Monday, April 15, 2019

15th April,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Hybrid rice seeds yielding hope

By Ma Zhiping in Haikou | Updated: 2019-04-15 09:55
Experts from around the world drawn to Hainan to learn about agricultural sustainability
Description: from Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Co show local farmers in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, the capital Nepal, how to use smart paddy transplanters in June 2017. [Provided to China Daily]

Under the scorching sun, fields displaying 31 major hybrid rice varieties grown in Belt and Road countries attracted more than 700 rice experts and businesspeople on Friday to the golden paddy-themed national park in Sanya, Hainan province.
They had gathered on the tropical island in South China to attend the four-day International Rice Forum, which ended on Saturday.
Sushil Raj Subedi, an official with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, was excited to see that Keyou 18, a hybrid rice variety developed by Chinese scientists in Nepal, is growing well in Sanya, known as China's "Silicon Valley of seeds".
At the Super Rice Research Base of Yuan Longping, who is known as China's father of hybrid rice, Subedi felt the heavy golden rice ears and bent his knees so he could touch the roots. Standing up with a big, admiring smile, he said, "It is good."
Madhav Prasad Pandey, a professor of genetics and plant breeding at Nepal Agriculture and Forestry University, was impressed by the integration of agriculture and tourism at the 186-hectare national park, where a total of 500 rice varieties are demonstrated. "It is a smart idea to build such a grand national park, a live rice museum, to showcase the rich varieties of rice and pass on the technological culture of rice growing," he said.
Hybrid rice, which is produced by crossbreeding different kinds of rice, was developed by Chinese scientists led by Yuan in 1974. Two years later, China began the widespread growing of hybrid rice, also known as super rice.
With current acreage amounting to 16 million hectares, or about 53 percent of China's rice acreage, and rice output having grown from 6 metric tons per hectare in the 1970s to 15 metric tons now, hybrid rice is known as the "fifth invention in the world". The new variety has made solid contributions to helping feed Chinese - which account for 21 percent of the global population - with only 7 percent of the world's arable land.
Hybrid rice was first introduced overseas to the United States in 1979. The crop is now grown in more than 30 countries and regions, with the total acreage surpassing 7 million hectares, according to reports from the international rice forum.
Tu Shengbin, an expert on hybrid rice with the Chengdu Biology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, still remembers the hardships of the early days after arriving in Lumbini in southern Nepal - electricity shortages and the terror caused by black leeches covering his shirt, pants and socks during field instruction and training.
"The local farmers turned a blind eye to us when we first arrived in Nepal in 2001. But Chinese experts and technicians are now the most respectable guests among local people, since growing hybrid rice has helped improve their lives remarkably," said Tu. The local rice yield was only between 2.5 and 3.5 metric tons per hectare, but the new rice varieties pushed the output to 7.2 tons per hectare by 2014, he added.
Bimala Shrestha, a farmer in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, said, "I don't know how to express my joyful feeling." She has grown rice for about 20 years but had to change the seeds every year for a higher yield. Income from rice growing was tripled once she began growing hybrid rice in 2017, with support from Chinese technicians under the China-Nepal Agriculture Technical Cooperation Project.
With good stress resistance, and higher and more stable yields, hybrid rice seeds developed by centers in southern China have been warmly welcomed in Southeast Asian and South Asian countries, said Xie Zhenyu, an assistant research fellow at the Research
Institute of Tropical Crop Germ Plasm of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Xie said the Philippines turned out to be a prime location for experiments with new hybrid rice seeds. Within a decade, Chinese and Philippine scientists have worked together to cultivate 15 new varieties of hybrid rice.
Hybrid rice varieties are grown on more than 10 percent of the Philippines' arable land, which boosted the country's output of rice by 2.4 million metric tons a year, according to Philippine government statistics. The increase helped feed 15 million people, or 14 percent of the country's population, supposing that per capita annual rice consumption is 160 kilograms.
A farmer named Delima, who has grown hybrid rice in the southern Philippines for more than 10 years, said, "Seeing per hectare yield being increased from 8 tons to 11 tons, more of my villagers have been convinced of the 'magic technology' of Chinese scientists and turned to growing hybrid rice."
Tu, the hybrid rice expert at the Chengdu Biology Research Institute, said, "We give the local people 'fish' and teach them how to 'fish' as well."
Tu travels more than 100 days each year, staying for research in Sanya for part of each winter and moving between countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations the rest of the time. He said more than 2,000 Chinese rice scientists from around the country, especially those from Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, are likewise devoting themselves to promoting hybrid rice among overseas farmers - showing them how to grow hybrid rice, how to produce hybrid seeds and how to process the grains.
Hainan's tropical climate and rich biological resources have made it an important national center for seed propagation. Each winter, more than 7,000 domestic agricultural scientists and workers are busy at the off-season breeding centers. Statistics from the Hainan provincial off-season breeding administration show that 19,950 crop varieties, or about 70 percent of the country's new crop varieties, have been cultivated in the past 70 years in the tropical island province, which is building a global animal and plant resources center as part of its free trade zone development plan.
Wang Sheng, an official with the Hainan provincial government, said arrangements have also been made to invite experts and students from countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to China. Since 2015, more than 2,000 foreign experts and students from BRI countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have visited Hainan to study agricultural technology, including off-season breeding programs.
Men Pvnlork, a student from the Cambodian Royal Agriculture University who attended a recent 20-day training course in Hainan for more than 20 students from Cambodia, said: "We learned a lot from professors from the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agriculture Sciences. For instance, the skills and knowledge of insect prevention and tropical plant tissue culture will be very helpful to our research back at home."
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists are thinking big. "To ensure sustainable development of agriculture in the world, more efforts will be made to cope with local conditions in hybrid rice research and development to help the crop 'go global' faster," said Xie Fangming, vice-president of Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Co Ltd. Xie, the first of Yuan Longping's students to earn a master's degree, has been heading the company's overseas research and development of hybrid rice.
To promote the crop worldwide, Xie has shared the materials needed for development of hybrid rice free of charge with global rice scientists.
At the international rice forum in Sanya, a coastal resort city at the southern tip of Hainan island, Kenneth Quinn, chairman of the World Food Prize Organization, emphasized the importance of food production, saying that "agriculture plays a significant role in promoting world peace and development".
Chantha Thippavo Ngphanh, the vice-minister of agriculture and forestry of Laos, said Laos has rich land resources and hopes for closer cooperation with Chinese research institutions to get more advanced hybrid rice skills to increase paddy yield.

‘PHL must shoot for 95% rice sufficiency’

Description: farmer in Barangay San Mateo in Arayat, Pampanga, is plowing his rice field in preparation for the second cropping season. Arayat’s fertile land allows farmers to plant and harvest rice thrice a year. Former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the government must target 95-percent rice self-sufficiency in view of the threat of climate change to food production.
The Philippines should target a 95-percent rice self-sufficiency rate to ensure that it will have adequate supply of the staple and allow a “viable supply space” for cheap imports under the new trade regime, a former agriculture chief said.
Former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the government should not be contented with a 93-percent rice self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) as climate change is threatening the country’s farm productivity.
“Should we maintain that level and be complacent? No. We need that level to be better and improve the productivity of farmers and even reach 95 percent because of climate change,” Dar said in his speech during the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines-San Miguel Corp. seminar held in Baguio City on Saturday.
Dar said the country’s rice supply would be more stable at 95-percent SSR as it would have to source only 5 percent from the world market.
At present the Philippines purchases about 6 to 7 percent of its rice requirements from other countries. This is equivalent to 2 million metric tons to 2.5 MMT, according to Dar.
He also said it is time for the government to abandon its goal of attaining 100 percent rice SSR as it is “an unachievable and ambitious target.”
Dar said previous administrations have tried to achieve the feat “at all costs,” which have resulted in higher rice prices at times due to the high cost of  producing paddy.
The former agriculture chief, who is also president of nongovernment organization InangLupa Movement Inc., said the 95-percent rice SSR can be achieved in the remaining three years of the Duterte administration. He said this will be made possible by the P10-billion fund for the rice sector under the new rice trade liberalization law.
“Sustaining rice productivity while liberalizing the industry to allow more imports to have lower inflation is possible. They can go together,” he added.
Due to the expected influx of rice imports under the new trade regime, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will no longer pursue its 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol argued that the increase in imported rice supply will “depress” farm-gate prices and discourage farmers from planting the staple.
“It would be foolish for us to still target the 100-percent [self-sufficiency rate]. It will be foolish to continue encouraging our farmers to reach that goal when we know that cheap imported rice will be coming in,” Piñol said.
“We might just be contented with where we are right now, which is at 93 percent. The inflow of imported rice may affect prices and further dampen the buying price of palay,” he added.
The DA is targeting to produce 20 MMT this year, nearly 5 percent higher than the 19.06 MMT produced in 2018.

Customs beg FG to end import duty waiver


Description: Customs beg FG to end import duty waiver
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has asked the Federal Government to discontinue the import duty waiver scheme as it is taking a toll on its revenue collection.
Speaking at a forum in Lagos last week, Assistant Comptroller General of Customs in charge of Zone A, Kaycee Ekekeie, said the Federal Government was losing trillions of naira on a yearly basis to the granting of import duty waivers to companies and non-governmental organizations.
Some of the early beneficiaries of waivers and concession include Dangote Industries Limited, Vasmani, Stallion and other rice importers; the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Messrs Western Metal Product Co. Limited, International Hotels, Mandarin Hotels, Le Meridian, Grand Ikoyi Towers and Resort and Federal Palace Hotels.
Others are members of the diplomatic corps and companies fronting for top government functionaries, among others.
Ekekesie noted that while Nigeria is an import dependent economy, there could be other incentives for importers but not outright waivers, which have over the years been subjected to abuse.
She said, “We are always sad with the huge amount of money that goes into waivers every year. It runs into trillions and we are very sad about it. Nigeria is an import-based economy and all these waivers that are being granted are affecting our revenue. So we in Customs will be very glad if all these waivers could stop. There could be other incentives for investors but not outright waivers.
“Customs cannot stop waivers, we are an implementing agency but we can advise government where it is hurting us and the economy and we do that all the time.”
The Customs boss added that the NCS would work with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to end issuance of waiver to foreign flagged vessels stating that any ship that does not fly the Nigerian flag would not be allowed to operate on the nation’s coastal water.
Ekekeie, who lauded the Federal Government’s diversification drive, said Nigeria must continue to focus on growing its local content to boost the economy.
“I wish we will be thinking home in all aspects of our economy. We have started with agriculture, and we are praying that we get it right so that the smuggling of rice will stop. 
“So when we start thinking home, we will generate employment, and then we have something we call our own other than looking outside and borrowing technology here and there. We have people who are very capable in the country and we have all it takes to make it work,” she said.

German govt budgets 2m Euros for rice production in Nigeria

Description: Rice mill

As part of the efforts to boost rice production in Nigeria the German Ministry of Cooperation has pledged 3 million Euros to fund the implementation of the second phase of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) project.
,The states are Kebbi, Kadunna and Jigawa
The first phase of the project ended in 2015.
The project aims to achieve its objective through the use of the Multi-Action Partnership (MAP), a concept that allows for harmonization of regional initiative and polices while enforcing coordination among other actors in the rice value chain in different countries .
The Programme Director of the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) a programme of the of the German Cooperation in Nigeria, Jean-Bernard Lalanne, said the funding which is in collaboration with the German Ministry Cooperation and part from the Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), is expected to end by June 2021.
Lalanne stressed that CARI is working on business linkages in the rice sector, to ensure that the producers are well connected with the market, processors, rice miller, aggravators, input dealers
He added that the Multi-Action Partnership (MAP) is important in finding synergies between various sectors, which can help in achieving a better result in the rice sector. “And that is while the MAP4Africe has introduced a platform for sub-Saharan countries working on the transformation of the rice sector.
Speaking with stakeholders present at the event the North Central Agro input Dealer Association President, Mr. Adekunle Raufu Lawal said that the involvement of his association in the project for the past 5 years has helped to reduce the importation and smuggling of rice into the country.
According to him, various strategies have been adopted to address low sales and production of rice across the country.
Lawal noted that four countries have participated in the projects namely Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria inclusive.
This, he said created business deliberations and solutions to various problems facing rice in the various countries.
He added that the solution to low production of rice in Nigeria is for the government to increase import duty on rice by 70 per cent saying it will discourage importers.

