Assessing IRRI’s rice breeding programs for excellence

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) successfully concluded the Breeding Program Assessment Tool (BPAT) review, held from 22-25 August at the IRRI Headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna. This intensive four-day review was focused on evaluating the progress made, efficiency achieved, and opportunities for improvement in IRRI's rice breeding program to increase the rate of genetic gain in rice.

The BPAT 2023 Assessment Team, led by Dr. Christopher Lambrides from the University of Queensland alongside Dr. Mark Cooper, a faculty member at the University of Queensland; Yilma Kebede,  sorghum breeder; Dr. Dorcus Gemenet, a Breeding Simulation Specialist from the Excellence-in-Breeding Platform; and IRRI scientists, convened for this crucial assessment.

Organized by the Rice Breeding Innovations (RBI) Department, the four-day BPAT review  commenced with a welcoming statement from Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, Research Director of RBI and CGIAR’s Lead for the Global Rice Breeding Program. His opening remarks set the stage for assessment activities.

The following days featured a series of comprehensive presentations and discussions. These covered rice breeding programs, market intelligence, breeding analytics, pre-breeding strategies, phenotyping strategies for key traits, and genetic technologies. It also included field visits to observe the breeding programs' activities.

The event provided an independent review of IRRI and National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) plant breeding programs. The team reviewed the breeding programs' strategies, governance systems, analytics, bioinformatics, impact assessment processes, and the Institute's centralized breeding support and services, regional footprint, and seed systems.

IRRI scientists and BPAT reviewers engaged in in-depth discussions, analyzing data, methodologies, and results and providing invaluable insights. These assessments were designed to cultivate a roadmap for future innovations, as the Institute is committed to developing new rice varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases, tolerant to environmental stresses, and have higher yields.

Overall, the BPAT assessment was a significant milestone for IRRI's rice breeding programs. The institute is looking forward to implementing the recommendations and improving its research efforts to help address global food security challenges.