Thursday, June 18, 2020

18th June 2020 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsleter

Sindh Budget 2020-21: Govt employee salaries raised in Rs1,241 billion budget

  Last Updated On 17 June,2020 09:08 pm
The budget of the health department has been increased by 16.1pc to Rs139 billion
KARACHI (Dunya News) – Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has presented the budget 2020-21 in the Sindh Assembly with a total outlay of Rs1241 billion on Wednesday.
The budget session began under Speaker Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani, where Shah, who also holds the portfolio for provincial finance minister, presented the outlay. In his speech, the CM said that he is honoured to present the budget for the eighth time.
He said that despite difficult circumstances, he is presenting the budget for the financial year 2020-20, adding that the COVID-19 is primarily a threat to the existing health system.
He said that the province is in dire straits due to coronavirus pandemic and locusts attacks, adding that the budget has been prepared keeping in view the plight of the people of Sindh.
Murad Ali Shah said that the Sindh budget for 2020-2021 is estimated at Rs1241 billion and the total deficit of budget 2020-21 is 18.38 billion.
“The provincial government has formed a Rs3 billion Corona Emergency Fund and Sindh took the initiative for the lockdown and the other provinces followed suit,” he said and added from the Rs3 billion, the provincial government paid Rs1.3 billion while Rs1.7 billion were given by the provincial employees.
The budget of the health department has been increased by 16.1pc to Rs139 billion to deal with epidemics and contagious diseases, he said.
The CM said that basic salary Health Risk Allowance will be provided to all health personnel including postgraduates and house job officers working in COVID-19 cases applicable from March 2020.
Speaking about agriculture, Murad said the agriculture budget has been increased by 40% to Rs.14.84 billion, due to agriculture support for small farmers. He said a sum of Rs1 billion has been allocated to small farmers as a concession for quality rice seeds, while Rs.20 billion has been proposed for cash transfers to individuals affected by COVID-19 under Sindh Peoples Support Program.
A total of Rs5 billion has been allocated for a Soft Loan Program for Small & Medium Enterprises and Rs1.0 billion will be provided on account of Fertilizer subsidy to the farmers with landholding of 25 acres or less, while Rs500 million is proposed for Livestock breeding.
He said that non-development expenditure is estimated at Rs986 billion, while Sindh development expenditure is estimated at Rs232 billion and Capital expenditure is estimated at Rs39 billion.
The chief minister said that no new tax has been introduced in Budget 21-2020. He said, total receipts were estimated to be Rs1223 billion, including federal receipts at Rs760.30 billion which accounts for 65 percent, provincial receipts at Rs313.39 billion or 26.8 percent, capital receipts at Rs25 billion i.e 2.1 percent and other receipts at (FPA & PSDP) Rs69.05 billion (5.9 percent).
Regarding corona testing, Murad Ali Shah said that the capacity of corona testing in the province has been increased to 11,450 daily, adding that 81 quarantine centers with a capacity of 8266 beds have been set up in all the districts and this capacity will be increased to 8616 by June 2020.
A sum of Rs300 billion has been earmarked for poverty alleviation programs for small businesses in urban areas, while Rs200 billion proposed for poverty alleviation program for small workers/communities in rural areas informed CM.
The budget of education departments has been increased by 10.2pc to Rs243 billion for quality education and to address post-epidemic education challenges.
Sindh Chief Minister said grant to local councils increased by 5pc to Rs78 billion.
He said that Sindh s agricultural economy accounts for 24% of GDP, adding that Sindh s share in national production is 36% in rice, 29% in sugarcane, 34% in cotton and 15% in wheat.


Pakistan needs to find new markets for its agricultural products

SAMAA | Samaa Money
 Posted: Jun 17, 2020 |
Description: Pakistan needs to find new markets for its agricultural products
Photo: Online
Global coronavirus lockdowns and uncertainty have forced global trade dislocations and Pakistan must now find new markets for its exportable agricultural products, including meat, fruit, vegetables and rice.
Disrupted agricultural production, global food supply chains and radical shifts in consumer demand followed by historic employment shifts have reduced the FAO food price index to a 17-month low. The FAO food price index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.
According to an AKD Securities report, urea prices also receded in May. Cotton prices underwent minor changes despite being burdened by weak fundamentals, such as reduced demand, transport and labour issues.
The global situation is also weaker as economic activity took a backseat following unprecedented lockdowns to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
Intermittent lockdowns are expected to impact global growth over the medium term and reports of a second wave and infection peak have increased uncertainty.
Energy commodity prices increased up by 57 to 60% month on month due to OPEC and members complying with agreed cuts. Coal increased by 13% but the average price is still down. This increase in the price of energy commodities will have a negative impact on Pakistan.

