Friday, May 24, 2019

24th May,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Get ready to eat differently in a warmer world
Climate change is making crops less productive, foods less nutritious and farms weedier
MAY 23, 2019 — 6:45 AM EST
Description: a sack full of sorghum grain
With climate change, people may have to depend on grains such as the sorghum (shown here) that are not now commonly found on our plates.
This is the final installment in a 10-part series about the ongoing global impacts of climate change. These stories look at the current effects of a changing planet, what the emerging science suggests is behind those changes and what we all can do to adapt to them.
In the late summer of 2016, wheat growers in France realized something was wrong. Their harvest was smaller than usual — much smaller. The farmers were used to their yields — the amount of crops produced in their fields — being very consistent. Wheat yields usually changed by no more than 5 percent from one year to the next. But this year was different.
It wasn’t obvious right away, though, what the problem was.
There had been an unusually warm spell that winter. Later in the year, some intense rains had fallen. These events led to unexpected issues. The heavy rains, for instance, leached nutrients out of the soil. The heat and damp increased the spread of diseases. None of these issues seemed too bad as they were happening. But when it came time to harvest the wheat, yields across France were one-quarter (25 percent) lower than normal. In some regions, they were just half (50 percent) of what they had been.
Description: a photo of a shaft of wheat against a wheat field at dusk
Wheat grows in France. In 2016, a warmer than usual winter and a wet spring led wheat production in France to drop by an average of 25 percent.
Christophe Castronovo/iStock/Getty Images Plus
“That was amazing to me,” says Senthold Asseng. He’s works at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he uses computers to analyze data and predict crop harvests. “It was a real warning that you don’t need to wait for a big shock like a heat wave or a drought. A shock to production could also come about by having three or four smaller changes that all come together in one season.”
France is a wealthy country. So it had other sources of grain and food. Other than the wheat farmers, few French people were affected. But in a poor country, such a huge drop in crop yields could worsen poverty — or even bring on a famine.
When people think about how their lives will be affected by climate change, they might imagine living in a world with shorter winters and longer summers. They might envision coastal cities losing ground to sea level rise. They might even expect more extreme weather, such as hurricanes or wildfires.
All of those effects have struck various parts of the world. But climate change is also affecting what we eat. With warmer temperatures and more pests, farms will produce less food. And farmers will have to work harder to grow what food they do bring to harvest. Some crops might even be less nutritious. We may eat less of foods that are vulnerable to climate change — such as wheat and corn — and more of those crops that can better tolerate drought. Think sorghum. (Mmmm … sorghum!)
Scientists are studying these issues and learning more about how climate change will affect food supplies. They’re also developing new crops and new growing techniques to help farmers adapt to the coming changes.
Turning up the heat
It’s hard to study how temperature changes will affect crops. Many factors influence crop growth. These include rainfall, sunlight, the quality of the soil, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and the type of plants being grown. Scientists have been seeking ways to isolate the effect of temperature from all of those other factors. Some researchers do this with greenhouses or experimental fields of plants. Asseng, though, does this using a computer.
With a computer model, researchers can do experiments that would be difficult or impossible in real life. They can alter one factor, and keep all the others unchanged. They can go forward or back in time. Asseng helped develop a computer program to model the growth of plants. His team can now use this model to assess likely changes to crop yields on farms across the world.
Asseng and his team used this model to investigate how rising temperatures might affect harvests of wheat, rice, corn and soybeans. Worldwide, these four crops provide two-thirds of all calories that people eat.
Tweaking temperatures in the model turned up something very worrisome. A global warming of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), his model showed, “leads to reductions in all the major crops.” Corn harvests would fall by 7 to 8 percent. Wheat would drop by 6 percent. Rice and soy yields would fall some 3 percent.
Description: a photo of corn growing in a field with cracked dry earth
Hotter temperatures and drought are expected to lower the productivity of cereal crops, such as this corn.
no_limit_pictures/iStock/Getty Images Plus
To check these findings, Asseng and a group of other scientists compared their results to four other studies done by different scientists. Those studies included other computer models, math analyses and harvests of crops grown in test fields. “All these different methods came up with the same numbers,” he says. That made him confident that temperature really can and will play a big role in the size of future harvests.
But the impact of temperature on crops might not be obvious to most people, at least right away. That’s because other factors might be aiding crop production at the same time. Those benefits can hide any effect of warming temperatures — at least for a while.
Asseng says Egypt is a good example of this. Worldwide, crop yields have been rising steadily for the past 50 years. Better farming techniques are responsible. But in Egypt, harvests have leveled off in the last 10 years, even as its farmers have made the same farming improvements. Drought can’t be blamed. Egyptian farmers irrigate their fields, so the crops aren’t getting less water.
Asseng believes rising temperatures are responsible.
Slowing the growth of food production can make it hard to feed a world where the population is increasing. And world populations are rising rapidly. Today there are 7.6 billion people on Earth. The United Nations predicts there will be 8.6 billion by 2030, and 9.8 billion by 2050. That's a lot of mouths to feed.
“The changes are already there, but you often cannot see them,” Asseng says. “Yes, [crop] yields go up. But behind the scenes, someone is pushing the brakes,” he says. And in some places, such as Egypt, he argues, you can already see the impacts.
Description: a photo of an Egyptian farmer carrying sugar cane
In Egypt, harvests have leveled off in recent years, despite farmers having made improvements that should increase yields.
benmm/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Changing soils
It’s not just temperatures and other features of climate that affect crop growth. Soil also plays a big role. “If you change the climate, you may also change the properties of the soil,” notes Lenny Winkel. An environmental geochemist, she works at ETH Zurich and at the aquatic research organization Eawag. Both are in Switzerland.
Wet, rainy areas have a lot of organic matter — largely carbon — in the soil. That’s because these wet places often have a lot of plants. When they drop leaves or die, their tissues break down in the moist environment. This adds compost — available nutrients — to the soil. But dry places have fewer plants. And as plant there die, they take longer to rot into compost.
If climate change leads some regions to become drier, she says, “you could also lose some organic matter in the soil.” That would lower the nutrients available to feed the next season’s crops.
Winkel studies the presence in soil of trace elements, such as selenium. Such elements show up in the environment in only tiny amounts. As an important micronutrient, selenium is something that people need in tiny quantities.
Not much is known about where selenium occurs naturally. So Winkel decided to try to map known amounts. From this she attempted to predict levels elsewhere in the world. Then her team looked to “find the link between [known] concentrations and environmental factors,” she says. “We found out that climate factors were really important.” That’s because one way selenium gets into the soil is through the breakdown of organic matter.
With this information, Winkel realized she could now predict how soil levels of selenium would change in a warming world. Using computer models of climate, she was able to add likely changes to her map that would reflect a warming environment. And, she now reports, “We saw that the change would be a loss of selenium in the soil.”
Of course, people don’t eat selenium out of the soil. The roots of plants mine it from the ground and carry it into their tissues. The next step to understanding this issue will be to study how a reduction of selenium in the soils affects levels of this micronutrient in food crops. “We can generally say that what happens in the soil is broadly reflected in the plants — but not in all cases,” Winkel says.
A coming flood of impacts
Another way climate change is affecting soil is through pollution. Joyce J. Chen works at Ohio State University in Columbus. There, she studies the economies of lower-income countries and tries to find policies and programs that can help them prosper. Her research has focused on how flooding can taint soils in Bangladesh.
This low-lying country on the eastern border of India is prone to flooding. As sea levels rise, storms and high tides can cause ocean water to surge inland, across coastal areas. Later, when low rainfall causes river levels to drop, more seawater flows inland from the mouths of rivers. This, too, floods these areas.
Saltwater floods contaminate drinking-water supplies. Even farm animals can sicken from drinking salty water. And salt can effectively poison farmland. Crops such as rice grow poorly in salty soils. So rice harvests fall where seawater flooding occurs. Many farm families respond, when this happens, by moving to cities. They try to seek work there when they can no longer raise crops on their salt-poisoned lands.
Such a situation “creates a double burden” for these people, Chen says. They not only need a new place to live, but their nation also suffers a potential reduction of food because fewer people are able to farm.
Description: a photo of floodwaters covering a field in Bangladesh
Floodwaters inundate the land, here, in Bangladesh. When water from the sea floods coastal areas, it can make the land too salty to grow rice and other crops.
Sohel_Parvez_Haque/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Learning from weeds
Climate change doesn’t just bring rising temperatures. It also brings rising levels of carbon dioxide. That sounds like good news for plants, which absorb carbon dioxide, or CO2, from the air. They use the carbon to build tissues. But it’s not that simple, says Lewis Ziska. He’s a plant physiologist, someone who studies the biology of plant tissues. He works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s big research center in Beltsville, Md.
“Not all plants are going to respond the same way to that change [in CO2],” he says. Many will yield crops that are less nutritious when grown in higher levels of CO2. Their protein levels, especially, will likely fall. Crops also may lose vitamins and micronutrients. In experiments, crop plants such as wheat, soy and rice did not seem to grow better in a CO2-rich environment.
What did grow better? Weeds.
“Many of the worst weeds in agriculture are already responding to this change,” Ziska notes. Crop plants could grow to smaller sizes or produce smaller fruits and fewer seeds in a future where they have to compete with more weeds. More pests and diseases may also plague plants in a warmer world.
One thing contributing to the problem is the lack of genetic diversity in modern crop plants. While there are thousands of varieties of weeds, each with different traits, most foods today come from monoculture farming. That means farmers only grow one type of crop. And those crops all have pretty much the same traits, based on breeding that restricted the particular genes that they host.
Description: a photo of hands holding a colorful selection of potatoes
Potatoes come in many varieties, but farmers tend to grow just one. If the variety they grow isn’t well-adapted to changing environmental conditions, their fields could be vulnerable to climate change.
Jupiterimages/Photodisc/Getty Images
Genes for thriving in warmer or drier environments may be gone. Breeders might have sacrificed them in favor of varieties whose genes produce bigger fruits, more seeds or stronger stems. But those varieties may now need a constant and very comfortable environment. Change the climate and those plants may become sick or puny.
For instance, most French fries today are made from a single potato variety. “That’s great if the climate is stable,” Ziska says, “but not so great if the climate is changing.” If farmers instead grew several different potato varieties, some of them might adapt, even if many others did not.
“The positive side of the coin is that we can learn from weeds and use that to improve our own varieties of major cereals,” Ziska says. Cereal plants are species like rice, wheat, and corn or maize.
Ziska and his colleagues looked at “weedy” relatives of cereal grains, such as wild rices. These aren't like the weeds that grow in your garden. They're ancient or wild varieties of grains that have been domesticated by humans. The researchers planted different varieties in test fields. The scientists could change growing conditions, making those fields warmer, drier or wetter. They could also expose them to higher than normal levels of CO2 — levels that mimic what’s predicted to occur in the future. The researchers monitored how the plants responded. Then they studied the genes in those plants that performed best.
Some rice turns “chalky” when it grows in warmer temperatures or breathes in more CO2, they found. Its cellular structure is changed, giving it a more opaque color, and causing it to be tougher and less sticky when cooked. These rice grains are a poorer quality. They're unappealing and don't taste as good as regular rice, which lowers their value. By testing different types of rice and looking at each plant’s DNA, scientists could find the genes affecting chalkiness. They can now avoid rice varieties that inherited these genes when farmers look for ones likely to produce better crops in a world that will be warmer and/or have higher levels of CO2.
Description: a photo of Lewis Ziska and Martha Tomecek working with rice plants at the USDA
Lewis Ziska and Martha Tomecek, plant scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, study how different varieties of rice respond to changes in temperature and carbon dioxide.
Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service
“We think that literally the answer lies in the weeds,” Ziska says. The wild relatives of crop plants are already adapting to Earth’s changing climate. Learning how they are doing that offers hope that plant scientists can learn from these genes “to modify current crop lines and potentially make them more adaptive to the change.”
One solution might involve tinkering with the genetics of existing crops, such as rice, to insert the genes of some weedy, but resilient, cousins. Such plants are known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Another alternative: Scientists could breed plant species together to create new hybrids that combine the best traits of both. But Ziska hopes that the foods of the future might already be hiding in plain sight.
“I have nothing against GMOs. But I also want folks to recognize that evolution has been doing this for a while. And the last time I checked, there were over 100,000 different lines of rice,” he says. “How about we go check those out first and see what we can use that’s already available before we go moving genes around?”
Adapting what we eat
It can take 10 or 20 years to develop a new variety of wheat. But people don’t have to wait that long to change how they grow food. “At the field level right now, farmers are recognizing that things are changing, and they’re adapting,” Ziska says.
“They’re planting earlier. Or they’re using a different method to plant faster," he says. They may be using different equipment in their fields or trying different methods to help crops grow.
The way Ziska sees it, we cannot stop climate change in our lifetimes. It’s got so much momentum, all we can hope to do is to slow it down. And even that may take a while to manage. “We’re not going to suddenly shut down the amount of COgoing in the air,” he says. “We’ve got to adapt, and we’ve got to adapt quickly.”
The good news is that looking at the problem of food supplies could help more people understand the importance of climate change. Early in his career, Ziska noticed that most people were not interested when he talked about how climate change was affecting the environment. But when he showed them how it could affect food supplies, they suddenly sat up and listened.
“It went from 10 percent of the audience caring to 90 percent of the audience caring,” he says. “When it becomes personal, then you care. And I can’t think of anything more personal than food.”
Journal: J. Chen. Coastal climate change, soil salinity, and human migration in BangladeshNature Climate Change. Vol. 8. Oct. 22, 2018, p, 981. doi: 10.1038_s41558-018-0313-8.ris.
Journal: C. Zhao et al. Temperature increase reduces global yields of crops in four major estimatesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 114, Aug. 29, 2017, p. 9326. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1701762114.
Journal: G. Jones et al. Selenium deficiency risk predicted to increase under future climate changeProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 114, March 14, 2017, p. 2848. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611576114.

