Monday, June 17, 2019

17th June,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice e-Newsletter

Researchers Take Two Steps Toward Green Fuel
By Staff Reporter , Jun 14, 2019 04:18 PM EDT
Researchers designed two-step process to break down rice straws into sugars for fuel (Photo : Figure adapted from Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2019 58 (14), 5686-5697. Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society)
An international collaboration led by scientists at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), Japan, has developed a two-step method to more efficiently break down carbohydrates into their single sugar components, a critical process in producing green fuel. 
The researchers published their results on April 10th in the American Chemical Society journal, Industrial & Engineering Chemical Research.
The breakdown process is called saccharification. The single sugar components produced, called monosaccharides, can be fermented into bioethanol or biobutanol, alcohols that can be used as fuel. 
"For a long time, considerable attention has been focused on the utilization of homogenous acids and enzymes for saccharification," said Eika W. Qian, paper author and professor in the Graduate School of Bio-Applications and Systems Engineering at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan. "Enzymatic saccharification is seen to be a reasonable prospect since it offers the potential for higher yields, lower energy costs, and it's more environmentally friendly." 
The use of enzymes to break down the carbohydrates could actually be hindered, especially in the practical biomass such as rice straw. A byproduct of the rice harvest, rice straw consists of three complicated carbohydrates: starch, hemicellulose, and cellulose. Enzymes cannot approach hemicellulose or cellulose, due to their cell wall structure and surface area, among other characteristics. They must be pre-treated to become receptive to the enzymatic activity, which can be costly. 
One answer to the cost and inefficiency of enzymes is the use of solid acid catalysts, which are acids that cause chemical reactions without dissolving and becoming a permanent part of the reaction. They're particularly appealing because they can be recovered after saccharification and reused. 
Still, it's not as easy as swapping the enzymes for the acids, according to Qian, as the carbohydrates are non-uniform. Hemicellulose and starch degrade at 180 degrees Celsius and below, and if the resulting components are heated further, the sugars produced discompose and are converted to other byproducts. On the other hand, the degradation of cellulose only happens at temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius and above. 
That's why, in order to maximize the resulting yield of sugar from rice straw, the researchers developed a two-step process - one step for the hemicellulose and another for the cellulose. The first step requires a gentle solid acid at low temperatures (150 degrees Celsius and below), while the second step consists of harsher conditions, with a stronger solid acid and higher temperatures (210 degrees Celsius and above).
Overall, the two-step process not only proved effective, but it also produced about 30 percent more sugars than traditional one-step processes. 
"We are now looking for a partner to evaluate the feasibility of our two-step saccharification process in rice straw and other various materials such as wheat straw and corn stoke etc. in a pilot unit," Qian said. "Our ultimate goal is to commercialize our process to manufacture monosaccharides from this type of material in the future."

  Building more small irrigation units to bring immediate and enduring relief to rice farmers

Published June 15, 2019, 10:00 PM
Description: Dr. Emil Q. Javier
Dr. Emil Q. Javier
The rice tariffication act (RTA) has two major consequences: 1) lower price of rice to consumers, and 2) loss of income to rice farmers. The former remains to be seen but the latter is immediate and certain. From a high of P21.00 per kilogram farm gate price of palay, the average farm gate price of palay is now down to P17.00 per kilogram and in many places, even less.
To make up for this loss of income of farmers, the RTA provided for free farm equipment, seeds, subsidized credit, and intensified farmers’ training and extension support.
This column underscores the value of small irrigation units which are made up of small water impounding projects, small diversion dams, and shallow tube wells, as interventions which will bring immediate and enduring relief to our beleaguered rice farmers.
The adequate and timely delivery of water is the single most important factor in rice cultivation. Lowland rice fields with irrigation routinely produce 5-6 tons palay per hectare while rainfed lowland rice fields yield 3-4 tons per hectare. Upland rice (not puddled) are worst off with only 2–3 tons palay per hectare.
Free seeds and farm equipment bring immediate relief to rice farmers but these interventions are temporary. Small irrigation units like small pond reservoirs and small diversion dams bring immediate relief as well but since small reservoirs and diversion dams with proper maintenance will be there for a long time, they are more enduring and with minimal recurring costs to farmers.
Actually the need for irrigation is accorded the highest priority in our development programs for agriculture. Year in, year out, the budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which is in the order of P20 billion-P30 billion per year, dwarfs those of all other agencies in the Department of Agriculture (DA). To date, we must have invested close to P800 billion in irrigation.
However, the bulk of the allocations have been for the construction of huge multi-purpose dams for irrigation, power generation, and domestic use and to a less extent on dedicated communal irrigation systems which are still relatively large.
Much less attention had been devoted to small irrigation units whose service areas are small but which are cheaper and quicker to build.
Higher incomes from crop diversification
Irrigation raises and stabilizes the yield of rice. But even more importantly the availability of water opens the opportunity for multiple cropping and crop diversification. Rice farmers who are able to introduce into their cropping calendar the growing of other crops like pechay, mustard, garlic, onion, melons, mungbean, tomato, chili pepper, eggplant and ornamentals (also tobacco) make much more income from these other crops than from the main crop of rice.
However, the large irrigation systems are designed for rice and are ill-suited for the frequent and intermittent water requirements of the other crops. In order to effectively practice multiple cropping, the farmers need to have full control over the volume and timing of delivery of water which is possible with small irrigation units. Thus even in the service areas of the large national and communal irrigations systems, there is a niche for small irrigation units.
The above arguments lead to four salient recommendations namely:
1.     To prioritize shallow tube wells and water pumps in the menu of free farm machines and equipment under the Rice Tariffication Act.
2)  To raise the allocation of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) for construction of small irrigation units for rainfed lowland and upland farmers who are even poorer than those in the irrigated lowlands.
3) For NIA, as well, to embed small irrigation units in the national and communal irrigation systems under its administration.
4) For the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), and the DA marketing unit to converge their activities in the service areas of BSWM and NIA to promote multiple cropping and crop diversification to fully exploit our investments in irrigation.
Dr. Emil Q. Javier is a Member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and also Chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP).
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Love rice? Here are five places in Las Vegas that make it special