Rice Price Spike Not Just Due to Pandemic

03:50PM Jun 16, 2020

Rice is one commodity which has seen increasing prices and demand throughout COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal reporting rice prices for some futures contracts are spiking to the highest levels since 2011. However, economists say the price bump isn’t just due to COVID-19. It also has to do with supply and trade.
National reporter Betsy Jibben talks with some growers and experts in Arkansas, the heart of rice country to find out what’s behind it. She talks with Kenneth Graves, a rice farmer from De Witt, Arkansas and Alvaro Durand-Morat, an agricultural economics professor at the University of Arkansas.
33.9 C

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Scrap planned rice importation, DA urged

June 17, 2020
Description: Eireene Jairee GomezThe Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) is urging the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) to abandon its plan to import 300,000 metric tons of rice, citing lack of legal basis and funding. After conducting a bidding for the government-to-government purchase, the PITC decided to withhold the award of winning bids reportedly due to the lack of a budgetary cover from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The DBM said that there was no legal basis for the PITC importation and that funds could not be released without a formal instruction from President Rodrigo Duterte. FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor supports DBM’s position that there was no legal basis for the planned PITC imports. “(Agriculture) Secretary (William) Dar has insisted time and again that we have enough rice.  Therefore, there is no rice shortage and there is no reason why PITC should import rice. That is the law and Secretary Dar, who has repeatedly referred to the RTL as ‘a good law,’ should be the first to follow it,” Montemayor said, referring to Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

China's province monitors rice farming with satellite

Source: Xinhua| 2020-06-17 11:22:24|Editor: huaxia
BEIJING, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Southwest China's Guizhou Province has started using a satellite system that can monitor rice farming from space.
The system provides real-time data for planting, according to a report in Science and Technology Daily.
As a smart manager of integrated big data, the system provides pictures of paddy fields taken through remote sensing, visual monitoring and other means to help professionals make decisions on planting, said the report.
Through real-time data, farmers could monitor crop areas, and detailed figures on local meteorological and planting conditions, which helps them make decisions.
The Cengong County of Guizhou is a major rice-growing area with annual yield of around 8 million kg of certified seeds.
The county introduced the system, developed by a research team of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The UESTC research team developed the system using their self-designed core algorithms as well as technologies such as satellite remote sensing, the Internet of Things, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The system could then integrate data from various sources and provide comprehensive and real-time monitoring of rice production, according to the UESTC research team. Enditem

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Indonesia to convert 1.4 million ha of peatlands into rice fields to address food shortages

The Indonesian Government is pushing ahead with a plan to convert 1.4 million ha of peat swamps into rice fields as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to create food shortages across the country, according to Coordinating Minister of Economy Airlangga Hartarto.
VNA Wednesday, June 17, 2020 18:31 
Description: Indonesia to convert 1.4 million ha of peatlands into rice fields to address food shortages hinh anh 1The Indonesian Government is pushing ahead with a plan to convert 1.4)

Jakarta (VNA) - The 
Indonesian Government is pushing ahead with a plan to convert 1.4 million ha of peat swamps into rice fields as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to create food shortages across the country, according to Coordinating Minister of Economy Airlangga Hartarto.

The country is feeling the brunt of a food crisis as the coronavirus outbreak has severely disrupted domestic cultivation and food supplies.

The Government is set to expand rice farming areas through a peatland-to-ricefield project in Kalimantan. The initial goal of establishing about 900,000 ha of rice fields in the peatlands has been raised to 1.4 million ha, Hartarto said.

It is carefully looking into the plan, since only 90,000 out of the 1.4-million-ha peatland have irrigation systems. Most peatlands suitable for converting into rice fields are located in the districts of Pulang Pisau, Kapuas, and South Barito on Kalimantan.

Agricultural restructuring is among the national programmes prioritised by President Joko Widodo to bridge development gaps and improve living standards./.