New study reveals how rice blast fungus spreads

BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhua) — An international study has found how rice blast fungus spreads, providing insights on the control of rice blast, the most devastating rice disease in the world.
Rice blast fungus can infect rice plants at any growth stage and cause lesions on most parts of the plant. Rice blast may reduce both grain yield and quality. Under certain conditions, the disease can lead to total crop failure.
To fend off rice blast, farmers plant disease-resistant varieties of rice plants and spray fungicides. But rice blast fungus can adapt to overcome resistance and develop tolerance to the fungicides.
Scientists have been trying to understand the cellular functions used by the fungus to infect rice plants to better prevent and control the rice disease.
In the new study, researchers from China’s Nanjing Agricultural University and Louisiana State University in the United States revealed how a type of protein named MoAbp1 plays a crucial role in the fungus’ potential capacity to cause the disease.
They found that rice blast fungus forms a special infection structure that applies mechanical force to rupture the rice leaf cuticle and the protective, waxy layer covering the leaf. Once inside the host, the fungus can live off the rice plant’s nutrients to spread the infection.
The researchers reported that the two processes which are necessary for the growth of the fungus are enabled by the protein MoAbp1.
The findings have been published in the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.
The study is expected to help develop new approaches for the control of rice blast fungus infection and also shed light on the study on the virulence mechanism of plant fungi.

A 'crisper' method for gene editing in fungi
Scientists devise a novel genome editing method for filamentous fungi, based on the CRISPR/Cas9 platform
May 23, 2019
Tokyo University of Science
A team of researchers has recently established a series of novel strategies to increase the efficiency of targeted gene disruption and new gene 'introduction' using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in the rice blast fungus Pyricularia (Magnaporthe) oryzae.

