management techniques, such as fertilizer spraying.

    As a part of the study, the research team deployed a camera-equipped UAV over rice fields in the Chinese city of Nanchang and subsequently analyzed the acquired data using a sophisticated image analysis technique. Next, the researchers employed a training dataset and a test dataset. The former was used as a reference to train the system and the latter was used to validate the analytical findings.

    More specifically, out of the 355 images with 257,793 manually labeled points, 246 were randomly selected and used as training images, whereas the remaining 109 were used as test images. Each image contained an average of 726 rice plants.

    According to the team, the RiceNet technique used for image analysis has a good signal-to-noise ratio. In other words, it is able to efficiently distinguish rice plants from background, thus improving the quality of the generated plant density maps.

    The results of the study showed that the mean absolute error and root mean square error of the RiceNet technique were 8.6 and 11.2, respectively. In other words, the density maps generated using RiceNet were in good agreement with those generated using manual methods.

    Moreover, based on their observations, the team also shared a few key recommendations. For instance, the team does not recommend acquiring images on rainy days. It also suggests collecting UAV-based images within a period of 4 hours following sunrise, so as to minimize fog time as well as the occurrence of rice leaf curls, both of which adversely affect the output quality.

    "In addition to this, we further validated the performance of our technique using two other popular crop datasets. The results showed that our method significantly outperforms other state-of-the-art techniques. This underscores the potential of RiceNet to replace the traditional method of manual rice counting," concludes Professor Yao.

    RiceNet further paves the way toward other UAV- and deep learning-based crop analysis techniques, which can in turn guide decisions and strategies to improve the production of food and cash crops worldwide.

  • Organic Rice Production From the Growers’ Perspective

  • Gone organic (from left): Michael Bosworth, Daniel Cavazos, and Ken Danklefs (Photo: USA Rice)

    AUSTIN, TX — Organic rice accounts for a small percentage of the rice produced in the United States but total acreage is on the upswing as more and more consumers prefer organically-produced foodstuffs. The USA Rice Outlook Conference addressed this growing trend last week with an excellent breakout session focused on organic rice production in the U.S. featuring three panelists representing diverse operations and growing regions.

    Michael Bosworth is a California grower and marketer from Olivehurst, Daniel Cavazos is the director of rice and organic farming for Florida Crystals Corporation near Belle Glade, Florida, and Ken Danklefs is a rice producer near Garwood, Texas, west of Houston. All three produce both organic and conventional rice in their operations so were able to provide perspectives on the differences between the two types of production.

    The speakers discussed the significant requirements associated with organic rice production, including the avoidance of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, instead relying on animal manures, crop residues, green manures, tillage, water, and other biological measures to supply plant nutrients and minimize pest damage. Only products that have been certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) can be used in organic production.

    In addition, fields to be used for organic production must have been free of application of any non-organic approved products for the previous three years. Hence, one of the biggest constraints is finding land suitable for organic production. Danklefs said that if enough such land was readily available, he would likely be 100 percent organic.

    While diseases and insects can be troublesome, weeds are a major challenge in organic production. Bosworth gave an example of a field that had a yield reduction of 50 percent from one year to the next and finally was taken out of organic production because of weed pressure.

    Cavazos said he plants all of his organic rice prior to seeding his conventional crop to give him somewhat of an advantage on some of the major organic production constraints.

    All three agreed that yields on organic production are typically below that on conventional rice and, in some cases, significantly reduced. This can vary from year to year and field to field.

    Each producer has a different approach to marketing their product. Florida Crystals has their own rice mill (Sem-Chi). All of their production is milled there and most of it is sold in Florida. Danklefs sells his rice to one of the two mills in Texas that handle organic rice – Douguet’s Rice Milling and Gulf Pacific Rice. Bosworth has his own food distribution business, called Next Generation Foods, and sells his organic packaged products under the “True Origins Foods” brand.

    While organic rice production can be challenging and is not for everyone, it was apparent listening to these three farmers that they enjoy the challenge and are in it for the long haul. All three also participated in a podcast which will be available soon as part of The Rice Stuff podcast series.

  • Rice harvesting near completion in Punjab

  • LAHORE    -   Rice harvesting is near completion in Pun­jab and this year its expected production is 5.2 million tonnes. Agriculture Depart­ment sources told APP on Monday that rice has been cultivated on more than 5.7 million acres of land in the province. Sources said that after completion of harvesting process, storage of rice was the most important task. Mostly old rice is preferred by users, sources added. The sources said if rice was not stored scientifi­cally, not only the qual­ity of the produce was harmed but its weight was also reduced. Moisture, insects, birds and rats were the fac­tors which put negative impact on rice if not stored properly. Mean­while, the Agriculture Department sources advised growers not to burn paddy stubble as it is illegal way to get rid of crop residue. High-level of smog af­fects the growth.

  • Lanka to learn from China new ways to increase rice production

  • By Sugeeswara Senadhira

    Colombo, November 14 (Ceylon Today): China concluded an important International Forum on Hybrid Rice Assistance and Global Food Security in Beijing last weekend, where the focus was on China’s hybrid rice varieties that could revolutionize global food production and ensure food security.

    Virtually addressing the Forum Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena expressed deep appreciation to the People’s Republic of China and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired the Forum for the efforts taken on behalf of the people of the world who are affected by the food scarcity. Pointing out that, such forums go a long way to enhance efforts towards food security through coordinated action, he expressed confidence that the forum would come up with useful plans that would ensure global food security and speed up achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

    China’s partnership towards food security in Sri Lanka has a long history as Rubber-Rice Agreement between the two countries were signed way back in 1952, even before the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    The Prime Minister recalled how the socialist leaders of Sri Lanka fought for the recognition of China, which was resisted by the pro-British government which ruled the country after independence in 1948. The socialist leaders used every available forum to highlight this demand.

    The leader of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) Phillip Gunawardena, who attended the Fourth Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Meeting for Asia and the Far East, held in Tokyo in 1959 as Minister of Agriculture and Food, urged the FAO to grant membership to China. He ridiculed the West-dominated FAO for denying membership to China. “This Conference is being held without China, the biggest producer of rice in the world. Considering that Ceylon earnestly proposes to FAO to have China as a full member”.

    As the ‘Lion of Boralugoda’ said in his thundering voice, it was meaningless to discuss food security without involving China, the biggest producer of rice and innovator of hybrid rice varieties to increase the global food production.

    Increasing rice yield is crucial for solving the food crisis, ensuring food security, and reducing poverty. Chinese scientists have succeeded in producing high-yielding varieties of rice and their introduction to other countries will definitely help those nations to reach self-sufficiency in rice, leading to food security.

    Addressing the Forum in Beijing on Saturday (12), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China would provide its hybrid rice technology and hybrid rice varieties to developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America so that they could increase rice production and achieve food security targets.

    Chinese scientists commenced experiments on hybrid rice in the mid- 1960s and a decade later, succeeded in creating new varieties of rice. It was estimated that the development of hybrid rice varieties, which have been reported to out-yield inbred rice varieties by about 10 per cent, is necessary for ensuring China’s food security. Hybrid rice helped China to increase rice production by 200 million metric tons from 1976 to 1991.

    It has been proved practically on a large scale that hybrid rice has a yield advantage of more than 30 percent over conventional rice varieties. Current research in China indicates that the yield potential of hybrid rice can be increased by improving breeding methodology and increasing the degree of heterosis.Existing hybrid rice varieties used commercially in China are inter-varietal hybrids produced by the cytoplasmic genetic male sterility (CMS) system. The CMS system is the most effective genetic tool in hybrid rice breeding.

    Chinese rice scientists have been exploring new technological approaches and the results are promising. Some of them out-yielded the best existing hybrids by 10-30 percent.

    However, the agricultural area where hybrid rice is grown has decreased by 25 percent (about 5 million ha) in China since 1995. It was found that the decreasing hybrid rice production area was caused not only by technological factors but also by socio-economic factors; and the decreased area under hybrid rice production does not lead to additional pressure on increasing crop yields from either hybrid or inbred rice production.

    Extensive research on and the development of hybrid rice in China have clearly demonstrated its usefulness in significantly increasing rice yields beyond the levels of improved semi-dwarf varieties. Hybrid rice is currently planted on a 9 million ha area in China. Several International Rice Research Institute-bred (IRRI) cultivars are used as male parents of commercial varieties. Research at IRRI and in several collaborating countries shows that hybrids have yields 15-20 percent higher than those of the best semi-dwarf varieties. Hybrid varieties suitable for other countries are still in the pipeline. In addition to higher yield, heterotic rice hybrids show higher productivity, adaptability to certain stress environments, and better utilization of applied nitrogen fertilizers.

    A number of cytoplasmic male sterile (CMS) lines developed and used in China are not adoptable outside China for lack of adequate disease and insect resistance and acceptable grain quality. Several CMS lines developed at IRRI are now being evaluated in collaborating countries. Both China and IRRI are involved in research to diversify CMS sources, to prevent genetic vulnerability problems in hybrid varieties.

    Use of hybrid rice developed by China in Sri Lanka will be another area of cooperation between the two countries. Today, with the speedy development and growth witnessed in China, the relationship have further enhanced between China and Sri Lanka in economic, trade, investment, cultural and social spheres as well as people-to-people friendship bonds.

    Prime Minister Gunawardena said in his video address, China’s success in eradication of poverty, rural upliftment and ensuring food security has been exemplary. “Sri Lanka wishes to thank your magnanimous contributions to the efforts of my country as well as other developing nations towards achieving food security,” he concluded.

  • Arakan State farmers fret over likely decline in rice production

  • Arakan State’s agriculture industry has suffered significant setbacks this year, including an anticipated drop in the state’s rice production, making it necessary to take special care to ensure domestic food security, according to an official from the Arakan Farmers’ Union.

    As farmers have faced various difficulties this year, the Arakan Farmers’ Union estimates that the yield per acre will decline.

    Domestic rice food security is a matter to be considered and officials need to be careful, said U Aung Kyaw Mya, spokesman for the Arakan Farmers’ Union.

    “It is certain that the rice yield will decrease this year. Depending on the condition of the rice production this year, it should be suitable for the local population, and the surplus rice should be carefully checked and sold abroad,” he added.

    Some farmers have reduced their sown acreage this year due to steep increases in the price of fertilisers and other higher costs. During the cultivation period, many rice plants were damaged by drought and overexposure to sun and heat.

    According to farmers, rice plants were also damaged by saltwater flooding caused by recentstorms, with some rice plants even blown away by attendant strong winds.

    Farmer U Tun Than Myint said more than 1,300 acres of paddy farmland in Pauktaw Township’s Thitpokechaung Village were destroyed by the storms.

    “In the previous year, everyone had enough rice. But farmers will face livelihood hardships this year due to low paddy yield. The cost of growing rice is huge, and we have worked so hard for the entire rainy season, but now we have lost everything,” he added.

    Tens of thousands of acres of paddy fields have reportedly been destroyed by the stormy weather in Pauktaw Township, according to local residents.

    “We will not be able to harvest our paddy fields. Three acres of paddy field has been damaged by saltwater. Six acres of paddy fields, which were soon to be harvested, have been destroyed by insects. We will face livelihood difficulties this year,” a local farmer from Ngapyitet Village in Pauktaw Township said.

    Seventy-five percent of the rural population in Arakan State is primarily engaged in agriculture. Farmers say that due to the higher cultivation costs, crop damage and other challenges this year, they are not sure if they will be able to repay the agricultural loans that they have taken out.

    “We have lost everything we worked hard for this year. We had various difficulties buying a bag of fertilizer. I don’t know how to repay the agricultural loan,” said U Thein Shwe Oo, a farmer from Kanchaung Village in Ponnagyun Township.

    There are about 1.2 million acres of arable land in Arakan State, but only some 850,000 acres of farmland could be cultivated this year due to the higher costs of farming, and because some farmers are still unable to return home after being displaced by conflict, according to the Arakan Farmers’ Union.

    The union estimates that some 50,000 acres of farmland in Arakan State townships including Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Pauktaw have been abandoned due to renewed fighting, which kicked off in August.

    More than 80,000 acres of farmland were destroyed in the townships of Taungup, Myebon, Pauktaw, Ponnagyun and Rathedaung due to the cyclonic storm Sitrang, among which Taungup Township suffered the most damage, according to the Arakan Farmers’ Union.

  • Indonesia’s rice production estimated at 32 million tonnes this year

  • Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has forecast the nation's rice production will reach 32.07 million tonnes this year, up 2.29% as compared to 31.36 million tonnes reached in 2021.

    Illustrative image (Photo: Antara)

    Jakarta (VNA) - Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has forecast the nation's rice production will reach 32.07 million tonnes this year, up 2.29% as compared to 31.36 million tonnes reached in 2021.

    Deputy for BPS Statistics of Distribution and Services Setianto said the October-December output is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes, up 15.12% from the same period last year.

    Based on production per island, Java island contributes the most as compared to other islands, with a total contribution of 56.12%, or 18 million tonnes, of which 31.07% of the production is in East Java.

    Earlier on August 15, Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture said the country had stopped importing edible rice due to ample supplies, and only imported rice for industrial purposes.

  • Australia backs over AU$5 million for rice production in Mekong Delta

  • The Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap has launched a sustainable rice value chain project in the delta as a public-private partnership (PPP), according to Senator Tim Ayres, assistant minister for Trade and Manufacturing of Australia.

    The Australia-funded project is operated by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and Sunrise, one of Australia’s largest branded food exporters, with an investment of over AU$5 million.

    The universities of An Giang and Can Tho and the Cuu Long Delta Research Institute are participating in this project that will be carried out in the provinces of An Giang, Kien Giang and Dong Thap.

    The cultivation land is set to cover one million hectares, joined by 1.5 million farm households in four years, from 2022 to 2025.

    At the launch event on October 19, Senator Tim Ayres said that it was the first project to be implemented in the Mekong Delta in the form of PPP.

    He added that Vietnam ranked third among the world’s biggest rice exporters, with over 53% of the country’s rice exports coming from the delta. The project was meant to offer mutual cooperation in learning for sustainable development.

    The representative of Sunrise shared that the project’s purpose was to encourage the implementation of sustainable rice production among co-operatives and farmers in terms of fertilizing, irrigating and minimizing production costs.

    Le Thanh Tung, deputy director of the Crop Production Department under the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, said that agriculture production in Vietnam had been facing several challenges amid climate change, and has to seek new adaptations to boost productivity.

    Source: Saigon Times

  • Low-carbon rice production helps Vietnam meet emission targets

  • Rice, Vietnam’s most important crop, accounts for 48 per cent of the agriculture sector’s emissions and over 75 per cent of methane emissions.