Cambodia's rice exports expected to hit 800,000 tonnes in 2020

·         Wednesday, 17 Jun 2020
5:12 PM MYT
A vendor piles sacks of rice for sale in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on May 13, 2020. - AP
PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia's milled rice exports to the international market are expected to reach 800,000 tonnes in 2020, an estimated rise of 29 per cent from 620,106 tonnes last year, a senior agriculture official said on Wednesday (June 17).
Ngin Chhay, director-general of agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the kingdom had seen a remarkable increase in rice exports in the first five months of this year due to high demand from the international market as a result of the Coivid-19 pandemic.
He said the Southeast Asian nation exported a total of 356,097 tonnes of milled rice to 54 countries and regions during the January-May period this year, up 42 per cent over the same period last year.
China and Europe were the biggest buyers of Cambodia's milled rice during the first five months of this year, the official said, adding that the country shipped 136,825 tonnes of milled rice to China, up 25 per cent, and 122,010 tonnes to Europe, up 51 per cent.
"Based on the figures in the first five months of this year, we expect that Cambodia's milled rice exports to the international market will hit at least 800,000 tonnes in 2020," Chhay said in a press conference in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia produced about 10 million tonnes of paddy rice last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. With this amount, the kingdom saw paddy rice surplus of about 5.6 million tonnes in equivalent to 3.5 million tonnes of milled rice. - Xinhua

Businessmen paint rosy scenario for Kingdom and South Korea post-FTA

Thou Vireak | Publication date 16 June 2020 | 20:56 ICT

Cambodia Rice Federation secretary-general Lun Yeng says the start of FTA negotiations will pave the way for a new market for the Kingdom’s rice sector. Hong Menea
The Cambodia Business Association is optimistic that the South Korean market will absorb more Cambodian products after a free trade agreement (FTA) is established, as officials from both countries prepare for the first round of negotiations next month.
The two countries signed a joint feasibility study agreement on a potential FTA in November aiming to expand bilateral investment volume.
It was signed by Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Yoo Myung-hee during the two-day Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in the South Korean port city of Busan.
Cambodia Rice Federation secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post on Tuesday that although the Kingdom has yet to export rice to South Korea, the start of FTA negotiations will pave the way for a new market for the Kingdom’s rice sector.
“I think our milled rice will have a new destination if both sides are open to the free market, and if Korea provides a special quota for Cambodian rice exports – somewhere in the range of 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes, given how large the Korean market is.
“Even if the Koreans don’t consume our rice, some 50,000-60,000 Cambodian workers [there] will,” he said.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that the start of FTA negotiations was part of the government’s strategy to invigorate the Kingdom’s economic growth.
“This is a promising omen. If we clinch an FTA with Korea, we will draw in more Korean investors to set up factories in Cambodia to produce goods for export,” he said.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thai told The Post that the two countries had completed the joint feasibility study and had agreed to go through with the internal procedures to start negotiations next month.
The talks will be held via video conferencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Cambodia has the potential to export garments, footwear and leather goods as well as agricultural products to the Korean market, while it would import products such as machinery, computers and electronic devices, he said.
In addition, the FTA will encourage further investment between the two countries, he said.
“The study found that there are mutual benefits – we have our own respective economic potential. If we agree a bilateral FTA, the strengths of each country will be driving catalysts for mutual economic growth,” said Thai.
The ministry said there are currently eight working groups responsible for studying and negotiating FTAs as well as formulating the Kingdom’s FTA strategy.
China is the first country to negotiate an FTA with Cambodia. With the third round of talks closing earlier this month, the deal is expected to be finalised by the end of this year.
Another working group is in preliminary negotiations with the Eurasian Economic Union which is made up of five member countries – Belarus, Armenia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
It released a report on the results of its assessment of the potential FTA deal in December.
The remaining five working groups target FTAs with the UK, the US, Japan, Mongolia and India. All are currently in preliminary engineering phases.
During a visit to South Korea in February, Prime Minister Hun Sen said bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea reached over $1 billion last year, up more than 36 per cent from $756 million in 2018.
The Kingdom exported $335 million in goods and imported $696 million last year, he said, noting that exports to South Korea mostly comprised of clothes, shoes, travel goods products, beverage, components for electronic equipment, rubber, medical and agricultural products.
Meanwhile, he said, Cambodia mainly imports vehicles, beverages, electronic equipment, home appliances, medical and plastic products.
Contact author: Thou Vireak

