Bayer, IRRI partner to advance rice in Asia

by Holly Demaree-Saddler
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SINGAPORE — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Bayer signed an agreement confirming Bayer’s participation in the Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC) led by IRRI.

The DSR Consortium is working to develop a comprehensive, science-based, agronomic package adapted for direct seeded rice production in Asia, making direct seeded rice accessible and widely available to rice farmers, to enhance the economic and ecological sustainability of rice production in Asia.

Manual puddled transplanted rice (PTR) is the predominant method of rice production in Asia. Despite benefits associated with this method including good weed control, PTR is a highly resource intensive (labor, water and energy) practice. Puddled flooded rice systems are also a major methane emitter — an important greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Drudgery involved in manually transplanting rice seedlings in paddy soil, a job which is largely done by women farmers, is also a concern. This contributes to the unwillingness of young people to enter the profession. All these factors are making PTR less sustainable, less profitable, and less attractive to farmers.

According to the IRRI, direct seeded rice (DSR) has emerged as an efficient and economically viable alternative to PTR as it saves scarce and expensive resources such as labor and water, and reduces GHG emissions. Recently, DSR has been widely practiced in many Asian countries such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Many other countries, including South Asia, are going through this transition from manual transplanting to mechanized DSR. In the future, with labor and water becoming increasingly scarce and expensive; alternative rice establishment methods that are labor and water efficient, such as DSR, will be the preferred method of rice cultivation.

Direct seeded rice program
Direct seeded rice (DSR) has emerged as an efficient and economically viable alternative to PTR as it saves scarce and expensive resources such as labor and water, and reduces GHG emissions.
Photo courtesy of IRRI.
 
The IRRI has developed technology platform and expertise that will be used to address technical questions and produce a science-based package of technical recommendations and good practices for the development of direct seeded rice in Asia.

The IRRI noted, closer public-private sector collaboration, as well as inputs from the private and NGO sectors, are required to enhance innovation and optimize a science-based integrated approach on all aspects of direct seeded rice technology. The new DSRC aims at providing a new momentum for such multi-sectoral collaboration to address complex issues related to direct seeded rice.

“Bayer is pleased to partner with IRRI to promote direct seeded rice in Asia,” said Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, country group head for Southeast Asia, Crop Science, Bayer, who also sits on the advisory board of the DSRC. “Rice is gold for the smallholder farmers in Asia — it is more than just food for them; it is also their livelihood. In line with our smallholder farming initiative, we are happy to join the DSRC, and contribute to the development and promotion of direct seeded rice production through various innovations such as our SeedGrowth offering, mechanization and digital farming solutions, as well as linking up value chain partners and service providers to the farmers who would have no access otherwise.”

The DSRC platform aims to improve crop management practices to maximize the advantages of direct seeded rice. In addition, the DSRC will publicize science-based information on DSR rice technology, including better information to help policymakers define national rice development strategies. Capacity building activities and training activities will also be conducted for both the public and private sectors.

Remy Bitoun head of IRRI Tech Transfer
Remy Bitoun, head of IRRI Tech Transfer

“Innovation in technology is essential to nourish the world in a safe, inclusive and sustainable way,” said Remy Bitoun, head of IRRI Tech Transfer. “To improve food security and sustainability, all stakeholders — public and private — must work together and share their expertise. Our new Public Private Partnership, the DSR Consortium, will contribute to improved resource management that will benefit rice farmers and the environment. It will also provide an effective, science-based assessment of new technologies relevant to direct seeding, and impact acceleration of the most promising technologies.”

Under the agreement, Bayer will provide access to Bayer-owned genetic materials (hybrids), seed and drone technologies, as well as in-kind activities for DSRC research and testing.

The DSRC also will contribute to the Sustainable Rice Platform’s objectives.

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