    Farmers harvesting rice the Mekong Delta City of Cần Thơ. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm

    HANOI — Moving to low-carbon rice production offers the highest potential for Việt Nam to meet its goal of cutting methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 while boosting the competitiveness of a strategic export item, a new World Bank report says.

    The report, titled “Spearheading Việt Nam’s Green Agricultural Transformation: Moving to Low-Carbon Rice,” suggests that Việt Nam can transform the rice sector by cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improving resource efficiency and yields, boosting resilience, and diversifying production.

    Such transformation will require significant investment and major policy reforms to align incentives and coordinate behaviours of stakeholders at all levels.

    “The agricultural sector, despite all its successes, is an important contributor to GHG emissions in Việt Nam,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Việt Nam, during the launch of the report in the “Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta” workshop, co-organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the World Bank in the Mekong Delta City of Cần Thơ on Saturday.

    “It has reached a point where a transition to lower-carbon modes of farming is imperative – the longer it takes to switch, the higher the costs will be. Experience suggests that government has a catalytic role to play in driving the green transition through strategic allocation of public investment and strengthening the enabling environment for private sector participation in a modern, green agriculture sector,” she noted.

    Rice, which is Việt Nam’s most important crop and grown on more than half of its agricultural land area, accounts for 48 per cent of the agriculture sector’s GHG emissions and over 75 per cent of methane emissions.

    Based on conservative estimates, improving water management and optimising application of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and pesticide can help farmers maintain or increase yields by 5 to 10 per cent and reduce input costs by 20 to 30 per cent, thereby boosting net profits by around 25 per cent.

    More importantly, these improved techniques would also help cut GHG emissions by up to 30 per cent.

    Such approaches were successfully piloted in over 184,000 ha of rice farming under the “Việt Nam Sustainable Agriculture Transformation” Project financed by the World Bank.

    “These methods have been proven effective,” said Benoît Bosquet, World Bank Regional Director for Sustainable Development in East Asia Pacific. “If we can scale them up in the whole agricultural sector, they will help Việt Nam progress towards its 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target.”

    The report highlights five short- to medium-term policy areas to accelerate the transition to low-carbon agriculture, including ensuring policy coherence and plan-budget alignment, repurposing policy tools and public expenditures, promoting public investments, strengthening institutions, and enabling the private sector and other stakeholders to participate.

    Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Minh Hoan said localities in the region must be active in implementing integrated Mekong planning, especially in the field of agriculture.

    The most important thing is to “get rid of the output-first mindset”, and move towards a profitable approach through sustainable livelihood models for rice farmers, helping people increase their income per unit area.

    “In the face of climate change, changing market trends and agricultural development directions, it is necessary to have well-oiled coordination between local authorities, scientists, businesses and farmers,” the minister stressed. — VNS

  • KOICA, MOFA holds training in Ghana on improved rice production

  • The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in collaboration with Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture has held a three-day training for 25 farmer leaders on improving rice production capacities of farmers in the Central Region

    The programme formed part of the rice value chain improvement project, a four-year bilateral cooperation between South Korea and Ghana to strengthen and build the capacity of smaller rice farmers in the Central Region.

    An amount of $8 million had been provided by the South Korean government for five districts, namely; Gomoa East, Assin Foso, Assin North, Assin South and Twifo Atti-Morkwa under the project.

    The workshop sought to improve rice processing and packaging, increase rice production, strengthen the Farmer-Based Organisation (FBO) capacity in branding and marketing, and strengthen post-harvest management capacity and to increase farmer income by 15%.

    Training details 

    Participants drawn from the beneficiary districts, were taken through practical handling of machines and equipment meant for rice production. They were expected to also train members of their farmer groups.

    The Central Regional Director of Agriculture, Dr Peter Omega, encouraged the participants to put into practice whatever they learnt during the training period to benefit individual rice farmers within their district. He noted that 52 tractor operators were trained last year to assist farmers to expand their farms, adding that the 25 trained at the workshop would facilitate rice production.

    “Last year, we were able to cultivate 10,800 acres of land for farming purposes the number increased to 10,965 acres of land in 2022 and this workshop is going to enhance rice production”, he said.

    He underscored the need for the farmers to ensure regular maintenance and repairs of the machines and equipment, saying, “We are to note that we are holding the machines in trust of our rice farmers to improve their Livelihood. We therefore, appealed for the provision of additional farming machines and equipment to boost rice production in the five beneficiary districts and the region in general,”

    The Project Manager of KOICA, Dr Chung Haegun, in an address, reiterated the commitment of his organisation towards supporting initiatives aimed at increasing rice production in the Central Region. The adoption of mechanised farming technique, he indicated, would boost rice production in the Central Region and Ghana as a whole.

    The Manager of Benda Services Group, one of the implementing partners, Benjamin Edusah, in his remarks noted that the skills acquired by the participants would ensure the proper operations and handling of the machines.

    Responding, team leader for the trainees, Prince Opoku, expressed his appreciation to KOICA and Benda Services Group for updating their skills with regard to the use of rice farming equipment during the training. Certificate of participation were awarded to the participants.

  • Rs350m okayed for rice research

  • Rice production to increase with development of new seed varieties

    Investment of Rs350 million for the establishment of phytotron tunnels will expedite research and development on new rice varieties. PHOTO: file


    Sindh Government has approved Rs350 million for the establishment of phytotron tunnels for speedy research and development in order to introduce new rice varieties within the shortest possible time.

    Previously, it was taking six to eight years to introduce a new rice seed for commercial use, as per the statement of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).

    “This project will be a game changer in the agriculture sector, as it is also useful for all agricultural commodities,” said REAP Secretary Altaf Hussain Shaikh.

    Officials of Sindh Agriculture Department have submitted the initial draft of the feasibility report (PC-1) with the planning department for sanction of funds for this project, he added.

    Pakistan is one of the largest producers of rice in the world. It produces about 9 million tons of rice annually and exports about 6 million tons to various countries.

    Pakistan has a large share in global rice exports alongside other commodities such as cotton and sugar. Pakistan’s production is more than that of other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.

    Rice is the most important cereal crop in Pakistan and it is produced in different parts of the country, with Punjab being the main producer and Sindh being its biggest consumer.

    Rice production in K-P has also risen over the years due to improved irrigation facilities as well as better rainfall patterns in some areas.

    In Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, however, wheat is grown instead of rice or maize because this area does not have enough water storage facilities for growing either crop.

    “We hope that after the establishment of these phytotron tunnels at Rice Research Institute Dokri, we will see a phenomenal increase in rice production, which will definitely help to increase rice exports to fetch much-needed foreign exchange,” he said.

    Rice is the staple food of Pakistan and yet more than one-fifth of the population suffers from food insecurity. The main challenges in rice production are limited use of crop technology, lack of good quality seed and poor market information due to unreliable supplies.

    The low production levels of rice are caused both by natural and man-made factors. Natural reasons include lack of space and water, as well as population pressure.

    The man-made reason for low production is the complex seed selection process which is time-consuming. Also, rice requires very high maintenance costs to ensure good yield.

    “We are very thankful to the government for its support, which is much needed,” said REAP ex-senior vice chairman Muhammad Raza. Sindh will be the first province to have this latest and advanced facility in its rice research centres, noted rice exporter Anis Majeed.

    “We have been discussing with the government that all the seeds including that of rice are mostly imported. This is itself reflective of the lack of research and development on varieties of seeds,” said Sindh Abadgar Board Senior Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah.

    Phytotron tunnels are facilities that produce new seeds in a controlled environment, he explained.

    “It is commendable that these tunnels are being introduced. That said, research work also needs to continue with clear objectives and accountability to bring results, without which the tunnels alone may not help,” he added.

  • SRI will work for Ghana to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production

  • Dr Edward Yeboah, the new Director of the Soil Research Institute (SRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has pledged to offer effective leadership in soil research, management and utilisation.

    He said the CSIR-SRI had already achieved excellent from research focusing on soil nutrient management, varietal release, mapping of soil resources and addressing nutrient deficiencies in the soils for optimum yield, especially in rice production.

    Speaking at a ceremony to formally induct him as the Director of CSIR-SRI at Kwadaso near Kumasi, Dr Yeboah pledged to lead a team of researchers for Ghana to be self-sufficient in rice production.

    “With good training and soil management practices, of an acre of field, one can get at least six tonnes of rice”, he said adding that, the SRI was now focusing on improved yields and maintaining the soil for sustainable production.

    He said Ghana was in the position to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, and as a research institution, SRI needed to work towards that and reduce importation of rice into the country.

    The Director pointed out that the ‘One Village One Dam’ concept and other irrigation facilities that were currently being rolled out in the country, were opportunities needed to harness to improve rice yields.

    A good number of rice on the market were imported one, he observed, and suggested that, the amount of money used in importing could be explored to develop the infrastructure and facilities required to wean Ghana of rice import.

    Dr Yeboah said the Institute would continue to discharge its mandate to generate technologies and build capacity for effective planning, development and management of the soil resources of Ghana for increased and sustainable agriculture, environmental qualities, and improve livelihoods.

    He said CSIR-SRI was working towards becoming the centre of excellence in research, development and innovation in tropical soil resources.

    On soil digitization, he pledged to bring relevant stakeholders on board to harmonize soil mapping for Ghana which he believed would be pivotal in developmental agenda.

    “We have realised that there are a number of institutions, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fertiliser Development Center and the Northern Development Authority that are also working towards soil maps for Ghana.”

    He said the SRI would further strengthen collaborations with CSIR agri-based Institutes to work towards sustainability and excellence.

    Source: GNA

  • The International Symposium on Rice Functional Genomics

  • From the 4th to the 7th of November 2022, Phuket, Thailand will host the 19th International Symposium on Rice Functional Genomics ISRFG 2022 where we will see agricultural science “Driving the Next Green Revolution”

    The annual ISRFG under the theme – “Driving the Next Green Revolution: New Frontiers in Food and Nutritional Security,” will provide relevant, up-to-date research and information about the current situation faced by rice farmers due to global warming.

    The objective of this year’s ISRFG is to bring together the rice functional genomics research community to “discuss the new frontier research to mitigate the impact of global warming on rice productivity, food and nutritional security in the near future.”

    Driving the Next Green Revolution: New Frontiers in Food and Nutritional Security

    Topics expected to be covered at the conference include a range of issues all with a continuing focus on adapting agricultural practices for the ongoing and worsening climate challenges. According to the ISRFG “new frontiers research may include but are not limited to Efficient photosynthesis, Water and nitrogen use efficiency, Heat and drought tolerance, Sea rice, Net zero carbon emission rice, High-yielding organic rice, multiple disease and insect resistance, and High nutritious rice.”

    “Comprehensive insight via functional genomics may impact more efficient precision breeding to drive the next green revolution into environmentally-friendly rice and future foods.”

    “Comprehensive insight via functional genomics may impact more efficient precision breeding to drive the next green revolution into environmentally-friendly rice and future foods.”

    Female rice farmer in thailand
    © Mcpics

    The impact of climate change on Rice production

    As of today, rice is a staple food for more than 3.5 billion people, its importance cannot be understated. As the climate is becoming increasingly fragile our planet will continue to experience weather extremes that require our agricultural sector to be prepared for.

    The ISRFG is a prime opportunity for experts to share knowledge and strategies to undertake in the following months and years in order to protect the world’s rice and food supplies.

    The ISRFG is hoping to ensure ‘adaptability under extreme climate changes and productivity of rice grown in environmentally friendly practices.

  • Record 9m tonnes of rice production expected

  • LAHORE: The country is expected to produce record-breaking over 9 million tonnes of rice against all odds in the current fiscal year against the 8.9m tonnes produced in 2021-22.

    The US Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN report for July 2022 forecasts a lower production at 8.4m tonnes in Pakistan.

    However, local rice sector experts expect that Pakistan will harvest more than 9m tonnes of paddy in the forthcoming season because of weather conditions, increase in acreage and better availability of farm inputs.

    “Above normal rain in July and the first week of August, late sowing of paddy in cotton fields of Sindh and south Punjab which were damaged due to heavy rains, will push for a record rice production,” says Hamid Malik.

    The country has a carryover stock of around 1m tonnes but higher consumption of corn for animal feed purposes will leave more exportable surplus during FY23.

    “Pakistan has big chances of rice exports up to 5m tonnes during the FY23 because of lower paddy production of over 10m tonnes in India as the crop was hit by erratic rains of monsoon there, Chinese crop was affected by high temperature, and Vietnam suffered untimely rain at harvesting time,” he says.

    Due to these factors, global rice production will come down to 515m tonnes this year as against 519m tonnes last year leaving a gap of 4-5 million tonnes on the supply side, he estimates, adding global average price is expected to be higher than that of the ongoing season.

    About the Basmati growers, he says they may get a lesser price for their produce this year but with higher per acre yield and a cut in expenses for pumping out subsoil water due to rains and better availability of urea may give them consolation.

    He predicts that prices of non-Basmati rice varieties in the local market will be higher this year.

  • Lack of timely rains, fertilizer hits rice farmers in Nepal’s granary

    • The annual monsoon rains have failed to arrive in Nepal as anticipated ahead of the rice-planting season, leaving farmers facing another season of loss and the country bracing for a food shortage.
    • A senior government meteorologist says it’s still too early to link the lateness of the monsoon to climate change, but what’s certain is that climate change is already wreaking havoc with rainfall patterns in Nepal.
    • Last year, a prolonged monsoon brought unexpected flash floods that cost farmers $93 million in damages.
    • A decline in rice production this year could put Nepal’s already strained finances under even more pressure by forcing the country to import rice.

    KATHMANDU — Thousands of farmers in Nepal’s fertile southern plains, the country’s rice bowl, face a double whammy of a fertilizer shortage and inadequate monsoon rains.

    This is likely to affect production of the country’s staple grain, which also contributes around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product and provides employment of at least six months for a large proportion of the population.

    “Paddy has been planted only in around 75% of the fields as of end of July,” said Suma Karki, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture. “Last year this time, the figure was around 88%.”

    The monsoon clouds, which originate in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean, are obstructed by the Himalayan mountain range when they try to move north. They then form a low-pressure band, shedding their moisture in the form of rain in the foothills of the mountains as well as the Gangetic plain that runs through Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The band, known as the monsoon trough, moves between the foothills of mountains in the north and the Indian plains in the south bringing rain wherever it goes.

    “This monsoon season, the trough has remained in the Indian plains for a longer period than we’d expect it to,” said senior government meteorologist Indira Kandel. This is why Nepal’s southern plains haven’t received adequate rains for rice farmers this year, she added.