Budget veto impact on rice competitiveness fund studied

Description: psa rice farmer
AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said Sunday that the possible reenactment of the 2018 budget for the entire year could affect disbursements from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
“I still have to determine its implications on the RCEF,” Mr. Piñol told BusinessWorld in a phone message.
The RCEF is a component of Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, and is funded by tariffs generated by rice imports. The fund hopes to make the domestic rice industry more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seed, and more financing and extension services, among other measures.
Senator Loren B. Legarda has confirmed that RCEF has been allocated P10 bill in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill, which is currently under study for signing by the Palace.
The Budget is under threat of Presidential veto because of questions about the legality of alleged “insertions” made by legislators after the Budget was ratified by the bicam conference committee.
When asked about the RCEF, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan said “RCEF…is over and above to whatever budget we have on rice.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Rice millers’ lament

•Time to get tough with our neighbours over smuggling

WE are not surprised at the finding by the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) that over 20 million bags of rice (approximately one million metric tonnes) were smuggled into Nigeria between January and March. According to RIPAN chairman, Mohammed Abubakar, investigations conducted by the association in the last few months indicated that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers’ route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to this menace. Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access. More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them”, he told newsmen in an interview in Abuja, last week.
He did not spare officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) at the borders, some of whom he accused of colluding with smugglers to undermine the nation’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production, warning that the magnitude of loss to stakeholders would be too devastating to cope with.
“The development, if left unchecked, could impact negatively on the integrated rice processor’s capacity, which had increased from 800,000 metric tonnes in 2014 to 1.6 million metric tonnes in 2018″, he said.
We sympathise with the millers’ body. Indeed, the threat from smuggling, given their exposure to other players in the rice value chain, borders on an existential one. The issue, however isn’t that the problem of smuggling, particularly of rice, is a recent phenomenon but the failure of the Federal Government to recognise it for what it is – a serious act of economic sabotage – and confront it accordingly. Surely, the Federal Government has a surfeit of intelligence to  stamp it out. For instance, only last December, Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture had cause to decry the abuse of the Economic Community of West African States protocol allowing neighbouring countries to bring in rice into Nigeria.
According to Lokpobiri, “people from Thailand would go to Benin Republic with their parboiled rice and then re-bag them as though they were produced in Benin Republic and then smuggle them into Nigeria, thereby denying the people of Benin the opportunity to grow rice and then benefit from the Nigerian market”.
Earlier in 2018, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, acting on intelligence on three shiploads of 120,000 metric tons of Thailand rice headed for Nigeria via Benin Republic could not but raise the alarm. The preceding Christmas, he spoke of some 500,000 metric tons of rice also denied entrance from the same country.
Unfortunately, as if part of an incipient culture of denial, the Federal Government continues to tout the decline in import of Thai rice from 644,131 metric tonnes in 2015, to 58,260 metric tonnes in 2016, and 23,192 metric tonnes in 2017 as achievement while pretending to be oblivious of the corresponding figures from our other neighbours. For instance, rice imports from  Benin Republic rose geometrically from 805,765 metric tonnes in 2015, to 1,427,098 metric tonnes in 2016, and 1,811,164 metric tonnes in 2017.  Cameroun also witnessed a surge in Thai rice imports from 449,297 metric tonnes in 2015, to 505,254 metric tonnes in 2016 to 744,508 metric tonnes in 2017. In the circumstance, only the Federal Government still lives under the illusion that those dramatic surges in imports are headed anywhere other than Nigeria – sadly for an administration that has acquired a reputation for aggressively pushing for self-sufficiency in the nation’s major staples which the illegal trade directly undermines.
We  agree with RIPAN that the time to tackle the menace of rice smuggling is now; just as we shudder to think of the grave risk of the failure to act on the initiatives and the linkages that they have spawned in the rice value chain. While we agree that the customs management can do more to curb corruption and indolence in the ranks of its men, the nature of the problem is such that require engagement between the Nigerian government and our ECOWAS neighbours. For far too long, our ECOWAS neighbours have taken advantage of our good neighbourliness to undermine our economy; the rice issue obviously provides one avenue for the Federal Government to demonstrate, for once, a clear resolve to defend our national interest.