CRISPR/Cas9 is now a household name associated with genetic engineering studies. Through cutting-edge research described in their paper published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tokyo University of Science, Meiji University, and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, led by Dr Takayuki Arazoe and Prof Shigeru Kuwata, has recently established a series of novel strategies to increase the efficiency of targeted gene disruption and new gene "introduction" using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in the rice blast fungus Pyricularia (Magnaporthe) oryzae. These strategies include quicker (single-step) gene introduction, use of small homologous sequences, and bypassing of certain prerequisite host DNA "patterns" and host component modification.
The team led by Dr Arazoe and Prof Kuwata has devised simple and quick techniques for gene editing (target gene disruption, sequence substitution, and re-introduction of desired genes) using CRISPR/Cas9 in the rice blast fungus Pyricularia (Magnaporthe) oryzae, a type of filamentous fungus. Spurred on by encouraging results, the researchers surmise, "Plants and their pathogens are still coevolving in nature. Exploiting the mutation mechanisms of model pathogenic fungi as a genome editing technique might lead to the development of further novel techniques in genetic engineering."
The working component of the CRISPR/Cas9 system binds to the target gene region (DNA) and causes a site-specific double-stranded break (DSB) in the DNA. Effective binding of this component requires a certain "motif" or "pattern" called the protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM), which follows downstream of the target gene region.
Most genome editing techniques require DSBs induced at the target site, which trigger DNA "repair" pathways in the host. Homologous recombination (HR) is a mechanism for repair of DSBs, and it is useful because it adds complementary sequences. However, the underlying methodology is laborious, and its efficiency conventionally depends on external factors such as the host properties as well as PAMs. HR can be divided into two pathways: "noncrossover" (gene conversion) and "crossover" type. Crossover-type repairs are known to occur in cells that undergo meiosis. However, the understanding of their role in cells that undergo mitosis is limited, and such information on filamentous fungi is virtually unavailable. It is this gap in knowledge that the researchers were looking to address.
In their study, the researchers first created a vector (gene delivery system) based on CRISPR/Cas9 to confirm crossover-type HR in the recipient gene region in the rice blast fungus.
Then, to check gene targeting or "sequence substitution," they created a "mutant" vector, optimized for single crossover-type HR, for targeted disruption of the host gene that encodes scytalone dehydratase (SDH), a protein involved in melanin formation. This vector was introduced into the vector containing the gene for hygromycin B phosphotransferase (hph), which confers resistance to the antibiotic hygromycin B. The researchers speculated that the single crossover-type HR would insert the entire vector along with hph into the target site. The mutants with disrupted SDH gene would be identified as white colonies (owing to loss of melanin) on a medium containing hygromycin B. The researchers found that the number of hygromycin B-resistant white colonies dramatically increased by using the CRISPR/Cas9 vector, which means that the CRISPR/Cas9 system is effective in inducing single crossover-type HR. The greatest benefit of this technique is that it needs extremely short homologous sequences (100 base pairs; which is really small in molecular biology).
The researchers also used a similar strategy to check whether gene introduction (or "knock in") is possible via single crossover-type HR using a CRISPR/Cas9 vector. They used the green-fluorescent protein (GFP) gene, which is widely used as a "reporter" gene to make host cells glow fluorescent green when inserted into their genome. They speculated that single crossover HR would result in introduction of GFP into the recipient sequence. Indeed, they found that use of the CRISPR/Cas9 vector gave rise to green fluorescent colonies on hygromycin medium. These findings show that the CRISPR/Cas9 system can be used for efficient "one-step" gene knock-in.
This research points towards a surprising fact that, perhaps, PAMs are not all that necessary for CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in fungi. Hailing the success of the research, the team states, "We have found that filamentous fungi have unique genomic characteristics, wherein crossovers are frequently induced, even in somatic cells, by cleaving the target DNA. We used these characteristics to disrupt the target DNA and to introduce "reporter" genes. We also succeeded in increasing the efficiency and speed of the knock-in, using a single-step process. This technology overcomes the restriction posed by PAMs -- which is one of the biggest disadvantages of the CRISPR/Cas9 system -- and enables more flexible genome editing, which has been difficult in previous studies on filamentous fungi."
Finally, when asked about the broader applications of this research, Dr Arazoe and Prof Kuwata eloquently state, "Rice blast fungus is an important pathogen that causes destructive disease of rice, which is the staple food of the country. The CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing technique developed in our study can speed up molecular biological research on this pathogen, ultimately contributing to stable food supply and plant-based food safety. Also, this technique is applicable to other filamentous fungi widely used in industry -- especially in the bioprocessing, food, and fermentation industries."

Story Source:
Materials provided by Tokyo University of ScienceNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
1.     Tohru Yamato, Ai Handa, Takayuki Arazoe, Misa Kuroki, Akihito Nozaka, Takashi Kamakura, Shuichi Ohsato, Tsutomu Arie, Shigeru Kuwata. Single crossover-mediated targeted nucleotide substitution and knock-in strategies with CRISPR/Cas9 system in the rice blast fungusScientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-43913-0

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Rice Deemed Eligible Commodity for Market Facilitation Program Payments 

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced $16 billion in additional aid is being allocated to programs supporting farmers who have been impacted by retaliatory tariffs and the ongoing trade disputes.  Rice had been excluded from a similar program last year, but was considered an impacted commodity this time around and rice growers will receive relief.  While all of the programmatic details have yet to be released, this round of aid will again consist of direct payments to farmers; purchases of surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation for distribution to food banks, schools, and other outlets serving low-income individuals; and another round of trade promotion dollars for use in developing new international markets.

"The plan we are announcing today ensures farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners," said Perdue.  "Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year's program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers.  Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them."

The three programs USDA is utilizing are the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP), and the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) -- the three programs used in 2018.  Fundamentally, FPDP and ATP will be structured in similar formats, but the MFP will be focused on direct payments to farmers "based on a single county rate multiplied by a farm's total plantings to those crops in aggregate in 2019," according to a press release from USDA this afternoon.  This structure is different than the 2018 MFP, which was based on actual production.  Rice has been deemed an eligible commodity for these payments.

Charley Mathews, Jr., USA Rice chairman and California rice farmer, met with President Donald Trump at the White House this afternoon to discuss the trade aid package and the damages the rice industry has incurred due to the stress of tariffs and the ongoing trade disputes on the rice market.

"It was an honor to be invited to the White House to meet with President Trump this afternoon to express our appreciation for being included in this round of tariff mitigation aid, as well as to convey just how badly our industry has been affected by tariffs and bad trade actors, like China," said Mathews.  "The President acknowledged our position, but stressed his commitment of working towards getting China and other countries on a level playing field when it comes to trade."

USDA stated earlier that the provision that will establish these programs is currently in the rule-making progress at the White House's Office of Management and Budget, and once the rule has been cleared, more details on the programs will be announced

Sustainability Report:  Water Use and Water Quality   

Part of the series highlighting the U.S. Rice Sustainability Report.   

ARLINGTON, VA -- Water is the stuff of life, and no one understands that better than U.S. rice farmers.  Water conservation and water quality have been at the forefront of our farmers' sustainability efforts for decades, and techniques continue to evolve.  Using water smartly means saving money, growing better rice, and protecting the environment and rural communities.  The U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report shows just how much rice farmers have improved and streamlined water practices as stewards of the land. 

Some people who don't know any better may look at a flooded rice field and think it's a waste of water.  What they don't know is all the cutting-edge practices rice farmers are applying to their fields that save more water than ever before, reutilize recovered tailwater, and ensure that the water returning to the environment is safe and cleaner than before.  Smart water practices employed by U.S. rice farmers also reduce energy usage, decrease the amount of herbicides, and retain nutrients that otherwise would run off into streams and rivers. 

"Why would a farmer want to waste anything?" said Arkansas rice farmer Ryan Sullivan, whose farm is part of a two-year study on irrigation water management practices.  "It costs money to pump every gallon of water, so we are conservative in order to stay profitable." 

The methods used by rice farmers to reduce initial water usage are many.  Multiple-inlet rice irrigation (MIRI) eliminates the need for water to flow from one levee to another, reducing total water use by 25 percent, and reducing overall water costs by 18 percent.  Combined with intermittent flooding, also known as alternate wetting and drying (AWD), water use drops by 32 percent.  Furrow irrigation, or row rice, is a practice where rice is produced as a partially flooded, partially upland crop that significantly reduces water requirements and reduces evaporation losses.  Precision land leveling facilitates surface drainage and efficiently distributes irrigation water. 

But the water that leaves rice fields is just as important to our farmers as the water that goes into it.  Tailwater recovery systems allow farmers to recycle captured run-off water and either use it to irrigate their crop immediately, or keep it in a reservoir for later use.  This saves farmers money, reduces the burden on aquifers, and provides security in times of drought.  And in California, tailwater flows to downstream users and is reabsorbed back into the environment. 

The rice plant is a natural filter, and water that leaves a rice field is cleaner than it was before.  Sediments and nutrients that don't belong in the water supply are filtered out and retained.  Filter strips and riparian buffers keep these nutrients on the field where they belong.  Typical agriculture problems like erosion, sediment transport, and saline drainage waters are less of a problem for rice due to these measures. 

"Now, we're using less water in rice than soybeans, corn, or cotton," said Arkansas rice farmer Jim Whitaker, who saved an estimated 4.3 billion gallons of water during the 2016 growing season using these conservation techniques.  "Rice is the most ecologically friendly crop we can plant, if we manage it properly." 

The rice industry is doing more than any other crop to advance sustainable water technologies.  For more details, data, and stories that illustrate how seriously rice farmers take water stewardship, check out the U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report.

USDA Announces Support for Farmers Impacted by Unjustified Retaliation and Trade Disruption

Release & Contact Info

Press Release
Release No. 0078.19
Contact: USDA Press
(Washington, D.C., May 23, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation and trade disruption. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a relief strategy to support American agricultural producers while the Administration continues to work on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally. Specifically, the President has authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions. These programs will assist agricultural producers while President Trump works to address long-standing market access barriers.
“China hasn’t played by the rules for a long time and President Trump is standing up to them, sending the clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property. President Trump has great affection for America’s farmers and ranchers, and he knows they are bearing the brunt of these trade disputes. In fact, I’ve never known of a president that has been more concerned or interested in farmer wellbeing and long-term profitability than President Trump,” said Secretary Perdue. “The plan we are announcing today ensures farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners. Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year’s program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers. Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them.”