    The monsoon rains account for 60-90% of Nepal’s total annual precipitation, and are crucial for the farmers who grow rice on around 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) of land, 75% of which lie in the southern Terai plains. Most of the farmers are dependent on the rains as the irrigation system in the country can’t cater to all their needs.

    “Due to lack of adequate rain, the rice fields have developed cracks and the plants have dried up,” said Ranju Sharma, a farmer from the rural municipality of Katahari in Nepal’s Morang district, near the border with India.

    Farmers such as Sharma are already under stress as large numbers of Nepali workers seek jobs abroad in India and the Middle East. This makes it difficult to plant rice on time as the traditional cultivation practices are labor intensive. In addition, unexpected issues pop up virtually every year that forces the farmers to bear huge losses.

    This year, the farmers had anticipated that the main challenge would be a shortage of chemical fertilizers. The government, which used to supply fertilizer to farmers ahead of the monsoon season, failed to do so this year as the fertilizer couldn’t be imported in time. But the lack of rainfall has created more trouble.

    “We were already worried that the output would go down this year due to lack of fertilizer, now the rainfall problem has added to our woes,” Sharma said.

    Paddy field Nepal
    A man walks through a paddy field in Nepal’s Terai. Image by Abhaya Raj Joshi for Mongabay

    The change in rainfall patterns in Nepal’s plains come as record heat waves, attributed to climate change, recently engulfed much of the Northern Hemisphere, including India. “It would be too early to say that the heat waves had anything to do with the behavior of the monsoon trough. But we can’t rule out that possibility,” Kandel said.

    What is known is that a changing climate has changed the long-term precipitation patterns in Nepal. A report by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology suggests that although the volume of total rainfall hasn’t changed much, the intensity has. This means rainfall patterns have become hard to forecast, and the chances of flash floods have increased.

    Many farmers say they still remember all too well the flash floods during last year’s monsoon, just as they were preparing for what they thought would be a good harvest. The monsoon, which typically leaves Nepal in late September, stayed longer last year, bringing unexpected rains in the second week of October. According to government figures, which usually underestimate damages, farmers suffered losses amounting to 11.87 billion rupees ($93 million).

    As the monsoon trough moves north again, farmers say they hope it brings adequate rain this time before it heads back south again. “The rains should stop when they are supposed to stop,” Sharma said. “If it doesn’t, we might have to abandon rice farming altogether as we can’t take losses year after year.”

    Nepal’s import-dependent economy, which is already under huge pressure due to rising fuel prices, could take another hit if rice production takes yet another major hit this year. The country, which only has sufficient foreign currency reserves to finance around seven months of imports, could face severe problems if the food import bill also rises, economists warn.

  • Rice production under threat due to higher fertilizer costs, booming demand.

  • China's worried about the crop impact of pests, while India's output depends on a good monsoon

    A worker rests on top of wheat grain sacks at a wholesale market in the Narela district of New Delhi, India. (Photo: Bloomberg)

    Rice production is under threat in parts of Asia from higher fertilizer costs at a time when demand is increasing, posing a potential risk to food security and efforts to contain inflation.

    Crop yields may decline in Thailand, the world’s second-largest exporter, because of elevated prices for crop nutrients, according to a research unit of Kasikornbank Pcl, while in the Philippines, the No. 2 importing country, a lower harvest is likely to increase the need for overseas purchases. China’s worried about the crop impact of pests, while India’s output depends on a good monsoon.

    Most of the world’s rice is grown and eaten in Asia, making it vital for political and economic stability in the region. In contrast to the surge in wheat and corn prices after Russia’s invasion of

    Ukraine, rice has been subdued, but there is no guarantee it will remain so. Back in 2008, prices soared above $1,000 a ton, more than double the level now, amid a panic over supplies.

    While wheat, corn and cooking oils have surrendered much of this year’s gains because of an improved outlook for supplies, farm production is clearly dependent ultimately on the weather, which is becoming more erratic as a result of climate change. Any fresh surge in wheat and corn costs will inevitably reignite demand for rice for food and livestock feed.

    Much is riding on the rice crop in India, which ships about 40% of the world’s exports of the staple. “Global supply is at risk, but for now we still have massive Indian availability that is reining in prices,” said V. Subramanian, vice president at The Rice Trader, a researcher and conference organizer.

    Most of the world’s rice is grown and eaten in Asia, making it vital for political and economic stability in the region. In contrast to the surge in wheat and corn prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rice has been subdued, but there is no guarantee it will remain so. Back in 2008, prices soared above $1,000 a ton, more than double the level now, amid a panic over supplies.

    While wheat, corn and cooking oils have surrendered much of this year’s gains because of an improved outlook for supplies, farm production is clearly dependent ultimately on the weather, which is becoming more erratic as a result of climate change. Any fresh surge in wheat and corn costs will inevitably reignite demand for rice for food and livestock feed.

    Much is riding on the rice crop in India, which ships about 40% of the world’s exports of the staple. “Global supply is at risk, but for now we still have massive Indian availability that is reining in prices,” said V. Subramanian, vice president at The Rice Trader, a researcher and conference organizer.

    The Philippines expects its rice harvest to drop this year because of more expensive fertilizer. The government is also worried about soaring food inflation, including the cost of rice, especially for lower-income households who spend about 16% of their budget on the staple grain.

    China, the largest rice grower, has warned of a higher incidence of pests and diseases in its crop this year, with some provinces reporting an almost 10% increase in the area affected. Vietnam, a top shipper, said high freight and production costs are challenges, even as exports rose in the first half.“Looking at the current situation, India is acting as an anchor for prices with its large exports,” said The Rice Trader’s Subramanian.

  • Cameroonian Govt Raises US$84.6 million from IsDB to Support Rice Production

  • According to the IsDB, the purpose of this fund is to increase rice self-sufficiency, economic growth, and household incomes through improved production, processing, marketing, and support for private sector participation in the agricultural (rice) value chain.

    The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) agreed to lend the Cameroonian government US$84.6 million during its 47th annual meeting in Sharm El Sheikd to support rice production and finance new road transport, health, water and sanitation, and food security projects in four member countries: Guinea Bissau, Togo, Benin, and Cameroon.

    The overall goal of the project, according to the IsDB, is to improve rice self-sufficiency, economic growth, and household incomes through improved production, processing, marketing, and support for private sector participation in the agricultural (rice) value chain.

    The objectives will be met through the development of 5,000ha of land, road rehabilitation, market construction, storage facility construction, the establishment of rice processing units, farmer and other stakeholder capacity building, and access to finance.

    This would result in an increase in rice productivity from 4.5 to 6 tonnes per acre, a 10% increase in national rice production, the creation of 210,000 jobs, and a reduction in post-harvest losses.

    Cameroonian Economy Minister Alamine Ousmane Mey, who was also present at the meeting, stated that with this initiative, the government hopes to increase local rice production while significantly reducing imports.

    Rice is a major food product imported into Cameroon. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INS), rice alone accounted for 5% of Cameroon's total imports in the first half of 2021, totaling US$ 2.9 billion for 5.07 million tonnes of goods.

    To meet rising demand, authorities intend to purchase 400,000 tonnes of rice this year, despite rising global market prices.

    According to reliable sources, these imports will be free of customs duties and other port charges, which means that, in addition to depleting the country's foreign exchange reserves and widening the trade deficit, the announced rice imports will not generate direct tax and customs revenues for the government.

    Furthermore, rice imports to the domestic market are frequently re-exported to neighbouring countries via smuggling. According to the INS, rice worth US$138.6 million was smuggled into Cameroonian neighbouring countries in 2019.

  • Cambodia to play key role in meeting global rice demand

  • A recent study published by nature.com showed that global demand for rice is expected to increase 30 percent by 2050, however, with a “limited scope available for other main rice-producing countries such as China and India”, it will become incumbent on the countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam to close the future deficit. “At present, the region accounts for 26 percent and 40 percent of global rice production and exports, respectively, being a major rice supplier for other world regions such as Africa and the Middle East,” it said. Over the past decades, countries in Southeast Asia were able to increase rice yields. However, there are concerns about whether future quotas can be met, as noted by a research analyst within the publication. “There is now evidence of yield stagnation in four of the six major rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam)”. Aligning with reports that “the harvestable rice area has remained stable [within the aforementioned countries] or even declined slightly in some countries recently and is under growing threat of conversion for residential and industrial uses”. So, in the absence of land expansion, what can be done to make better use of the available land? A publication titled the ‘Use of Legume Cover Crops to Improve Soil Fertility, Rice Yield and Profits’, co-produced by the DALRM, GDA & CIRAD, details the story of Heng Hour, owner of a family-run rice farm in Boh Village, Rovieng District, who transitioned to Regenerative Farming practices to increase his yields. “We started farming rice in 1979. In the past, the soil was rich and the yield was high. From year to year, the yield decreased due to the loss of the soil fertility, higher weed pressure and diseases.” Heng explained that access to greater water controls helped his yield, but the remaining issue of soil fertility meant that “rice production was still not economically viable”. In November 2019, Hour was invited to a village meeting organised by the agronomists of the Conservation Agriculture Service Center and SmartAgro, a startup specialised in cover crops and bio-products. They presented the use of ‘legume cover crops’ to improve soil health in the community. According to organicgrowersschool.com, a ‘cover crop’ is a crop you “grow for the soil, instead of for your plate”, a practice dating as far back as the Roman Empire. Cover crops add “organic matter to the soil, and add nitrogen in a slow-release way that plants can handle, leading to less nitrogen volatilisation”. After implementing the legume cover crop strategy, Heng saw his yield grow by approximately 1 tonne per hectare compared with the previous year, noting a drastic increase in quality with over 60 percent of his yield being sold under the class one standard. “After the ploughing of the cover crops, I noticed the good smell of the decomposition of the cover crops. I observed many big earthworms and the soil was loose and soft when we walked into the field. After transplanting, the plants grew fast, the rice leaves were dark green, and I observed that the grains were well filled.” The cover crop practice is just one of many ‘Regenerative Farming’ methods that could be used to bolster rice yield and quality without dependence on high concentrations of chemicals. Regenerative Farming is a practice that actually rejuvenates Earth’s ecosystems, as opposed to just sustaining them.
  • Despite rising recognition, Pokkali farmers seek help

  • Pokkali rice from central Kerala, a grain variety that has a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2007, has now become a part of India’s postal stamps.
    Express News Service
    KOCHI: Pokkali rice from central Kerala, a grain variety that has a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2007, has now become a part of India’s postal stamps. In an event organised by Kadamakudy Nellulpathaka Padasekhara Samithi in Kochi, the stamp was released to the public in the presence of Vypeen MLA K N Unnikrishnan, District Collector Jafar Malik and Post Master General of Central Kochi Mariamma Thomas.  The move will help popularise pokkali, a unique rice variety that can grow in saline waters, said K A Thomas, secretary of Kadamakudy Nellulpathaka Padasekhara Samithi. He said the organisation will submit a memorandum to the MLA and the collector detailing the struggles and demands of paddy farmers.  “Pokkali rice is grown without any fertilisers or pesticides — be it organic or chemical. That is what makes pokkali rice unique and highly nutritious. But now, pokkali farmers are struggling to stay afloat. Moreover, the number of paddy fields and farmers producing pokkali has also come down drastically,” said Thomas. The base price set by Supplyco for the rice is Rs 28 per kg. “It is to be noted that many organic varieties are sold at over Rs 100 per kilo. It’s difficult for the farmers to survive when our crops are so underpriced,” Thomas said.   The reduction in the price of prawn varieties, which are farmed in waterlogged pokkali fields after harvest, has made things worse for these farmers. “In 1995, we used to earn nearly Rs 300 per one kilo white shrimps. Now, we get only around Rs 200 even for the highest quality prawns. Pokkali farmers used to depend on prawn farming to survive. But right now, neither of them is fetching us enough money. If we spend around Rs 45,000 for farming pokkali, we earn only around Rs 25,000,” he said. To survive, the organisation has demanded the government revise the base price to Rs 120 per kg. Demands Increase the base price of pokkali rice to I120 Help farmers with basic cultivation needs Help to remove silt from farms Adding pokkali to super-speciality rice category  A governemnt master plan to help the prawn and pokkali farmers
  • To fertilize or not to fertilize: A delicate balance between chalky rice grains and excessive protein content

  • Newswise: To fertilize or not to fertilize: A delicate balance between chalky rice grains and excessive protein content Newswise — March 30, 2022 - There’s a widespread problem in rice growing that you’ve probably never heard of. Rice plants that face elevated temperatures can produce “chalky grains” that are easily crushed during the milling process. This leads to lost profits because the price is lower for chalky grains than undamaged grains. Nitrogen fertilizer can reduce the production of chalky grains. However, too much nitrogen can cause an increase in rice protein levels. Too much protein affects the quality of rice in an undesirable way because of its lower viscosity when cooked. This means that applying nitrogen fertilizer is a delicate balance between preventing chalky grains and keeping protein at an acceptable level. Hiroshi Nakano, a researcher at the Kyushu Okinawa Agricultural Research Center, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Japan, and collaborators are researching one potential solution. This study was recently published in the Agronomy Journal, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy. Farmers can use the tools to predict the chalky grain percentage and protein content in the field. This will allow them to assess how much nitrogen fertilizer they need in real-time. “Our goal is to facilitate the stable production of rice in a changing climate,” Nakano says. “It is important to establish an ideal nitrogen application rate using growth diagnosis. In this study, we identified useful factors to regulate white-back grains (one type of chalky grain) and protein content.” He adds that in Southwestern Japan, rice seedlings are transplanted from mid to late June. The rice grains develop through processes that occur in July, August, and October. There are slight differences in weather and growth each year. This means the exact needs for nitrogen are not always the same. The result is the nitrogen application needs to be adjusted based on growth conditions. “Our mission is to develop ways to protect rice from global climate change,” Nakano says. “In Japan, rice production areas account for approximately 36% of all farming land. In recent years, rice plants have been exposed to higher air temperatures during the ripening stage. This can result in white-back grains.” In their study, the researchers tested two types of measurements using two devices. One looked at the concentration of nitrogen in the leaves of the rice plants. The other measure how much of a plant can uptake nitrogen. The team also determined the best times to take these measurements. Their findings point to the usefulness of the readings for allowing farmers to make real-time adjustments to nitrogen application at an important time during rice production. Heading is the stage of rice growth before flowering. Timing the measurements at the correct time in the plants’ development helped reduce the amount of some chalky grains and regulate the grain protein content. “We recommend that farmers conduct the growth diagnosis by using handheld meters,” Nakano says. “These meters are not expensive, and getting this information will allow them to harvest rice grains with high quality.” However, it can be difficult for farmers to get enough data if they have lots of rice fields. The researchers hope to develop a way to take these measurements using an unmanned aerial vehicle. Nakano adds that being able to help farmers enhance their rice yields while maintaining high quality is important for solving food security issues. A growing global population and rising temperatures are causing these food security issues. “This research is broadly important as the global average temperature is predicted to increase due to global warming,” Nakano says. “The occurrence of white-back grains increases when rice plants ripen under high air temperatures. Rice is a staple food of approximately 50% of the global population. Therefore, this issue is important for farmers but also for consumers.” Support for this research was provided by Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization Biooriented Technology Research Advancement Institution.
  • Southeast Asia must close yield gap to remain major rice bowl