This Is How Human Extinction Could Play Out

April 14, 2019 

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Food-system collapse, sea-level rise, disease. In his new book Falter, Bill McKibben asks, “Is it Too Late?” –
Description: The Drought of 2012
The stubs of corn stalks that were chopped down because heat and lack of rain ruined the crop, litter a field in Nebraska. 2012 saw the highest recorded temperatures in American history. Over the summer most of the mid-west experienced a tremendous drought, where hot weather and the lack of rain destroyed crops and grazing land. In the high plains of Western Nebraska’s cattle lands, this created ideal conditions for wild fires, which spread across the land sparked by single bolts of lightning: Andrew Lichtenstein-Corbis via Getty Images
Excerpted from FALTER: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben. Published by Henry Holt and Company April 16th 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Bill McKibben. All rights reserved.
By Bill McKibben –
Oh, it could get very bad.
In 2015, a study in the Journal of Mathematical Biology pointed out that if the world’s oceans kept warming, by 2100 they might become hot enough to “stop oxygen production by phyto-plankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.” Given that two-thirds of the Earth’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton, that would “likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.”
A year later, above the Arctic Circle, in Siberia, a heat wave thawed a reindeer carcass that had been trapped in the permafrost. The exposed body released anthrax into nearby water and soil, infecting two thousand reindeer grazing nearby, and they in turn infected some humans; a twelve-year-old boy died. As it turns out, permafrost is a “very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark” — scientists have managed to revive an eight-million-year-old bacterium they found beneath the surface of a glacier. Researchers believe there are fragments of the Spanish flu virus, smallpox, and bubonic plague buried in Siberia and Alaska.
Or consider this: as ice sheets melt, they take weight off land, and that can trigger earthquakes — seismic activity is already increasing in Greenland and Alaska. Meanwhile, the added weight of the new seawater starts to bend the Earth’s crust. “That will give you a massive increase in volcanic activity. It’ll activate faults to create earthquakes, submarine landslides, tsunamis, the whole lot,” explained the director of University College London’s Hazard Centre. Such a landslide happened in Scandinavia about eight thousand years ago, as the last Ice Age retreated and a Kentucky-size section of Norway’s continental shelf gave way, “plummeting down to the abyssal plain and creating a series of titanic waves that roared forth with a vengeance,” wiping all signs of life from coastal Norway to Greenland and “drowning the Wales-sized landmass that once connected Britain to the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.” When the waves hit the Shetlands, they were sixty-five feet high.
There’s even this: if we keep raising carbon dioxide levels, we may not be able to think straight anymore. At a thousand parts per million (which is within the realm of possibility for 2100), human cognitive ability falls 21 percent. “The largest effects were seen for Crisis Response, Information Usage, and Strategy,” a Harvard study reported, which is too bad, as those skills are what we seem to need most.
I could, in other words, do my best to scare you silly. I’m not opposed on principle — changing something as fundamental as the composition of the atmosphere, and hence the heat balance of the planet, is certain to trigger all manner of horror, and we shouldn’t shy away from it. The dramatic uncertainty that lies ahead may be the most frightening development of all; the physical world is going from backdrop to foreground. (It’s like the contrast between politics in the old days, when you could forget about Washington for weeks at a time, and politics in the Trump era, when the president is always jumping out from behind a tree to yell at you.)
But let’s try to occupy ourselves with the most likely scenarios, because they are more than disturbing enough. Long before we get to tidal waves or smallpox, long before we choke to death or stop thinking clearly, we will need to concentrate on the most mundane and basic facts: everyone needs to eat every day, and an awful lot of us live near the ocean.
FOOD SUPPLY first. We’ve had an amazing run since the end of World War II, with crop yields growing fast enough to keep ahead of a fast-rising population. It’s come at great human cost — displaced peasant farmers fill many of the planet’s vast slums — but in terms of sheer volume, the Green Revolution’s fertilizers, pesticides, and machinery managed to push output sharply upward. That climb, however, now seems to be running into the brute facts of heat and drought. There are studies to demonstrate the dire effects of warming on coffee, cacao, chickpeas, and champagne, but it is cereals that we really need to worry about, given that they supply most of the planet’s calories: corn, wheat, and rice all evolved as crops in the climate of the last ten thousand years, and though plant breeders can change them, there are limits to those changes. You can move a person from Hanoi to Edmonton, and she might decide to open a Vietnamese restaurant. But if you move a rice plant, it will die.
A 2017 study in Australia, home to some of the world’s highest-tech farming, found that “wheat productivity has flatlined as a direct result of climate change.” After tripling between 1900 and 1990, wheat yields had stagnated since, as temperatures increased a degree and rainfall declined by nearly a third. “The chance of that just being variable climate without the underlying factor [of climate change] is less than one in a hundred billion,” the researchers said, and it meant that despite all the expensive new technology farmers kept introducing, “they have succeeded only in standing still, not in moving forward.” Assuming the same trends continued, yields would actually start to decline inside of two decades, they reported. In June 2018, researchers found that a two-degree Celsius rise in temperature — which, recall, is what the Paris accords are now aiming for — could cut U.S. corn yields by 18 percent. A four-degree increase — which is where our current trajectory will take us — would cut the crop almost in half. The United States is the world’s largest producer of corn, which in turn is the planet’s most widely grown crop.
Corn is vulnerable because even a week of high temperatures at the key moment can keep it from fertilizing. (“You only get one chance to pollinate a quadrillion kernels of corn,” the head of a commodity consulting firm explained.) But even the hardiest crops are susceptible. Sorghum, for instance, which is a staple for half a billion humans, is particularly hardy in dry conditions because it has big, fibrous roots that reach far down into the earth. Even it has limits, though, and they are being reached. Thirty years of data from the American Midwest show that heat waves affect the “vapor pressure deficit,” the difference between the water vapor in the sorghum leaf’s interior and that in the surrounding air. Hotter weather means the sorghum releases more moisture into the atmosphere. Warm the planet’s temperature by two degrees Celsius — which is, again, now the world’s goal — and sorghum yields drop 17 percent. Warm it five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit), and yields drop almost 60 percent.
It’s hard to imagine a topic duller than sorghum yields. It’s the precise opposite of clickbait. But people have to eat; in the human game, the single most important question is probably “What’s for dinner?” And when the answer is “Not much,” things deteriorate fast. In 2010 a severe heat wave hit Russia, and it wrecked the grain harvest, which led the Kremlin to ban exports. The global price of wheat spiked, and that helped trigger the Arab Spring — Egypt at the time was the largest wheat importer on the planet. That experience set academics and insurers to work gaming out what the next food shock might look like. In 2017 one team imagined a vigorous El Niño, with the attendant floods and droughts — for a season, in their scenario, corn and soy yields declined by 10 percent, and wheat and rice by 7 percent. The result was chaos: “quadrupled commodity prices, civil unrest, significant negative humanitarian consequences . . . Food riots break out in urban areas across the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America. The euro weakens and the main European stock markets lose ten percent.”
At about the same time, a team of British researchers released a study demonstrating that even if you can grow plenty of food, the transportation system that distributes it runs through just fourteen major choke-points, and those are vulnerable to — you guessed it — massive disruption from climate change. For instance, U.S. rivers and canals carry a third of the world’s corn and soy, and they’ve been frequently shut down or crimped by flooding and drought in recent years. Brazil accounts for 17 percent of the world’s grain exports, but heavy rainfall in 2017 stranded three thousand trucks. “It’s the glide path to a perfect storm,” said one of the report’s authors.
Five weeks after that, another report raised an even deeper question. What if you can figure out how to grow plenty of food, and you can figure out how to guarantee its distribution, but the food itself has lost much of its value? The paper, in the journal Environmental Research, said that rising carbon dioxide levels, by speeding plant growth, seem to have reduced the amount of protein in basic staple crops, a finding so startling that, for many years, agronomists had overlooked hints that it was happening. But it seems to be true: when researchers grow grain at the carbon dioxide levels we expect for later this century, they find that minerals such as calcium and iron drop by 8 percent, and protein by about the same amount. In the developing world, where people rely on plants for their protein, that means huge reductions in nutrition: India alone could lose 5 percent of the protein in its total diet, putting 53 million people at new risk for protein deficiency. The loss of zinc, essential for maternal and infant health, could endanger 138 million people around the world. In 2018, rice researchers found “significantly less protein” when they grew eighteen varieties of rice in high–carbon dioxide test plots. “The idea that food became less nutritious was a surprise,” said one researcher. “It’s not intuitive. But I think we should continue to expect surprises. We are completely altering the biophysical conditions that underpin our food system.” And not just ours. People don’t depend on goldenrod, for instance, but bees do. When scientists looked at samples of goldenrod in the Smithsonian that dated back to 1842, they found that the protein content of its pollen had “declined by a third since the industrial revolution — and the change closely tracks with the rise in carbon dioxide.”
Bees help crops, obviously, so that’s scary news. But in August 2018, a massive new study found something just as frightening: crop pests were thriving in the new heat. “It gets better and better for them,” said one University of Colorado researcher. Even if we hit the UN target of limiting temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, pests should cut wheat yields by 46 percent, corn by 31 percent, and rice by 19 percent. “Warmer temperatures accelerate the metabolism of insect pests like aphids and corn borers at a predictable rate,” the researchers found. “That makes them hungrier[,] and warmer temperatures also speed up their reproduction.” Even fossilized plants from fifty million years ago make the point: “Plant damage from insects correlated with rising and falling temperatures, reaching a maximum during the warmest periods.”
JUST AS PEOPLE have gotten used to eating a certain amount of food every day, they’ve gotten used to living in particular places. For obvious reasons, many of these places are right by the ocean: estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, are among the richest ecosystems on Earth, and water makes for easy trade. From the earliest cities (Athens, Corinth, Rhodes) to the biggest modern metropolises (Shanghai, New York, Mumbai), proximity to saltwater meant wealth and power. And now it means exquisite, likely fatal, vulnerability.
Throughout the Holocene (the ten-thousand-year period that began as the last ice age ceased, the stretch that encompasses all recorded human history), the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere stayed stable, and therefore so did the sea level, and hence it took a while for people to worry about sea level rise. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in 2003 that sea level should rise a mere half meter by the end of the twenty-first century, most of that coming because warm water takes up more space than cold, and while a half meter would be enough to cause expense and trouble, it wouldn’t really interfere with settlement patterns. But even as the IPCC scientists made that estimate, they cautioned that it didn’t take into account the possible melt of the great ice sheets over Greenland and Antarctica. And pretty much everything we’ve learned in the years since makes scientists think that those ice sheets are horribly vulnerable.
Paleoclimatologists, for instance, have discovered that in the distant past, sea levels often rose and fell with breathtaking speed. Fourteen thousand years ago, as the Ice Age began to loosen its grip, huge amounts of ice thawed in what researchers call meltwater pulse 1A, raising the sea level by sixty feet. Thirteen feet of that may have come in a single century. Another team found that millions of years ago, during the Pliocene, with carbon dioxide levels about where they are now, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet seems to have collapsed in as little as a hundred years. “The latest field data out of West Antarctica is kind of an OMG thing,” a federal official said in 2016 — and that was before the really epochal news in the early summer of 2018, when eighty-four researchers from forty-four institutions pooled their data and concluded that the frozen continent had lost three trillion tons of ice in the last three decades, with the rate of melt tripling since 2012. As a result, scientists are now revising their estimates steadily upward. Not half a meter of sea level rise, but a meter. Or two meters. “Several meters in the next fifty to 150 years,” said James Hansen, the planet’s premier climatologist, who added that such a rise would make coastal cities “practically ungovernable.” As Jeff Goodell (who in 2017 wrote the most comprehensive book to date on sea level rise) put it, such a rise would “create generations of climate refugees that will make today’s Syrian war refugee crisis look like a high school drama production.”
What’s really breathtaking is how ill-prepared we are for such changes. Goodell spent months reporting in Miami Beach, which was literally built on sand dredged up from the bottom of Biscayne Bay. He managed to track down Florida’s biggest developer, Jorge Pérez, at a museum opening. Pérez was not, he insisted, worried about the rising sea because “I believe that in twenty or thirty years, someone is going to find a solution for this. If it is a problem for Miami, it will also be a problem for New York and Boston — so where are people going to go?” (He added, with Trump-level narcissism, “Besides, by that time I’ll be dead, so what does it matter?”) To the extent that we’re planning at all, it’s for the old, low predictions of a meter or less. Venice, for instance, is spending $6 billion on a series of inflatable booms to hold back storm tides. But they’re designed to stop sea level rise of about a foot. New York City is building a “U-Barrier,” a berm to protect Lower Manhattan from inundation in a storm the size of Hurricane Sandy. But as the sea level rises, winds like Sandy’s will drive far more water into Manhattan, so why not build it higher? “Because the cost goes up exponentially,” said the architect. The cost is already starting to mount. Researchers showed in 2018 that Florida homes near the flood lines were selling at a 7 percent discount, a figure growing over time because “sophisticated buyers” know what is coming. Insurance companies are balking: basements from “New York to Mumbai” may be uninsurable by 2020, the CEO of one of Europe’s largest insurers said in 2018.
SOME OF the cost of climate change can be measured in units we’re used to dealing with. Testimony submitted by climate scientists to a federal court in 2017, for instance, said that if we don’t take much stronger action now, future citizens would have to pay $535 trillion to cope with global warming. How is that possible? Take one small county in Florida, which needs to raise 150 miles of road to prevent flooding from even minimal sea level rise. That costs $7 million a mile, putting the price tag at over $1 billion, in a county that has an annual road budget of $25 million. Or consider the numbers from Alaska, where officials are preparing to move one coastal village with four hundred residents that’s threatened by rising waters at a cost of up to $400 million — $1 million a person. Multiply this by everyone everywhere, and you understand why the costs run so high. A team of economists predicted a 12 percent risk that global warming could reduce global economic output by 50 percent by 2100 — that is to say, there’s a one-in-eight chance of something eight times as bad as the Great Recession.
But some things can’t be measured, and the damage there seems even greater. For instance, the median estimate, from the International Organization for Migration, is that we may see two hundred million climate refugees by 2050. (The high estimate is a billion.) Already “the likelihood of being uprooted from one’s home has increased sixty percent compared with forty years ago.” The U.S. military frets about that because masses of people on the march destabilize entire regions. “Security will start to crumble pretty quickly,” said Adm. Samuel Locklear, former chief of U.S. Pacific Command, explaining why climate change was his single greatest worry.
The biggest worry for people losing their homes is . . . losing their homes. So, let me tell you about a trip I took last summer, to the ice shelf of Greenland. I was with a pair of veteran ice scientists and two young poets — a woman named Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and another named Aka Niviana, who was born on this largest of all the Earth’s islands, a massive sheet of ice that, when it melts, will raise the level of the oceans more than twenty feet.
And it is melting. We landed at the World War II–era airstrip in Narsarsuaq and proceeded by boat through the iceberg-clogged Tunulliarfik Fjord, arriving eventually at the foot of the Qaterlait Glacier. We hauled gear up the sloping, icy ramp of the glacier and made camp on an outcrop of red granite bedrock nearly a kilometer inland. In fact, we made camp twice, because the afternoon sun swelled the stream we’d chosen for a site, and soon the tents were inundated. But after dinner, in the late Arctic sunlight, the two women donned the traditional dress of their respective homelands and hiked farther up the glacier, till they could see both the ocean and the high ice. And there they performed a poem they’d composed, a cry from angry and engaged hearts about the overwhelming fact of their lives.
The ice of Niviana’s homeland was disappearing, and with it a way of life. While we were on the ice sheet, researchers reported that “the oldest and thickest sea ice” in the Arctic had melted, “opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen even in summer.” Just up the coast from our camp, a landslide triggered by melting ice had recently set off a hundred-foot tsunami that killed four people in a remote village: it was, said scientists, precisely the kind of event that will “become more frequent as the climate warms.”
The effect, however, is likely to be even more immediate on Jetnil-Kijiner’s home. The Marshalls are a meter or two above sea level, and already the “king tides” wash through living rooms and unearth grave- yards. The breadfruit trees and the banana palms are wilting as saltwater intrudes on the small lens of fresh water that has supported life on the atolls for millennia. Jetnil-Kijiner was literally standing on the ice that, as it melts, will drown her home, leaving her and her countrymen with, as she put it, “only a passport to call home.”
So, you can understand the quiet rage that flowed through the poem the two women had written, a poem they now shouted into a chill wind on this glacier that owed up to the great ice sheet, silhouetted against the hemisphere’s starkest landscape. It was a fury that came from a long and bitter history: the Marshalls were the site of the atom bomb tests after the war, and Bikini Atoll remains uninhabitable, just as the United States left nuclear waste lying around the ice when it abandoned the thirty bases it had built in Greenland.
The very same beasts
That now decide
Who should live
And who should die . . .
We demand that the world see beyond
SUVs, ACs, their pre-packaged convenience
Their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief
That tomorrow will never happen
But, of course, climate change is different, the first crisis that, though it affects the most vulnerable first and hardest, will eventually come for us all.
Let me bring my home to yours
Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
Shanghai, Amsterdam, London
Rio de Janeiro and Osaka
Try to breathe underwater . . .
None of us is immune.
Science can tell us a good deal about this crisis. Jason Box, an American glaciologist who organized the trip, has spent the last twenty-five years journeying to Greenland. “We called this place where we are now the Eagle Glacier because of its shape when we first came here five years ago,” Box said. “But now the head and the wings of the bird have melted away. I don’t know what we should call it now, but the eagle is dead.” He busied himself replacing the batteries in his remote weather stations, scattered across the ice. They tell one story, but his colleague Alun Hubbard, a Welsh scientist, conceded that there were limits to what instruments could explain. “It’s just gobsmacking looking at the trauma of the landscape,” he said. “I just couldn’t register the scale of how the ice sheet had changed in my head.”
But artists can register scale. They can transpose the fact of melting ice to inundated homes and bewildered lives, gauge it against long history and lost future. Science and economics have no real way to value the fact that people have lived for millennia in a certain rhythm, have eaten the food and sung the songs of certain places that are now disappearing. This is a cost only art can measure, and it makes sense that the units of that measurement are sadness and fury — and also, remarkably, hope. The women’s poem, shouted into the chill wind, ended like this:
Life in all forms demands
The same respect we all give to money . . .
So each and every one of us
Has to decide
If we
And so, we must — in fact, this book will end with a description of what that rising might look like. But if, as now seems certain, the melt continues, then the villages of the Marshalls and the ports of Greenland will be overwhelmed. And we will all be a little poorer, because a way of being will have been cut off. The puzzle of being human will have lost some of its oldest, most artful pieces.
“The loss of Venice,” Jeff Goodell writes, wouldn’t be about just the loss of present-day Venetians. “It’s the loss of the stones in the narrow streets where Titian and Giorgione walked. It’s the loss of eleventh- century mosaics in the basilica, and the unburied home of Marco Polo, and palazzos along the Grand Canal. . . . The loss of Venice is about the loss of a part of ourselves that reaches back in time and binds us together as civilized people.”
We all have losses already. Where I live, it’s the seasons: winter doesn’t reliably mean winter anymore, and so the way we’ve always viscerally told time has begun to break down. In California, it’s the sense of ease: the smell of the fire next time lingers in the eucalyptus groves. There are many ways to be poorer, and we’re going to find out all of them.