Iran: Rice Price Rises Dramatically

Published: Tuesday, 16 June 2020
On June 15, Iran’s state-run media reported that the rice price has skyrocketed in recent weeks. “Rice, being the main dish for many Iranians, saw prices rise in the weeks following the holy month of Ramadan.
The price rise began with imported rice, mainly exported to Iran from the Indian subcontinent, and continued with domestic rice,” the Eghtesad News website wrote.
According to the rates announced by the Consumers and Producers Protection Organization [CCPO], over the past month, the price of Iranian rice has increased about 15 cents per kilogram and the price of imported rice, including Pakistani-Indian and Thai rice, increased at least 16.6 cents per kilogram. However, eyewitnesses and field observations from the markets and rice sales centers in the Iranian capital Tehran say the price hikes are far higher.
Based on its statistics, the CCPO announced that about a month ago Pakistan's Basmati rice was sold at an average price of 66 cents per kilogram. However, this type of rice was sold at an average of 70 to 85 cents per kilogram. Meanwhile, the price of a variety of Indian rice has reached an average of about 45 cents per kilogram.
It is worth noting that the price of domestic rice has increased by an average of 15 cents per kilogram prior to Iran’s harvest season. In reality, Iran’s rice productions have been hampered by the price shock after Ramadan and the increase in the average price of foreign rice.
The CCPO, as one of the authorities involved in determining and announcing the prices of essential goods, registered the prices of various types of Iranian rice from $0.85 to $1.30 per kilogram in April. However, according to the same organization, the price of each kilogram of domestic rice reached $0.90 to $1.40 per kilogram on the first day of June. Also, on June 14, the CCPO announced the price of each kilogram of various types of domestic rice at $0.92 to $1.40 per kilogram.
“Referring to some supply centers of Iranian rice in Tehran, the price of consumed domestic rice, such as Tarom and all kinds of domestic rice, is about $1.40 to $1.83 per kilogram. Also, imported rice, including highly popular brands such as Pakistani rice and Indian rice, can no longer be found in large stores,” according to a report wired by the Shahrvand news agency on June 14.
Notably, foreign rice, which has a lower price than Iranian brands, is welcomed by many in Iran’s lower and middle classes. However, each kilogram of foreign rice is sold at different prices, ranging from about $0.66 to $1.10. Of course, only where traces of these rice can still be found.
Mohammad Reza Kalami, Deputy Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade, explained the increasing price of rice. “Among 100 essential items, 41 have faced a price hike between one to five percent. For instance, the price of domestic rice has risen due to the end of the harvest season and the supply of rice last year, as well as the impact of change in the foreign exchange rate of imported rice against the price of Iranian rice,” he said.
Notably, on April 14, in the 2019 budget reported provided by the Audit chief Adel Azar, more than $4.8 billion of the $32-billion budget allocated to importing essential goods went missing.
In response to remarks made by Kalami, Abbas Ghobadi, head of the Market Regulation Headquarters, acknowledged that an adopted resolution is set to deter future price hikes. “The Foreign Currency Exchange Committee is tasked to facilitate purchasing rice with the previous dollar exchange rate,” Ghobadi claimed according to the mentioned resolution.
However, despite these reactions and comments, there is still no tangible result in the prices of Iranian and foreign rice at the market.

Read More:

On the other hand, rice sellers point out systematic corruption and a market based on brokerage. “This price hike should be sought in techniques of brokers, those who buy a brand of rice at the price of about $0.45 and go on to sell it to us in the market at a price of $1.15,” a rice seller said.
“Brokers also raise and lower the price of Iranian rice at dollar exchange rate … Currently, shopkeepers’ sales have decreased by more than 50 percent,” he added.
On the other hand, an official in the Agriculture Ministry attempted to cease the people’s concerns about the rising prices of rice. “About 2.5 million tons of rice, equivalent to 83 percent of the country's needs this year, will be provided for,” said Aziz Karimi, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Office of Cereals and Basic Products.
However, besides comments by rice retailers and determining the role of brokers in determining the price of rice, it seems that the systematic mafia that dominates all of Iran’s industrial and agricultural sectors are depriving the Iranian people from basic necessities. In this respect, in recent months the regime has silently increased the price of bread and electricity. Previously, the administration Iranian regime President Hassan Rouhani announced a gasoline price hikes off in November 2019, all under the supervision of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In response to the gas price hikes, hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens flooded the streets in protests. However, the regime launched a brutal crackdown against empty-handed protesters. As a result, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), along with the state security forces, killed at least 1,500 demonstrators with snipers, heavy machine guns, armored vehicles, and helicopters. The fate of over 12,000 detainees remains still unclear.