  • Rice growing in field At least 40% of global rice exports come from Southeast Asia, making the region a major rice bowl. The region helps feed other parts of the world, such as Africa and the Middle East. Projections show that global rice demand is set to increase 30% by 2050. With the continuing rice trade and limited scope available for other main rice-producing countries like China and India to generate a rice surplus, Southeast Asia faces a challenge in stepping up to ensure adequate global rice supply. But crop yields stagnate, land allotted for agriculture does not increase, and climate change remains a looming threat, raising concerns about the capacity of the region to remain a large net exporter. In a recent study published in Nature Food, an international team of researchers, including those from the major rice-producing nations in Southeast Asia, estimated the difference between yield potential and average farmer yield across six countries — Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The initiative was led by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and included researchers from Huazhong Agricultural University in China, the International Fertilizer Association in France, the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam, Field Crops Research Institute in Vietnam, Thailand’s Rice Department, Thailand Rice Science Institute, Mawlamyine University in Myanmar, IRRI-Myanmar Office, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, IRRI-Cambodia Office, the General Directorate of Agriculture in Cambodia and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development. Results from the project are available via the Global Yield Gap Atlas, a collaboration between the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Wageningen University designed to estimate the difference between actual and potential yields for major food crops worldwide. “Over the past decades, through renewed efforts, countries in Southeast Asia were able to increase rice yields, and the region as a whole has continued to produce a large amount of rice that exceeded regional demand, allowing a rice surplus to be exported to other countries,” said lead author Shen Yuan, a postdoctoral research associate at Huazhong Agricultural University. “The issue is whether the region will be able to retain its title as a major global rice supplier in the context of increasing global and regional rice demand, yield stagnation and limited room for cropland expansion.” Through a data-intensive approach, the researchers determined that the region has the potential to increase production on existing cropland and remain a major global rice supplier, but changes in production and management techniques will be key, and producers could stress natural resources in the process. Researchers found that the average yield gap represents nearly half of the yield potential estimated for the region, but it is not the same for every country. Yield gaps are larger in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand but comparably smaller in Indonesia and Vietnam.
    Patricio Grassini
    Patricio Grassini
    “We used an approach that consists of a combination of crop modeling, spatial analysis and use of detailed databases on weather, soil and cropping system data,” said Patricio Grassini, associate professor of agronomy and horticulture at Nebraska. “The regional extent of the study together with the level of detail in relation to spatial and temporal variation in yield gaps and specificity in terms of cropping systems is unique, providing a basis for prioritizing agricultural research and development and investments at regional, national and sub-national levels.” According to the study, the region needs to close the existing yield gap substantially to reduce the need for rice imports, allowing for an aggregated rice surplus of 54 million tons available for exports. “Our analysis shows that Southeast Asia will not be able to produce a large rice surplus in the future without acceleration of current rates of yield gains,” Grassini said. “Failure to increase yield on existing cropland areas will drastically reduce the rice exports to other regions and the capacity of many countries in the region to achieve or sustain rice self-sufficiency. It will also put additional pressure on land and water resources, risking further encroachment into natural ecosystems such as forests and wetlands.” Researchers suggest a number of interventions needed to close the gap, including improvement of crop management practices, such as the use of fertilizer and irrigation, nutrients, water and pest management, as well as mitigation of production risks in lowland rainfed environments. “The challenge is how to increase yield while minimizing the negative environmental impact associated with intensive rice production,” said IRRI Senor Scientist Alice Laborte. “For example, tailoring nutrient management to each environment will help increase yield and farmer profits while reducing nutrient losses. Likewise, integrated pest management is a knowledge-intensive but valuable approach if applied correctly and holistically to reduce yield losses to weeds, pests and diseases while minimizing excessive use of pesticides and associated risks to the environment and people. “Closing the rice yield gaps requires the concerted effort of policymakers, researchers and extension services to facilitate farmers’ access to technologies, information and markets. Continued investment in rice research is crucial.” The study received support from Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The project also received complementary funding from the Global Water for Food Institute, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy 2030 Incubation Phase.
  • Southeast Asia must close yield gap to remain a major rice bowl

  • Southeast Asia must close yield gap to remain a major rice bowl t least 40% of global rice exports come from Southeast Asia, making the region a major rice bowl. The region helps feed other parts of the world such as Africa and the Middle East. Projections show that global  demand is set to increase by 30% by 2050. With the continuing rice trade and limited scope available for other main rice-producing countries like China and India to generate a rice surplus, Southeast Asia faces a challenge in stepping up to ensure adequate global rice supply. But  stagnate, land allotted for agriculture does not increase, and  remains a looming threat, raising concerns about the capacity of the region to remain a large net exporter. In a recent study published in Nature Food, an international team of researchers, including those from the major rice-producing nations in Southeast Asia, estimated the difference between yield potential and average farmer yield across the six countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The initiative was led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the U.S. and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and multi-institutional collaborators. Results from the project are available via the Global Yield Gap Atlas (www.yieldgap.org), a collaboration between the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Wageningen University designed to estimate the difference between actual and potential yields for major food crops worldwide. "Over the past decades, through renewed efforts, countries in Southeast Asia were able to increase , and the region as a whole has continued to produce a large amount of rice that exceeded regional demand, allowing a rice surplus to be exported to other countries," said lead author Dr. Shen Yuan, a postdoctoral research associate at Huazhong Agricultural University in China. "The issue is whether the region will be able to retain its title as a major global rice supplier in the context of increasing global and regional rice demand, yield stagnation and limited room for cropland expansion."
     Through a data-intensive approach, the researchers determined that the region has the potential to increase production on existing cropland and remain a major global rice supplier—but changes in production and  will be key, and producers could stress natural resources in the process. Researchers found that the average yield gap represents nearly half of the yield potential estimated for the region, but it is not the same for every country. Yield gaps are larger in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand, but comparably smaller in Indonesia and Vietnam. "We used an approach that consists of a combination of crop modeling, spatial analysis, and use of detailed databases on weather, soil, and cropping system data," said Dr. Patricio Grassini, associate professor at the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "The regional extent of the study together with the level of detail in relation to spatial and temporal variation in yield gaps and specificity in terms of cropping systems is unique, providing a basis for prioritizing agricultural research and development and investments at regional, national and sub-national levels" According to the study, the region needs to close the existing yield gap substantially to reduce the need for rice imports, allowing for an aggregated rice surplus of 54 million tons available for exports. "Our analysis shows that Southeast Asia will not be able to produce a large rice surplus in the future without acceleration of current rates of yield gains," Grassini said. "Failure to increase yield on existing cropland areas will drastically reduce the rice exports to other regions and the capacity of many countries in the region to achieve or sustain rice self-sufficiency. It will also put additional pressure on land and water resources, risking further encroachment into natural ecosystems such as forests and wetlands." Researchers suggest a number of interventions needed to close the gap, including improvement of crop management practices, such as the use of fertilizer and irrigation, nutrients, water, and , as well as mitigation of production risks in lowland rainfed environments. "The challenge is how to increase yield while minimizing the negative environmental impact associated with intensive rice production. For example, tailoring nutrient management to each environment will help increase yield and farmer profits while reducing nutrient losses. Likewise, integrated pest management is a knowledge-intensive but valuable approach if applied correctly and holistically to reduce yield losses to weeds, pests and diseases while minimizing excessive use of pesticides and associated risks to the environment and people," said IRRI Senior Scientist Alice Laborte. "Closing the rice yield gaps requires the concerted effort of policymakers, researchers, and extension services to facilitate farmers' access to technologies, information, and markets. Continued investment in rice research is crucial," she added.
  • Rice and maize yields boosted up to 10 per cent by CRISPR gene editing

  • It is possible to significantly boost the yield of rice and maize using CRISPR gene editing, trials in farm fields show Maize or sweetcorn Turning off a particular gene in maize and rice could enhance grain yields by 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, according to a new study. By exploring similar genes in other cereal grains, global crop production could be boosted. Maize and rice are staple foods around the world, and each has a distinct history of cultivation for large-scale consumption. It is believed that maize originated in Mexico, while rice came from China. Despite the independent evolution of these species, plant biologists have noted that they possess some very similar traits. This is known as convergent evolution. To investigate these resemblances, Xiaohong Yang at China Agricultural University in Beijing and her colleagues mapped the genomes of maize (Zea mays L. ssp. mays) and rice (Oryza sativa). They found 490 pairs of genes that seemed to serve analogous functions in both grains. From these pairs, the researchers identified two genes – known as KRN2 in maize and OsKRN2 in rice – that affected their grain yield. By using CRISPR gene editing to switch off these genes, they could increase grain yield by 10 per cent in maize and 8 per cent in rice. These figures came from real-world tests in farm fields. “These are excellent results,” says Yang, who hopes to continue exploring the 490 gene pairs to further improve rice and maize production. “These are two species that are the most important in terms of the economy,” says co-author Alisdair Fernie at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany. “They have such different domestication histories with different centres of origin, and very different habitats to a large extent. The fact that convergent evolution happened with so many genes is fascinating.”
    A better understanding of the genetic evolution of maize and rice could also lead to what are known as de novo domestication events, says Fernie, which is when domesticated genes are inserted into non-domesticated species to make new crops. Wild crops are generally more resilient against extreme weather and pathogens, but typically have a low yield. “With CRISPR and gene editing, we could just take a handful of these domestication genes, such as KRN2, and introduce them back into their wild species relative,” he says. “The idea is that you could make high-yielding but resilient crops, which will be critical for us in the future.”  
  • Indonesia targets lower rice, corn output in 2023 – agri minister

  • Indonesia’s agriculture minister, Syahrul Yasin Limpo, told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday: Indonesia set its 2023 production target for unhusked rice at 56.08 million tonnes. The corn production target was set at 23.21 million tonnes. Next year’s target is lower than the 2022 target at 57.5 million tonnes for unhusked rice and 26 million tonnes for corn. In the January-April period of 2022, Indonesia’s statistics bureau estimated unhusked rice output of 25.40 million tonnes, up 7.7% from the same period a year earlier.
  • Adani Wilmar plans acquisition of brands and processing units in mass rice segment

  • Country's largest commodity company Adani Wilmar is betting big on staples and scouting for acquisition of regional rice brands and processing units in several states of the country, a top company official said. The company will launch branded daily-use rice under the fortune brand beginning with West Bengal from early April. Staple is just 11 per cent of the company's topline. Adani Wilmar had acquired a sick rice processing unit in West Bengal to mark the journey in the segment which is 30-35 million tonne per annum in size.
     "We are targeting to grow fast in the daily-use rice segment which is 30-35 million tonne per annum apart from public distribution foodgrain. We are scouting for acquisitions of brands and rice processing units in several states for fast growth. We have done first from West Bengal taking over a sick unit," Adani Wilmar MD & CEO, Angshu Mallick told PTI.
    Acquisitions allow quicker rollout and rapid growth. Greenfield will take at least two years to begin operation, he said. "We are already into Basmati but it is only 10 per cent of rice consumption so we cannot ignore regional local rice used for daily consumption which is a huge untapped market," Mallick said. "We will launch packaged local rice based on regional preference. In Bengal, we will launch Baskati and miniket rice which is common here. Sona masuri in Uttar Pradesh and Kolam rice in South India," he added. The company which hit the capital market recently had earmarked Rs 450-500 crore for acquisition and atta and rice is major focus area in the staples segment.
    Adani is scouting for more rice units and brands in North India and South India. "We will ideally have one unit each in states first and then gradually scale up. We will procure paddy from farmers, mandis and brokers," Mallick said. Adani Wilmar has 22 own factories in total and has sourcing arrangement products from 28 more plants across the country.
    Staple contributes 11 per cent to Adani Wilmar's topline while the rest is from edible oil and industry essentials. "We are aiming at 30 per cent growth in the food segment and 6-7 per cent in edible oil in volume terms," Mallick said. The company was also looking at inorganic space to expand its food basket.
    The company reported a 66 per cent rise in its Q3 consolidated net profit at Rs 211 crore as compared to Rs 127 crore in the year-ago quarter. The company's revenue from operations rose over 40 per cent to Rs 14,379 crore from Rs 10,229 crore in the same quarter last year.