Pot calling the kettle black?

·       The Koh-i-Noor isn’t coming here any time soon
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has demanded that Britain should apologise for the 1919 Jalianwala Bagh massacre, and the 1943 Bengal famine. Oh, and as an addendum he has also demanded that it return to Pakistan the Kohinoor Diamond taken in 1849.
It is not certain where the Koh-i-Noor diamond first came from. It was probably mined in Golconda, present day Andhra Pradesh.
Babar wrote about it in the Babar Nama, saying it was acquired by Alauddin Khalji of Delhi from the Kakatiya Dynasty of Southern India at the beginning of the 14thcentury. Babar himself acquired it as tribute in 1526 following the Battle of Panipat.
The Koh-i-Noor was taken from the Mughals by Nadir Shah of Persia when he invaded Delhi in 1739. he might have been the first person to call it ‘Koh-i-Noor’, or ‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian. When he died in 1747 and his empire collapsed, the gem went to his grandson who gave it to Ahmad Shah Durrani of Afghanistan. One of Ahmad Shah’s descendants Shuja Shah, the self-proclaimed King of Afghanistan, fled to the Punjab in 1813, and lost the diamond to his host Ranjit Singh.
You wish members of the Pakistan government would stop embarrassing its people each time they open their mouths. You wish too that one’s leaders would do what they are supposed to do and stop fishing for popular ra-rah by means of such asides which have nothing to do with what they were elected for
In 1849 the Kingdom of Punjab was taken over by the British. Article III of the Treaty of Lahore signed then ceded the diamond to Queen Victoria, not as a personal gift to her, as the Governor General Dalhousie had it presented by Ranjit Singh’s son to the East India Company, which presented it to the Queen as a spoil of war. It– or rather its segments, since it has since been cut into several pieces– can now be found in the various crowns belonging to the Queens of England.
There are therefore many claimants. India first demanded the British return it at the time of Independence in 1947, and then again in 1953 and 2000. In 1976 Pakistan asked for its return, and in 2000 the Taliban claimed it as Afghanistan’s legitimate property.
The British Government rejected all these claims, saying that the diamond was legally obtained by the British under the terms of the last Treaty of Lahore. Which is what they will say again in response to Fawad Chaudhry’s demands, if they bother to respond.
Yes, the British government ought to have apologised for that shameful part of its history that is Jallianwala. That they have not, will forever stand against them.
To ask for an apology for the famine of Bengal though is nothing less than gross cheek and gall when the demand comes from Pakistan, and if I were a citizen of Bangladesh, I would say so. As a member of the human race, I do say so.
The famine of Bengal took the lives of between two to three million Bengalis, due to starvation, malaria and other diseases.
When the Japanese occupied Burma, modern day Myanmar, the British were afraid that they would advance into India via Bengal. To prevent this, the British ordered the stocks of paddy (unmilled rice) and other food products to be destroyed along the coastal areas of the Bengal. The British Army also confiscated or destroyed all boats large enough for ten or more persons, belonging to the local people who relied on these boats for fishing, and transport of commercial goods, seeds and other equipment. Rice and fish are the staple diet of the people of Bengal who lost both at this time. No recompense was provided and no food rations, and a famine set in.
Pakistan was formed after that in 1948. The people of Bengal had a majority over the people in the Western wing, yet the capital and the government was always in the hands of the West. Various such things led to the separation of East Pakistan from the West and the birth of Bangladesh, but not before what has been gross excesses committed by the West against its eastern wing, although both sides suffered fatalities at the hands of each other and neither is willing to accept the figures presented by the other. The death of civilians killed in Bangladesh as a result of the war has been called genocide, because they lie anywhere between 300,000 and 3,000,000. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women are said to have been raped.
According to the Pakistani journalist Anthony Mascarenhas writing in 1971 for the British Sunday Times (Mascarenhas was once the editor of Karachi’s Morning News): “I saw Hindus hunted from village to village and door to door, shot off-hand. I have heard the screams of men bludgeoned to death in the compound of the Circuit House in Comilla. I have seen truckloads of other human targets and those who had the humanity to try to help them hauled off ‘for disposal’ under the cover of darkness and curfew.”
For this Pakistan is responsible. Can Pakistan in all conscience point fingers at someone else for doing similar things?
You wonder if the gentleman making demands for an apology from Britain is aware of the history behind the events he speaks of, and the events that took place afterwards? You wish members of the Pakistan government would stop embarrassing its people each time they open their mouths. You wish too that one’s leaders would do what they are supposed to do and stop fishing for popular ra-rah by means of such asides which have nothing to do with what they were elected for. There is the small issue of increasing Press censorship that the Chaudhry is probably trying to muffle under such rhetoric. His tactics might work since the public is easily diverted by such macho calls for justice, but the events that took place in Pakistan’s eastern wing will always be remembered by anyone with half a conscience.

12:00 AM, April 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:08 PM, April 14, 2019

The Panta magic

Pahela Baishakh celebrations seem incomplete without plates of Panta Bhaat, served with Bhorta or fish. For decades, Bangalees, on their New Year, have been treating themselves to the traditional delicacies. 
Many find in the practice an air of nostalgia, taking them back to a time when there was no electricity or refrigeration in rural Bangalee households. A typical family of peasants would save leftover rice from dinner by soaking it in water to have it as breakfast the next morning.
But along with traditional values, Panta Bhaat also has its nutritional benefits.
Recently, a study by the nutrition department of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (Barc) said Panta Bhaat has more nutrients than cooked rice and thus should be consumed throughout the year.
The study analysed usual and fermented rice of five varieties -- BRRI-28, Pari, Miniket, Aman and Balam -- and found the presence of micronutrients to be higher in soaked rice than in cooked rice.
It said the amount of calcium, iron, potassium and sodium increased many folds when rice is soaked in water for a prolonged period. 
For example, if Miniket rice is fermented for eight to 12 hours, calcium sees a 351.94 percent increase while iron increases by 11.66 percent and sodium by 47.53 percent, it said.
The study also said Panta Bhaat is high in nutritional value and helps strengthen body immunity and remove anaemia and iron deficiency.
“When normal rice is soaked for 8-12 hours in water, Phytic acid reacts with water and creates lactic acid which increases the nutrient quality of rice,” states the report.
Talking to The Daily Star, Dr Monirul Islam, director (nutrition) at the Barc, said, “Fermented food is full of useful bacteria. According to scientists, there are around 10 trillion good bacteria in half a cup of fermented food.”
In Bangladesh, people suffer from calcium and iron deficiencies, he said, adding that consumption of proper amounts of soaked rice can help solve the problem.
Monirul also said soaked rice helps boost the human body's immune system. “Girls in their adolescence face iron deficits. Fermented rice can minimise the problem.”
Having Panta Bhaat on a regular basis could be useful as, according to the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT) 2016, about 5.5 million children under 5 (36 percent of the total number of country's children) suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age) and 14 percent are acutely malnourished.
Nutritionists said soaked rice keeps the body light and energetic as it is easily digestible. The body also feels less tired.
Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman of Dhaka University's Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, said the nutritional value increases in soaked rice as many vitamins and micronutrients are likely to be added.
“In normal rice, iron, potassium, calcium and sodium is less absorbable to the human body. But in fermented rice, it is easily absorbable and the amount also increases,” he said.

Pakistan’s water demand likely to grow by 40% in 30 years

–World Bank report says water demand won’t be sustainable, even by groundwater pumping
KARACHI: Water demand in Pakistan is projected to grow by at least 40 per cent over the next 30 years, with demographic and economic growth the biggest drivers.
In addition, climate change will see further increases in water demand, chiefly from agriculture, in the absence of attention to demand management. While agriculture continues to represent the bulk of demand, much of the demand increase will come from other sectors of the economy.
According to a new World Bank report, in the absence of effective demand management, growth in water demand will not be sustainable. Current withdrawal levels are already nearing 60 per cent of renewable water supply, making a large increase in water demand unsustainable. Future surges in demand are unlikely to be manageable even through further unsustainable increases in groundwater pumping.
The demand management strategy needs to focus on efficiency improvements that can increase consumption. Importantly, to accommodate growth in other sectors, food security, gains in value addition, and build resilience to ongoing climate change, it is critical for agriculture to improve water management, encourage water productivity and saving, and diversify crops toward higher value-added horticulture.
Agriculture, by far the largest user of water, uses it inefficiently. Agriculture accounts for more than 90 per cent of withdrawals and is heavily dependent on irrigation. More than 90 per cent of agricultural production is concentrated on irrigated land.
Though agriculture contributes around one-fifth of national GDP, less than half of this is from irrigated cropping and the four major crops (wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton) that represent nearly 80 per cent of all water use generate less than 5 per cent of GDP.
Over the past 50 years, the agriculture sector’s growth rate has declined from an average of 4.5 per cent a year to 2.5 per cent a year, led by a decline in productivity. Agriculture productivity is characterized by little technical change and instead the intensification of input use.
Water use is wasteful, with governance issues that provide only weak incentives to save water. This results in overall low economic productivity (around US$1 per cubic meter, one of the lowest in the world) and concerns regarding environmental sustainability (for example, contamination and salinization of groundwater aquifers, which pose the greatest threat to long-term groundwater sustainability in Pakistan).
Irrigation water is underpriced and the system badly managed. There is significant potential to improve water productivity in the agriculture sector, achieving higher efficiency and orienting water toward higher value uses.
Pakistan has lower water productivity than peer countries. There are inadequacies in how areas are assessed for water tariffs and abiana collection is uneven, inefficient and inequitable. Irrigation service delivery by the public sector is generally poor, with concerns over the equity and reliability of water distribution.
Farmers at the tail end of the canals invariably do not receive their share of water due to the poor physical state of the canals, water theft by farmers upstream and rent-seeking by operators. Improved water management will need to be accompanied by improved agricultural policies. Despite reforms in the past, the state continues to intervene in agricultural markets, creating distortions that hold the sector back.
The public sector intervenes through administered prices and protective trade policies. The support is concentrated in wheat (through domestic procurement, temporary import/export control, and subsidized sales to select flour mills) and sugarcane (through import tariffs, as well as support prices and export subsidies), while some support remains for dairy products and vegetable oils.
In addition, input subsidies (on fertilizers, electricity for water pumping, or implicitly, on canal irrigation water) also influence farmers’ decisions. These interventions result in high fiscal costs, distorted cropping decisions and imbalanced input use, with implications for sustainability.
The support is highly regressive, with most subsidies and benefits captured by large farmers and firms. For continued economic growth, agriculture must produce more from less, and reforming distortions in the agriculture sector will help move water toward higher-value crops.