Pamplona Tapas
Lotus of Siam
Lotus of Siam
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By Al Mancini
June 14, 2019 - 7:26 pm

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook. 
Pamplona Tapas
Chef Ariel Zuniga used to work for Spanish celebrity chef Jose Andres, so it’s no surprise his paella game is on point. Among the half dozen varieties his neighborhood spot offers, in portions intended to feed two, are valenciana (rabbit), langosta (lobster) and verdura (vegetable), $32 to $65 for two-person portions.
5781 W. Sahara Avenue, 702-659-5781,
While this new Tivoli Village hot spot is known for its pizzas, ice cream and gin cocktails, you won’t want to overlook its perfectly prepared arancini. More than simple risotto spheres, chef James Trees blends rice with corn for a beautiful creamy mix, which he then stuffs with truffle cheese before breading and frying, $11.
Tivoli Village, 410 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-463-7433,
Lotus of Siam
Thai fried rice is a very different product from the Chinese version most people know — lighter, fluffier and usually more complex. Chef Saipin Chutima offers a dozen takes on it in her local landmark restaurant, all made with jasmine rice and a house blend of spices, $12-$17.
620 E. Flamingo Road, 702-735-3033,
This off-Strip institution offers three spins on the classic Italian rice dish risotto. Risotto sottobosco offers lemon-basil rice with stracciatella cheese and garden vegetables. Risotto aragosta spotlights lobster, seasonal black truffle and mascarpone cheese. Risotto caprese features tomato rice with vegan mozzarella and a drizzle of pesto, $28-$38.
4480 Paradise Road, 702-364-5300,
You can find biryani (an aromatic mix of basmati rice and stewed meats) in just about all Indian restaurants. At Shiraz, however, you can enjoy chicken, lamb or goat versions in a clay pot from the Indian section of the menu, alongside a large selection of Persian and Pakistani dishes, $13-$17.
2575 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-870-0860,

Dispelling falsehoods about GM crops

By: Vivian Fernandes | 
Updated: June 17, 2019 11:20:19 AM

What India can learn from the Philippines, which set up a Biotech Program Office in 2000 to promote the responsible use of agri-biotechnology to sustain food security