  • JAKARTA, March 22 (Reuters) - Indonesia's agriculture minister, Syahrul Yasin Limpo, told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday: * Indonesia set its 2023 production target for unhusked rice at 56.08 million tonnes * The corn production target was set at 23.21 million tonnes * Next year's target is lower than the 2022 target at 57.5 million tonnes for unhusked rice and 26 million tonnes for corn. * In the January-April period of 2022, Indonesia's statistics bureau estimated unhusked rice output of 25.40 million tonnes, up 7.7% from the same period a year earlier. (Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Editing by Martin Petty)
  • Pakistan’s rice production

  • With harvest complete and better than expected yields, the 2021-22 rice production estimate is increased from 8.2m to a record 8.9m tonnes, according to the US Department of Agriculture
  • Cooperative nets much yearly from growing organic rice

  • The Long Hiep Cooperative in the Mekong Delta Province of Tra Vinh’s Tra Cu District has gradually grown and netted hundreds of millions of Vietnam dong per year from growing organic rice though it faced many various difficulties, lack of investment capital, application of technology at first.
     Cooperative nets much annually from growing organic rice ảnh 1
    After graduating with a master's degree in food technology, young man Tram Minh Thuan worked for a time to gain experience, then returned to his hometown in Long Hiep Commune in Tra Cu District to establish Long Hiep cooperative. In 2018, the cooperative went into operation but faced many difficulties because people did not trust this model initially. Thanks to the support of local government and scores of organizations, the cooperative has gradually grown gaining residents’ trust.
    The cooperative had 61 members, the farming area was about 50ha, now it has expanded to 120ha with 72 members, specializing in cultivating rice varieties OM 18, OM 5451, ST24, and ST25. The cooperatives focus on producing high-quality, organic rice, grown by exploiting the natural productive power of paddy fields without relying on pesticides or chemical fertilizers in combination with giant freshwater prawn farming.
    According to the cooperative’s plan, normal rice is grown in a large field in Long Hiep commune, which is less susceptible to saline intrusion while organic rice is grown in an area of about 20 hectares in Dong Xuan commune in Duyen Hai District, where salinity is affected. In the saline area, the cooperative will also raise freshwater shrimp.
    Organic rice cultivation has a lower yield than normal rice production, but many farmers prefer growing organic rice in saline areas because without using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, farmers can breed freshwater prawns. In addition, the cooperative promised to buy all organic rice according to the market price and pay farmers an extra of VND500 a kilogram of rice they buy.
    According to Mr. Thuan, the cooperative will continue to invest in growing organic rice by expanding the area of organic rice cultivation and developing the clean rice supply chain. The expansion of organic rice cultivation area not only helps the cooperative to develop but also helps farmers not to be forced to sell rice at lower prices to traders.
    In addition, the cooperative has constantly improved the value of clean rice production chains in saline areas with typical clean rice products and rich flavors investing in rice seeds and providing microbiological fertilizers for farmers to produce according to the technical process.
    Cooperative nets much annually from growing organic rice ảnh 2An aerial view of an organic rice field
    This approach helps cooperative members reduce investment costs and increase productivity by 10-20 percent. The cooperative proposed to buy organic rice at high prices, farmers are more excited. Currently, the price of organic rice is about VND7,500 per kg widely consumed.
    The profits of the cooperative have increased year by year, in 2021 alone, the revenue reached VND3.2 billion (US$139,708), bringing hundreds of millions of Vietnam dong in profit, said Thuan.
    Thanks to his contributions to the province’s growth, Mr. Tram Minh Thuan has just been elected as Vice Chairman of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Tra Vinh Province. In addition, Mr. Thuan also entered the top 100 outstanding young entrepreneurs nationwide in 2021 and was one of 56 typical young people to receive the 2020 Luong Dinh Cua Award.
    Mr. Le Van Dong, Deputy Director of Tra Vinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the Long Hiep cooperative is highly appreciated by functional sectors. From this effect, the province is continuing to replicate and develop many similar models in the area.
  • Rice Market Update: Uncertainties Continues to Grow

  • As has been the case for several weeks now, the cash market throughout most of the delta was a bit stagnant this week, showing little signs of activity. It seems that most growers are more preoccupied with planting than marketing as the global grain complex becomes increasingly unstable. It seems clear that Putin severely underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people. Unfortunately, as a result, violence continues to escalate, and global grain security continues to deteriorate. Knowing input costs are soaring, and that they’ll probably continue to do so, growers around the world are forced to consider or even reconsider what and how to plant. In Asia, rice prices jumped a couple of weeks ago with all the other grains, further reflecting the global inflation at hand. However, since then, prices appear to have stabilized, at least in Thailand and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Pakistan is undergoing a small price correction as demand for whole kernel thins. Fortunately, the slowing of head rice demand is being partially offset by the growing needs for brokens in China. The US rice industry is just two weeks away from the USDA publishing its initial acre projections. Although the USDA is expected to overestimate California’s acreage, the agency should call for lower rice acres throughout the delta if their view is in line with the industry’s. According to the latest exports sales data, US rice sales have averaged roughly 68,000 MT/week over the past month, up from 42,000 in the four weeks prior. It will be interesting to see how US rice exports react to El Salvador’s new policy regarding the suspension of rice tariffs for a year. The El Salvadorian government suspended tariffs on multiple products in an attempt stifle the dangerous rate of inflation the country is currently experiencing (6.7%). Keep in mind that this policy is not US specific and may result in more non-US rice entering the market, not to mention, the fact that other Central American countries struggling with a similar battle may consider the same action. This may be first taste of what a fulfilled CAFTA-DR agreement looks like in this region. Fortunately, the US may find temporary market solace nearby, as South America rice acres come under pressure due to ongoing drought conditions and exorbitant fertilizer costs, inhibiting their ability to expand their market share in Central America.
  • Bukidnon farmers to get rice processing system

  • FARMERS in Maramag, Bukidnon are expected to benefit from the P60-million rice processing system to be established by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) and local government units (LGUs) in the province. In a statement, PhilMech said it has signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the local government of Maramag, Bukidnon, Central Mindanao University (CMU) and the National Food Authority (NFA) for the establishment and operation of a rice processing system (RPS) under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Mechanization Program. The RPS will be equipped with one unit of multistage rice mill and two units of recirculating dryers worth a total of P60 million. This is the first MoA executed for the distribution of drying and milling facilities under the RCEF-Mechanization program. "The provision of the RPS for farmers of Maramag, Bukidnon represents the next level of intervention of the RCEF-Mechanization Program because it can help address the issue of lack of accessible drying and milling facilities for small farmers," PhilMech said. The lack of mechanical drying facilities by farmers forces them to sell the palay (unmilled rice) at lower prices. "The milling facilities will also allow farmers to mill their palay and market these directly to consumers or wholesalers, allowing them to earn more," PhilMech added. Meanwhile, PhilMech encouraged LGUs or progressive farmers' cooperatives and associations to build warehouses as counterparts for the provision of free drying and milling facilities by PHilMech under the RCEF-Mechanization program. Under Republic Act 11203, or the "Rice Tariffication Law" that created the RCEF, funds cannot be allocated for the provision of land and warehouses. For its part, CMU will manage and operate the facilities while the NFA has an existing area, facilities and structure within the university's property in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon of which a portion will be used to host the RPS.
  • Tailwater recovery system could aid in row rice water conservation

  • One major problem farmers have battled for years is the lack of water. It’s becoming harder and harder to find water for irrigation as the climate changes and the demand for crops grows along with the global population. Half the country’s rice is grown in Arkansas, and in Northeast Arkansas where rice is grown, the water table cannot sustain the amount of use into the future, according to a report by The 2020 Arkansas Groundwater Protection and Management Report.   Based on 2015 water use data, less than half of the amount of water drawn from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer – 44.2% – is sustainable. Users of the aquifer pulled about 7.6 billion gallons per day out in 2015. Likewise, only about half, 55% of the Sparta/Memphis aquifer withdrawal rate of 160 million gallons per day is sustainable, the report adds. One tactic producers are trying to maximize is the development of farming practices that use less water. Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers can now grow rice with about half the irrigation water used in levee rice systems. Chris Henry, associate professor and water management engineer for the experiment station, has patented a tailwater recovery system for furrow-irrigated rice, also known as “row rice,” after nearly a decade of research at the Division of Agriculture’s Rice Research and Extension Center near Stuttgart. Row rice irrigation is challenging because it requires more frequent cycles than other row crops and timing is more critical because rice has a shallower root system, Henry said. “We’re trying to make row rice easier to manage. This system does that,” Henry said. “A continuous-flow system returns the water to the top of the field constantly, ensuring water is always available and simplifying irrigation management.” The efficiency is high because the system captures the tailwater and returns it to the top. The irrigation water doesn’t leave the field like a conventional row rice field. Henry’s novel tailwater recovery system makes furrow-irrigated rice competitive in water conservation with a zero-grade flooded field. Growing rice in zero-grade fields is more restrictive because it requires land with no elevation change. Zero-grade fields also present challenges in growing rotation crops. According to the B.R. Wells Arkansas Rice Research Studies 2020 publication, most of the state’s rice is grown in flooded fields through a method known as Multiple Inlet Rice Irrigation (MIRI) or conventional levee and gate systems. Traditional flooding, still the dominant rice production method, uses an average of 30 acre-inches of irrigation water a season. Henry’s novel tailwater recovery system can produce as much rice with less than 19 acre-inches of irrigation. An acre-inch is equivalent to one inch of water depth over an acre of land or 27,154 gallons per acre. Throughout his research since 2013, Henry said he has not used over 19 acre-inches of irrigation water with the tailwater recovery system. He has used as little as 12 acre-inches. Furrow-irrigated rice has gained momentum over the past seven years. In 2015, less than 1% of Arkansas rice land used furrow irrigation. By 2019, it had grown to 10.5% and in 2020 it was about 17%, according to Jarrod Hardke, rice extension agronomist with the Division of Agriculture. Henry said water conservation is an increasingly important issue as fresh groundwater becomes less abundant. Average seasonal irrigation demands range widely for different soil types and field designs, Hardke said. So, at 27,154 gallons per acre-inch, a farmer would need 814,620 gallons of water per acre to sufficiently water rice grown on a silt loam soil to achieve the average required irrigation of 30 acre-inches in a flooded field with levees, Hardke said. A zero-grade flooded field — one with no elevation difference to require an infield levee — averages about 18-acre inches of irrigation water, he said. “We are doing as good or better than a zero-grade flooded field,” Henry said. “It makes row rice field management like zero-grade but offers you the benefit of rows that can be used in subsequent seasons. You can potentially plant several weeks sooner than a conventional levee rice field because the tillage prep work to convert the beds to flooded levees is not necessary.” The system can reduce a farmer’s need for capital equipment, tractors, tillage equipment, and the labor to prepare fields, Henry added. “It can also allow more options for ground operations of fertilizer and pesticide applications providing the farmer with more options for rice management,” Henry said. The novel tailwater system has the most potential in rice but is also helpful in improving irrigation efficiency of our other crops such as soybeans, corn and cotton because it can recover tailwater for use during an irrigation event, Henry added. In addition to less irrigation water, Henry’s patented continuous-flow system in row rice provides more consistent ground saturation, which may produce less nitrous oxide than other irrigation methods, Henry said. The saturation can also reduce pigweed pressure, he added. Before Henry’s technical development, furrow-irrigated rice growers were warned of a possible 8% yield reduction in row rice production depending on field conditions and management capabilities. Henry said some recent experience and results suggest that his system may be closing that yield gap typically experienced by farmers and noted in published studies. Instead of a large water reservoir, or “pit,” common with conventional furrow-irrigation methods, the tailwater recovery uses a low-energy, high-flow-low-head, variable-speed pump at the lowest elevation of the field to return the water to the top of the field. Henry’s “pitless” tailwater recovery system recycles about 90% of the water in the system. The method also provides options for “fertigation,” or fertilizing with irrigation water. Henry continues to test slow-release nitrogen application methods in row rice, which may allow one application of nitrogen at the beginning of the season with potash and phosphate. Henry said it could be a time-saver for the farmer at no additional cost. Because it is still a new method in row rice, more work is needed to fully understand the tailwater recovery system, Hardke said. In addition to water use, research remains on fertilizer application and weed and pest control using the system. Arkansas rice farmers harvested 1.4 million acres in 2021 with a value of about $1.297 billion, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
  • New, possibly arboreal rice rat species discovered in Ecuador

  • Summary: Three expeditions led an international research to the Cordillera de Kutukú, an isolated mountain range in Ecuador, to find just one specimen of the previously unknown species. The find in the Amazonian side of the Andes underlines the valuable biological role of this mountainous region.

    "In total, the expeditions to the Kutukú region in southeastern Ecuador involved 1,200 trap nights, but only one specimen of the new species Mindomys kutuku was found," says Dr. Claudia Koch, curator of herpetology at the LIB, Museum Koenig Bonn, explaining the effort that went into locating the rare animal. From the collected specimen, the dry skin, skeleton and tissue were preserved for the collections. Preservation will allow future research to detect environmental changes, learn more about the ecology of the animals and plants -- and securely document the new species description, which was published in late February in the journal Evolutionary Systematics. The rice rat genus Mindomys was previously considered monotypic and included only the type species Mindomys hammondi. This species is known from only a few specimens, all of which were collected in the foothill forests of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador.

    Using computed tomography images obtained for the new species at LIB and for the holotype (specimen from which a species was described) of M. hammondi at the Natural History Museum in London, the researchers Jorge Brito of the Instituto Nacional de la Biodiversidad (INABIO), Claudia Koch, Nicolás Tinoco from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) and Ulyses Pardiñas from the Instituto de Diversidad y Evolución del Sur (IDEAus-CONICET) were able to compare the skulls of the two species in great detail in a 3D model and distinguish between the two species. The adult male of M. kutuku measures just under 35 cm from snout to tip of tail, of which the tail makes up about 20 cm. It has a dark reddish-brown dorsal coloration and a pale yellow ventral fur. Since the only specimen found was captured with the help of a ground trap set, it could not be observed in its habitat. Thus, as with its sister species M. hammondi, which was described in 1913, virtually nothing is known about the natural history of the new species. The scientists suspect that both of them could be arboreal species. A tail that is significantly longer than the body length and also covered with long hairs could be two features that indicate an arboreal lifestyle. However, aboreality is the least studied way of life within the New World mice and a reliable study of the anatomical aspects typical of this way of life is still lacking. Previously, Mindomys records were restricted to the western Andean foothills of Ecuador. The Kutukú material now shows that the genus also occurs on the Amazonian side of the Andes and underscores the valuable biological importance of the isolated mountain ranges in eastern Ecuador.
  • India’s natural, organic farming strategy for rice and wheat

  • This can help in targeting global export market, thereby feeding the world population and getting valuable foreign exchange for the country India’s natural, organic farming strategy for rice and wheat Photo: iStock India is predominantly agrarian — 80 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Rice and wheat are the staple for 90 per cent of the country’s people.  Till the early 1960’s, the predominant mode of cultivation was what is now called “organic farming”, with no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides available or known.  At that time, farmers relied on cow dung, twigs of leguminous plants like Crotalaria junceaTephrosianeem and jeelugu. These materials mulched the fields ploughed for rice plantation. Oil cakes of groundnut, castor, neem were also used which is a good source of nitrogen.  Since the use of urea from the beginning of the 1960s, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium-based fertilisers became available after the establishment of industrial plants at Sindri (Bihar) Udyog Mandal (Kerala).

    Fortunately, in this decade, synthetic pesticides like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), endrin, and others entered the market. Another spectacular discovery was that of the high-yielding hybrid wheat and rice. The high-yielding wheat was discovered by Norman Borlaug (Nobel Prize winner) and was rapidly adopted by India largely due to the pioneering work of Dr Swaminathan and MV Rao. 