Edible Archives Project Aims To Revive Hundreds Of Vanishing Indian Rice Strains

·       Charukesi Ramadurai
Description: Some of the 20 different types of rice used during the three-month festival Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India. Chefs served two varieties of rice every day, along with multiple dishes of vegetables and meat or seafood. (Salam Olattayil/for NPR)
Some of the 20 different types of rice used during the three-month festival Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India. Chefs served two varieties of rice every day, along with multiple dishes of vegetables and meat or seafood. (Salam Olattayil/for NPR)
Chef Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar fondly remembers her father's love for rice — and his insistence on having specific kinds of rice — with each special meat or fish dish cooked in their kitchen.
She even has memories of him making long road trips from their home in Kolkata, India, to other parts of the state of West Bengal to buy local rice. What motivated him, she says, was not just his interest in food but also nostalgia for his childhood.
Edible Archives was born partly from this recollection, with chef Anurima Ghosh Dastidar as curator, along with chef Prima Kurien and two food writers who were also invited to cook.
India is known to have cultivated thousands of varieties of rice, and references to rice — also combined with vegetables and meat, an ancient precursor to biryani, which came from Persia — have been found in Sangam literature from the 5th century B.C. Even a century ago, communities across India grew their own strains of rice, and consumed them according to the needs of the season or the cuisine.
During the Green Revolution in the 1960s, when machinery replaced manual work and "high-yield variety" seeds were promoted, agricultural output increased dramatically, but a few hybrid rice strains took over from hundreds of indigenous ones.
The Edible Archives Project aims to showcase the sheer range of rice varieties grown in India, and throw the spotlight specifically on those which have almost vanished from the country's foodscape or are grown only in small communities.
Description: Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar scoops Kattuyanam (a red rice from Tamil Nadu), into bowls at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. She is instrumental in both rice research and cooking for the Edible Archives project. (Courtesy of Edible Archives)
"We don't document anything in India, so most of the old rice strains are gone, and the expert knowledge about them too," says Jayanthi Somasundaram, whose Spirit of the Earth collective sources and sells several varieties of organic heritage rice, including a few for this project.
Edible Archives formally opened at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an art festival that ran from Dec. 12 through March 29 in the south Indian city of Kochi, currently in its fourth edition. At the event, the chefs served two varieties of rice every day, along with multiple dishes of vegetables and meat or seafood. All of this was in what Dastidar calls "homestyle cooking" (as opposed to what is passed off in restaurants, especially outside India, as classic Indian cuisine, like butter chicken), using local vegetables such as drumstick (moringa in vegetable form) and gourds. Writer-chef Priya Bala adds that the idea was also to present not just rice in all its glory, but preserve the dwindling knowledge about cooking methods, as well as revive lost recipes.
To spice things up, the chefs also played with fusion presentations, such as a Korean marinated egg over the aromatic Tulaipanji rice from West Bengal (a hit combination, as it turned out) and the Chicken Pepian, a Guatemalan Maya dish paired with the white, sweetish Chini Atap rice, also from the same Indian state, to complement the robust smokiness of the meat. "Most importantly, the chefs also explained how pairing works, so as to balance all flavors and fragrances," Somasundaram says.
In three months, the team cooked with nearly 40 rice varieties from all over India, many of them not familiar to anyone outside the region of cultivation — like the Bahurupi from the state of Odisha or the Kattuyanam from Tamil Nadu. The rice of the day was described on a board at the venue, and on the social media pages of Edible Archives.
Drawing from her own nostalgia, Dastidar says that most Indians have "an archive of rice memories, which we wanted to bring together." In the midst of all the cooking and eating, there was also a two-day workshop called "Recipes of Rice and Remembrance" that included talks, cooking demonstrations, reminiscences and even songs related to rice.
Speaking of the latter, Bala points out that rice has found a place in Indian culture and literature over the ages, from a Bengali lullaby asking the angel aunties to come and put the baby to sleep, promising them delicious food in return — including three types of rice — to devotional songs from the state of Tamil Nadu that equate rice with prosperity.
Indeed, rice has been an important, exceptional part of Indian rituals — from the ceremony during which a baby is first fed mashed rice as solid food, to the turmeric-infused yellow rice showered as blessing at weddings, to the final journey, where rice is an offering to the departed soul. Even the sick are fed kanji or khichuri (loose rice porridge, with or without lentils) as comfort food.
Dastidar has trained in Italian, Japanese and Thai cuisines, and learned how chefs in those countries tend to focus on grains from their own microregions. Much before the Edible Archives idea took shape, Dastidar was experimenting with rice varieties; think Manipuri Black Rice Risotto (a grain with starch content similar to Arborio) at New Delhi's popular restaurant Diva, where she was sous chef for many years.
With this experience, she traveled across the country to source the rice for Edible Archives — all of it was bought directly from small farmers or through agriculture collectives and non-governmental organizations who worked with cultivators. The exploratory phase included inputs from experts such as Dr. Debal Deb, who has researched and grown 1,300 varieties of rice at his farm Basudha in Odisha, and organic farmer Syed Ghani Khan, who established a rice museum in Karnataka that is home to more than 850 varieties.
Description: of the rice bowls served at the festival, this dish contains Kattuyanam, along with roasted pumpkin, cauliflower, ridge gourd, mango, dal, and cucumber salad and mustard microgreens. (Courtesy of Edible Archives)
Along with creating a record of cultural connotations and memories, Edible Archives also shared nutritional information about the rice of the day, trying to dispel the myth that rice is just a "bad carb." Case in point are two varieties from Tamil Nadu, where rice is the staple: Kattuyanam and Seeraga Samba, the former with a low glycemic index that makes it ideal for diabetics, and the latter highly fibrous and rich in selenium to fight colon and intestinal cancers. The chefs gleaned this information from scientific articles and agricultural journals, as well as from Basudha's in-house magazine.
In the future, Edible Archives plans to hold pop-up events across the country and eventually abroad. There have already been a few in Indian cities, and one in Paris coming up in June that will focus on cuisine from India's seven northeast states, which are still largely under-explored in terms of tourism, culture and cuisine. The chefs say they mean to keep the dialogue going with talks and lectures "wherever food and culture meet."
As Bala puts it, "we need to continue the celebration of a grain that is sustenance, comfort, nutrition and auspiciousness all at once."
Charukesi Ramadurai is a freelance journalist from India, writing about travel, food, art and culture for BBC Travel, The Guardian, Forbes and National Geographic Traveller (India), among others. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @charukesi

Bridging the Yield Gaps: Role of Science and Extension functionaries

Tasneem Mubarak
Rice is the staple food for majority of the world population and India is the leading rice producing country in terms of area and is the second largest producer next to China. In Jammu and Kashmir it is the staple food for the people of temperate Kashmir Valley and its cultivation extends from the planes having altitude 1600 m above the mean sea level to hills up to 2300 m above msl in the valley. Ever expanding population and shrinking land and other natural resources plus crop diversification especially area expansion under apple crop however demands a higher per unit area rice production with judicious natural resource management.
Since rice is the staple food for the people of valley, so an ample attention has been and will be paid to crop improvement and extension strategies related to this crop. Development of new varieties with higher yield potential and other desirable characters has been very crucial in bridging the enormous gap between production at farmers’ filed and the actual potential.
The contribution made by the State Agriculture University SKUAST-Kashmir through Mountain Research Center for Field Crops (MRCFC) ,SKUAST-K and other Divisions in the development of varieties like recent series of Shalimar rice for different altitudes and filed situations and related package of practices is immense.
The bigger challenge however is transfer of technologies from research fields and labs to the farmers’ field and here comes the role of extension machinery meant for technology dissemination in the state. As evident from the recent data, both Directorate of Extension SKUAST-Kashmir through KVKs and Directorate of Agriculture through district Agriculture departments have done good work in terms of transfer of technologies in almost all the major field crops including rice. Frontline demonstration programmes coupled with quality seed availability and technical backstopping through extension system have played a key role in this regard. Recent data of year 2017-18 for instance reflects a quantum jump in production and productivity of rice in district Kulgam over the last 7 years. Rice production and productivity in the district was 798723 quintals (q) and 48.67 q/ha , respectively in 2010-11 which touched an overwhelming figure of 1077760 q and 67.36 q/ha in 2017-18. That means around 35% and 38.4% increase in production and productivity, which reflects a very positive development so far as new crop varieties and their popularization through different programme of state agricultural university and agriculture development department is concerned. It is pertinent to mention that the national average productivity of rice is 25.5q/ha only. This indicates that in district Kulgam productivity is much higher against the national average and it is for this reason that this part of valley was once known as rice bowel of Kashmir. One thing is quite clear from these figures that coordination among different agencies at district level is bringing fruits to the efforts. Science is doing its good job and so is the extension machinery but policies related to land use need to be implemented without further delay to avoid crisis in future. All stakeholders must join hands and overcome the obstacles together as a single family with a strong will and commitment to serve our farming community and side by side ensure self-sufficiency in food grain production. Unity has great power and can bring unimaginable changes in the world around us. Let us work together with more strong bonds and feel that enormous power of unity, bringing all-round prosperity in the society.
—The author is a Senior Scientist & Head KVK-Kulgam,SKUAST-Kashmir. He can be reached at:

Fans create Catriona’s portrait in a rice field

Published April 14, 2019 2:46pm 
Who says agriculture and arts can't go together? Fans from Muñoz City, Nueva Ecija have proven that a rice field can also be a good canvas for Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray's portrait.
According to a report in GMA News TV's Balitanghali Weekend on Sunday, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) spearheaded the project, which started on March 14, 2019.
Fifty workers creatively planted the combination of violet and green seedlings to produce the masterpiece.
Benjamin Sotto, one of the researchers of PhilRice, said that the rice paddy art was made to inspire more people, especially the youth, to venture into rice farming. — Dona Magsino/BM, GMA News
Description: See all 4 images
FROM the role of gut bacteria in depression to how plant science can deliver food security in the face of climate change, and the 'Angry Chef' taking on the food myths and identity politics surrounding what we eat, this year's Edinburgh Science Festival is putting nutrition front and centre of the debate.
The rise in veganism, calls for meat taxes, and a push to tackle obesity with state-led interventions such as sugar levies on soft drinks and restrictions on junk food offers have thrust our diet into the spotlight like never before.
Like the rest of Europe, Scotland's high streets have experienced an exponential rise in the number of fast food outlets since the 1970s. Where takeaways might once have been limited to a fish supper or portion of chips, consumers today can take their pick round-the-clock from kebabs, burgers, pizzas, curries, burritos and foot-long sandwiches.
Ready meals high in salt, sugar and trans-fats have replaced home cooking as the norm in many households. Supermarket shelves are so awash with cheap crisps, cakes, confectionary and junk food that the Scottish Government - fresh from its long legal fight on minimum alcohol pricing - has set about becoming the first country in the world to ban multi-buy promotions on such items.
The transformation in our food environment is not only impacting waistlines but lifespans, with research in the Lancet last week reporting that unhealthy diets are now responsible for an estimated 11 million deaths globally each year - overtaking smoking for the first time.
Major studies this year have backed huge increases in the recommended fibre intake at a time when most Scots still fall well short of achieving their 'five-a-day'. The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, warned that a global shift from meat-based to plant-based diets (red meat threshold around one Sirloin steak per fortnight) would be vital not only for human wellbeing, but preventing an environmental catastrophe.
Now the cutting edge new science of 'psychobiotics' - how gut bacteria affect the brain - suggests that what we eat might also be influencing everything from anxiety, depression and stress to age-related degeneration and autism.
Evidence is already mounting that people with a lower diversity of bacteria in their intestinal tract are more prone to weight gain, but the psychological impact is only beginning to be explored.
Nothing is more important to the composition of our gut bacteria - or the "microbiome" - than what we eat. A varied diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oily fish - a so-called Mediterranean diet - appears to deliver an optimum mix, but the modern Scottish diet is far from this ideal.
Genetics play only a minor role in microbiome composition - possibly as little as five per cent - while other factors such as the decline in breastfeeding rates and the increase in caesarean deliveries have both contributed to a decline in microbiome diversity among recent generations less likely to have been exposed to their mother's bacteria during birth or infancy.
The task for those studying psychobiotics is unravelling the mechanism by which gut bacteria affect brain health, and proving that there is a causative link between the changes in diet over recent decades and rising rates of mental health problems.
Professor John Cryan, chair of anatomy and neuroscience at UniversityCollege Cork and one of the world's leading experts in 'psychobiotics', first became interested in the field around ten years ago when he was involved in experiments that showed stressed animals experienced changes in their microbiome.
He said: "It got us thinking that that could maybe be relevant to how they actually deal with stress, so we did a whole slew of experiments and proved that indeed that is the case.
"Then we wanted to see if we could reverse the changes, or at least dampen down the stress response, by targeting microbes in the gut. In animal experiments we would target them with specific bacterial strains or 'prebiotics' - the fibres and sugars which good bacteria use to grow and thrive. It worked.
"More recently we moved into human studies and we were able at some level to replicate the findings."
The team has also shown that individuals born by C-section are more susceptible to stress, and have found evidence that middle-aged mice fed prebiotics to boost their microbiome also experience reductions in neural inflammation in the brain typically associated with ageing.
Reduced microbial diversity has repeatedly been found in the guts of patients suffering depression, and a recent Belgian study found that certain important bacteria were missing altogether. This was not explained by antidepressants, which are known to disrupt gut flora over long term use.
"We need to go a bit further to show whether all depressed people have this, or how we tackle it," said Cryan. "It's very hard to get causation yet. There definitely is a diet-mental health relationship, I think that's pretty much accepted, the question is how it works.
"Our thinking is that it creates vulnerabilities in the microbiome that interferes with gut-brain signalling."
In obesity science, researchers have already been probing whether the guts of overweight people can be 'reprogrammed' with bacteria extracted from the stools of slim people found to have particularly diverse microbiomes and high concentrations of certain microbes associated with calorie burning.
Now a pilot study into autism in the US is testing whether similar faecal transplants from healthy children can alleviate some of the behavioural symptoms associated with the condition.
"It's highly emotive," said Cryan. "But what we find is when you mess with the microbiome, you can mess with the social brain and social behaviour. So there is hope - but it's just hope at the moment - that microbiome research might one day be useful in helping with some of the symptoms of autism.
"There's one pilot study using FMT [faecal microbiota transplantation] in autism. It's a small study in Arizona of about 20 people, published in the journal Microbiome. But it worked."
The question is, if altering the microbiome does deliver results in relation to depression, anxiety, stress, autism and even ageing, then will doctors be prescribing routine faecal transplants or prebiotic drinks in future?
Cryan, who delivered his talk, 'Good for your Guts', at the Pleasance in Edinburgh last week, said: "There are ongoing trials into faecal transplants in people with depression and bipolar illness. I don't know whether we'll need something that radical, but I do think we'll see situations where personalised approaches to not just nutrition but prebiotics and probiotics are added onto current therapies, be it medication or psychotherapy.
"But we've got a lot to figure out yet because we don't know what a 'normal' microbiome is. What I think is more likely is that someone who is prone to depression could be able to examine their microbiome when they're well, see what happens when they're ill, and try to reverse that or to predict a flare-up. That's what happening now in some Crohn's disease research."
As for the general population, what does psychobiotics tell us we should be eating?
"This is what we're really trying to test now and get some real evidence behind," said Cryan. "We know that diversity is really important - we know that a Mediterranean style diet is really important. You can't have enough fibre if you can tolerate it, plenty of vegetables, plenty of Omega 3 from fish, some meat - but not too much.
"Try to avoid processed food as much as possible - emulsifiers, sweeteners, these are all bad for the microbiome. We also know that there is growing evidence of the influence of sleep on the microbiome. Studies are looking at jetlag, for example.
"Having a pet, especially a dog, has also been shown to really improve microbiome diversity."
What we eat as a planet has implications far beyond human health. Climate change, freshwater shortages and a global population projected to balloon from 7.2 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050 will demand a dramatic shift in what we farm, where and how.
"If we don't, we have a very, very serious problem in feeding the growing population," said Professor Bill Davies, who will deliver a lecture at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on Thursday entitled 'Sourcing Healthy Food as the World Changes'.
As an environmental biologist and director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at Lancaster University, Davies believes that science offers some of the answers - but not all. Changes in diet will also be crucial, he said.
"There doesn't seem to be any doubt that many people's health would benefit if they ate less meat, and it's pretty clear that the planet would benefit in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions," said Davies. "But there are also lots of potential downsides. Britain looks like Britain largely because of the kind of agriculture we practice here, and a lot of the land which is used for the production of meat won't be so easy to do anything else with."
Meat may have taken on pariah status in recent years, but it is not the only foodstuff wrecking the environment. Rice, so ubiquitous in the Asian diet, is also causing serious harm. Prof Davies is working directly with Chinese farmers to find more sustainable ways to raise the crop.
He said: "In the last 50 years, the push for food in China has been so great - from a position where probably 30-40 million Chinese died from starvation in the 1960s, to a position where China is effectively self-sufficient in food.
"But they've done that at the expense of the environment in many of these areas. In the area where we work, in northwest China, the water table which 50 years ago was a few tens of centimetres from the surface is now a hundred metres or more below the surface.
"Rice is the thirstiest crop on the planet. One third of the world's freshwater and half the freshwater in Asia is used to irrigate rice crops - it's nuts. One sixth of all the methane produced by agriculture is produced by growing rice, and rice is not even particularly good for you.
"But that's a great example of the kinds of environmental and cultural problems we need to grapple with. Asking people in China to eat less rice is probably a comparable challenge to persuading people in the UK to only eat meat once a week.
"We can't just tell people not to eat it - but if we can grow rice with less water, that's a start."
Davies' project in China is exploring 'alternate wetting and drying irrigation', where the water supply on the paddy field is reduced during certain phases of development.
Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates is also using his Foundation to fund research into whether rice can be genetically modified to grow with less water.
Although restricted in Europe, the total acreage of farmland worldwide used to grow GM crops has overtaken non-GM for the first time this year.
Davies believes this sort of biotechnology - which has already shown success in making some plants pest-resistant, thereby cutting the need for pesticides - will be crucial to delivering substantially higher crop yields in future.
He said: "The kind of thing people are working on now is to make plants more productive. To manipulate the biochemistry within the plant to discover what's limiting its yield. For example, why is the record yield for wheat in the UK 16 tonnes per hectare - why can't we produce 30 tonnes?
"The chances are within the next 10 years the people working on this will overcome those limitations and there will be much more productive crops available that would allow us to grow the same amount of food on a reduced area of land."
While gut science and biotechnology advance, nutrition will almost certainly continue to be fertile territory for what 'Angry Chef' Anthony Warner dubs "pseudo-scientific food charlatanry".
Warner has made it his mission to debunk food myths and so-called 'miracle' diets which he says are stripping the joy out of eating and ladling on guilt instead.
As a chef with a background in science who has spent years working in restaurants, hotels and developing recipes for major brands, he said he decided to create his online 'Angry Chef' persona to rebut the "bad science".
"I was at a food industry event and people were speaking about 'clean eating'," said Warner. "There was this Instagram-style influencer with half a million followers or something. Everyone seemed kind of enamoured by her, but I was thinking 'she's got no idea, from a scientific point of view, what's she talking about'.
"Her recipes might look quite nice, but she was actually communicating some quite dangerous stuff."
He has since gone on to pen the bestselling books, 'Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating' and 'The Truth about Fat: Why Obesity is not that Simple', and will bring his common sense and science message to Edinburgh next week.
Warner believes that the whole discourse around food has fallen victim not only to expert-shunning and 'alternative facts', but social media's polarising identity politics.
He said: "One of the issues with food now is that it's very much become part of our identity, almost in a way that's replaced some sort of religious signalling. If you look at people's online profiles, terms like 'vegan', 'paleo', 'low carb', it's one of the first things people think defines them.
"What you ate for dinner - or more so what you didn't have - is so tied into people's sense of self that when you challenge people's rhetoric and suggest that it's not actually based on fact, it's like you are attacking their identity and it can make people very upset.
"I know several dieticians and registered nutritionists who have been abused in a very organised way on Twitter by people with massive 50-60-70,000 followings, organising mass pile-ons - almost exclusively onto women - for expressing opinions that are usually very sensible and based on science. It's awful."
The difficulty for those trying to fight pseudoscience with facts, however, is that nutrition science is inherently complex.
"It's very difficult to do proper experiments - hard science - when it comes to food and diet," said Warner. "If you want to check whether beetroot improves a certain health condition for example, you can't use a placebo beetroot the way you would with a drug.
"And you can't really do long-term experiments because you can't be expected to change someone's diet permanently over the long term to see how it affects them.
"The problem is, people want definitive answers. They want to be told 'sugar is toxic' or 'gluten is bad for you'.
"In the 1980s it was all 'fat is bad, you must avoid fat'. Now we've shifted and it's all about avoiding sugar and carbohydrates. The problem isn't one or the other, it's the oversimplification.
"But if you're selling simple answers and simple solutions to people that will supposedly transform their health, that's a really attractive message.
"The uncertainty and nuance of actual science, unfortunately, is less compelling."

ICGEB’s novel yeast strain increases ethanol production

APRIL 13, 2019 19:19 IST
UPDATED: APRIL 13, 2019 19:21 IST
Description: The bacterial strain displayed negligible reduction in growth even in the presence of all three fermentation inhibitors at 40 degree C, say Naveen Gaur (left) and Ajay Kumar Pandey.
The bacterial strain displayed negligible reduction in growth even in the presence of all three fermentation inhibitors at 40 degree C, say Naveen Gaur (left) and Ajay Kumar Pandey.  

The strain produces ethanol by fermenting rice and wheat straw

Compared with currently available strains, a robust yeast strain (Saccharomyces cerevisiae NGY10) that can produce up to 15.5% more ethanol when glucose or lignocellulose biomass — rice and wheat straw — is fermented has been isolated by researchers from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy Research, Delhi.
In India, ethanol production is mostly by fermenting molasses to meet the annual target of 5% blending of petrol with ethanol. But with India setting a target of blending petrol with 10% of biofuel by 2022, other sources such as rice and wheat straw have to be considered. Fermenting lignocellulose efficiently to generate more ethanol than what is currently possible is therefore necessary. To that end, the strain isolated by ICGEB becomes important.
The team led by Dr. Naseem A. Gaur from the Yeast Biofuel Group at ICGEB isolated 500 yeast-like colonies from different natural habitats — distillery waste, dairy waste, hot springs, sewage and algal bloom. After screening, 25 yeast-like colonies were chosen and an additional nine yeast strains from the National Culture collection of Industrial Microorganisms (NCIM), Pune, were included for evaluation. Of these, one strain was found to suitable for fermenting rice and wheat straw. The results were published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Lignocellulose is comprised of lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. While cellulose is rich in hexose or C6 (glucose) sugar, hemicellulose, which accounts for about 30% of the composition, is made mostly (more than 90%) of pentose or C5 (xylose and arabinose).

Three challenges

Ethanol production by fermenting lignocellulose biomass faces three challenges. During the fermentation process, the temperature increases from about 30 degree C to 40 degree C. Since the commercially available yeast strains are good at fermenting at 30 degree C, the fermentor has to be cooled down when the temperature increases. This increases the cost of ethanol production. Second, lignocellulose biomass (rice and wheat straw) contains a mixture of hexose and pentose sugars.
Though yeast can ferment glucose (hexose sugar), it cannot ferment pentose sugar (xylose and arabinose) that make up 30% of the composition. Finally, the pretreatment of lignocellulose (to breakdown the recalcitrant structure of the biomass) results in the production of three main inhibitors (furfural, 5-HMF and acetic acid). These inhibitors reduce the fermentation performance of yeast, leading to reduced ethanol production.