American farmers have dealt with unjustified retaliatory tariffs and years of non-tariff trade disruptions, which have curtailed U.S. exports to China. Trade damages from such retaliation and market distortions have impacted a host of U.S. commodities, including crops like soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton, rice, and sorghum; livestock products like milk and pork; and many fruits, nuts, and other crops. High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets. Additionally, American goods shipped to China have been slowed from reaching market by unusually strict or cumbersome entry procedures, which affect the quality and marketability of perishable crops. These boost marketing costs and unfairly affect our producers. USDA will use the following programs to assist farmers:
  • Market Facilitation Program (MFP) for 2019, authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide $14.5 billion in direct payments to producers.
    • Producers of alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, mustard seed, dried beans, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, upland cotton, and wheat will receive a payment based on a single county rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to those crops in aggregate in 2019. Those per acre payments are not dependent on which of those crops are planted in 2019, and therefore will not distort planting decisions. Moreover, total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings.
    • Dairy producers will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history and hog producers will receive a payment based on hog and pig inventory for a later-specified time frame.
    • Tree nut producers, fresh sweet cherry producers, cranberry producers, and fresh grape producers will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of production.
    • These payments will help farmers to absorb some of the additional costs of managing disrupted markets, to deal with surplus commodities, and to expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
    • Payments will be made in up to three tranches, with the second and third tranches evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. The first tranche will begin in late July/early August as soon as practical after Farm Service Agency crop reporting is completed by July 15th. If conditions warrant, the second and third tranches will be made in November and early January.
  • Additionally, CCC Charter Act authority will be used to implement a $1.4 billion Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP)through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to purchase surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation such as fruits, vegetables, some processed foods, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and milk for distribution by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to food banks, schools, and other outlets serving low-income individuals.
  • Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for $100 million to be issued through the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) to assist in developing new export markets on behalf of producers.
Further details regarding eligibility and payment rates will be released at a later date.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

A rice by any other name…
Laine Kaplan-LevensonMay 23, 2019
Jeff Durand on his rice farm in St. Martinville, Louisiana.
Laine Kaplan-Levenson
New products — like cauliflower “rice” — are competing for consumer dollars and leading to debate about product labeling in the process.
Is cauliflower rice, made from small pieces of cauliflower, really entitled to call itself “rice”? That’s currently up for debate in Louisiana, the third-largest rice producing state in the country.
Louisiana Senate Bill 152 provides for “truth in labeling” of agricultural products like rice. Those in support of the bill argue that calling cauliflower rice is misleading, and therefore a consumer protection issue. Cauliflower rice producers and affiliated trade groups argue that consumers are not confused, and are intentionally buying these rice alternatives.
Similar measures have already passed in Arkansas and Missouri, and are being challenged in court. If it passes in Louisiana, it’s likely the courts will also have to decide if what, exactly, can be called rice.  

Indian food truck K2 Cuisine a vibrant treat 
Mountain of flavor
click to enlargeDescription: Calcutta native and chef Koushik Mondal serves stellar flatbreads. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
·       Matthew Schniper
·       Calcutta native and chef Koushik Mondal serves stellar flatbreads.
You should have seen Koushik Mondal’s face at May 5’s Food Truck Cook-Off, outside the Broadmoor World Arena. Though he’s been operating the Springs’ only Indian food truck, K2 Cuisine, for the last year, he apparently hadn’t been exposed to so many enthusiasts all at once, to the point where he appeared emotionally overwhelmed by the positive feedback on samples he was handing out. People were pumped on his food and he was pumped on that — he wore a big smile and a look of wonder tamed by humility.
Later in the day, the judges selected by the hosting Small Business Development Center — myself plus James Africano of The Warehouse and Tyler Peoples of Springs Rescue Mission — awarded Mondal second place out of 32 entrants for one of his chicken wrap variants. He was overjoyed, perhaps feeling validation for years of hard work that brought him to this moment, when the general public and fellow chefs and industry folks confirmed what he already knew: His food kicks ass. 
Mondal hails from Calcutta, which I can personally attest has a boisterous street-food scene; so a food truck concept here’s more than fitting for distributing the vibrant panoply of spice that comprises Indian cuisine. “In Calcutta we are foodies!” he tells me when we first meet at The Market at Spring Creek food truck rally, just days prior to the Cook-Off. He attended culinary school in India, and says he can cook just about anything. 
If for no other reason, I believe him because he has a damn dough mixer on his truck, and makes three kinds of fabulous breads on the spot — naan (leavened), paratha (flatbread) and luchi (airy deep-fried flatbread) — essentially the same flours and recipes just treated and processed differently. His menu’s a pretty simple rotating five-item ($9-10 each) list, including everyone’s favorite butter chicken over basmati rice with naan on the day I find him. There’s also a chicken roll that sounds pretty much like what I danced with at the Cook-Off. But I nab three items that could qualify as Indian street tacos in that the fillings are all folded into the breads and served in trios. 
click to enlargeDescription: K2’s flatbread items sing with Indian spices, and finish with fresh garnishes. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
·       Matthew Schniper
·       K2’s flatbread items sing with Indian spices, and finish with fresh garnishes.
I try the flatbread with the Tikka Paratha, which presents grilled chicken breast that Mondal marinates for a day or two in yogurt with lemon juice and so many spices, like turmeric, cumin, paprika, garam and chaat masala, cardamom, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and ... well, you get the point. The meat’s delicious and juicy even before a lime squeeze, while cilantro, lettuce and onion complete fresh garnishings and a fry-dip-like mayo-ketchup blend adds some creamy tang.  
Both my Kosha Mangsho and Saag Aloo highlight the luchi, all puffed up and thankfully not oil-logged, a doughy treat with both the vegetarian creamed spinach-potato blend ­in the latter and chicken-potato blend in the former. Both get the same garnish of onions, cilantro and crisp cucumber bits. And each again bursts with layered spice blends too numerous to detail but clearly perfumed by ginger and garlic, though a mustard oil sear seems to distinguish the Kosha a bit and the saag obviously lacks an animal-protein backbone.
 Sure, I miss not chasing it all with a lassi or starting with papadum and finishing with sweet kheer — arguable essentials to sit-down Indian meals — but otherwise K2 has made quite a gift to town by taking awesome Indian food to the streets.

Amira Nature Foods Ltd Announces $9 Million of Contracts
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 23, 2019--
Amira Nature Foods Ltd (the “Company”) (NYSE: ANFI), a global provider of packaged Indian specialty rice, today announced that it entered into contracts, which consist of approximately $9 million in revenue, to supply rice and institutional products to new customers in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (“EMEA”) and Asia regions. The Company expects to recognize the benefit of this contract in the 2020 fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
“We are extremely pleased to announce this order, which along with our previously announced customer order of $42mn, amounts to over $51mn. This equates to securing 26% of our forecasted $200mn of FY2020 revenue just 52 days (14%) into the fiscal year”, stated Karan A. Chanana, Amira’s Chairman.
Further information on the Company, including an updated investor presentation and other information, can be found on the Company’s website at
About Amira Nature Foods
Founded in 1915, Amira has evolved into a global provider of packaged specialty rice, with sales in over 40 countries today. Amira sells Basmati rice, premium long-grain rice grown only in certain regions of the Indian sub-continent, under their flagship Amira brand as well as under other third party brands. Amira sells its products primarily in emerging markets through a broad distribution network. Amira’s headquarters are in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and it also has offices in India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements
This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements generally can be identified by phrases that we or our members of management use such as “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “foresee,” “forecast,” “estimate” or other words or phrases of similar import. Specifically, these statements include, among other things, statements that describe our expectations for the global rice market, the financial impact of new sales contracts on our revenue, our expectations regarding the successful efforts of our distribution partners, and other statements of management’s beliefs, intentions or goals. It is uncertain whether any of the events anticipated by the forward-looking statements will transpire or occur, or if any of them do, what impact they will have on our results of operations, financial condition, or the price of our ordinary shares. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in such forward-looking statements, including but not limited to our ability to perform our agreements with customers; our ability to recognize revenue from our contracts as planned; continued competitive pressures in the marketplace; our reliance on a few customers and distribution partners for a substantial part of our revenue; our ability to implement our plans, forecasts and other expectations with respect to our business and realize additional opportunities for growth; and the other risks and important considerations contained and identified in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements attributable to us or to persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these risk factors. Other than as required under the securities laws, we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking or other statements herein, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
View source version on
CONTACT: Wendy Eguez
The Amira Group
SOURCE: Amira Nature Foods Ltd
Copyright Business Wire 2019.
PUB: 05/23/2019 08:00 AM/DISC: 05/23/2019 08:01 AM