    Swaminathan is remembered as the ‘father of Green Revolution’ and Rao as the “wheat man of India”. With hybrid varieties and synthetic fertilisers and insecticides, the production of rice per acre increased to 40 quintals from 10 quintals, a tremendous victory in fighting hunger. There were also some setbacks during the 1960s and 70s. India’s budget (read agriculture) is dependent on the monsoon season, as George Curzon pointed out in 1905.  Due to drought from 1964-70, India had to import food and became heavily dependent on the United States for wheat supplies under the Public Law 480 agreement. At one time, we were eagerly waiting for the arrival of a ship full of wheat at the Mumbai port. The late former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave a call to “miss a meal” on Monday nights as a part of the Jai Kisan movement.  Green Revolution Ultimately, the Green Revolution was initiated. The theme of the initiative was to boost food grains production of rice and wheat using any method and at any cost. Success followed many setbacks. Biologist-turned-science-writer Rachel Carson published a seminal book called Silent Spring, focused on the harmful effects of pesticides, primarily DDT on our health and environment.  DDT was found to be non-biodegradable and its remnants were traced everywhere — in our body, soil and water. Studies showed its effects on liver and kidneys, including causing cancers.  Scientists rapidly found alternatives and advocated Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a need-based use of pesticides, alternating crops, intercropping as well as usage of bird perches where birds rest, detect insects on crops and eat them.  After DDT, other insecticides like monocrotophos, metasystox, cypermethrin came into use but these are equally harmful to humans, livestock and fish. The “turn to nature” to get pesticide-free food has become a priority. The order of the day is organic farming — natural farming or zero-budget agriculture — which is welcome and most wanted in the agriculture sphere. 

    Not without setbacks

    The first and foremost sound solution is the usage of organic manures from compost, cow dung and ploughing and mulching of leguminous plants. Several plant-based botanical pesticides were discovered. Neem oil, neem kernel extracts, which contain azadirachtin, is the active principle discovered by Germans, the United Kingdom and US.  Neem revived the hope of using harmless pesticides but its availability is very low. Several commercial formulations were available in India. Karanj oil (Karanjin active principle), several leaf extracts like Adathoda and garlic-buds aqueous extracts are found to be effective to some extent as active repellants but they cannot replace synthetic pesticide. There is a growing awareness in India to cultivate the crops by natural fertilisers such as cow dung, leguminous green manures, compost, vermicomposting and biopesticides fungi, bacteria and virus-based  pesticides like Bacillus thuringiensisPseuedomonas aegleTrichoderma verdi.  These bio-pesticides are chiefly produced from diseased insects and soil, among other things. However, it only has limited use on too few fruit and vegetable crops. The problem with the bio-pesticide production is that it is confined to a small industry with no standardisation and doubtful efficacy. Several symposia are held by non-governmental organisations, ideal farmers and governments. Many agricultural magazines hail the miracles of higher yields from organic farming. Particular mention should be made about jeevamrutham — a recently designed concoction called Ramabanam, which gained prominence. These concoctions are made from jaggery, ginger, cow milk, cow curd, cow dung, cow urine, asafoetida. All the ingredients are mixed and fermented for a week, diluted and sprayed on crops.  It is claimed that the product can be used as a fertiliser and a pesticide. The farmers who experimented were quick to endorse the products. Their studies on organic farming presented in symposia on organic farming, however, were confined to few vegetables like tomatoes over a limited area. The yield, the farmers said, is high but not quantified with randomised block design studies.   The active principle of such concoctions is unknown and doesn’t stand scientific security. Moreover, the cost of these concoctions is as high as pesticides and starting products like cow dung are not available in plenty as of today.  For about 90 per cent Indians, rice or wheat are almost exclusively the staple food. So, encouragement of organic farming in a country like India will be meaningful, if applied for rice / wheat. Studies on these crops should also be prioritised. The inconvenient truth, as many farmers put it, is that the land is infertile now without urea in the first few days of rice plantation, and with no application of synthetic pesticides, the entire crop is prone to pests resulting in no yield. The challenge for agriculture scientists is how to maintain the current volume of yield (40 quintals per acre) with organic farming. We need to take with caution some sporadic success stories of organic farming on vegetables and fruits grown in an acre or two. Thus, all the available tools we have with us, like bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides, green manure and vermicompost, their limitation is discussed herein. Constraints of sustainable organic farming are: None of the organic farming tools are available, especially for organic farming of rice that is the staple food in India. Importantly, the whole organic farming depends on cow dung, which is dwindling even as we are particular about their protection (gosamrakshana).  The staple food for cattle is rice straw. While we claim rice production is high and in surplus, the cost of rice remains very high and is not affordable for the poor man. Thus, the increase of cattle population is linked to paddy by rice production. Both are interlinked. Quantification for pesticide residues in food should be done by High Performance Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectra / Mass Spectra (HPLC / MS / MS) method. The sophisticated method has been adopted by advanced countries but is still not in use in India.  The real structure of crop production is dependent on high-yielding hybrid seeds. Continuous research on high yielding varieties by cross breeding with pest resistant wild varieties is essential.

    Compost from urban areas and vermicompost, in particular, don’t seem to have been examined for pesticide residues and harmful trace elements such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead is needed by using HPLC /MS / MS method and atomic absorption spectroscopy. 

    Introduction of transgenic varieties is not recommended for organic and natural farming. Therefore, it is wise to use the first three sprays on crops with natural organic materials and the last two sprays with synthetic pesticides. Research on organic farming should be done using robust scientific methods only. Surprisingly, rice was found to contain high pesticides and trace elements.  This technique should be standardised in India. Our slogan should be “natural and organic farming with high yields at an affordable price to the common man”. India’s wheat exports surpassed $872 million (2021-22) and rice exports in 2021-22 is likely to surpass the record $10 million, according to the agriculture department of the Government of India. 
  • Monoculture Rice Production Outperformed by Traditional Techniques

  • Monoculture Rice Production Outperformed by Traditional Techniques that Integrate Aquatic Animals (Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2022) Adding animal diversity to rice paddy farms reduces weed pressure, increases food production, and makes fertilizer use more efficient, according to a study published late last month in the journal eLife. As chemical-dependent, industrialized agriculture has spread across the world, local farmers are increasingly pressured into eschewing traditional agricultural practices in favor of monocultures in an attempt to meet the demands of global markets. This one-size-fits-all approach oversimplifies the interdependency within ecosystems, failing to incorporate the complexity of nature that many traditional and organic practices embrace. As the present study shows, research and investment into systems that promote natural diversity can provide insights that allow these approaches to leapfrog the chemical-dependent, monoculture paradigm of industrial agriculture. Rice paddy fields are intentionally flooded, and crops are often grown in shallow water. In industrialized fields, monocultures of rice are planted out, and fertilizers and weed killers are applied at regular intervals. However, many traditional rice farmers around the world integrate aquatic animals into their paddies. In the present experiment, researchers conducted a 4-year long evaluation comparing the benefits of monoculture production against co-cultures of rice and aquatic animals. Co-culturing animals and rice differs slightly from traditional practices that incorporates the additional direct feeding of aquatic animals for market (in traditional practices, animals generally are not provided supplemental feed). To compare the different systems, researchers established field plots with rice-carp, rice-crab, and rice-turtle co-cultures (these animals are widely eaten in rice-growing regions), as well as a rice monoculture. A mesocosm (an enclosed environment that examines natural processes under controlled conditions) experiment was also established with the same systems to evaluate nutrient efficiency. Animals in the diverse fields were introduced one week after rice transplant, provided with supplemental feed in the form of spent soybean residue (a waste product after soybean oil is extracted), and remained in the fields until rice harvest. When compared to monoculture rice production, rice yield was on average 8% higher in the rice-turtle system, 9% higher in the rice-carp co-culture, and 12% higher for rice-crabs. Animal yields were 2.66, 0.85, and 0.56 metric tons per hectare for the rice-turtle, rice-carp, and rice-crab systems, respectively. Prior research conducted by the authors found that rice-turtle, rice-carp, and rice-crab systems increased total economic output by 710%, 205%, and 78%, respectively, over a monoculture rice system. The diversified animal system also significantly lowered weed pressure on the farms in comparison to the monoculture fields. Weeds and other food (e.g., algae, plankton) from the paddy environment ended up comprising a significant portion of the aquatic animals’ food; for carp, crab, and turtle systems, 50%, 35%, and 16%, respectively. The researchers used no herbicide in any of the experimental plots, and there is evidence from the diverse plots that no herbicide use would be needed based on the weed pressure alleviated. Diverse animal paddies also displayed faster rates of organic matter decomposition, indicating improved nutrient cycling. In the mesocosm experiments, feed that was not consumed by animals made its way into the crop, accounting for upwards of 30% of rice biomass. Compared to the monoculture fields, by the end of the experiment soil nitrogen content was higher in animal fields. In aquatic rice cultures, the introduction of animals represented a multifunctional boon – reducing weed pressure, increasing nutrient recycling and availability, and subsequently yields. This process provided significant benefits to farmers, who received a higher price for their work. The authors note, “Although costs of the cocultures are higher than the costs of monoculture because of the feed input and increased labor required for the management of two species, net income was still higher for cocultures than for monocultures because of the higher prices of the products and the reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides.” The forced simplicity of monoculture farming in a diverse and complex environment is ultimately unsustainable. It is common sense that clearing land of all flora and fauna and replacing it solely with human-focused crops leads to biodiversity decline and the loss of pollinators and other beneficial species, but scientific research has backed up these judgements. Agricultural soils under monocultures are not nearly as healthy as those that embrace diversity. Soil organic matter and nutrient cycling, critical for sustainable crop growth, is lower in monoculture systems by two to three fold, according to recent research. The solution is as simple as the problem that was created. Adding back in plant diversity and moving from monoculture to multi-cropping systems produces higher biomass and seed yields, and reduces pest pressure and the need for pesticide use. Organic agriculture provides the closest approximation to the sustainable food system the future requires. While organic has not yet eliminate monocultures, it requires farmers to maintain or improve soil health, which has the effect of encouraging practices that embrace natural diversity and complexity. Organic laws and rulemaking also support the concept of continuous improvement, incentivizing the development of safer and more sustainable practices once they become available. Naysayers of diverse organic systems point to yield gaps and cost, but fail to recognize the research and development gap between conventional and organic. As this study reveals, analysis of an enhanced traditional cropping system displays yield gains over an industrialized approach. With further research and development into traditional and organic cropping systems, the next agricultural revolution has the potential to be significantly more sustainable than the current paradigm. For more information on the benefits of organic see Beyond Pesticides Why Organic webpage. All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
  • The New Rice Variety Set To Increase Crop Production

  • A new rice grain variety is set to revolutionize crop production, increasing by almost double per acre. The hybrid variety which is high yielding, early maturing and disease resistant is capable of yielding up to 54 bags of paddy rice as compared to a maximum of 30 bags of the basmati crop. The variety is also not susceptible to lodging as compared to other varieties since it matures while its tillers are relatively short from the ground. According to the head of the rice production programme in the Country Dr. Mary Mutembei, the country is headed to self-sufficiency in rice production once farmers adopt the farming of the new variety. Within the African continent, the project activities are visible and supported in Kenya and Tanzania with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is coordinating the full implementation of the programme in the wake of the increasing rice consumption in many African countries. According to the AATF’s Director of Programme and Commercialization Emmanuel Okogbenin, the reliance by Kenya on imported rice grain from Pakistan is headed for a stop once local farmers adopt the new variety. Speaking during a field day at Mwea East, Kirinyaga County where some farmers have produced the crop on trial basis, the official said the grain quality was the same as that farmed in Pakistan. He said rice consumers were interested in grain quality and quantity, traits found in the new hybrid variety. “This being the market force, I do not see why Kenyan farmers who are well-known for the aromatic pishori for many years should not be able to venture into the new variety which is not only high yielding but aromatic as well,” Okogebenin said. He said due to both quantity and quality of the grain produced from the variety, farmers should adopt it for profitability purposes regardless of the seed cost. The seed from the variety is not recyclable and once planted and harvested, this brings to an end its life cycle, according to Okogebenin. “In this regard, I am urging farmers to buy their certified seed for this variety from authorised dealers and should not under any circumstance recycle the seed from a past crop as this will only give back a minimal disease and pest-invested  harvest,” he said. A farmer in the area James Kinyua who was among the pioneer to plant the new crop on trial basis said he was overwhelmed by the production as compared to other varieties. He said you only needed to flood the field for seven days then you leave it dry for a whole month yet production was the highest. Many farmers from the area have promised to go for the variety this coming season and have already embarked on early land preparations. A Regional Breeding Lead – East and Southern Africa Seed Systems and Product Management Lead – Africa International Rice Research Institute Africa Regional Office Dr Ajay Panchibhai was also in attendance to the field day which farmers termed as the beginning of a positive revolution to rice production in the county.  
  • Kazakhstan’s south to reduce rice and oil crops acreage

  • Kazakhstan’s south to reduce rice and oil crops acreage NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM 1st Vice Minister of Agriculture of Kazakhstan Aidarbek Saparov forecasted a reduction in rice and oil plants acreage in the country’s south, Kazinform reports. Besides, in Turkestan region the land sown under cotton grew by 5,000 ha due to high cotton cost price up to KZT 350,000 per a tonne that is KZT 220,000 more as compared to 2020,» he told the Government meeting. It is planned to sow 89,000 ha with rice that is 6,500 tonnes less. It is supposed to reduce oil crops acreage by 61,700 ha, while flax, safflower, mustard and sunflower crop areas will increase.  
  • Myanmar to produce value-added products from rice husk, rice bran

  • YANGON (Xinhua): The Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) has been working on the manufacturing of value-added products from rice husk and rice bran, according to state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday (March 8). The project on manufacturing value-added products from by-products of rice will be implemented in collaboration with rice mill owners, the newspaper quoted the federation as saying. The federation will utilise rice husks for electricity generation and rice brans for rice bran oil production. The value-added production projects will benefit sectors including edible oil, renewable electricity generation and feed manufacturing, it said. Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation, founded by the federation, has been carrying out power generation pilot projects by operating rice husk power plants in Kyaiklat and Myaungmya townships, and rice bran oil production pilot projects using solvent extraction and physical refining technology. "The rice industry's annual production value reached nearly 7,000 billion kyats (US$3.94 billion). The federation is working on boosting the value of domestic products and increasing investment and trade," MRF President U Ye Min Aung said. Such domestic manufacturing and job creation will help the implementation of the country's economic objectives, he added.
  • Prey Veng’s dry season rice production sees increase compared to previous year

  • The Prey Veng Provincial Department of Agriculture reported that the production of dry season rice crops has seen an increase compared to the same period of last year. The Department reported that the as of February 22, the production of this year’s dry season rice covers a total area of 118,582 hectares, which is equivalent to 158.11 percent of the initial goal of 75,000 hectares to be cultivated. Farmers have so far harvested a total of 51,751 hectares of the rice fields, which is equivalent to 43.64 percent of the total rice fields cultivated. The total yield of the harvest is 250,545 tons with an average of 4.84 tons of yield per hectare. Unofficial rice exports for January 1 to February 20 totalled to 294,694 tons which is valued at more than $61 million, This week a total of more than 53 tons of rice were exported, which is worth more than $11 million. The province also cultivated other agricultural products such as corn, watermelon and pepper. Prey Veng farmers cultivated 1,281 hectares of land for the other agricultural products, which is equivalent to more than 162.15 percent of the initial plan.  
  • LWF Myanmar: innovative techniques for rice farmers