Functional superiority

Unlike currently available, commercially used yeast strains, the strain (NGY10) isolated by the ICGEB team has been found to be thermotolerant and can continue to ferment the biomass even when the temperature increases to 40 degree C. “The strain (NGY10) displayed a negligible reduction in the growth even in the presence of all three fermentation inhibitors at 40 degree C. And it produced more ethanol than currently available industrial yeast strains,” says Dr. Gaur. “But the NGY10 strain was not able to ferment the pentose sugar (xylose and arabinose).”
“Our strain showed better efficiency than the industrial strains now available in producing ethanol from lignocellulose. Also, the NGY10 isolate produced 11.1 % and 15.49 % more ethanol compared with the industrial yeast (Angel yeast) when glucose and pretreated lignocellulose were fermented, respectively,” says Ajay Kumar Pandey from ICGEB and first author of the paper.

Engineering the strain

The NGY10 strain can be metabolically engineered so it can ferment both hexose and pentose sugars leading to increased production of ethanol using lignocellulose.
This will increase the quantity of ethanol produced from lignocellulose biomass but also reduce the cost of ethanol production.
“We have almost engineered the strain to make it capable of fermenting both pentose and hexose sugars,” Dr. Gaur says. “The productivity and ethanol yield from pentose sugars after metabolic engineering are encouraging and comparable with yield obtained with glucose (hexose sugar) fermentation.”
Related TopicsSci-TechScience

Highlights of China's science news

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-13 16:38:56|Editor: Li Xia
BEIJING, April 13 (Xinhua) -- The following are the highlights of China's science news from the past week:
-- Chinese astronomers have made contributions to a global effort to capture the first-ever image of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the distant galaxy M87.
The image of the black hole, based on observations through the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration, was unveiled in coordinated press conferences across the globe at around 9:00 p.m. (Beijing time) Wednesday.
-- The lander and the rover of the Chang'e-4 probe switched to dormant mode for the lunar night Friday, with the rover traveling an accumulated 178.9 meters on the far side of the moon.
The rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, is expected to awaken again on April 28, and the lander to awaken the following day, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration.
-- Chinese researchers have disclosed that over 94 percent of the country's rice fields are suitable for water saving irrigation (WSI).
Soil structure deterioration and low soil fertility made 5.81 percent of the rice fields unsuitable for WSI.
-- Chinese researchers have revealed the mechanism of how chronic stress promotes breast cancer development, shedding light on future clinical treatment for cancer.
-- Chinese researchers have discovered a "death switch" in plant immunes system that can activate cell death to limit the spreading of microbial pathogens and provide plants with resistance.
-- Moderate drinking has been associated with reduced cardiovascular risk in many studies, however, new research has shown that even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke.

Indigenous rice millers groan as smuggling intensifies

Ibrahim Musa Giginyu, KanoPublished Date Apr 14, 2019 2:44 AM

A locally fabricated rice milling machines by engineer Iliyasu Nazifi
In recent times, the Nigerian agricultural sector experienced series of intervention from government and some foreign donors. This improved agricultural activities along various crop value chains.
Daily Trust gathered that with the Federal Government’s policy on rice importation, rice production in Nigeria improved reasonably along its value chain. Rice production increased from once in a year to thrice in a year, which made small and medium rice milling centres spring up across various rice-producing states. Description:
In Kano State, from 2015 to 2018, no fewer than 200 medium and small scale rice milling centres emerged, thereby complementing the existing seven mega rice mills in the state. In the last three years, rice production received the boost it had never received in the history of agriculture in Nigeria.
It is a common scenario in places like Kura, Gezawa, Bunkure, Garun Malam and Tudun Wada local government areas of Kano State to see a cluster of small scale rice millers doing business. A visit to these centres revealed that many of the millers have been experiencing reduction in what they mill as patronage has reduced.
Many of those spoken to attributed the reduction being experienced to the availability of foreign rice in the market at a very cheap price.
Malam Hudu Badamasi Bunkure, who is a rice merchant at the Zangon Buhari Rice Milling Centre in Bunkure Local Government Area, said he used to buy 70 bags of milled rice weekly from the centre and send it to the city, adding that in the last three months, demand for the local rice had reduced to 25 bags per week due to what he termed “unfavourable competition atmosphere with foreign rice.”
Malam Bunkure further said, “No doubt, if these things are allowed to continue the way they are going now, definitely we will all have to look for something else, but not rice anymore. Imagine, from 70 bags to 25 bags in three months; this is indeed alarming. We were made to understand that now, in the cities, our rice costs more when compared to the foreign, which is being smuggled into the country; and people go for the cheaper one.
“To be honest, we were so happy, but it is like our happiness is now turning into a nightmare. All that which the government has done will now be worthless and useless. Perhaps they want us all to turn into smugglers to make a living.”
The Chief Executive Office of Golden Star Rice Mill, Engr. Iliyasu Nazifi, said rice production across the value chain received a lot of intervention from the Federal Government, adding that as a result of the encouragement given to the sector, many people had ventured into it and had been enjoying the proceeds.
Engr. Nazafi further said the success recorded in the last three years recently suffered a setback as a result of some setbacks due to the activities of rice smugglers that had struck back with full force with the assistance of some personnel of the authorities concerned who had compromised at the expense of Nigerian citizens.
“No doubt about the fact that we are so optimistic on the attainment of food security in the nation, we have seen how the Federal Government has contributed in promoting agro activities, and also, we have seen the huge investment being committed by cooperate organisations and individuals in the sector, especially in rice. But, as I speak to you now, many small and medium scale rice milling companies are at the verge of folding up because of the high number of foreign rice being smuggled into the country. Go into the markets and you will understand what I am talking about,” he said.
Nazifi further revealed that rice smugglers had been having a swell time recently as indices showed that some compromising personnel in the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) have not been doing their job as expected.
Another rice miller, Alhaji Abba Dantata, told our reporter that he had to cut down 50 per cent of his work force to be able to manage and move in the business, and that it was disheartening to see how foreign rice was being smuggled into the country freely without anything being done by the authorities concerned, which he said made the market flooded with foreign rice to an extent that the locally milled rice could not compete with the foreign.
“From January, 2019, to this moment, only God knows how many tonnes of foreign rice have successfully entered our markets. From our records, we were told that 50 trucks laden with foreign rice get into the country daily through smuggling from Abeokuta and other land boarders. That is why foreign rice now floods our markets to the extent that the local one has to remain aside because it cannot compete with the foreign.
“This is a bad omen and a threat to all that which the Federal Government has done in the agricultural sector. Many small and medium rice milling companies have closed down and many more will close down also if necessary action is not taken to address the issue. This will in due course affect the mega rice mills,” Dantata lamented.
He further called on stakeholders to as a matter of urgency draw the attention of the customs to brace up and double its effort in addressing the smuggling menace to save the country and Nigerians from drowning back to square one.
Assessment details impact of pests and pathogens
STATE COLLEGE — Pests and diseases are taking a substantial bite out of the world’s five major food crops – in some cases, up to 40 percent – according to a recently released publication, one of the first to inventory the impact on a global scale.
“Declining crop health affects everyone – farmers, consumers and communities – by reducing food supplies, driving up costs, and sometimes even causing the misuse of pesticides and herbicides,” said Paul Esker, assistant professor of epidemiology and field crop pathology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
“This is a crucial problem at a time when food production must be increased to sustain a growing global population, one that is predicted to exceed 9 billion people by 2050.”
However, precise figures on the degree of losses across crops, agroecosystems and regions have been hard to come by in recent years, due to the complexity of agricultural systems and the sheer number and diversity of diseases and pests. Esker said the last attempt at data collection was done 15 years ago and made inferences on loss based on pesticide use, among other factors.
“Having quantitative, standardized information is vital when scientists and policymakers are setting research priorities,” he said. “Having a full understanding of the problem is needed to develop sustainable solutions.”
To bridge this information gap, Esker, a faculty member in the college’s Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, in 2016 collaborated with an international team of crop-health scientists to begin a “deep dive” into the effect of pests and pathogens on wheat, rice, maize, soybean and potato – crops that together represent about half of the calories consumed by humans.
Esker and his colleagues, who published their findings recently in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, developed a simple online questionnaire that was distributed to crop-health experts around the globe, asking them to provide numerical assessments and observations of their crops.
Responses were received from 219 respondents in 67 countries. These countries collectively are responsible for about 84 percent of the global production of the five crops.
After poring over almost 1,000 responses, the scientists determined that pathogens and pests are causing wheat losses of 10-28 percent, rice losses of 25-41 percent, maize losses of 20-41 percent, soybean losses of 11-32 percent, and potato losses of 8-21 percent.
The data enabled the team to identify 137 pests and pathogens that harm crops and to rank them by level of damage caused. For example, the scientists found that leaf rust, Fusarium head blight/scab, tritici blotch, stripe rust, spot blotch, tan spot, aphids and powdery mildew caused losses higher than 1 percent globally in wheat. Among the biggest menaces to rice were sheath blight, stem borers, blast, brown spot, bacterial blight, leaf folder and brown plant hopper.
As expected, the results showed differences in impacts among regions and pests and pathogens. An insect such as the fall armyworm, which thrives in warm temperatures, is a threat to maize growers in tropical regions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but is virtually unknown to growers in cooler, northern climates.
Not surprisingly, crop losses in food insecurity “hot spots” – regions that are food-deficient with fast-growing populations such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – were more significant than those in North America. Esker attributed that to a combination of factors, including inadequate storage facilities, limited use of integrated pest management techniques, lack of resources and technology, and the absence of extension education programs.
The researchers hope their assessment will be a catalyst for targeted management programs to counteract the destruction. “We can see more clearly the key players and problems and can work toward long-term solutions, with the understanding that one size doesn’t fit all – what might work in one region might not work in another,” Esker said.
“This study is not a silver bullet, per se, but should serve as the foundation to sharpen and increase research priorities in plant breeding and pest management.”
To share their results, the scientists launched a website,, that features a summary of survey responses by crop and country.
Joining Esker on the study were Serge Savary and Laetitia Willocquet, French National Institute for Agricultural Research, Toulouse, France; Neil McRoberts, University of California, Davis; Sarah Pethybridge, epidemiologist, Cornell University; and Andy Nelson, University of Twente, The Netherlands.
The International Society for Plant Pathology, the participating universities and North Carolina State University, which hosted the inaugural meeting of the research group, supported this work.
This article was submitted by the Penn State College of Agriculture.

LCCI for boosting trade between Pakistan S Africa

Description: LCCI for boosting trade between Pakistan S Africa
April 13, 2019

LAHORE   -   LCCI Vice President Faheem-ur-Rehman Saigal has stressed the need of taking measures for increasing the volume of bilateral trade between Pakistan and South Africa.
Talking to a delegation led by Chairman Pakistan Southern Africa Business Forum, Johannesburg Muhammad Rafiq Memon at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday, he said that South Africa could boost its exports to Pakistan by focusing items like chemicals, gold, diamonds, platinum, metals and minerals, machinery and raw material of steel products. LCCI Vice President said that besides increasing export of traditional products, like surgical equipment, rice, sports goods, Pakistan could supply engineering goods, sanitary goods, machine tools, auto-parts to South Africa.
South Africa is the main shopping centre of seven neighboring countries. Even textile products’ export could increase because of greater demand in South African market.
Faheem-ur-Rehman Saigal said that there was a scope for joint ventures between the two countries. “There are ample opportunities for Pakistani businessmen to invest in information technology, mining, agriculture and other sectors. He said that exchange of trade delegations between the two countries and holding of single country exhibitions could help increasing bilateral trade. He also called for creating a strong linkage between the chambers of the two countries for this purpose and for exchange of trade related information.  Muhammad Rafiq Memon said that South African businessmen were keen to build partnership with Pakistan and would like to increase interaction between the two governments and business communities. He said that both Pakistan and South Africa could increase economic cooperation in various sectors.