Description: GM crops, genetically engineered crops, brinjal, cotton, GM mustard, UPA, NDA, NDA government, HT cotton, GM corn, Biotech Program Office, GM crops, financial express opinion, financial expressDispelling falsehoods about GM crops
With Prakash Javadekar taking charge of the environment ministry from the inert Harsh Vardhan, and hopes kindling of genetically-engineered brinjal and mustard being approved for cultivation, one wishes the government had a specialised communication agency for advocacy and outreach to create public opinion favourable for agri-biotechnology.
Although India approved Bt cotton, genetically-engineered to be toxic to the American bollworm, in 2002, and permitted another variant in 2006 (both of which farmers have embraced enthusiastically), those opposing these have been so successful in demonising the technology that no other crop—Bt brinjal, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton, or GM mustard—have got the nod for cultivation.
Javadekar is known to be in favour of the science. In December 2015, he told me that he was “determined” to approve GM mustard. But before he could take a decision, he was shifted to the ministry of human resource development. Any positive moves he makes now will be met with strong opposition from anti-GM activists, including the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, one of the 36 organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mentor of the ruling party.
Over the past 15 years, both the UPA and NDA governments stalled; they did not approve new GM crops. Only a few political leaders support the technology. But farmers are restive. They’ve planted large tracts with illegal HT cotton. In May, a farmer in Haryana was forced to destroy his illegal Bt brinjal crop, which he found profitable because it required very few sprays against the fruit and shoot borer. On June 10, the Shetkari Sanghatana, founded by the pro-market and pro-technology Sharad Joshi, defied the law and planted illegal HT cotton and Bt brinjal near Akola in Maharashtra, demanding time-bound approvals and certainty in access to agri-biotechnology.
The government could learn from the Philippines, which set up a Biotech Program Office in 2000 to promote the responsible use of agri-biotechnology to sustain food security. It was educative to meet its director-coordinator Annalyn Lopez during a visit to Manila in April at the invitation and expense of CropLife Asia, which represents the agri-biotechnology industry in this part of the world.
Apart from overseeing research and development in biotech, developing skills in officials to regulate GM crops, and promoting policy research and advocacy, the Biotech Program Office strives for public understanding and acceptance of agri-biotechnology. “Communicating health and safety to laypeople is difficult as biotech is sophisticated,” says Lopez. “We are communicating to people who may not have a background in science.”
Both India and the Philippines are democracies, although the latter has a history of military dictatorships. India was first off on GM crops. It approved Bt cotton in 2002. The Philippines permitted GM corn resistant to the Asiatic corn borer in 2003. About 70% of yellow corn (there is a white variety, too) grown in the Philippines is GM corn, says Lopez. From 50,000 hectares in 2004, it now covers 642,000 hectares, with 470,000 farmers planting it. That’s 46% of the Philippines’ corn area. In India, 93% of the cotton planted in 2017 was of the GM kind.
Both India and the Philippines have strong anti-GM groups. In the Philippines, they have vandalised Golden Rice trials. Greenpeace moved its Supreme Court against Bt brinjal trials, which, in 2013, halted the trials, nullified the 2002 biosafety regulations, and temporarily halted all applications for authorisation of GM crop trials, commercialisation and imports. In 2016, it lifted its injunctions and recognised the newly-issued biosafety regulations. India’s Supreme Court is also quite adversarial.
Lopez says partnerships are important. Her office has enlisted TV broadcasters and print media journalists. It gives awards for biotech journalism since 2006. It publishes a biotech magazine with uplifting testimonials. In 2011, it teamed up with the network of rural radio broadcasters. Many towns have declared their support for biotechnology. Lopez says her office has developed courses to educate their chief executives. In association with the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, it pushes for regulation based on science and evidence. The International Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Rice Research Institute are partners for Golden Rice bio-fortified with pro-Vitamin A beta carotene.
The Biotech Program Office encourages high school and college students to opt for biotechnology courses. It has developed curricula for them. It holds short films, jingle-making and public-speaking contests on biotech for them. A computer game—biotech crops vs zombies—has been developed. Students participated in a fashion show with clothes made of GM corn kernels and cobs.
Lopez says her office reaches out to politicians who are neutral or don’t have a stand on GM crops. They may be the chairperson of a committee in Philippines’ Congress or influential in their political party. Once an appointment is secured, she makes sure that good communicators are fielded. These need not be scientists. They may be farmers who have a good story to tell about how GM corn has benefited them. Politicians are taken to farms so they can see for themselves that GM corn is no different from the non-GM variety. Regulators are also invited to engage with politicians; they explain the regulatory process and but don’t do advocacy so their integrity is not doubted.
Since the Philippines is strongly religious, Lopez says her office engages with religious leaders, too. Because of its outreach, a Catholic priest has become a member of a technical advisory committee on biosafety. A representative was also sent to an international halal conference, which said GM food is kosher because it does not contain pork.
In fact, through a presidential proclamation back in 2005, the National Biotechnology Week is also being regularly celebrated.
But well-funded NGOs pose a challenge, says Lopez. There are legislative proposals to disallow GM crops. Resolutions against them have been passed by local bodies. There is fake news in the social media. Consumers have low exposure to factual information. “We have our own voice, make our own choice, and assert the right to technology. That is what we are driven by,” says Lopez.
In India, there is strong support for GM crops in scientific circles. The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) has passed a resolution in favour of the technology. It has supported GM mustard and even written to the Prime Minister not to withhold approval.
The apex regulator, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), has recommended release of Bt brinjal and GM mustard for commercial cultivation. It has asked the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) in Bengaluru to study and report Bangladesh’s experience with Bt brinjal, so it can revisit the moratorium on release imposed in 2010.
The English national dailies have favoured GM crop technology through their editorials, though their reporters tend to support the activists. But support for agri-biotechnology is diffused. The Department of Biotechnology has not invested in advocacy and outreach, though it funnels money to agricultural universities, almost all of which have departments of agri-biotechnology. At last year’s National Eligibility Test (NET), which is a gateway for assistant professorships in state agricultural universities, the most number of candidates were from the discipline of agri-biotechnology. But the choke on regulatory approvals makes all that teaching and research a humongous waste.
In 2015, Karnataka’s expert committee on agricultural biotechnology had advised the state government to set aside Rs 10 crore to support NGOs with acceptable proposals on public outreach so that correct information about the safety and benefits of GM crops could be communicated to the public and misinformation spread by anti-GM activists could be countered. The committee was headed by M Mahadevappa, a well-known rice scientist and former vice-chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad. It also wanted public outreach cells in agricultural universities for creation of awareness about biotechnology. The BJP’s recent Lok Sabha election campaign is a case study in marketing. Javadekar could take some cues from it.
The author blogs at
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‘PH rice discoveries not reaching farmers’