In this regard, the Iranian regime faces a massive budget deficit and is scrambling to compensate for it at the expense of ordinary people. Meanwhile, it is possible that public ire will ignite at any moment. Officials are frequently warning about the next round of protests. However, regime authorities have been stuck in a tough dilemma, which will definitely be the end to their detriment.

Soil bacterial communities in three rice-based cropping systems differing in productivity


Soil microorganisms play an important role in determining productivity of agro-ecosystems. This study was conducted to compare diversity, richness, and structure (relative abundance at the phylum level) of soil bacterial communities among three rice-based cropping systems, namely, a winter fallow-rice-rice (FRR), green manure (Chinese milk vetch)-rice-rice (MRR), and oilseed rape-rice-rice (ORR), in which MRR and ORR had significantly higher productivity than FRR. A 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis showed that no significant differences were observed in diversity and richness indices (observed species, Shannon, Simpson, Chao1, abundance-based coverage estimators, and phylogeny-based metrics) of soil bacterial communities among the three cropping systems. However, relative abundances of dominant phyla in soil bacterial communities, including Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Nitrospirae, Gemmatimonadetes, and Verrucomicrobia, were significantly different among the three cropping systems. In particular, a significant reduction in the relative abundance of Nitrospirae was observed in both MRR and ORR compared with FRR. These results indicate that bacterial community structure was affected by cropping systems in the tested paddy soils. Based on the results of our studies and existing knowledge bases, we speculate that benefits to rice yield may be obtained by reducing the relative abundance of Nitrospirae and increasing the ratio of abundances of Proteobacteria/Acidobacteria in paddy soils.


Rice is the major staple food crop for many populations in the world, especially in Asia where production and consumption accounts for more than 90% of the rice worldwide1. The intensification of rice cropping systems has contributed greatly to ensuring food security in Asia2, and a further increase in cropping intensity is an important approach to achieving greater food security in the future3. However, the long-term continuous rice cropping systems have posed a challenge to sustainable land productivity4,5.
Well-planned cropping systems are expected to promote effective use of natural resources and maintain land productivity in the long-term to achieve greater crop yields and sustainability of cropping systems6. In recent years, the role of soil microorganisms in improving productivity of agro-ecosystems has gained more attention7, and more recent evidence indicates that cropping systems influence rice yield by altering soil bacterial communities8.
Double-season rice cropping system is a major intensive cropping system in China. In the double-season rice cropping regions, farmers are strongly recommended to grow green manure or oilseed rape in the winter season to improve rice yields. Our recent study also supports this recommendation9. Here, we hypothesized that growing green manure and oilseed rape in the winter season would alter soil bacterial communities in double-season rice paddies. To test this hypothesis, we collected soil samples from the experimental field of Huang et al.9. to determine cropping system effects on diversity, richness, and structure (relative abundance at phylum level) of the soil bacterial communities.

Results and Discussion

There were no significant differences within each diversity and richness index among soil bacterial communities of the FRR, MRR, and ORR cropping systems (p > 0.05; Table 1). Thus, diversity and richness of the soil bacterial communities were not significantly affected by cropping systems in this study. This finding, though unexpected, may be explained by a previous study by Xuan et al.8. They observed that the effects of cropping systems (rice-rice-rice, rice-maize-rice, rice-mungbean-rice, and rice-mungbean-maize) on bacterial community diversity and richness in a paddy soil differed between sampling times; cropping systems significantly affected Shannon and Chao1 indices of soil bacterial communities from soils sampled mid-season of a crop rotation but not those of soils sampled after rice harvest. In our study, the tested soils unaffected by cropping system were sampled after rice harvest. This suggests that further investigations are required to determine the effects of cropping systems on dynamic changes in diversity and richness of bacterial communities in paddy soils.
Table 1 Bacterial community diversity and richness in subtropical paddy soils sampled from three cropping systems.
The top 10 phyla of bacterial communities according to their relative abundances in the soil across three cropping systems were Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Nitrospirae, Chloroflexi, Gemmatimonadetes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Verrucomicrobia, and Crenarchaeota (Fig. 1). Previous studies also reported eight of our top 10 phyla (the exceptions were Gemmatimonadetes and Crenarchaeota) in their top 10 phyla of bacterial communities in paddy soils of rice-rice-rice, rice-maize-rice, rice-mungbean-rice, rice-mungbean-maize, and FRR cropping systems8,10. This indicates that the dominant phyla of bacterial communities are relatively stable in paddy soils across cropping systems.
Figure 1