Kirinyaga deputy governor, Woman Rep clash over toxic rice

KNA April 13, 2019
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Kirinyaga Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri and County Woman Representative in the National Assembly Wangui Ngirichi on Friday publicly differed over the toxic rice impounded in Mwea constituency last week.
Ndambiri said Ngirichi sneaked in the rice, which had been condemned as unfit for human consumption, into the county.
He absolved himself from blame and accused the politician of politicising the matter. Last week, a contingent of police officers led by Mwea East Sub-County Deputy Commissioner Edwin Chambali raided an abandoned house in Kimbimbi and impounded 1,080 bags of rice labelled as imported from Pakistan.
On Wednesday Ngirichi claimed Ndambiri had been arrested after police established that he was the owner of the consignment.
She claimed the deputy governor and his wife had won a tender to supply rice to the county hospital. Ndambiri dismissed the allegations as petty politics aimed at mudslinging his name.

Furniture, Textile Help Boost Export Together If Govt Supports: PFC

Description: Furniture, Textile help boost export together if govt supports: PFC

Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) Chief Executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq Friday lauding the economic policies of Prime Minister Imran Khan urged for chalking out an aggressive export policy that gives more relaxation and friendly environment to exporters especially in textile and furniture sector

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - APP - 12th Apr, 2019 ) :Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) Chief Executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq Friday lauding the economic policies of Prime Minister Imran Khan urged for chalking out an aggressive export policy that gives more relaxation and friendly environment to exporters especially in textile and furniture sector.
He expressed these views while talking to media during his visit to TEXPO, 2019 exhibition as guest of honour being held here at Expo Center today," said a press release.
He said it was good omen that the textile industry exports was likely to cross US $ 15 billion mark and this would likely be a record achievement of textile exports in such a short span of time.
He demanded a fast track establishment of Integrated Textile and Apparel Parks enabling plug and play facilities for local and foreign investors.
Mian Kashif said currently, the textile sector was the country's largest industry in terms of exports, exporting US $ 14 billion worth of goods annually. The second largest segment is rice, which generates US $ 2 billion through exports, but Pakistan's furniture exports stand at a meager US $ 51 million.
He said if the government extended its support to furniture companies, the volume of export could touch the figure of US $ 5 billion for the next five years.
He urged the government for focus on skill development programmes for the export-oriented industries with a view to promoting the country's value-added sectors.
He said liberal visa regime would help the textile and furniture industry to introduce their innovative and latest designs to foreigners visiting Pakistan and exhibitions in this regard would be very fruitful.
He said the variety and traditional expertise of woodworkers and craftsmen has a huge potential for exports, and could cater not only to local market but also to the wealthy looking for unique furniture items at international market," he added.
Mian Kashif said there is a need to devise a comprehensive strategy to promote the industry on commercial basis which would not only support the manufactures but also increase our export across the world.
He said good working environment would enhance the capacity of our workers enabling them to compete internationally. He further said foreign companies have shown keen interest in Pakistani market.
He urged the Pakistani businessmen to start joint ventures with their foreign counterparts.

Apr 13, 2019, 7:51 AM; last updated: Apr 13, 2019, 10:24 AM (IST)

Karnal to have Centre of Excellence for basmati

Illustration: Sandeep Joshi
Vijay C Roy
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 12
After Israel, Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will assist the Haryana government in setting up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for basmati in Karnal, offering farmers a competitive edge.
The Centre would endeavour to build capacity among farming community while leveraging technology and innovation to improve productivity and quality. It will focus on introducing efficiencies across the supply chain.
This will be the third CoE to be established in the state after the centre for vegetables in Karnal and centre for fruits in Sirsa under Indo-Israel project. Proper implementation and adaptation of Israeli technologies have already benefitted thousands of farmers in the state, resulting in rise in their incomes. 
The CoE will be set up by the Agriculture Department. Earlier, the two centres were established by the Horticulture Department.
“The basmati farmers in the state are confronting with issues such as contamination, pesticides and presence of heavy metals. The centre will assist the farmers with latest technology which will not only ensure better productivity but also ensure quality. Recently, we had a meeting with IRRI officials and they have agreed in-principle to set up the centre at Karnal,” said Dr Suresh Gehlawat, additional director, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Haryana.
The proposed centre is likely to be spread over 20 acres and will have fields for conducting research, labs, administrative buildings and other infrastructure. The Haryana government will provide land and other infrastructure whereas the IRRI would deploy technology to facilitate farmers.
According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) data, in Haryana total area under basmati cultivation was 6.34 lakh hectares and production was 21.38 lakh tonnes in 2018. 
However, this year the area under cultivation is likely to increase by 10-20% due to robust demand in domestic and international markets.
Haryana has the largest area under basmati in the country and together with Punjab it accounts for more than 75-80% of basmati exports from the country.
According to agriculture officials, the objective behind development of the centre is to improve the quality of basmati with minimum use of chemicals. 

Mizzou hosting native plant sale Saturday

The University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Bradford Research Center will host a Native Plant Sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Informative booths and plant and shrub vendors will be at the event at 4968 Rangeline Road. MU Professor Kevin Rice and research specialist Terry Woods will also hold discussions about attracting pollinating insects and collecting milkweed.
The event is free and open to the public. Fifteen percent of proceeds will be used to benefit the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

Where does Malaysia’s paddy and rice industry stand?

·       Saturday, 13 Apr 2019
Malaysia has been importing about 30%-40% of its rice consumption annually for the last 30 years.
And according to some studies, the country will likely continue to be a net rice importer in the years to come.
The question is, does Malaysia’s inability to achieve 100% self-sufficiency level (SSL) in rice production by 2020 (as targeted just five years ago by the then Barisan Nasional-led government) signify a failure for the heavily subsidised industry?
According to Khazanah Research Institute (KRI), it does not.
“Statistical trends, geography and consumer preferences for premium rice means that Malaysia is likely to continue being a net importer,” the think tank explains.
“Considering this, the nation may be in a better position not to target 100% SSL, but with domestic rice produced sustainably, responsibly, safely and where farmers earn a sustainable income,” it adds.
In its recently published “The Status of the Paddy and Rice Industry in Malaysia” report, KRI finds that despite the significant public resources allocated to the industry, paddy farming is still perceived to be uneconomical.
In addition, paddy farmers are still associated with poverty; and Malaysia is still a net importer of rice with SSL hovering around 60%–70%.
It states that it is high time for the country to review its agricultural strategies, as the country has the potential to cultivate paddy responsibly, productively and still achieve better income for the farmers.
While it is unrealistic to expect Malaysia to be a net exporter of rice, KRI notes, it is sensible for the country to aim at achieving a balance of being a net importer, but with local farmers producing high quality grains and adhering to good agricultural practices.


Are we richer or poorer?
This being the season of fasting, it’s useful to know how much food a person needs to meet the basic nutrient requirements in our country.
As suggested by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, each person needs at least 2,100 kilocalories (or 2.1 million calories) a day. According to the FNRI, the basic nutrient needs can be met through a menu like this one: an egg, coffee with milk, and rice for breakfast; fried fish, rice or corn, malunggay leaves, monggo or mung beans and a banana for lunch; boiled pork or chicken, more rice/corn, and bread for supper.
Can an individual afford all of that on P48.91 a day? Probably not. But if the amounts are pooled for a family of five, then the basic nutrient needs could be met, according to government statisticians.
Food accounts for about 70 percent of the components in assessing poverty incidence. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), using actual consumer prices and the basic nutrient needs set by the FNRI, determined that a family of five needs P7,337 a month to meet the requirement. That amounts to P48.91 as the daily food threshold per individual family member.
A household that meets the food requirement may be able to afford the other basic needs of living: clothing, shelter, cooking gas, transportation, utilities particularly water and electricity, education (now free all the way to college). For all of these needs plus the nutrient requirements, a family of five that can afford to spend P10,481 a month is above the poverty threshold, as defined by the PSA.
The food and poverty thresholds are 10.9 higher than in 2015. Those who are subsisting barely above the thresholds are still considered poor, the PSA stresses.
But in terms of poverty incidence, the figures are lower for individuals, at 21 percent in the first six months of 2018 from 27.6 percent during the same period in 2015. The figures are even better for families, falling from 22.2 percent to 16.1 percent during the same period, according to the PSA.
The proportion of families whose incomes fall below the food threshold – or the subsistence incidence – was placed at 6.2 percent, from 9.9 percent in 2015.
Meanwhile, the ranks of the “food poor” also fell from about 2.2 million families in 2015 to 1.5 million in the first semester of 2018.
The PSA report, released last Wednesday, has reaped an unusual amount of criticism, and has been likened to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
*      *      *
On the day the report came out, PSA deputy statistician Josie Perez faced “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News to explain their methodology and vouch for the reliability of their data. She stressed that their figures have solid basis: “May basehan yan.”
Their previous studies on poverty incidence, Perez told us, used a sample size of 48,000. But this was useful only for determining poverty incidence at the regional level, so for 2018, the sample size was increased to 180,000 to include the provincial level.
The study was conducted as rice prices were surging. But Bernadette Balamban, of the PSA’s Poverty and Human Development Statistics division, told us that they use the cheapest varieties for the national reference food bundle, and at the time, rice priced at P27 per kilo was still available. The food figures are then compared with per capita income.
Siling labuyo or bird’s eye chili, a staple for many Bicolanos, spiked to an eye-watering P1,000 a kilo when the fuel excise tax pushed up the cost of transporting produce last year. But siling labuyo is not among the basic nutrient needs in the food bundle. And the impact of the fuel tax on inflation and purchasing power was not part of the PSA study.
Perez said the PSA also does not consider if a person is too poor to support a habit such as smoking or drinking. The PSA report is not based on self-rated poverty.
Growth in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which created jobs and raised family incomes, was cited by the National Economic and Development Authority for the decline in poverty incidence.
The PSA officials refused to predict the final poverty figures for 2018, saying they weren’t in the business of forecasting. But they noted that while the poverty threshold was highest in Metro Manila, the region also accounted for the lowest poverty incidence.
Even poverty incidence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, traditionally among the worst nationwide, was down to 55.4 percent in the first semester of 2018, according to the PSA. That’s still more than half of the entire region, which is now part of the new Bangsamoro ARMM, so residents must be as mystified by the poverty figures as the rest of the country.
*      *      *
Noel Felongco of the National Anti-Poverty Commission told The Chiefs that so far, the government is on track to achieving President Duterte’s target of bringing the poverty incidence down to 14 percent by the end of his term.
Felongco, of course, is not among those skeptical of the PSA figures, which he attributes to social protection and job generation programs such as Build Build Build. He admitted that inflation remains a concern for poverty alleviation.
Organized workers have slammed the PSA report, saying it was meant to blunt calls for wage increases amid rising consumer prices.
The PSA report has earned flak not just because of the rosy figures that cover only the first semester of 2018, but also because of the timing of the release. This is, after all, not just the season of fasting, but also of election campaigning, when any good news on the economic front can boost the chances of administration bets.
Perez and Balamban don’t look like the types who would manipulate statistics for partisan considerations, and they have promised to release a fact sheet on the PSA’s methodology.
Still, we’ll just have to wait for the full-year report on poverty to come out, for a more accurate assessment of this problem.