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:32 AM June 17, 2019
Description: Water in Angat Dam enough for farms until May – NIA
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The Philippines had planned to be self-sufficient in rice by 2017 and be at par with rice exporting countries like Vietnam and Thailand.
But scientific breakthroughs and technology had not been transmitted to farmers by the country’s food research community as had been intended, Sen. Cynthia Villar said during a North Luzon business forum of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday.
Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, said rice farmers needed to be immersed in the latest discoveries of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) now that rice importation had been liberalized.
Technology transfer
“PhilRice and PhilMech (which are overseen by the Department of Agriculture) were created but there appeared to be some misconception that these institutions’ primary task was research when they needed to bring their findings to the farm level,” she said.
Villar blamed the failure to transfer knowledge and technology on budget constraints.
Farmers have been upset by the rice tariffication law (Republic Act No. 11203), which lifted restrictions on rice importation but imposed import taxes of as high as 35 percent on imports.
Villar said the agriculture industry could be “steered in the right direction” using the six-year Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, amounting to P10 billion a year, which is provided for under the tariffication law.
The law allocates P5 billion for mechanizing rice farms and P3 billion for developing and promoting high-value rice.
Also, P1 billion will be opened as credit support, and another P1 billion will be spent on extension support and the education of rice farmers.
Key to self-sufficiency
Villar said the key to self-sufficiency was mechanization because it would cut down expenses on labor and reduce the influence of middlemen.
Postharvest technologies will also enable farmers to sell directly to the market, she said.
In Vietnam, mechanization reduced production labor cost to the equivalent of P120, compared to the average P460 labor expense of a rice farmer in the Philippines, Villar said.
Vietnam, she said, spends P6 to produce a kilo of palay, which is half the production cost of P12 in the Philippines.
PhilRice has developed an inbred grain variety that can increase the yield of rice farmers to 6 metric tons a hectare from the present 4 MT.
Should this happen, the country can solve its 7-percent rice shortage, which ranges from 600,000 MT to 1 million MT, Villar said.
The next six years will define the impact of PhilMech and PhilRice on food production as well as farmers’ reception to new technology, she said.
Of the 8 million crop farmers in the country, 3.5 million are coconut farmers, while 3.5 million are rice growers.

Subsidy to state firms jumped 30% in April

By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:01 AM June 17, 2019
Subsidies to state-run firms jumped by almost a third to P5.115 billion in April as the government extended more financial assistance to agencies that were assisting farmers and fisherfolk amid a prolonged dry spell due to El NiƱo.
The latest Bureau of the Treasury data showed that the amount of subsidies extended to government-owned and/or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) in April climbed 32 percent from P3.9 billion a year ago.
The top three recipients of subsidies that month were the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), with P3.797 billion; Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC), P644 million, and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), P147 million.
In a separate report, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) attributed the higher GOCC subsidies in April to “payment of prior year’s accounts payables of the NIA (P3.1 billion) for its completed irrigation projects, as well as the payment for the previous year’s government premium subsidy to Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (about P600 million) for the insurance premiums of subsistence farmers and fisherfolk.”
For January to April, total subsidies dropped 70.7 percent to P14.419 billion from P49.2 billion a year ago.
As of end-April, the GOCCs that received the biggest subsidies were the NIA,  P9.566 billion; National Food Authority (NFA), P1.065 billion, and PCIC, P644 million.
About 90 percent of the subsidies that state corporations are getting are being spent on priority programs and projects. The rest covers operational expenses.
GOCCs are also being provided budgetary support by the national government via equity and net lending.