Knowledge for Development

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On-farm system turns rice plants into biofuel and fodder

Japanese researchers at the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences and National Agricultural Research Organization have successfully developed an efficient on-site ethanol production system with non-sterilized whole rice crop round bales. The solid-state fermentation system produces biofuel and animal feed at the same time without any off-site processing. The technology involves wrapping rice plants grown to feed livestock along with yeast, enzymes and bacteria into a bale covered with a plastic film, and capturing the ethanol produced by the resulting fermentation.  (Biotechnology for Biofuels, 30/01/2015)   Read also SciDev’s commentary.


Beyond NERICA: high-yielding rice varieties adapted to rainfed upland conditions in Benin

Experiments have been conducted in four rainfed upland areas to assess yield differences in 65 rice varieties, including the interspecific hybrids: the upland New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties developed from crossing Oryza sativa L. and O. glaberrima Steud. Upland indica varieties performed well in three out of four environments, showing consistently higher yields than other upland NERICA varieties and their parents. None of the upland NERICA varieties showed consistently higher yields than their parents across the four environments. These and other results suggest that further increases in rice yields in the rainfed uplands of West Africa are most likely to occur through using upland indica varieties as donors. Researchers from the Africa Rice Centre in Benin, the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Science (JIRCAS, Japan) and JICA (Japan) conducted the experiments.   (Tropical Agriculture and Development, 11 /09/2014)


Appraisal of rice production statistics in Uganda

The dire state of agricultural statistical capacity and methodologies in Uganda and other developing countries is highlighted. Doubt is often cast over the accuracy of FAOSTAT, the official statistics on crops, particularly for sub-Sahara Africa. Masao Kikuchi of Chiba University, Japan and JICA expert staff in Uganda, examined recent revisions made in the 'official' rice statistics of Uganda, together with rice-related statistics of the latest Uganda Census of Agriculture. They point out some anomalies in these basic rice statistics (overestimation, large fluctuations) and propose possible revisions (using district data and production average).   (Tropical Agriculture and Development, 11 /09/2014)


Different perspectives on irrigated rice by three large dams in the Sahel

The Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa has compiled this report with recommendations to improve the performance of rice production systems in irrigated areas. The report is based on lessons learned from three case studies analyzing the strategies, aspirations and constraints of different categories of farmers living around the dams at Bagré (Burkina Faso), at Sélingué (Mali) and at Niandouba (Senegal). The report is available only in French.   (B. Guèye, IIED, June 2014)


An innovative sorting technique to sustainable, uniform and effective seedling establishment in nurseries for system of rice intensification

One of the major problems of adapting System of Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques is insufficient technical skills for processing quality seeds to achieve uniform seedling establishment in nurseries and quick seedling recovery in puddled fields. Zubairu Usman Bashar and colleagues of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia created a suitably seed sorting technique leading to vigorous and quality seedlings and reducing seedling transplanting shock. This technique involved sorting rice seeds of the most popular grown variety in Malaysia in NaCl (salt) solutions of different concentration. The sprouting  rate depended on the concentration of NaCl. High concentration of NaCl not only reduces the percentage of viable seeds but also increases seedling preparation cost.   (Journal of Agricultural Science, 15/06/2014)


Iron biofortification of rice using different transgenic approaches

Hiroshi Masuda and colleagues from the Research Institute for Bioresources and Biotechnology in Japan describe seven transgenic approaches, and combinations thereof, that can be used to increase the concentration of iron (Fe) in rice seeds. Approaches examined by the scientists include the enhancement of the Fe storage capacity of grains through expression of the Fe storage protein ferritin, the introduction of the barley genes to enhance Fe uptake and translocation within plants, the enhancement of Fe translocation by overproducing the natural metal chelator nicotianamine. They also examined a number of combinations of the different approaches. All individual or combined approaches have the potential to further increase the Fe concentration of rice seeds.   (The Rice Journal, 19/12/2013)