Relative abundances of bacterial phyla in paddy soils from three cropping systems FRR (fallow-rice-rice), MRR (green manure-rice-rice), and ORR (oilseed rape-rice-rice). Data are means and SE (n = 4). Values above bars are p-values. Different letters denote significant differences at p < 0.05 by multiple comparisons among cropping systems.
Rankings and relative abundances of the dominant phyla of soil bacterial communities differed between findings of the present (Fig. 1) and previous studies8,10. For example, Nitropirae respectively ranked 8th and 3rd among soil bacterial communities in this and Yin et al.’s study10, and the respective average relative abundances of Proteobacteria were 0.50 and 0.33 in this and Xuan et al.’s study8. Differences in environmental conditions (soil and climate) and crop management practices may explain the inconsistencies in rank and abundances of phyla11,12, but the specific reasons are unclear.
Relative abundances of Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Nitrospirae, Gemmatimonadetes, and Verrucomicrobia in soil bacterial communities were significantly different among the FRR, MRR, and ORR cropping systems (p < 0.05; Fig. 1). Compared with FRR, MRR had 11% lower relative abundance of Nitrospirae and 18% higher relative abundance of Gemmatimonadetes; ORR had 8–65% higher relative abundances of Proteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia and 11–17% lower relative abundances of Acidobacteria and Nitrospirae. These results indicate that the structure of soil bacterial communities was significantly affected by cropping systems in this study. Based on both the abundance and diversity and richness data, we suspect that interspecific competition is likely responsible for the insignificant effects of cropping systems on the diversity and richness of soil bacterial communities.
In conclusion, this study determined altered soil bacterial community structure among three rice-based cropping systems differing in productivity. Briefly, compared with FRR, the higher rice yield in MRR was accompanied by a decrease in relative abundance of Nitrospirae and an increase in relative abundance of Gemmatimonadetes, while the higher rice yield in ORR was accompanied by increases in relative abundances of Proteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia and decreases in relative abundances of Acidobacteria and Nitrospirae. These findings suggest that benefits to rice yield may be obtained by strategically shaping the soil bacterial community structure.
Based on the results of our present and previous studies and those of others, we speculate that reducing the relative abundance of Nitrospirae and increasing the ratio of abundances of Proteobacteria/Acidobacteria in paddy soils may be beneficial to improve rice yield. On one hand, a lower relative abundance of Nitrospirae was observed in both MRR and ORR with higher rice yield than in FRR with lower rice yield in our studies. Nitrospirae is a phylum of nitrification bacteria in soils, which plays critical role in both the ammonia-oxidizing and nitrite-oxidizing processes13. A reduction in Nitrospirae abundance in the soil may reduce nitrification, and consequently increase availability of ammonia nitrogen (the main nitrogen source for rice) and decrease nitrogen loss through leaching and denitrification14, and finally improve nitrogen uptake and grain yield in rice15. On the other hand, abundances of Proteobacteria and Acidobacteria are related to the nutrient status of soils, and high ratios of abundances of Proteobacteria/Acidobacteria are indicative of copiotrophic soils16. In the present study, the significantly higher abundance of Proteobacteria or significantly lower abundance of Acidobacteria resulted in a significantly higher ratio of abundances of Proteobacteria/Acidobacteria in both MRR and ORR than in FRR (Figs. 1 and 2), suggesting that the soil nutrient status was improved in both MRR and ORR with higher rice yield compared to FRR with lower rice yield. In this regard, it has been documented that growing green manure of Chinese milkvetch can improve nitrogen recovery and conservation in the rice paddy soil17, while growing oilseed rape can increase soil organic matter and nitrogen (especially the available nitrogen) contents18. In addition, chemical fertilizers (120 kg N ha−1, 67.5 kg P2O5 ha−1, and 120 kg K2O ha−1) were applied to the oilseed rape crop in ORR9, which might also affect the nutrient status of soils and the growth and productivity of subsequent rice crops. The results of our studies highlight that further investigations are needed to gain a greater fundamental understanding of relationships among the structure of soil bacterial communities, soil nutrient status, and crop physiological processes in rice paddies. Such investigations will provide useful information to identify the specific soil microorganisms responsible for the high productivity of rice paddies.
Figure 2

Ratios of abundances of Proteobacteria/Acidobacteria in paddy soils from three cropping systems FRR (fallow-rice-rice), MRR (green manure-rice-rice), and ORR (oilseed rape-rice-rice). Ratios were calculated by dividing the relative abundance of Proteobacteria by the relative abundance of Acidobacteria. Data are means and SE (n = 4). Different letters denote significant differences at p < 0.05 by multiple comparisons among cropping systems.


