Key Research Areas

Product Development and Varietal Replacement

Accelerating breeding for an effective varietal replacement

Contact: Sankalp Bhosale, Research Unit Leader - Product Development and Varietal Replacement

Breeding for short duration stress-tolerant rice varieties

The breeding program develops and deploys high-yielding stress-tolerant short-duration rice varieties suitable for transplanted, dry and puddled direct seeded systems for Asia and Africa. The program actively engages in developing varieties with abiotic and biotic stress tolerance with a high emphasis on developing technologies for promoting direct seeding in rice. The program also supports breeding networks and consortiums with appropriate germplasm. The breeding program engages in genetic studies to decipher the mechanisms underlying adaptation of rice to direct seeding in collaboration with trait development teams. Further, the program targets developing rice varieties with premium grain quality to ensure economic benefit to farmers and high price. The program also engages in designing and development of phenotyping methodologies and mechanized field screening systems for direct seeded rice breeding programs and capacity development of public and private sector partners. 

Contact: Shalabh Dixit, Senior Scientist

Breeding for medium-maturing varieties for different ecosystems

The program caters to market segments that require high-yielding medium-maturing varieties with different traits suited in different ecosystems in South Asia and Africa. The NARES partners in the regions conduct the early (stage 1) and advanced (stage 2) stage yield trials. The program follows a population improvement method and applies the principles of quantitative genetics to deliver high-performing lines and increase the rate of genetic gain every breeding cycle. All the breeding materials, starting from the early stage yield trials, are genotyped using a mid-density genotyping platform. The program utilizes marker-assisted selection to enrich the frequency of yield protectionbiotic and abioticand grain quality traits. Further, modern breeding tools such as genomic selection are implemented to improve quantitative traits such as grain yield and grain zinc. The multi-environment data from the NARES partners are used to predict the breeding values of the lines. The genomic estimated breeding values are used both in parental recycling and advancement of lines to NARES partners. 

Contact: Suresh Kadaru, Lead - Medium Maturity Breeding Program

Breeding for late-maturity climate-resilient rice varieties

The late maturity breeding program delivers high-yielding, climate-resilient, and late-maturing rice lines in collaboration with NARES partners in Asia and Africa. The program characterizes and selects the best late maturity breeding lines for future breeding programs. It utilizes cutting-edge tools and technologies to accelerate and foster the development of breeding lines adapted to lowland irrigated systems, deep and semi-deep water systems, and saline areas. The program also works on a project to create a global relative maturity system in rice which will help rice breeders worldwide to target breeding lines to a particular zone/region and maximize yield. Under the ambient rainfed breeding program, the program is looking into historical data sets of drought, submergence, and salinity to assess the genetic gain and identify the best performing lines for the future breeding pool to develop climate-resilient germplasm. The program is highly committed to modernize and optimize the breeding pipelines to enhance genetic gain, actively engage with NARES partners to strengthen collaboration, and build capacity.

Contact: Waseem Hussain, Lead - Late Maturity Breeding Program

Hybrid Rice Technology for Industry

RBI is one of CGIAR’s important resources on its global mission of ending hunger and ensuring food security through increased rice production and productivity by commercializing climate-resilient heterotic rice hybrids that meet market requirements. It applies advanced technologies and strengthens the seed industry through wide-scale adoption of high-quality and affordable hybrid rice seeds and provision of technical know-how.

Contact: Jauhar Ali, Research Unit Leader - Hybrid Rice Technology for Industry

Breeding Innovations and Informatics

RBI evaluates new techniques and technologies and packages these ready for adoption in the mainstream breeding operations. It works heavily in enabling and improving marker-assisted selection through the evaluation of elite germplasm to identify gaps, evaluation of new material to fill the gaps identified, design and validation of marker systems, and ensuring key genes are available in elite germplasm. Bioinformatics is a strong component, and in addition to sequencing of elite material and trait development, the Breeding Innovations and Informatics (BII) cluster of the Institute hosts the SNPseek database for the 3000 genomes project. Biometrics support is key to modern breeding; BII hosts the biometrics support and data management teams, and actively pursues improvements in the breeding design and analytical pipelines, and plays a central role in the development of the breeding information management system B4R and now its successor the Enterprise Breeding System. The Cluster also provides consulting, training, and assistance in implementing modernized breeding practices at partner institutes. 


Native trait deployment - Damien Platten, Research Unit Leader - Breeding Innovations and Informatics

Bioinformatics - Kenneth McNally, Head - Bioinformatics

Breeding program modernization - Sanjay Katiyar, Head - Breeding Program Modernization

Consumer-driven Grain Quality and Nutrition

The Grain Quality and Nutrition Center carries out research to unravel the importance of various grain quality traits and in addition nutrition value from pre-breeding and breeding material to screen and identify the value addition alleles.

The availability of a reference rice genome sequence from japonica and resequencing information from indica and several other subspecies of rice allows rapid identification of the genes responsible for seed dimensions as well as for fragrance in basmati and jasmine rice. Cloned genes responsible for rice grain quality traits as well as fine-mapped QTLs form a strong base for marker-assisted selection and genomic selection, and offer a toolbox in efficient breeding for target markets that are segmented according to grain quality preferences.


Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition - Nese Sreenivasulu, Research Unit Leader - Consumer-driven Grain Quality and Nutrition

Gene identification and validation - Sung Ryul Kim, Scientist

Traits for Challenged Environments

With the aim to improve rice tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses, the pathology and physiology groups in RBI conduct a range of activities to support stress tolerance trait discovery, including development of screening protocols, characterization of diverse germplasm as well as advanced breeding material to identify traits and genetic regions to improve the core breeding panels. The stress tolerance research is well-linked with  partners in key geographic regions for definition of the relevant environmental conditions and targeted plant responses.


Traits for challenged environments - Amelia Henry, Research Unit Leader - Traits for Challenged Environments

Elite Germplasm Dissemination and Evaluation Networks

IRRI has two networks namely, the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) for global rice-producing countries and the ASEAN RiceNet specifically focused on the ASEAN region for testing advanced rice breeding lines and varieties. These networks share rice breeding lines to several countries across Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa apart from countries in South America, Russia, and Europe as needed. Evaluation of advanced rice breeding pre-variety lines fast tracks the release of varieties with updated technologies for NARES and farmers. The networks also assist in the capacity building of researchers and scientists from NARES partner organizations.

Contact: Shoba Venkatangappa, Research Unit Leader - Elite Germplasm Dissemination and Evaluation Networks

Fit-for-Future Genetic Resources

Conservation and utilization of germplasm resources in an efficient and effective way is the main objective of Fit-for-Future Genetic Resources (FFGR).  It aims to create and deliver the knowledge, material, and tools required to enable users of genetic resources to take full advantage of the naturally-occurring diversity of cultivated rice and its wild relatives to create new and improved varieties that will address the dynamic needs of rice producers and consumers. Under FFGR, the International Rice Genebank is maintained and further research is conducted to improve conservation and management of rice genetic resources.

Contact: Venuprasad Ramaiah, Research Unit Leader - Fit-for-Future Genetic Resources 

IRRI Tech Transfer

IRRI Tech Transfer (ITT) accelerates the institute’s global impact through the facilitation of public-private partnerships. Through collaboration with companies and organizations, IRRI can hasten the development and dissemination of its innovations, technologies, and methodologies to reach more territories and stakeholders, with the objectives of achieving the institute’s impact challenges and contributing to the global SDGs. ITT engages with the private sector by facilitating membership in IRRI R&D consortia, bilateral agreements and licensing of intellectual properties, and the delivery of IRRI services for the private sector. ITT performs its activities in accordance with IRRI Intellectual Property and Commercialization Policy and with the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets.

Contact: Remy Bitoun, Head - IRRI Tech Transfer

Seed Systems and Product Management

Access to quality seeds and the adoption of best-suited improved varieties are critical in ensuring food and nutrition security. To ensure that desired varieties and advanced technologies reach smallholder farmers, NARES partners and consumers in key rice-producing regions in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa, IRRI works in close collaboration with NARES partners, NGOs, and the private sector on variety release and seed scale-up productions. 

Seed systems and product management: South Asia

Ensures that the desired varieties and technologies reach the farmers, NARES partners, key seed system actors, and institutions for scaling, adoption, and impact. By establishing linkages between product design,  breeding, and the decision makers within the value chain and receiving feedback from stakeholders and farmer-led evaluation systems, IRRI generates evidence to strengthen product development and delivery. To benefit the farmers, IRRI develops solutions to bridge the critical gaps in quality seed access, product awareness, and varietal turnovers in the region.

Contact: Swati Nayak, Seed Systems & Product Management Lead - South Asia

Seed systems and product management: Africa

Establishes an effective and gender-responsive seed system customized to the needs of smallholder farmers. Since Africa is an emerging rice production region, the majority of rice seeds are still catered through an ‘informal’ seed system, therefore access to good quality seed and improved rice varieties are of high priority. IRRI is engaging with local and international private sector partners to develop variety agronomic and product “fit,” increase awareness of improved varieties, strengthen market linkages, and boost the overall rice value chain in the region. IRRI is also strengthening engagement with NARES, NGOs, and the private sector to enable sustainable initiatives in Africa.

Contact: Ajay Panchbhai, Seed Systems & Product Management Lead - Africa

Regional Breeding

Breeding for Southeast Asia

Working with ASEAN countries in developing and deploying high-yielding stress-tolerant rice varieties targeted for the market segments of Southeast Asia. IRRI also supports research activities targeted at trait development and deployment specific to Southeast Asian rice-growing ecosystems. IRRI engages with the seed systems in the region through innovative approaches to ensure a faster turnover of rice varieties. IRRI also supports the modernization of national breeding programs through capacity development activities in the sub-region.

Contact: Sankalp Bhosale, Research Unit Leader - Product Development and Varietal Replacement and Interim Breeding Lead - Southeast Asia

Breeding for South Asia

Conducting research on the identification, functional analysis of natural/induced genetic variations for enhanced genetic gains, climate resilience, and grain-nutritional quality specific to the available regional product profile(s) and eventually realize genomic-breeding in rice in collaboration with NARES partners in various countries in South Asia. IRRI provides support to its national partners in the sub-region in terms of capacity development and modernization of the breeding programs.

Contact: Vikas Singh, Breeding Lead - South Asia

Breeding for Africa

Developing and deploying new breeding products for lowlands and high elevation rice ecologies and their major market segment in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), including excellent grain quality and tolerance to major stresses such as drought, bacterial leaf blight, blast, RYMV, and cold.

Contact: Alexis Ndayiragije, Breeding Lead - Africa