Sri Lanka's HC in Pakistan refutes news report on halting Pakistan- Sri Lanka trade 
Thu, May 23, 2019, 12:04 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Description: 23, Colombo: The High Commission of Sri Lanka in Pakistan has dismissed a Pakistani newspaper report titled "Pakistan's trade with Sri Lanka Comes to a halt", which appeared on May 20 as fake news.
The disturbing news Item published in The Express Tribune of Pakistan on 20 May 2019 is "absolutely untrue and incorrect" the High Commission said.
In a statement, the High Commission said it made an attempt to ascertain the report's veracity from the newspaper concerned and from the Office of the Consul General of Sri Lanka in Karachi, which mainly deals with corporate and commercial matters.
The Consulate, thereupon had made inquiries swiftly and informed the High commission that it contacted the person who was purported to have given a statement to the newspaper.
The Tribune report quoted the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Business Forum Chairman Aslam Pakhali as saying that "Rice and textile exports to Sri Lanka from Pakistan have stopped. Potato export has also reduced drastically."
The Sri Lankan Consulate had contacted Mr. Pakhali and it transpired that Mr. Pakhali had not made such statement or provided any such information to the newspaper as reported. Further, he confirmed that he had neither met the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka nor did he lead a delegation as was reported.
The High Commissioner thereupon wrote to the editor of The Express Tribune and expressed his dismay and dissatisfaction over the fake news and demanded a correction thereof.
"The High Commission emphatically states that no person by the name of Aslam Pakhali referred to in the said news item, met the High Commissioner or the Consulate General as reported. The said fake news item has been published without proper verification of the facts contained therein," the Sri Lankan High Commission said in a statement.

·      MAY 23RD, 2019

·      LAHORE
Speakers at a seminar stressed the need for formulating a policy for management of crop residue, development and promotion of appropriate crop machinery in farming practices and educating the farmers about possible options alternative to crop residue burning to help tackle the issue of smog.

WWF-Pakistan organized the seminar on crop residue burning and the issue of smog with the aim to establish a consensus between the relevant public and private sector on the roles, responsibilities and actions that need to be taken to reduce and discourage crop residue burning.

The half-day seminar was attended by corporate partners, journalists, academia, industry practitioners and the farming community from across Pakistan.

Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan, while welcoming the participants said, "Lahore is among the ten most polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality, according to air quality monitor AirVisual. Air pollution caused by traffic, industries, crop burning and burning of solid waste is major contributors of smog. Urban air pollution in Pakistan is among the world's most severe, significantly damaging human health, quality of life, and impacting the economy and environment."

Tanvir Jabar, Director General, Environment Protection Department, Government of Punjab, spoke about the sources of smog (brick kilns, industries, agriculture and transportation sector), including the role of agriculture/crop residue burning in creating it.

Rafay Alam, Pakistan's leading environmental lawyer stated that it is the need of the hour to control crop burning. This can be achieved by introducing long-term and multi-sectoral solutions that must outlive the political cycle. He discussed the need of an air quality vision that unites policymakers. He stated "Punjab region in general is extremely prone to the hazards of smog. While the transportation and energy sector qualify as the leading contributors of smog, crop residue burning also contributes to this cause."

Dr Ehsan Ali, Director Punjab Bio Energy Institute, presented a feasibility analysis of the alternative use of crop residue, such as rice husk, in the production of energy. According to him bio-energy is of utmost importance for the environment as it is a step towards materialising the intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) that Pakistan has submitted in accordance with the Paris agreement.

Yasir Idress, Operational Manager, Punjab Bio Energy Company discussed the prospects of developing a sustainable supply chain of crop residue. Ali Raza, a food technologist, also spoke about the plausible value addition initiatives that can be taken for rice residue.

Dr Masood Arshad, Director Water, Climate and Energy, WWF-Pakistan and Dr Anjum Buttar, Director General Agriculture (Extension) Punjab also spoke on this occasion.

4.15 lahh families to get 40 kg rice monthly

United News of Bangladesh . Dhaka | Published: 01:19, May 23,2019
The government will provide 40 kilograms of rice monthly to each of 4,14,784 fishermen’s families in 42 upazilas of 12 coastal districts during a 65-day ban (from May 20 to July 23) on fishing in the Bay of Bengal.
State minister for fisheries and livestock Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru announced this at a press conference at the secretariat on Wednesday.
The rice will be provided to the fishermen before the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr under VGF programme as they have no alternative source of income, Khasru said.
‘In the fiscal 2017-18, the country became self-reliant in fish production by producing a total of 42.77 lakh tonnes of fish. Among those, 6.56 tonnes of fish came from sea which is 15.33 per cent of total fish production of the country’, he added.
Earlier on May 20, the government imposed a 65-day ban on fishing in the Bay of Bengal, aiming to boost commercial fishing in the country.
The government since 2015 has imposed a periodic ban on fishing in the seas for creating a safe environment for aquatic or semi-aquatic mammals in Bangladesh’s exclusive economic zone in the Bay of Bengal and for ensuring safe and sustainable accumulation of fish reserves.
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Basmati exporters hold shipments to Iran fearing payment defaults
Exporters pin hope on new government, seek clarity on import-export with Iran
Virendra Singh Rawat  |  Lucknow  Last Updated at May 23, 2019 11:35 IST

Description: Branded basmati sales to touch 2.9 mt

With no let-up in the US sanctions on Iran and the prolonged standoff only getting worse by the day, Indian basmati exporters are holding on their shipments to Iran, fearing payment defaults or delays.
The lack of clarity on future exports and imports from Iran, coupled with growing uncertainty over payment terms going forward, have made the exporters jittery of meeting their export commitments with counterparts in Iran.
“Unless there is new agreement with the Iranian government on export terms, we've decided to put shipments on hold as there are chances of defaults and money getting stuck,” Kohinoor Foods joint managing director Gurnam Arora told Business Standard.
Although, there is no definite data available as per the consignment stuck on this count, it is pegged at 20,000-30,000 tonnes at present with possibility of accumulation if situation persists.
While basmati exports to the gulf nation stood at nearly a million tonnes (MT) last year, they were estimated at nearly 1.4 million tonnes this year, a hike of 40 per cent. In its report, rating agency Icra had even forecast that export market demand would remain steady over the next few quarters, ably supported by resumption of imports in the key market of Iran. This was before the US sanctions came in.
The apprehensions of Indian basmati exporters have accentuated over lingering suspense on the continuity of Indian import of Iranian crude in backdrop of the US sanctions. Earlier, the Centre had apprised the visiting Iranian foreign minister of taking a call on the issue post Lok Sabha polls.
“So far, our exports were denominated in rupee terms and there was barter trade against oil, but now there is utter confusion on the mater. Therefore, the exporters have been advised by our association to hold on to their respective shipments unless there is some clarity,” he said.
Nonetheless, the exporters are not overtly worried, at least in the short term, given the shortage of basmati in the domestic market owing to lower crop output.
“Our consignment could be sent to other destinations if Iran bound contracts do not materialise. Besides, basmati market has witnessed some upswing owing to short supply this season,” Arora informed.
The exporters are awaiting the formation of the new central government and the policy stance it takes regarding exports and imports, including Iran.
Icra assistant vice president Deepak Jotwani said although there was no restriction of trade with Iran, yet there was lack of clarity on issues of payment and continuity of export. “We expect these issues to be sorted out with the new government at the Centre.”
However, he claimed even temporary suspension of basmati trade with Iran would impact the market, since Iran was a major destination for Indian basmati rice. “Much would also depend upon what Iran also decides regarding the import of commodity from India.”
Till a few weeks back, basmati exports were projected to hit record levels of Rs 30,000 crore or nearly US$ 4.28 billion (pegged to exchange rate of Rs 70) this season. While, basmati export basket is wide, most exported variety of Pusa 1121 had witnessed average procurement price of Rs 35,000-38,000 per tonne during the current 2018-19 season, compared to Rs 33,000-35,000 per tonne during 2017-18, a hike of 8.5 per cent.
However, basmati export realisation inflated at a much higher ratio of 14% to more than Rs 74,000 per tonne during Apr-Jan 2018-19 against Rs 65,000 per tonne during the corresponding period of last financial year.
Continuing the growth momentum, India had clocked basmati exports worth US$ 4.10 billion during the first 10 months of 2018-19, which was nearly 12 per cent higher compared to $3.68 billion in the corresponding period last fiscal.
Basmati paddy prices have been ruling high over the last two financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18, while in the current season, basmati production has been lower by five per cent due to the decline in acreage as some farmers had shifted to non-basmati varieties due to a considerable increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP), besides some loss of crop due to untimely rainfall in a few key Basmati growing states.
As a result, the paddy prices firmed up by more than 10 per cent across varieties. The increase in basmati average realisations is likely to sustain in the first half of 2019-20 owing to the increase in paddy costs in the recently concluded procurement season and steady international as well as domestic demand outlook, ICRA note added.