Soil sampling

The experimental field of Huang et al.9 is located at Hengyang (26°53′ N, 112°28′ E), Hunan Province, China. Three rice-based cropping systems were established in the experimental field from 2014 to 2019 where two seasons of rice crops were preceded by a winter season of either a (1) fallow field (winter fallow-rice-rice, FRR), (2) crop of green manure of Chinese milkvetch (green manure-rice-rice, MRR), or (3) crop of oilseed rape (oilseed rape-rice-rice, ORR) in each cropping cycle. The cropping systems were laid out in a randomized complete-block design with four replications and a plot size of 45 m2. Averaged rice yield across cropping cycles was significantly higher in MRR and ORR than in FRR. The detailed information of the experiment and yield data can be found in Huang et al.9
At seven days after the second-season rice harvest in 2019, fifteen points were randomly selected in each plot to collect soil samples from the upper 20-cm layer with a flame-sterilized soil corer (inner diameter = 2 cm). The soil samples from each plot were composited after removing visible plant residues and gravel. All composited soil samples were placed in sterilized sealed bags, brought to the laboratory in an ice box, and stored in an ultra-cold freezer at –70 °C until assayed.

Bacterial community assay

A 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis was conducted to assay bacterial communities of each soil sample. DNA extraction and 16 S rRNA gene sequencing were performed according to the procedures described by Yin et al.10. Quality-filtered and non-chimeric sequences were clustered to generate operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at a similarity level of 97% using UPARSE (v7.0.1090)19. Taxonomic information of OTUs was annotated against the GreenGene Database20 using the RDP classifier algorithm (v2.2)21.
Bacterial community diversity and richness indices, including observed species, Shannon, Simpson, Chao1, abundance-based coverage estimators (ACE), and phylogeny-based metrics (PD whole tree), were calculated using QIIME (v1.9.1)22. Relative abundance of each phylum was calculated by dividing the number of OTUs affiliated with a phylum by the total number of OTUs.

Statistical analysis

Data were analysed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) using Statistix 8.0 analytical software (Tallahassee, FL, USA). The statistical significance level of ANOVA was set at p < 0.05. The variables with significant differences were subjected to multiple comparisons using the least significant difference (LSD) test at p < 0.05.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the article.


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We thank those who have been at the forefront of the fight against the 2019 novel coronavirus for allowing us to have peace of mind to concentrate on writing this paper. This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFD0301503).

Author information



M.H. conceived the study. A.T., J.C., F.C., Y.C. and L.L. performed the experiment. M.H. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Multiple alarm fire at Garwood rice dryer

Alesia Woolridge
 June 17, 2020 - 00:00
·         Description: Multiple alarm fire at Garwood rice dryer
Courtesy | GVFD

Eleven firefighting agencies were in full response mode Sunday, June 14 battling a fire at Stallman Dryer on FM 1693 in the Garwood area.
Description: Multiple alarm fire at Garwood rice dryerUnits from Columbus, Eagle Lake, Garwood, Sheridan, Rock Island, and Weimar fire departments were assisted by El Campo, Wharton, Glen Flora, Midfield and Hungerford departments.
In addition to fire agencies, CCEMS Medic 3 was on location. First responders received the call at 9:01 p.m. and had the fire stopped at 3:30 a.m.
Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Rogers said water supply impacted operations until enough tankers were brought into rotation. Rogers also said that the ladder truck from Columbus and an elevated water platform from El Campo “had a positive impact” on operations.
Garwood VFD Fire Chief Todd Krenek said that there were no injuries, the dryer (which was still in operation) was empty and that the structure is a complete loss.
Krenek said the loss is estimated to be in the $8-$10 million dollars range. The suspected cause of the fire is either electrical or a lighting strike.