Rice fortification through soaking’ method

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is testing a new rice fortification technique in Bangladesh to enrich it with the vital nutrient zinc. While zinc fortified fertiliser is available, only 30-40% of farmers use it, and 70-80% of zinc fertiliser is of sub-par quality. In rice’s journey from farm to fork, milling and polishing also removes the zinc from rice. As the most consolidated part of the farm-to-fork process, mills have the greatest potential reach. This is where GAIN is exploring increasing the nutrient density of rice through ‘fortifying at soak’. Fortifying at soak is the process of adding micronutrients to the water rice soaks in at the mill. By adding nutrients to the soaking water the rice absorbs the nutrient directly into the grain avoiding the removal of the nutrients during milling and polishing.   (The Guardian, 18/03/2014)


The system of crop intensification: Agro-ecological innovations to improve agricultural production, food security, and resilience to climate change

This monograph on the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), published by the SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University, USA, is a compilation of extraordinary reports from the field written by the Centre's Norman Uphoff and Erika Striger and their research partners from South Asia and East Africa. SCI, an ensemble of agro-ecological innovations generalised from the precursor System of Rice Intensification (SRI), aims to achieve higher output with less use of or less expenditure on land, labour, capital, and water – all by making modifications in crop management practices. The contributors to this monograph are reporting as initiators or supporters of the changes being introduced, not as researchers studying them, although all have done and continue to do publishable research. By communicating observed outcomes achieved under real-world circumstances as accurately as possible, this information could stimulate the interest of others to undertake more systematic studies and to help establish scientific explanations for promoting the greater utilisation of SCI adaptations. The focal crops of the systems of agricultural intensification described in this monograph include wheat, tef, maize, finger millet, sugarcane, legumes and vegetables.    (SRI-Rice, 01/2014)   


Diversity of global rice markets and the science required for consumer-targeted rice breeding

To understand better the importance of the different traits that make up the quality of the rice grain and obtain a full picture of rice quality demographics, a research team led by Mariafe Calingacion of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has engaged with local experts across the world to perform a full assessment of all major rice quality trait characteristics and importantly, to determine how these are combined in the most preferred varieties for each of their regions. Physical as well as biochemical characteristics have been monitored and this has resulted in the identification of no less than 18 quality trait combinations. This complexity reveals the extent of the specificity of consumer preference. Further assessment of these combinations at the variety level reveals that several groups still comprise varieties which consumers can readily identify as being different. This emphasises the shortcomings in the current tools available to assess rice quality. Only with additional tools and research, will it be possible to define directed strategies for rice breeding which are able to combine important agronomic features with the demands of local consumers for specific quality attributes.    (PLOS ONE, 14/01/2014)  


Direct and reverse pollen-mediated gene flow between GM rice and red rice weed

The potential risks of genetically modified crops must be identified before their commercialisation, as happens with all new technologies. In this context, several studies have reported the transfer of transgenes from transgenic rice to red rice weed. However, gene flow also occurs in the opposite direction, resulting in transgenic seeds that have incorporated the traits of wild red rice. In a new study in AoB PLANTS, Xavier Serrat at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (IRTA), Spain, and colleagues found that this reverse flow was higher than direct gene flow, but that transgenic seeds carrying wild genes remained in the spike of the plant and were thus mostly removed at harvesting. Nevertheless, this phenomenon must be considered in fields used for elite seed production and in developing countries where there is a risk of increasing GM red rice weed infestation. PLANTS, 07/11/2013)


Enhancing iron density and uptake in grain and straw of aerobic rice

Gulab Singh Yaday, ICAR, Tripura, India with colleagues in India carried out a field experiment to study the iron (Fe) density and uptake in aerobic rice in relation to mulching and manual rhizo-foliar iron fertilisation. Results showed that transplanted rice (paddy control) and Sesbania aculeata (a legume) mulch were found to be the best in respect to Fe concentration in grain, straw and yield. However, three foliar sprays of FeSO4 at maximum tillering (emergence of aerial shoots), pre-flowering and flowering gave the higher Fe concentration in grain and straw of aerobic rice. This article offers recommendations on the best practices for mulching and the appropriate iron concentration in fertiliser solutions.   (African Journal of Agricultural Research, 11/2013)


