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Bayer partners with IRRI for direct-seeded rice in Asia

Rice is gold for the smallholder farmers in Asia. (Image source: M M/Flickr)

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Bayer have signed an agreement confirming Bayer’s participation in the Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC) led by IRRI

The DSR is developing 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, thus enhancing 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.

Direct seeded rice (DSR) has emerged as an efficient and economically viable alternative to PTR as it saves scarce and expensive resources such as labour 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.

Rice is gold for the smallholder farmers in Asia

IRRI has developed a 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. Closer public-private sector collaboration, as well as inputs from the private and NGO sectors, are required to enhance innovation and optimise 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.

“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, mechanisation and digital farming solutions, as well as linking up value chain partners and service providers to the farmers who would have no access otherwise,” said Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, country group head for Southeast Asia of Bayer’s Crop Science division.

“Innovation in technology is essential to nourish the world in a safe, inclusive and sustainable way. 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, will contribute to improved resource management that will benefit rice farmers and the environment. ,” said Dr Remy Bitoun, head of IRRI Tech Transfer.

Genetic materials, seed and drone technologies, in-kind activities

The DSRC platform aims to improve crop management practices to maximise the advantages of direct seeded rice. In addition, the DSRC will publicise 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.

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