High Yielding Hybrid Rice Now Introduced In Mwea

Rice farmers in Mwea have a reason to smile following the introduction of hybrid rice that matures early and yields more.
Some 400 acres have been planted with the rice and true to experts’ words, the crop is already growing faster than the traditional rice.
African Agricultural Technology Foundation (ATTF) has been collaborating with Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KALRO) in Mwea in the development of the new hybrid rice.
Kayonde Sanni, the project manager at ATTF said they were supportive of the President’s big four agenda on food security.
“Our objective is to achieve prosperity for the farmers through technology as will be evidenced through the hybrid rice,” he said.
He said there is greater need for the adoption of the technology in order to increase rice production in Kenya and in Africa as a whole.
Kayonde said the level of rice consumption in Kenya stands at 650,000 tons compared to the production which is at 150,000 tons. As a result, the deficit is met by the importation of 500,000 tons of rice yearly.
He said there is a big opportunity for employment in the increased production of rice in Kenya and in the global market.
Dr. Kayonde said production of rice in Kenya stands at 2 tons per hectare as compared to the global production of 4.3 tons per hectare, thus the deficiency of rice in the country
He said consumption of rice has increased by 13 per cent while productivity grew by only 3 per cent and hence the need to jumpstart rice production in the country.
“The development of the hybrid rice involves bringing two different types of rice together to triple productivity,” Dr Kayonde said.
Dr. Kayonde said there is need for private sector investment in seed rice production and the government should create a conducive environment in order for the same to flourish.
“International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is taking charge of production of hybrid rice creating a synergy to help promote farmers to get the best technology.”
He said there are plans to launch an alliance of different stake holders interested in rice seed production in Kenya.
“Adoption of hybrid rice will enhance income for the farmers besides creating the much desired job opportunities for the youth in Kenya,” he said.
The hybrid project has already engaged 25 people who are on full time employment to deal with the challenge of inadequacy of information being availed to the farmers.
“This is why it is important for the government to create an environment to make private sector invest in agriculture,” Dr. Kayonde said.
The national rice performance trials that started 10 years ago have managed to come up with five types of hybrid seed which will be availed to the farmers by the end of this year.
“It is going to be an economic booster since the hybrid rice has been proven to yield three times more than the traditional rice.”
Dr. Kimani the KARLO centre director at Kimbimbi in Mwea said the development of the rice is the culmination of a long journey which started in 2013.
He said if farmers fully adopt the new rice variety they will be able to meet the deficit and reduce importation of rice from Pakistan and other far eastern countries.
“The reason the growth in consumption is higher than production is due to improved livelihood, rural urban migration and rice being food for the elite as compared to cassava known as a poor man’s food,” he said.
Dr. Kimani said the new rice variety apart for improved yield and early maturing is also better in the resistance to diseases and pests.
He said by 2030, Kenya should be able to produce enough rice to cut down the importation of the commodity to the country.
Dr Kimani said they have retained some of the old traits in the traditional rice variety like the aroma as the bench mark for the new hybrid rice.
“We retrogressed some of the traits of our Basmati 370 with the new hybrid rice to ensure we retain the aroma associated with the Mwea rice and to make it acceptable to the farmers” Kimani said.
He said in ten years’ time the hybrid rice will have completely replaced the local traces of the rice grown in Mwea.
The most popular brand of rice grown in Mwea at the moment is Basmati 370 with 80 per cent market share followed by Basmati 217.
By Irungu Mwangi

Dean's Lecture, Research Recognition Awards celebrate innovative faculty

Joanna Floros, Evan Pugh Professor of pediatrics, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and cellular and molecular physiology, speaks after receiving the Career Research Excellence Award.
May 22, 2019
HERSHEY, Pa. — The annual Research Recognition Awards honoring Penn State College of Medicine faculty were presented in conjunction with the Spring Dean’s Lecture on May 14.
Charles Lang, distinguished professor of cellular and molecular physiology and surgery and associate dean for graduate studies, presented the Spring Dean’s Lecture titled, “Under the Influence: Mechanisms Mediating Alcohol-Inducing Muscle Wasting.”
Lang reported the results and conclusions of studies his laboratory performed investigating how chronic alcohol abuse leads to muscle wasting. He expressed his gratitude to the collaborators and young investigators who have contributed to his research throughout his career.
After the lecture, Dr. Leslie Parent, vice dean for research and graduate studies, presented the 2019 Research Recognition Awards:
·       Career Research Excellence Award — Joanna Floros, Evan Pugh Professor, pediatrics; professor, obstetrics and gynecology, cellular and molecular physiology
·       Outstanding Research Publication — Yongsoo Kim, assistant professor, neural and behavioral sciences (“Brain-wide Maps Reveal Stereotyped Cell-Type-Based Cortical Architecture and Subcortical Sexual Dimorphism” ― Yongsoo Kim, Guangyu Robert Yang, Kith Pradhan, Kannan Umadevi Venkataraju, Mihail Bota, Luis Carlos García del Molino, Greg Fitzgerald, Keerthi Ram, Miao He, Jesse Maurica Levine, Partha Mitra, Z. Josh Huang, Xiao Jing Wang, Pavel Osten, Cell, Oct. 5, 2017)
·       Samuel Hinkle Junior Faculty Research Award — Michael Dennis, assistant professor, cellular and molecular physiology, ophthalmology; Yongsoo Kim, assistant professor, neural and behavioral sciences; Nicholas Zaorsky, assistant professor, radiation oncology, public health sciences
·       Outstanding Education Researcher — Jed Gonzalo, associate dean of health systems education; assistant professor, medicine, public health sciences
·       Outstanding Community-Engaged Researcher — Deepa Sekhar, associate professor, pediatrics; Jane Schubart, associate professor, surgery, medicine, public health sciences
·       Outstanding Champion of Diversity in Research — Dajiang Liu, associate professor, public health sciences, biochemistry and molecular biology
·       Outstanding Research Staff Member — Carrie Criley, human research technologist, psychiatry; Susan DiAngelo, research technologist, pediatrics; Sarah Frey, proposal and award generalist, Office of Research Affairs; Shawn Rice, research technologist, Penn State Cancer Institute; Jennifer Schaefer, research concierge, research development; Debra Spear, clinical research coordinator, pediatrics critical care.
Career Citation Milestones
This award recognizes a career citation milestone of 500 or more citations for a primary article where the recipient was first or last author. Review and guideline articles are excluded. One award is given per article that receives 500 or more citations.
·       Chandra Belani, ― two awards
·       Edward Bixler,  ­― three awards
·       Paul Eslinger,  ― one award
·       Yuka Imamura, ― one award
·       Richard Legro, ― three awards
·       Richard Mailman, ― two awards
·       Steven Schiff, MD, ― one award
·       Alexandros Vgontzas,  ― four awards
·       Hong-Gang Wang,  ― three awards
You can grow wheat, rice with 40% less water-research shows
By Vincent A. Yusuf | Published Date May 23, 2019 5:58 AM
 Researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), Punjab Agricultural University and Thapar University have demonstrated how farmers can grow rice and wheat “using 40 percent less water, through an innovative combination of existing irrigation and cropping techniques.” The result of their research shows that farmers “can grow similar or better yields than conventional growing methods, and still make a profit.” ADVERTISEMENT Although the study was conducted in India’s northwest region where rice and wheat are grown, it could set precedent for similar trials in countries like Nigeria where desert and climate change pose a huge threat to farmers and national food security. CIMMYT has reported that “the researchers tested a range of existing solutions to determine the optimal mix of approaches that will help farmers save water and money. They found that rice and wheat grown using a “sub-surface drip fertigation system” combined with conservation agriculture approaches used at least 40 percent less water and needed 20 percent less Nitrogen-based fertilizer, for the same amount of yields under flood irrigation, and still be cost-effective for farmers. ADVERTISEMENT Sub-surface drip fertigation systems involve belowground pipes that deliver precise doses of water and fertilizer directly to the plant’s root zone, avoiding evaporation from the soil. The proposed system can work for both rice and wheat crops without the need to adjust pipes between rotations, saving money and labour. But a transition to more efficient approaches will require new policies and incentives.” The study, which was also reported in the Journal of Agricultural Water Management ( Volume 216, 1 May 2019, Pages 273-283) noted that “The future of South Asia’s rice-wheat (RW) production system is at stake due to continuously depleting aquifers and increasing pressure on underground water under projected climate change scenario. Conventional management factors such as flood irrigation, intensive tillage and residue burning are threatening the sustainability of RW system. With the increasing adoption of conservation agriculture (CA), sub-surface drip fertigation (SSDF) provides an exceptional opportunity for complementing irrigation water saving benefits. Related
Missing fertilizer, hybrid seeds spell disaster
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:24 AM May 23, 2019
With the recently imposed 35-percent tariff on rice, the missing support for fertilizer and hybrid seeds will surely spell disaster for 40 percent (or one million) of our rice farmers.
The legislated Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) allocates P10 billion annually to help our rice farmers survive this 35-percent tariff. Studies have shown that the farmer must yield at least 4 tons per hectare to survive the ensuing lower prices from cheaper imported rice. Unfortunately, a million rice farmers produce less than this. Consequently they will suffer tremendously and may even stop planting rice. This endangers our food security, especially if other countries significantly increase their export prices (as they have done before) or decide not to export enough rice to us.
While half of the RCEF is for mechanization, none of the RCEF goes to fertilizer and hybrid seeds. Mechanization is definitely commendable. But when a patient is in the hospital’s intensive care unit, he needs emergency medicine just to survive. In the same way, fertilizer and hybrid seeds are likewise emergency measures. More than the long-run benefits of cutting costs from mechanization on what today are our very low yields that make us uncompetitive, the more urgent need is increasing yields (and therefore revenue) from fertilizer and hybrid seeds.
Studies by both Philrice and the International Rice Research Institute conducted since 1967 consistently show that fertilizer is an essential component to improve rice yields. However, many of our farmers today do not use sufficient fertilizer because of cash insufficiency or ignorance. These studies demonstrate how a 6 ton-per-hectare yield drops to 3 tons without fertilizer. The P12,000 fertilizer cost (10 bags at P1,200 each) yields an additional 3 tons. Assuming P17 a kilo, the P51,000 additional revenue is more than four times the incremental P12,000 fertilizer cost.
Hybrid seeds are also essential. Consider the table above.
Because of the cheaper imported rice from the low 35-percent tariff, last year’s P21-per-kilo farm-gate price has alarmingly decreased to P15 in many areas. Assuming an optimistic average P17 price, the income of a farmer producing 4 tons per hectare is P34,000. If the price decreases to P15 as we have seen in many areas, his income will go down to P26,000. The farmer who produces only 3 tons a hectare will go from a P21,000 profit to P13,000. He will most probably stop planting.
However, if we look at the impact of hybrid seeds, the picture significantly changes. With only an additional hybrid seed cost of P6,000 per hectare, the farmer who produces the national average of 4 tons per hectare will find this profit increasing by P16,000 from P34,000 to P50,000 a hectare. In Nueva Ejica, which is a model the rest of our provinces should follow, the P6,000 additional hybrid seed cost will result in a benefit of P36,000. Is it not obvious that hybrid seeds should be promoted? And yet today, only 15 percent of our farmers use hybrid seeds. If the farm-gate price drops to P15, it will be almost necessary to do hybrid seeds just to survive. But ironically, the law specifically states that the RCEF cannot be used for this.
One million rice farmers are currently reeling from a rice disaster that should be addressed through fertilizers and hybrid seeds. The newly elected Congress and local government officials must now take action. Only in this way can the recent rice tariffication law transform from disaster to development.