  • Farmers remove weeds in a Laos rice field. In most Asian countries, rice is both a main staple and a principal livelihood. Photo: Thomas Lohnes

    Producing more with less labor and less water

    (LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is promoting long-term resilience in Myanmar by teaching farmers in the Kayin State new rice planting techniques that produces more rice with less labor and less water.   This innovative method, called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has helped rice farmers increase production, improve the quality of seedlings and implement more sustainable practices. Despite the current conflict in Myanmar, farmers in less affected areas continue to strive towards creating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. According to the Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan 2022 issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 14,4 Million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with 6,2 million requiring urgent lifesaving support. LWF has been in these communities for years, supporting long-term community-based empowerment as well as humanitarian support through shelters and Non-food Items (NFIs) “LWF continues to work with the resilient local communities to implement projects that bring hope for a better future despite times of uncertainty,” says Susan Muis, LWF Regional Program Coordinator for Asia. “Although the challenges of conflict persist, in places where the situation is less dire, such as Kayin, farmers strive to uphold a commitment to improve their livelihoods and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

    Two times the rice with less water

    Since 2019, the LWF has provided training on SRI for local farmers in Myanmar. Over 50 families have participated in the training. The technique is a climate-resilient agricultural practice that helps produce higher yields using organic methods including salt water, and cow manure. It requires a smaller investment than traditional rice production methods. The SRI technique uses less water than traditional rice planting. Rice seedlings are planted sooner, while they are young small plants and need less nutrients. Each seedling can yield two times more rice than the previously used techniques    Local crops are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and insect infestation, affecting the living conditions of families who rely entirely on farming. Severe rainfall from the mountains floods the paddies, often located in lower altitudes, destroying the sprouting rice. In contrast, at the end of the rainy season paddies dry out due to the lack of moisture in the soil, decreasing the rice yield.  
    With the SRI method the rice plants are stronger, more resistant to flood, draught, heavy winds, pests, and diseases. Yields are also higher.
    — U Saw Htein LINN, local SRI farmer
    “I was quite interested in the new method because I enjoy experimenting with technologies" says U Saw Htein Linn, one of the first farmers to train and adopt the technique.  “I also joined a Facebook group called network of SRI friends to share experiences and knowledge.”  He adds, “with the SRI method the rice plants are stronger, more resistant to flood, draught, heavy winds, pests, and diseases. Yields are also higher. 10 baskets of paddy from the traditional method would yield 3.5 baskets of milled rice, SRI yields 4.” SRI has allowed farmers to gain more independence in rice seed selection. Linn states, “in the past we would collect paddy from the harvest and replant the next year. It would last 5 to 6 years as seed quality decreased with each season. We would then go to the department of agriculture to buy new seeds. With SRI the quality of seeds is consistent in addition to selling for food, I now also sell my high-quality paddy as seeds. People are purchasing their paddy from me and don’t need to travel to the city.” Daw San San Chit, Linn’s wife shares that the improvement of the quality of their yields and living condition has allowed them to give back to the community and those most in need. “Our family has donated to the vulnerable elderly, orphans and the monastery. The profit has been enough that we can afford to purchase and donate food to our community. We are taking better care of our children and will continue to apply the SRI.”
  • Visualizing the World’s Biggest Rice Producers

  • Visualizing The World’s Biggest Rice Producers

    Visualizing The World’s Biggest Rice Producers

    It’s hard to overstate the importance of rice to the world. As a staple food, over half of the global population depends on the crop as a major part of their diet. In fact, rice is considered a vital part of nutrition in much of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, and is estimated to provide more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans. This graphic highlights the world’s 10 biggest rice-producing countries, using 2019 production data from the UN’s FAOSTAT and the USDA.

    Which Countries Produce the Most Rice?

    With 756 million tonnes produced globally in 2019, rice is the world’s third-most produced agricultural crop behind sugarcane and corn (maize), which both have a wide variety of non-consumption uses. Just 10 countries are responsible for a bulk of global rice production:
    Country Tonnes Rice Produced (2019) % of Total
    China 211.4M 28.0%
    India 177.6M 23.5%
    Indonesia 54.6M 7.2%
    Bangladesh 54.6M 7.2%
    Vietnam 43.4M 5.7%
    Thailand 28.3M 3.7%
    Myanmar 26.3M 3.5%
    Philippines 18.8M 2.5%
    Pakistan 11.1M 1.5%
    Brazil 10.4M 1.4%
    Others 119.0M 15.8%
    Total 755.5M 100.0%
    At the top of the charts are China (#1) and India (#2), which produced 389 million tonnes combined, accounting for more than half of global production. They’re significantly ahead of #3 and #4 countries Indonesia and Bangladesh, which produced around 54.6 million tonnes each. Almost all of the top producers are located in Asia, with the exception of Brazil (#10).

    Feeding A Growing World

    With 84% of rice being harvested in just 10 countries, it’s clear that many countries globally must rely on imports to meet domestic demand. In 2019, India, Thailand, Pakistan, and Vietnam were large net exporters of rice, shipping out nearly $16 billion of rice combined. Other countries including Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines consume above production numbers and rely on imports to meet their needs. And not everything makes it from plant to table. In developing countries especially, estimates of 8–26% of rice are lost due to postharvest problems and poor infrastructure. As the global population continues to grow, rice will continue to be a key source of calories around the world—and as our diets change, it’ll be interesting to see how that role shifts in the future.
  • Admin helps farmers grow aromatic rice in Simdega

  •   Gumla: Simdega administration has rolled out an innovative project to help farmers grow scented rice, package their products and sell them under its Kurdeg rice brand. Kurdeg is a block in the district which is known for its rice cultivation. Titled as aromatic rice bowl project, officials said that the idea is to help the farmers get proper market linkage of their products. “Around 1,000 fathers from 11 blocks in the district were provided seeds of traditional aromatic rice varieties, like kala jeera, jeera ful, gobind bhog, bhukta, mansuri and sambha mansuri, for cultivation. Over the period of time, canals were renovated and others methods of irrigation have been made operational to ensure water supply for irrigation,” said an official. A semi-automatic rice mill has been installed for value addition and it will start milling soon. Officials said that a farmers’ producer organization named Sankh Aroma Trust has been set up for overall operation of rice milling, packaging and branding. The project is the brainchild of Sushant Gaurav, who served as DC of Simdega until last week before his transfer. Speaking to TOI on the project before his transfer, Gaurav said, “A high percentage of population here depends on farming but it is mainly dependent on rainfall. The district administration identified the potential of adding value to the produce and hence, the project was initiated.”
  • Two Basmati rice varieties help boost export.

  • Two Basmati rice varieties help boost exports, farmers’ income

    Both the varieties, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, Delhi, fetch farmers like Singh financial benefits in the range of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per acre, after taking into account cost of cultivation as well as lease rental for the land.

    basmati-rice Pritam Singh, who farms on 110 acres, including some land taken on lease, at Urlana Khurd village of Haryana’s Panipat district, has just sold his harvest of Basmati rice varieties — PB 1121 and PB 1509 — at the local mandi at Rs 3,800 and Rs 3,500 a quintal, respectively. Both the varieties, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, Delhi, fetch farmers like Singh financial benefits in the range of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per acre, after taking into account cost of cultivation as well as lease rental for the land. “Since the introduction of high-yielding varieties like PB1121 and PB1509, the production as well as quality in terms of size of the Basmati rice grain increased thus bringing economic benefits to us,” Singh told FE. Singh said prior to the introduction of these two varieties, the yield of traditional varieties was in the range of 12 –13 quintal per acre, while the PB1121 and PB1509 varieties have an average yield of 24 quintal and 26 quintal per acre, respectively. While the high-yielding and larger-grained PB1121 variety was certified as Basmati rice in 2008, the PB1509, which takes fewer weeks for maturity, was released in 2013. Two Basmati rice varieties developed by IARI have contributed 70% of the total value of cumulative exports of long-grain aromatic rice from India worth Rs 2.38 lakh crore between 2010 and 2019, thus bringing benefit to farmers. India exported on an average 3.74 million tonne (mt) of Basmati rice annually during the stated period, of total production of around 5 mt. According to an analysis by IARI of the economic value accrued because of Basmati rice, Rs 1.66 lakh crore worth of export earnings between 2010 and 2019 was from the shipment of PB1121 and PB1509 rice varieties, while domestic sales were to the tune of Rs 51,501 crore in the same period. After deducting the cost of production, the IARI assessment has stated that Rs 1.34 lakh crore has been accrued as earnings to estimated 10 lakh farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, who grow two varieties of aromatic and long grained rice. “Improved Basmati varieties have brought prosperity to millions of Basmati farmers by improving their standards of living, better education for children and best health care for family members,” Ashok Kumar Singh, director, IARI, told FE. During 2010-2019, annually, Basmati rice was grown in 18.34 lakh hectares on an average, out of which PB11121 and PB1509 was grown in 67% and 10% of the area, respectively. The rest of the varieties grown by farmers include PB1, PB6 and PB1718, which are also developed by IARI. ajor export destinations of India’s Basmati rice include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and the UAE, besides some European countries. India exported Basmati rice worth Rs 29,849 crore ($4018 million) in 2020-21. Recently, IARI has released improved varieties PB1847, PB1885 and PB1886; these are improved varieties with inbuilt resistance to bacterial blight and blast diseases. “These varieties would reduce the use of pesticides significantly in basmati cultivation,” Ranjith Kumar Ellur, scientist, rice section, division of genetics, IARI, said.
  • The rice industry aims to improve water efficiency by 75 per cent by 2026

  • A man in a Fluro yellow shirt stands in front of a rice crop Rice is one of Australia's thirstiest crops, but the industry has now set itself the ambitious target of improving water efficiency by 75 per cent by 2026.  

    AgriFutures managing director John Harvey says the target – 1.5 tonnes of rice grown for each megalitre of water used – is part of a roadmap to “transform” the industry to ensure its survival.

    "Our end goal is to ensure rice remains a competitive and profitable option for all rice growers," Mr Harvey said. 

    Australian rice growers already use 50 per cent less water than the global average, but the recent drought proved water availability will continue to be the largest challenge facing the industry. 

    The 2019–20 rice crop was one of the smallest ever recorded with growers only able to access zero to 6 per cent of their water allocation. 

    "We grow a lot of rice when there's lots of water like there is this year. We'll probably grow over 600,000 paddy tonnes. But then we have years where we only grow 45,000 paddy tonnes," Mr Harvey said.

    How will the target be achieved? 

    The 2021 SunRice Grower of the Year, Darrell Fiddler, manages De Bortoli Wine’s broadacre operations at Griffith.

    He is already "knocking on the door" of achieving the target having improved his water efficiency by around 40 per cent. 

    "When we first started growing rice we were at that 12.5 to 13 megalitres [of water used per hectare]. This year's crop will come in at about 7.5ML/ha," Mr Fiddler said. 

    A group of people facing a rice crop
    The rice industry gathered at a field day to view SunRice Grower of the Year Darrell Fiddler's crops. (ABC Riverina: Olivia Calver)

    Traditionally rice is grown partially submerged in water throughout the season, however a technique that delays the application of permanent water has gained traction in the industry. 

    Mr Fiddler was an early adopter of "delayed ponding" and credits it as having one of the biggest impacts on his water efficiency. 

    Aerobic-grown rice the next step

    He is now looking at the next step, growing rice aerobically, without any water ponding, as part of a trial with Deakin University. 

    A crucial component of the trial is using automation to control irrigation flushes. 

    A man in a blue hat and shirt holds some green rice in front of a crop
    Peter Snell says new cold-tolerant varieties will be more suited to delayed ponding and aerobic-grown rice. (ABC Riverina: Olivia Calver)

    Cold-tolerant varieties that survive without the water 'blanket'

    New rice varieties are also key to achieving the water efficiency target. 

    NSW Department of Primary Industries rice breeder Peter Snell said permanent water provided a type of blanket for rice, protecting it from damaging cold weather.

    Therefore, a focus has been on breeding cold-tolerant rice varieties, which can handle the delayed or absent application of permanent water. 

    This includes a new variety, V071, which is being grown throughout the Riverina for the first time this year. 

    "We're very reliant on deep water to protect developing panicles and one of the big things for aerobic or growing rice on beds is getting cold tolerance."

  • Agriculture Department to set up mini rice mills

  • Agriculture Minister P. Prasad inaugurating the harvest of paddy cultivated by a doctor at Kanjikuzhy in Alappuzha on Saturday.
    The Agriculture Department will contemplate setting up modern mini rice mills to process paddy harvested from upland fields in Kanjikuzhy and nearby areas. Inaugurating the harvest of Rakthashali, Jaya and Basmati rice varieties cultivated on an experimental basis in Kanjikuzhy grama panchayat, Agriculture Minister P. Prasad said that steps would be taken to promote upland rice cultivation in the region.
    The rice varieties were cultivated by Sreekanth, a dental doctor, on 4.5 acres at Kundelattu paddy polder. "The cultivation of different rice varieties has turned out to be a success. The Agriculture Department will take steps to extend paddy cultivation on upland fields in the region. To address the issue of processing the harvested paddy, the department will consider setting up modern mini rice mills," Mr. Prasad said. Kanjikuzhy is known for its organic vegetable farming. The grama panchayat officials said that several farmers in the region were now gearing up for commercial rice production.

    Of the three varieties cultivated at Kundelattu, Rakthashali with red husk and grain is considered uneconomical compared to some high yielding rice varieties. But the nearly-extinct variety of rice with high medicinal value has properties to cure many ailments. Dr. Sreekanth bought the Rakthashali seeds from Narayanan, a farmer and Basmati seeds from an online marketplace.

