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Bihar and IRRI advance partnership to improve rice-based cropping systems

Bihar, India, 13 June 2018 — Dr. Matthew Morell, Director General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) today met with Dr. Prem Kumar, Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Government of Bihar at Vikas Bhawan, Patna Secretariat.

In the context of Bihar’s agricultural roadmap, and keeping in mind that 76 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood, Dr. Prem Kumar emphasized that a centre such the IRRI South Asia Regional Center (ISARC), will support the achievement of broader goals such as helping farmers improve incomes and enhance their livelihoods, while increasing food and nutrition security.

The honorable minister said, that by way of a new planned collaboration with Government of Bihar, IRRI will be able to work closely with Bihar Agricultural University (Sabour, Bhagalpur), the State Department of Agriculture, as well as other Bihar state government agencies, to improve rice varieties and develop and capitalize on innovative technologies.

Rice is an important crop and consumed widely across Bihar. The state ranks sixth in India, with a total production of more than 71 lakh tons of rice, that is cultivated over 33 lakh hectares of land. However, productivity ranges widely across the state from less than 1,000 kg/ha in Bhagalpur to 2,000 kg/ha in Bhojpur. One cause of this variation is extreme weather conditions, such as floods and drought. This is further exacerbated by farmer’s limited access to reliable irrigation and pest management techniques.

To overcome the constant threat to food production, the government of Bihar has stepped up efforts to develop and deliver climate-resilient rice varieties and improve farmer’s livelihoods.

The IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) established by IRRI and the Government of India in Varanasi, (Uttar Pradesh), is a center of excellence for furthering research and capacity development in rice and rice-based agri food systems. It is a state-of-the-art facility, that provides a conducive environment for developing and delivering climate-resilient and stress-tolerant rice varieties and intensifying cereal cropping systems to invigorate economic activities.

Elaborating on ISARC, Dr.Matthew Morell, Director General for International Rice Research Institute said that through the centre IRRI and national researchers could collaborate to develop rice varieties that are able to withstand flood, drought, and are more nutritious. These will stand to benefit consumers in terms of good health and nutrition. He said the center will work towards developing improved, high-yielding varieties of crops, which will lead to enhancing farmer incomes. Encouraging farm mechanization, conservation of natural resources like soil and water, and efficiency in utilization of raw materials and inputs; ISARC will train and build the capacity of scientists and researchers using advanced international breeding techniques, keeping in mind the interests of farmers, especially empowering women farmers.

Elaborating further Dr. Morell said, “given the steadily rising populations, rapidly changing rice production landscapes, worsening climate change impact, and other stresses, it is fitting that IRRI establish a research and training center now, that is equipped with state-of-the art facilities and experts to enable us to work closely with all state governments to develop solutions that address these challenges and ensure stable production.”

Some of the prime facilities provided by ISARC are; the Centre for Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) which will focus on improving grain quality. Specifically, the centre will look at issues related to nutritional quality, bio fortification, postharvest loss and processing, rice value chains, heavy metal contamination, and the creation of new varieties tolerant to climatic and other stresses and meet market demand and expectations, particularly for needs specific to Bihar, India, and beyond in other South Asian and African countries.

At this meeting those also present from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) included Dr.Nafees Meah (Regional Director, IRRI-South Asia), Dr.Arvind Kumar (Senior Scientist), Dr.Sugandha Munshi (Gender Specialist); and from the Bihar Agriculture University in Sabour, Dr. R.K.Sohane (Director-Extension), Dr. P.K.Singh (Director, Research), Dr.Rewati Raman (Director, Seed & Farm) and Dr. S.P.Singh (Scientist , Rice Breeding).