DA pushes accurate info on biotech crops

MAY 23, 2019
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is preparing its regional offices to disseminate accurate information on biotech crops, so that negative perceptions against their promotion could be addressed.
Agriculture workers from the regional field offices (RFO) of the DA in Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon participated in a two-day workshop on biotech crops in San Fernando, Pampanga and Ilagan City, Isabela, respectively. The participants were briefed about the DA Biotech Program, biotech principles and applications, regulatory system, and locally developed biotechnology products such as Bt Talong (Bacillus thuringiensis) and Golden Rice.
Crispulo Bautista Jr., officer in charge and regional executive director of DA-Central Luzon, said it was imperative for agriculture workers to have accurate and useful information on biotechnology to ensure that the public receives factual and truthful information about biotechnology.
“I requested this biotech briefing for Region 3 from [former] director Mamaril so that our staff can learn about these technologies. Rest assured that the DA-RFO 3 (Central Luzon) will cascade the right information about biotechnology,” he said.
Safety, efficiency, effectiveness, market price and regulations of genetically modified organism crops and other biotech-related products were discussed.
Biotech products have to undergo rigorous and evidence-based assessments provided by the current regulatory system to be considered safe and effective, the resource speakers, including Segfredo Serrano, emphasized.
Serrano, the retired DA undersecretary for policy, planning, project development and research, also urged participants to engage and empower farmers to make evidence-based decisions on the use of biotech products in improving their livelihood.
“[Our regulatory system ensures] that only biotechnology initiatives that can benefit our people, demonstrate environmental integrity and respect farming practices will be approved. Our farmers [need] to have appreciation of science, so that they won’t have a culture of fear,” he said.
The DA-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO), the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute led the initiative.
DA-BPO plans to continue coordinating with the other regional offices of the Agriculture department to conduct more biotech seminars and training to bridge the information gap among agriculture workers

Enhancing the resilience of the Philippine agriculture against climate change

Published on 23 May 2019 View Original
by Renz Louie Celeridad (World Agroforestry Centre)
Amidst the era of a changing climate, the Philippines must identify initiatives that can improve the productivity of its farmers and support its adaptation and mitigation actions.
Experts on climate change, agriculture and other relevant fields in the Philippines came together to identify climate-resilient agriculture (CRA) technologies and practices that farmers can adopt into their fields. These CRA interventions were selected based on their relevance to the different agro-ecological systems in the Philippines. The technologies and practices were ranked to determine those that the country can prioritize for implementation. The key criterion for prioritization was the intervention’s potential to improve agricultural productivity, increase climate resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Altogether, the information will be brought together in a book titled “Compendium of Climate-resilient Agriculture Technologies and Practices in the Philippines.” It will be published by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in Southeast Asia (CCAFS SEA) and will be distributed to various audience groups such as policy makers, agricultural extension workers and farmers. The book may serve as a valuable reference for climate action in the Philippines, especially for its Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture.
Multi-sectoral; participatory
CCAFS SEA invited participants from the academia, government offices and international research organizations to consult them for advice on the draft of the book. They were instructed to assess the initial list of technologies and practices based on a prioritization scheme.
Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, Regional Program Leader for CCAFS SEA, told them they could suggest further initiatives that they thought possessed CRA potential. Dr. Romeo Labios, one of the principal authors of the book, reminded them to provide CCAFS SEA with papers to include their suggestions in the draft. Likewise, they could omit any technology or practice that did not contain an adaptation or mitigation component.
The discussions included a critical evaluation of the assessment methods and groupings of the CRA interventions. For instance, several participants shared that they modified indicators to properly assess the interventions. In terms of the groupings, they advised to add more categories since several practices followed the same principles. The proposed categories included agroforestry, crop diversification and soil and water conservation measures.
Aside from CRA interventions, the participants also assessed web-based applications on agriculture. These included the Rice Crop Manager, Smarter Pest Identification Technology, the Individual Tangible Response to Ecosystem Enhancement, Water Management Decision Support System and the Smarter Agriculture Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System. The participants lauded the integration of web technologies in climate actions. Still, they stressed that web developers must look for crop suitability assessments, maps and other sources in developing agriculture-based applications.
Agricultural transformation
Dr. Sebastian added that the Philippines must transform its agriculture sector to thrive under climate change conditions. The need for an agricultural transformation arises from the complexities of climate change, which traverses the environmental, economic, and socio-political landscapes. The steps he mentioned were grouped into actions and strategies.
The actions, on one hand, refer to the steps that the country must take to achieve agricultural transformation. These include:
1.      Evaluating suitability of technologies and practices;
2.      providing relevant climate information services;
3.      mapping out of climate risk and crop suitability;
4.      implementing low-emission initiatives;
5.      mechanizing the farms;
6.      diversifying crops and livelihoods;
7.      improving access to credit and insurance;
8.      promoting entrepreneurship to farmers;
9.      engaging the private sector;
10.   building climate-proof infrastructures; and
11.   training the youth in agri-entrepreneurship.
The strategies, on the other hand, present how these actions can be implemented in the Philippines. The strategies include:
1.      adopting integrated landscape approaches;
2.      empowering farmers and farmer organizations;
3.      digitalizing the agriculture sector;
4.      mainstreaming low-emission development;
5.      improving access to financial platforms;
6.      enhancing social inclusion; and
7.      educating consumers and producers.
The technologies and practices were discussed during a stakeholder consultation workshop organized by CCAFS SEA 31 January–1 February 2019 at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). The participants came from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Philippines, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), SEARCA, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

MAY 23, 2019 / 6:26 PM / UPDATED 17 HOURS AGO

Asia Rice: Indian prices recover slightly; harvest boosts Vietnamese stocks

BENGALURU (Reuters) - A stronger rupee helped lift rice export prices in top exporter India from a near seven-month low this week, while rates for the Vietnamese variety slipped as the harvest in the Mekong Delta gathered steam.