    Kanjikuzhy grama panchayat president Geetha Karthikeyan presided. Grama panchayat vice president M. Santhosh Kumar, agriculture officer Janeesh and others spoke.
  • Growing Rice With Aquatic Animals Boosts Production

  • Growing Rice With Aquatic Animals Boosts Production And Reduces Chemical Use

    A local carp living with rice plants in a co-culture experiment; it removes weeds and pests as well as promotes nitrogen recycling and the plants taking up nutrients CREDIT: Lufeng Zhao (CC BY 4.0) Growing rice alongside aquatic animals can reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides, as well as increase farmers’ yields, shows a study published in eLife. The results suggest a way to help reduce the environmental harms associated with rice production, with potential economic benefits for rice farmers. Modern farms often grow one type of crop and require large amounts of fertilisers and pesticides. This has helped increase crop production, but at the cost of increased environmental degradation. Some farmers are experimenting with growing a mixture of crops and animals to reduce the need for agricultural chemicals by taking advantage of beneficial interactions between plants and animals. “One example includes farmers experimenting with growing aquatic animals in rice paddies,” says co-first author Liang Guo, Postdoctoral Fellow at the College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. “Learning more about how these animals contribute to rice paddy ecosystems could help with producing rice in a more sustainable way.” Guo and colleagues conducted three experiments, each lasting for four years, to compare the growth of rice alongside carp, mitten crabs, or softshell turtles with rice grown alone. They found that the aquatic animals reduced weeds, increased the decomposition of organic matter, and improved rice yields compared to the rice that was grown alone. “We also saw that nitrogen levels in the soil remained steady in the rice paddies with aquatic animals, reducing the need for using nitrogen-based fertilisers,” says co-first author Lufeng Zhao, a PhD student at the College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University.
    The team next examined what the animals ate in the rice paddies. They found that 16–50% of their diet was made up of plant and other materials they scavenged, rather than their feed. They also found that the rice plants used around 13–35% of the nitrogen from leftover feed that was not eaten by the animals. Growing rice with aquatic animals resulted in yields that were between around 8.7% and 12.1% higher than yields of rice grown alone. Additionally, farmers were able to grow between 0.5 and 2.5 tonnes of crabs, carp, or turtles per hectare alongside their rice. “These results enhance our understanding of the roles of animals in agricultural ecosystems, and support the view that growing crops alongside animals has a number of benefits,” concludes Xin Chen, Professor of Ecology at the College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, and co-senior author of the study alongside Dr Liangliang Hu and Professor Jianjun Tang. “In terms of rice production, adding aquatic animals to paddies may increase farmers’ profits as they can sell both the animals and the rice, spend less on fertiliser and pesticides, and charge more for sustainably grown products.”
  • Farm exports boom in new year

  • High quality rice is being prepared for export. Photo nld.com.vn
    HCM CITY – Farm exports to difficult markets like Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the EU have been prolific in the first two months of this year, raising hopes for a successful year. Phạm Thái Bình, general director of Trung An Hi-tech Agriculture Joint Stock Company in Cần Thơ City, said his company has fulfilled five orders for nearly 1,000 tonnes of fragrant rice from Germany, Malaysia and Qatar. " It is expected that this year rice exports will be very successful thanks to many import markets around the world beginning to reopen after the Covid-19 epidemic was brought under control and trade agreements were signed." Lộc Trời Agriculture Products JSC, a subsidiary of Lộc Trời Group, has exported more than 4,500 tonnes of fragrant, white, brown, and glutinous rice varieties worth US$3 million to Europe, the US, the Middle East, and Asia.  Nguyễn Văn Thứ, director of GC Food Company in Đồng Nai Province, said his firm shipped a container of aloe vera and coconut jelly on February 7. His company’s exports have increased by 30 per cent in the first two months of 2022 and it has many more export orders to markets like Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, he said. It targets exports of VNĐ350 billion (US$15.2 million) this year, up 67 per cent from 2021. "The Việt Nam - EU Free Trade Agreement has creates very favourable conditions for the export of agricultural products." General secretary of the Việt Nam Fruit and Vegetable Association, Đặng Phúc Nguyên, said in January exports of vegetables and fruits to key markets such as Japan, Korea, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands and the US grew by 12-69 per cent. Vietnamese firms are familiar with the quality and other requirements in these markets, which has helped increase exports significantly, he added. With the forecast being that in 2022 the Covid-19 epidemic will be full controlled and the global economy will recover, GC Food has invested in modern production lines to double its total capacity to 35,000 tonnes of products a year, Thứ added. – VNS.  
  • Scientists discover how to grow ‘seawater rice’, China plans to feed 8 crore people

  • Chinese scientists are betting that land once dismissed as barren can be turned into productive grain-producing plots  (Photo: AFP) Chinese scientists have developed salt-tolerant strains of rice in a bid to ensure food security as sea levels rise from climate change. Jinghai district in northern China is hardly a rice-growing paradise. Located along the coast of the Bohai Sea, over half of the region’s land is made of salty, alkaline soil where crops can’t survive. Yet, last autumn, Jinghai produced 100 hectares of rice. The secret to the bountiful harvest is new salt-tolerant rice strains developed by Chinese scientists in the hope of ensuring food security that’s been threatened by rising sea levels, increasing grain demand and supply chain disruptions. Known as “seawater rice" because it’s grown in salty soil near the sea, the strains were created by over-expressing a gene from selected wild rice that’s more resistant to saline and alkali. Test fields in Tianjin—the municipality that encompasses Jinghai—recorded a yield of 4.6 metric tons per acre last year, higher than the national average for production of standard rice varieties.  The breakthrough comes as China searches for ways to secure domestic food and energy supplies as global warming and geopolitical tensions make imports less reliable. The nation has one-fifth of the world’s population, and that many mouths to feed, with less than 10% of the Earth’s arable land. Meanwhile, grain consumption is rising quickly as the country grows more wealthy.  “Seeds are the ‘chips’ of agriculture," said Wan Jili, a manager at Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development Center, drawing a parallel between the crucial role semiconductors play in the development of new technologies and their role in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. Seawater rice could help improve China’s grain production in the face of an “extremely complicated situation regarding climate change and global food security," she said. China has been studying salt-tolerant rice since at least the 1950s. But the term “seawater rice" only started to gain mainstream attention in recent years after the late Yuan Longping, once the nation’s top agricultural scientist, began researching the idea in 2012.  Yuan, known as the “father of hybrid rice," is considered a national hero for boosting grain harvests and saving millions from hunger thanks to his work on high-yielding hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s. In 2016, he selected six locations across the country with different soil conditions that were turned into testing fields for salt-tolerant rice. The following year, China established the research center in Qingdao where Wan works. The institute’s goal is to harvest 30 million tons of rice using 6.7 million hectares of barren land. “We could feed 80 million more people" with salt-tolerant rice, Yuan said in a documentary broadcast in 2020. “Agricultural researchers like us should shoulder the responsibility to safeguard food security," he told a local newspaper in 2018. Climate change has made the task more urgent. China’s coastal waters have risen faster than the global average over the last 40 years, a worrying trend given the country’s deep reliance on its long and low eastern coast for grain production. Successfully growing salt-tolerant rice on a large scale would allow the country to utilize more of the increasingly salty land in the area. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels around the world could rise as much as 59 centimeters by the end of the century if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius. Oceans surrounding the U.S. will swell faster within the next three decades than they did in the past century, according to a report this week led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. President Xi Jinping has stressed in several recent meetings with top government officials that ensuring the supply of primary goods is a “major strategic issue" given climate and geopolitical pressures. “The food of the Chinese people must be made by and remain in the hands of the Chinese," he said at a gathering of the Politburo Standing Committee meeting in December. Chinese scientists are betting that land once dismissed as barren can be turned into productive grain-producing plots. About 100 million hectares of land in the country, about the size of Egypt, is high in saline and alkaline. Meanwhile arable land has decreased 6% from 2009 to 2019 because of urbanization, pollution and overuse of fertilizers. To make use of salty soil, farmers traditionally dilute their fields with large amounts of fresh water. The approach is still commonly used in some coastal regions. But the method requires vast amounts of water and often doesn’t improve yields enough to make sense economically. “China is looking at another method now, to develop grain varieties that can withstand the soil’s saltiness," said Zhang Zhaoxin, a researcher with China’s agricultural ministry. While seawater rice has mostly been planted on trial fields so far, Zhang said he believes commercial cultivation will soon take off with the government’s support. The research team in Qingdao said last October that it can meet the goal of growing 6.7 million hectares of seawater rice within ten years. In 2021, the group was put in charge of 400,000 hectares of land to expand production of seawater rice. “If China can be more self-sufficient in staple foods, it would be a contribution to the world's food security too," said Zhang. “The less China imports, the more other countries will have."  

  • The USDA increased its outlook for U.S. cotton and rice ending stocks. The domestic rice supply is seen at 33.5 million hundredweight, up half a million from January, with a lower import projection more than canceled out by a decrease for exports. The average estimated farm price is $15.70 per hundredweight, $.60 higher than a month ago. Cotton ending stocks are expected to be 3.5 million bales, 300,000 above last month following a cut in export use. The average estimated farm price is $.90 per pound, unchanged on the month. The current marketing year for cotton and rice runs through the end of July. World rice ending stocks were up modestly from the previous report and global cotton stocks were down slightly. The USDA’s next set of supply and demand numbers is out Wednesday, March 9th. Breakdowns of selected supply and demand tables: 2021/22 U.S. rice ending stocks are seen at 33.5 million hundredweight, compared to 33 million in January and 43.7 million for 2020/21. Imports were cut 500,000 hundredweight to 30.5 million, leaving the total supply at 266 million hundredweight. Exports were cut 1 million hundredweight to 87 million, all of that milled rice, for total use of 232.5 million hundredweight. The average 2021/22 farm price is estimated at $15.70 per hundredweight, compared to $15.10 a month ago and $14.40 for the previous marketing year. 2021/22 U.S. cotton ending stocks are estimated at 3.5 million bales, compared to 3.2 million last month and 3.15 million last marketing year. Exports were lowered 250,000 bales to 14.75 million, putting total use at 17.3 million bales. There was also 50,000 bale swing in “unaccounted” use, from 30,000 to -20,000 bales. The average 2021/22 farm price is estimated at $.90 per pound, compared to $.90 for January and $.663 for 2020/21. 2021/22 world milled rice ending stocks are pegged at 186.33 million tons, compared to 186.06 million a month ago. Production is expected to be 510.31 million tons, slightly more than the prior report, following upward revisions for Brazil and Pakistan. Exports are estimated at 50.86 million tons, compared to 49.86 million last month. 2021/22 world cotton ending stocks are projected at 84.31 million bales, compared to 85.01 million in January. Global production is seen at 120.15 million bales, just over 800,000 less than the last guess, mainly on a cut for India. Domestic use is pegged at 124.43 million bales, compared to 124.24 million last month, and exports are estimated at 46.45 million bales, compared to 46.56 million a month ago.
  • Climate change will adversely impact rice production, warns FAO

  • Climate forecasts suggest that agriculture will suffer the greatest economic impacts of climate change in Cambodia, particularly due to losses of income and labour productivity associated with crop production. This is according to Rebekah Bell and the team of the UN’s FAO operation in Cambodia, as they explained in a recent correspondence with the Khmer Times on the subject of how climate change (CC) will impact rice production in the country. Findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicate that there are a number of regions in Asia that are already near the heat stress limits for rice, where increased night-time temperatures have been found to have a significant negative impact on rice yields, and an increase of 1° C in night-time low temperatures during the rice-growing season results in a decreased rice yield of approximately 10 percent. Experts at FAO Cambodia summarised bleakly what changes lay in store: “Considering the worst-case scenario of carbon emissions for the region, by 2050, average temperatures will rise of 0.9 – 1.4 degrees C, rainfall will decrease in the dry season and increase in the wet one, and sea level will rise between 26 to 32cm. Sea-level rise is a major threat to the social-ecological system of the Mekong Delta as salinity creeps up the rivers and causes the decline of soil productivity.” However, through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) FAO has been working to help farmers and communities address climate change “by empowering and increasing knowledge and capacity of communities in watershed management.” The team at FAO have been working in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MoE), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Development Partners (DPs) to devise plans for mitigating against the worst effects that CC will have on farmers, and to help them adapt to the “New Normal” with three goals: increase productivity and diversification, equitable and sustainable management, and improved resilience to the shocks that will occur with the many unusual climate events that are expected. “FAO works closely with the MAFF and partners to promote economically and environmentally efficient rice production through Direct-Seeded Rice (DSR),” they told us, citing one of their initiatives, explaining that, “DSR has been also widely practised in many countries in Asia and beyond, because of its low-input demand. It saves scarce and expensive resources such as labour and water, and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” DSR, which involves sowing the plants directly onto the fields, can be as productive by “adopting various cultural practices including the selection of suitable varieties, proper sowing time, and optimum seed rate, and proper weed, nutrient and water management.” FAO has also been working in the communities with the heavily dependent rice farmers of Tonle Sap to promote the “Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) assurance scheme to create stable market opportunities and increase value addition for agricultural products that are produced in an environmentally friendly way, creating further incentives for farmers to continue with climate-resilient practices.” While climate change and its disastrous threats may be the stick, the carrot would seem to be intelligent marketing and understanding how increased revenues can go hand in hand with adapting to the changes ahead. Rebekah and her team pointed out that the (MAFF) have recognised the value of promoting quality rice, such as fragrant varieties, based on their popularity both locally and internationally hailing the fact that “Cambodia has refined and released the first non-seasonal rice variety called Sen Kra Ob 01 (SKO 01), which is recognised for its light, non-seasonal, weather-resistant and has been promoted as a strategic rice for export.” They warned, however, “that SKO 01 is not resistant to diseases and pests. To reach the full potential of the rice industry, we need further investment to promote rice seed varieties that are tolerant to drought and resilient to climate change.”
  • Pakistan posts record rice production

  • Rice_ShutterStock_E.jpg ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Pakistan harvested a record rice crop of 8.9 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year, up from 8.4 million tonnes the prior year, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). “New higher-yielding hybrid rice varieties, improved agronomic practices and increased planting area, as farmers shift out of cotton, are factors driving the increased production,” the USDA said. The agency noted that the Pakistan government’s policy of ensuring rice growers had adequate inputs also contributed to the record production. Meanwhile, the country’s rice exports in 2020-21 (November-October) were stagnant at 3.8 million tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year, the report said. Supply chain disruptions, shipping container shortages, and high transportation costs negatively impacted rice exports. With this year’s record production adding more stocks, total available supply is estimated to be 11 million tonnes, the USDA said. “Domestic rice consumption is 3.7 million tonnes, leaving an exportable supply of 7.3 million tonnes for 2021-22,” the USDA said. “This large surplus will provide an opportunity to significantly increase exports, but Pakistani rice will continue to face stiff competition from India and Southeast Asia suppliers.”    
  • The System of Rice Intensification’s Role in Hunger, Climate Change

  • Norman Uphoff is the Senior Advisor for the SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), a program at Cornell University engaged with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which is a climate-smart, yield-increasing agriculture methodology that is being utilized by more than 10 million smallholder farms in over 55 countries. Uphoff is working to expand SRI’s international network and strengthen the knowledge base for SRI and its extension to other crops. Here he explains the basic principles of SRI, the implications of the methodology, and the role it can play in agriculture in the future.  More at: The System of Rice Intensification’s Role in Hunger, Climate Change, and Communities