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A revolution in rice production: Bayer advocates for regenerative agriculture practices like direct seeding of rice

Manila, Philippines (October 16, 2023) – Collaborative action and advancement of direct-seeded rice can be an important solution for food security and climate change challenges facing the world, according to Michael Graham, head of Bayer’s Crop Science Research and Development Breeding Division, in his keynote speech on the first day of the 6th International Rice Congress.

“We are at a pivotal moment in time,” said Dr. Graham. “Rice consumption is increasing across Asia and Africa, while climate change and resource scarcity are putting pressure on our capability to produce enough rice. A revolution in rice production is needed, one based on regenerative agriculture.”

Dr. Graham compared this major change to the Green Revolution in the 1960s. He lauded the accomplishments of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) across its more than 60-year history, crediting the institute not just for its scientific breakthroughs such as the famed IR8 rice variety, but also for designing a robust system of research that paved the way for future agricultural scientists and researchers.

Modern direct seeding of rice is a crop establishment methodology augmented by various technologies, including breeding, water management, mechanization, digital, and other systems. Direct seeding can significantly conserve resources like water and labor and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Dr. Graham shared that, in a Bayer survey of smallholder farmers, 97% said that they experienced an increase in extreme weather conditions, while 4 in 10 were threatened by crop failures. They also said that a key challenge they are facing was the increasing costs of labor, while digital technologies and crop protection were considered as desired interventions.

“Bayer’s work on direct-seeded rice can help shape the future of rice by building a system centered around farmers,” said Dr. Graham. “Leveraging on the concepts of innovation, digital, partnerships, and sustainability, farmer-tailored systems will be supported by our leading portfolio of technologies that include seeds and  traits, digital farming, and crop protection.”

Highlighting the principles of regenerative agriculture, direct-seeded rice can increase productivity through higher-yielding hybrids while water management can reduce GHG emissions by up to 45%. It also lowers labor requirements because it does not involve manual transplanting, while improved soil health through crop rotation also contributes to uplifting farmers’ livelihoods.

Bayer is heavily invested in regenerative agriculture, particularly in direct-seeded rice, as an approach to transforming the rice sector into a sustainable system that can feed the world while conserving the finite resources of the planet. Bayer has already put their direct-seeded initiatives into practice. DirectAcres, their direct-seeded rice program, is gaining momentum in India, with plans to increase usage to over 1 million hectares by 2030. The initiative is also planned to launch in the Philippines in 2024.

Although the early successes of direct-seeded rice are showing promising possibilities, the global problems of ensuring food security need the urgent attention of various stakeholders from scientists to farmers.

"No one organization can address the challenges alone,” Dr. Graham concluded. “Partnership and collaboration will be needed to develop solutions."

Bayer is the Platinum Sponsor of the 6th International Rice Congress.