India’s 5 percent broken parboiled variety was quoted around $364-$367 per tonne, up from last week’s $362-$365.
Demand was subdued but exporters were forced to raise prices due to the stronger currency, said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
A strong rupee reduces exporters’ margin from overseas sales.
India’s neighbour Bangladesh raised import duty on the staple to 55% from 28%, officials said on Thursday, amid widespread protests by farmers over a drastic dip in domestic rates.
The duty hike, which came into effect on Wednesday, will make it nearly impossible for India to export rice to Bangladesh, traders in India said.
Bangladesh emerged as the biggest buyer of Indian rice in 2017 after floods destroyed its crop, but the country now has a surplus of between 2 million and 2.5 million tonnes of rice, a Bangladeshi food ministry official said.
Bangladesh is planning to export surplus rice for the first time since banning overseas selling of some common rice varieties in May 2008 when there was a spike in domestic prices. It banned all rice exports a year later.
In Vietnam, rates for benchmark 5 percent broken rice fell to $350 a tonne on Thursday, from $355 last week.
“Prices edged down from last week as supplies are building up amid an ongoing harvest in the Mekong Delta region,” a trader based in Ho Chi Minh City said.
“Sales are slow this week as buyers are waiting for the new rice.”
Iraq recently signed a contract to buy 150,000 tonnes of Vietnamese rice for delivery in June and July, another trader said.
In second biggest rice exporter Thailand, the 5-percent broken variety was unchanged from last week at $385-$400 a tonne, free on board (FOB) Bangkok, as demand remained flat with the market not expecting any major deals in the short term.
“There are concerns that the drought this year would lower rice supply later, but there is no shortage yet as we enter the rainy season,” a trader said.
A worker carries boiled rice in a wheelbarrow to spread it for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Khanh Vu in Hanoi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Harshith Aranya in Bengaluru; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Kirsten Donovan

Easing of rice imports to cut 20% of NFA staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:30 AM May 23, 2019
The National Food Authority’s (NFA) restructuring plan has already been endorsed to the national government despite reservations from other members of the agency’s policy-making body just two days before the deadline set by the law.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who also leads the NFA Council, told reporters that proposals for the agency’s restructuring has already been finalized, which will see the downsizing of the agency and the displacement of some of its employees.
The official said representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Economic and Development Authority expressed reservations about the proposal.
But given the time constraints, it seemed that the council pushed through with the submission of the agency’s restructuring plan.
“There will be a reduction of 839 employees, mainly regulatory and employment. Others opted to retire,” Piñol said. “It will be a contentious issue and there may be cases that will be filed, [but] it is not for the council to decide.”
The number represents about 20 percent of the NFA’s workforce nationwide of 4,136 but NFA employees association (NFAEA) president Max Torda said the number could rise further.
Piñol admitted that there have been suggestions to further trim down the number of positions that would be removed, but added that the council would wait for the result of an independent study on the issue, which is expected to be finished by December this year.
A source privy to the matter added that the policy-making body was also looking to dissolve 41 of its 86 regional offices and consolidate operations to 45 areas.
While warehouses would be maintained, the management is expected to cut regional personnel based on the province’s historical performance, location and whether or not it is situated in a rice-producing area.
Piñol noted that there would be three provinces under one manager.
Torda said in a phone interview that their group was looking to file a case against the government at the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of certain provisions of the rice import liberalization law, which led to the restructuring of the grains agency.
The workers’ security of tenure, he added, would be “a collateral issue.”
Two kinds of compensation packages were presented to the Council and still subject to President Duterte’s approval. Funding for the separation benefits would mostly come from NFA’s corporate funds, but would be aided by the national government.
NFA employees said officials from the Bureau of the Treasury were already going to regional offices to create an inventory of the agency’s assets.
Workers who talked to the Inquirer said they were asking the agency’s management to be more transparent with the restructuring plan so that they could plan ahead once the downsizing takes place.
The workers association leader said the environment in NFA offices have been stressful given the probability of a mass layoff.
“No notices have been issued to employees who may be displaced. We feel that the management has not been completely transparent to us,” he said.
Under the new rice law, the NFA will be limited to procuring local palay and maintaining the country’s buffer stock, thereby stripping it of its power to regulate, license, market and monitor activities related to the staple.
Members of the NFAEA had been fearing a gradual phaseout starting with the removal of employees related to the agency’s regulatory and enforcement functions, while workers whose tasks are related to imports are seen to be terminated once the agency’s imports are depleted some time in August.
UPDATE 2-Bangladesh nearly doubles rice import duty to boost local farmers
Ruma Paul
MAY 23, 2019
* Raises import duty to 55% from 28%, second hike in a year

* Domestic prices fall to lowest in 3 years amid ample supply

* Plans to export surplus rice to protect farmers’ interests

* Duty hike to impede Indian exports to Bangladesh, say traders (Adds quotes, details)

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, May 23 (Reuters) - Bangladesh has raised import duty on rice to 55% from 28% to support its farmers, officials said on Thursday, amid widespread protests over a drastic fall in domestic prices.

The new tax rates, that came into effect on Wednesday, would further curb rice imports, especially from neighbouring India, which emerged as the biggest supplier to the South Asian country in 2017 after floods destroyed its crop.

The move would help protect farmers’ interests as growers are being compelled to sell their rice at lower rates than the cost of production, a food ministry official said.

Local rice prices have fallen to their lowest in three years due to ample supply from last year’s crop and forecasts of record output. Farmers have vented their anger over the falling prices of the staple grain by burning paddy.

The duty hike will make it nearly impossible for India to export rice to Bangladesh, traders in India said.

“Exports to Bangladesh is not possible after the duty hike,” said a New Delhi-based dealer with a global trading firm.

Bangladesh re-imposed a previous import duty of 28% in June after reducing it in two phases in 2017 to 2%, as local rice prices climbed to a record high.

Domestic stocks have since greatly improved on the back of massive imports and good crops of rice, the staple grain for the country’s 160 million people.

Despite a hefty import duty, private traders imported more than 330,000 tonnes of rice in the July-April period, government data showed.

The government will procure more rice from local farmers to protect them from any distressed sales, food minister Sadhan Chandra Majumdar said on Thursday.

“We are building 200 silos across the country so we are able to procure more rice,” he said, adding that farmers would benefit from these silos from next year.

Bangladesh is planning to export surplus rice for the first time since banning overseas sales of some common rice varieties in May 2008 when there was a spike in domestic prices. It banned all rice exports a year later.

The country, which imported a record 3.9 million tonnes of rice in the year to June, has a surplus of 2 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes of rice, another food ministry official said.

“The duty hike will support (domestic) prices only in the short term. Bangladesh needs to export the surplus to ease pressure on prices in the medium term,” said a Mumbai-based exporter.

Bangladesh’s rice production is expected to rise 7 percent to 34.9 million tonnes in the year to April from the corresponding period last year, due to higher acreage and yields, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said. (Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; editing by Rashmi Aich and David Evans)

4.15 lahh families to get 40 kg rice monthly

United News of Bangladesh . Dhaka | Published: 01:19, May 23,2019
The government will provide 40 kilograms of rice monthly to each of 4,14,784 fishermen’s families in 42 upazilas of 12 coastal districts during a 65-day ban (from May 20 to July 23) on fishing in the Bay of Bengal.
State minister for fisheries and livestock Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru announced this at a press conference at the secretariat on Wednesday.
The rice will be provided to the fishermen before the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr under VGF programme as they have no alternative source of income, Khasru said.
‘In the fiscal 2017-18, the country became self-reliant in fish production by producing a total of 42.77 lakh tonnes of fish. Among those, 6.56 tonnes of fish came from sea which is 15.33 per cent of total fish production of the country’, he added.
Earlier on May 20, the government imposed a 65-day ban on fishing in the Bay of Bengal, aiming to boost commercial fishing in the country.
The government since 2015 has imposed a periodic ban on fishing in the seas for creating a safe environment for aquatic or semi-aquatic mammals in Bangladesh’s exclusive economic zone in the Bay of Bengal and for ensuring safe and sustainable accumulation of fish reserves.