IRRI Science Days highlight rice breeding strategies and framework to bring genetic gains to farmers

The IRRI Science Days held on 1-2 December highlighted updates on IRRI’s breeding framework, market segments, breeding pipelines, product concepts, and the OneRice breeding strategy that the Rice Breeding Innovations (RBI) researchers have developed and adopted recently. The focus of the program was around “Translating genetic gains into farmers’ fields through developing and disseminating better and market demanded products faster.

Dr. Ajay Kohli, Deputy Director General for Research, set the stage for the discussions by emphasizing how the seed systems and national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) should be integrated for farmers to benefit from our research. He  shared how Seed Without Borders, a regional seed policy agreement that speeds up the distribution of modern rice varieties across countries in Asia, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, paved the way for such collaborations. 

In his opening message, Director General Jean Balié outlined IRRI’s strategy of ensuring that innovations and technologies are rapidly disseminated and adopted by farmers and that stakeholders are reaping the benefits of using IRRI’s developed technologies and practices. “First, we look at the demand  through market intelligence and then we prioritize. This is how we can leverage our flagship projects,” said Balié.

He also highlighted the roles of RBI’s research units in supporting the Institute’s strategy by following an end-to-end product and the capacity approach, for scientists to work in a transdisciplinary way, and increasing intersectional work with other research units from the Sustainable Impact Platform.

The RBI platform showcased the breadth of its research and innovation highlights through a video presentation and the plenary sessions.  Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, RBI’s Platform Lead,  presented the achievements of RBI while reminding the group that the value and impact that the products of IRRI’s research must reach the market and ultimately- the farmers.

A thorough understanding of RBI's research and development initiatives, from the breeding framework and systems to the mapping and characterization of market segments, all the way to the alignment of breeding efforts was achieved during the plenary session where scientists presented their respective areas of research. Additionally, it demonstrated how the OneRice Breeding Strategy and the breeding networks, collaboration, and governance of IRRI-NARES are assisting in the better and quicker completion of the end-to-end product development and delivery framework.

Dr. Cao Duc Phat, Chair of IRRI’s Board of Trustees, presented a summary of IRRI’s research achievements and initiatives that IRRI and CGIAR are working on including its financial status. He emphasized that IRRI remains the  center of innovation for rice research; Asia, Africa and the world. He also expressed his appreciation to the IRRI community for their commitment to fulfilling IRRI and CGIAR’s mission of delivering science and innovation that advance the transformation of food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.

The second day of Science Days focused on scaling the impacts of IRRI’s research and forging stronger synergies across IRRI. During this session, breeding and seed system innovations assessments (ex ante and ex post) of RBI innovations were presented. Results of these studies showed that IRRI’s rice varietal development is compensating our efforts and investments as that of in the Philippines and Bangladesh and stress-tolerant varieties in Asia and Africa which significantly increased rice yield and income.

To further promote a transdisciplinary approach and create a stronger OneIRRI Team, the research platforms and corporate services staff came together to share best practices and align objectives and priorities toward a unified and collaborative business approach to achieving IRRI's mission.

Moving forward, IRRI will strengthen its capacity to conduct impact evaluations to improve its work and demonstrate its benefits to its donors, partners, and farmers.

By adopting growth plans that are in line with IRRI's objective and giving priority to its flagship programs—direct-seeded rice and low glycemic index rice—RBI’s vision and strategies will translate genetic benefits onto the farmer's field. The OneIRRI team will continue to collaborate and accept ownership to develop, mainstream, and scale IRRI's research through its strong corporate operations, leadership, and relationships with OneCGIAR. 

IRRI staff also took a moment to pay tribute to Dr. Hei Leung, one of the most respected plant pathologists and geneticists at the Institute. 

Please click this link to access the presentations, photos and recordings.