Wild parent spawns super salt-tolerant rice

A cross between two different rice parents – the exotic wild rice species Oryza coarctata and rice variety IR56 of the cultivated rice species O. sativa expels salt into the air through glands on its leaves. IRRI is perfecting the new salt-tolerant rice and will test it widely to ensure it meets all the needs of farmers and consumers. The new variety will be available for farmers to grow within 4–5 years. (IRRI, 15/04/2013)


Rice breeding in the post-genomics era: from concept to practice

This opinion paper explains what capacities China needs in order to realise its molecular breeding strategy and meet the challenges in future rice improvement. The strategy requires tremendous investment in high-throughput genotyping, reliable/precision phenotyping and new genomics/genetic information-based analytic/application breeding tools. (Current Opinion on Plant Biology, 06/04/2013) 


Successful climate change adaptation of rice production through social enterprise

The adaptive capacity to climate change of this agricultural cooperative improved thanks to a flexible management system (learning-by-doing), risk analysis based on future local climate information and better extension capacity. This paper looks at how Green Net, a Thai agro-based social enterprise, works to improve adaptive capacity among its organic and fair trade rice farmer. It highlights the adaptation successes, collaborative adaptation efforts and shares advantages of such enterprises and its lessons learned from its field activities during 2007–2011. (AgriCultures Network, 2013)


Rice breeding in the post-genomics era: from concept to practice

On what capacities China needs in order to realise its molecular breeding strategy and meet the challenges in future rice improvement: high-throughput genotyping, reliable/precision phenotyping and new genomics/genetic information-based analytic/application breeding tools. Opinion on Plant Biology, 06/04/2013)


Successful climate change adaptation of rice production through social enterprise

The adaptive capacity to climate change of this agricultural cooperative improved thanks to a flexible management system (learning-by-doing), risk analysis based on future local climate information and better extension capacity. Journal of Environment and Disaster Management, 2013)


West Africa’s farmer rice varieties can grow without fertilisers

Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and AfricaRice in Benin studied 26 varieties of rice developed and cultivated locally by farmers in five West African countries between 2006 and 2012. Their findings suggest that farmer rice varieties can grow without fertilisers, require no special maintenance and can develop ways of coping with stress. This makes them highly adaptable to a wide range of environments. An additional benefit of the local varieties is that they produce higher and sometimes superior yields to imported varieties., 25/03/2013)


Online GIS platform to provide data on Ghana's agricultural sector

The new online GIS platform aims to provide agricultural related spatial datasets in a user friendly platform and offers data for six commodity value chains: Mango, Citrus, Maize, Rice, Soybean and Cashew. The platform also provides agricultural commodity prices, crop production, agricultural imports and exports figures and Ghana's agricultural budget and in this way the platform pulls together factual data, statistical data and interactive maps. While most data are free, there is a fee for premium datasets.  (FAO AIMS and Ghana Business News, 4/04/2013) 


Experts launch tool for identifying major rice weeds of Africa

A new interactive tool for identifying nearly 200 different weed species of lowland rice in East and West Africa was recently unveiled at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice). The tool is built on a comprehensive knowledge base that can be accessed online ( and offline on laptops and CD-ROMs or as an app on smartphones and tablet computers.


New upland rice variety now available to growers in the highlands of Madagascar

The new rice variety is the fruit of a partnership between FOFIFA (The Island’s national centre for rural development) and CIRAD, and is tailored to the agro-climatic conditions in the region. In particular, it is tolerant of the cold temperatures over 1200 m above sea level. Varietal creation needs to continue, to support this development and broaden the range of available varieties so as to ensure the sustainability of high-altitude upland rice production by taking on board several objectives such as resistance to rice blast fungus, nitrogen uptake efficiency, diversification of grain quality, cold tolerance and adaptation to farming systems developed as part of a conservation agriculture strategy. (CIRAD, 13/06/2012)