Moving forward with technology

 Sophie Clayton   |  
The combine harvester, an iconic image of farming in progressive countries, is now a normal scene in Cambodia. Small combine harvesters were first introduced but,since Cambodia has large rice fields, medium (2-meter cutting width) and large (3-meter cutting width) combine harvesters have become more popular among Khmer farmers. Farmers have also adopted other postharvest technologies, which have improved rice quality and increased harvest milling output, among other benefits.

The combine harvester, an iconic image of farming in progressive countries, is now a normal scene in Cambodia.

In his Grain of Truth article, Buresh explains how farmers can use their phones to ask a series of simple questions concerning their rice paddy. Then, in less than 10 minutes, they will get an automated text reply recommending what amounts, sources, and timings of fertilizer are needed to maximize their paddy rice production.

In Cambodia, farmers are also keeping up with the advances in technology by adopting mechanical harvesters and dryers, among other postharvest technologies. In this issue, we learn how the technologies are spreading and being embraced by Cambodian rice farmers to reduce labor, save money and time, and improve the quantity and quality of grain available at the end of the day.

Rice Today also delves deeper into the controversial topic of “land grabs” for rice production, exploring the potential benefits and downsides to this approach to increase global rice production.

Sophie Clayton is the public relations manager at IRRI.

Sophie Clayton is the public relations manager at IRRI.

To note, land grabs will be one of the themes at the 3rd International Rice Congress 2010 (IRC2010), which will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 8 to 12 November 2010. IRC2010 is the world’s largest gathering of rice scientists, researchers, and technology experts and it is expected to attract thousands of international delegates. IRC2010 follows the Africa Rice Congress 2010, held in Mali in March this year. Rice Today reports on this Congress and its recommendations to boost Africa’s rice sector, including a Marshall Plan for capacity building.

Apart from being a significant year for IRRI—as it marks the Institute’s 50th anniversary—2010 is also the International Year of Biodiversity. Rice Today explores the challenges farmers face in finding the perfect biodiversity balance in their paddies to minimize losses due to pests and weeds, reduce labor, supply additional food sources, and deliver ecosystem services such as nectar for bees.

Just keeping up production in the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) region of South America responsible for 85% of the continent’s rice production is a challenge this season, with adverse weather conditions causing production to drop an average of 8% since last season. The weather is also upsetting North American rice production, where rains in California are predicted to reduce the crop there.

Despite changes in rice production, “In the last few months, global rice prices have fallen by more than 25%,” according to Dr. Sam Mohanty. In his Rice Today article, Mohanty provides some insights into the market and the ongoing need to boost rice yields by 1.2–1.5% every year to ensure food security in Asia.

To help understand changes in rice production, IRRI’s mapping team, led by Dr. Andrew Nelson, has published a map showing the different rice systems in South Asia. The team compared maps from different years to identify new rice production areas and places where rice has been replaced by other land uses.

And, as a final farewell, this issue’s Pioneer Interview features Dr. Michael Jackson, who recently retired from IRRI after 19 years. He joined IRRI in 1991 to lead the International Rice Genebank, where he applied scientific best practice and harnessed the skills of the staff to build the Genebank into one of the world’s best. He then applied his “systematic way of doing business” when he became the director for Program Planning and Coordination in 2001 to improve project and contract management, and also donor relations. We know his influence will last beyond his 19 years. Thanks, Mike!


Sophie Clayton
Public relations manager

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