Pabna rice procurement in limbo

12:00 AM, June 18, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, June 18, 2020

Prices at government purchase centres lower than market, say millers, farmers

A good portion of the LSD godown in Pabna Sadar upazila lies empty as there is very little response from farmers and millers to sell paddy and rice to government-run procurement centres in the district. Photo: Star
When the government is planning to store sufficient food grains for ensuring support in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rice procurement drive in Pabna faces a hurdle due to alleged irregularities by a section of officials and 'low prices' offered to millers and farmers.
The government's rice procurement programme started over a month late on June 8 in Ishwardi upazila, the biggest hub of rice mills in the district, due to the irregularities in selecting suppliers.
This year Pabna food controller's office set a target to procure 24,571 tonnes of rice in the district, including 15,162 tonnes in Ishwardi, through 11 government-run centres, and 681 rice millers including 425 in the upazila got contract for the purpose.
"But dozens of closed mills, which abandoned husking paddy years ago, were included in the list of rice suppliers in exchange of bribe," Md Mizanur Rahman Mahalder, owner of Redwan Enterprise in Ishwardi upazila, told The Daily Star.
Following his written allegation submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Pabna deputy commissioner (DC) about the irregularities on May 3, the authorities stopped procurement programme in the upazila for the sake of investigation.
"After investigation we removed 45 mills from the previous list as they failed to fulfil conditions. Then procurement drive started in Ishwardi upazila on June 8. The upazila food officer was withdrawn due to the earlier fault in the list," said Iqbal Bahar, district food controller.
"Most of the millers are not showing interest to supply rice to procurement centres despite having contract for it. If any mill owner violates contract, we will take action," he said.
Since start of the procurement drive on June 8, only 765 tonnes of rice has been procured in Ishwardi.
Rice traders said they are not interested to supply rice to government centres due to the poor price.
"Government is paying Tk 36 for a kg of rice but our production cost is Tk 39," Fozlu Malitha, president of upazila rice mill owners association.
Meanwhile, farmers have brought only 28 tonnes of paddy (rice before husking) to government procurement centres in the district since the collection drive began on April 26 with a target to procure 6,695 tonnes of paddy in the district this season.
"Government price of paddy is Tk 26 per kg but it is selling for Tk 29 to Tk 30 in the local market for the last few weeks," said Md Kamruzzaman, a farmer of Durgapur village in Sujanagar upazila.
"I supplied paddy to a government's procurement centre last year but now I am not interested to sell the crop there due to the low price.
"Besides employees at government centres often decline to receive paddy directly from us, claiming that it contains huge moisture. But the problem is solved if we take the help of their brokers. Besides, the price money is not paid timely," he said.
Talked with The Daily Star, Pabna DC Kabir Mahamud said, "No irregularity will be tolerated in government's food procurement programme. We will take action if there is any specific allegation."
"The procurement is getting late as Pabna farmers harvested the crop late. We are expecting fulfilment of the target," said the official, also president of district food procurement committee.

Rice deals in riel and yuan?

June 18, 2020
Sok Chan / Khmer Time

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) discussed ways to use the Chinese Yuan and the riel in rice exports between China and Cambodia.
CRF vice president Chan Sokheang told Khmer Times the CRF also talked with the representative of the NBC to promote the local currency for domestic consumption and transactions. He said all the transactions with the rice millers and farmers will use riel.

All rice exporters may soon have an alternative choice of payment either in US dollars (the international currency of trade) or yuan. However, Sokheang said there were barriers to using the yuan for cross-border transactions previously, therefore, the discussions with the NBC were to resolve previous issues.
“The government as well as the National Bank of Cambodia are encouraging transactions in either Chinese yuan or Khmer riel, but there are some conditions for which the use of both currencies is not easy, especially regarding the exchange rate and the banks which play the role for the cash settlement. Therefore, we proposed these issues to the NBC for resolution,” Sokheang added. “After there is a solution, we will start piloting it,” he added.
China also has strict capital controls.
“If we can trade with Chinese yuan and Khmer riel, we will benefit from the exchange rate risk. At present, exports of milled rice to China have been conducted in US dollars, but when the buyers sold the products in the Chinese market they get Chinese yuan. Then they exchange the Chinese yuan to US dollars to pay the Cambodia sides. Therefore, there is a loss on the exchange rate,” he added.
Sokheang said that for the first five months of the year Cambodia exported milled rice to China at a total value of $71 million. Therefore, the use of yuan and riel for the cross-border transactions will be beneficial for both traders – Cambodia and China – and they also enable the expansion of Cambodian milled rice to the Chinese market.
Long Vibunrith, deputy director of the Exchange Management Department at the National Bank of Cambodia, thanked the CRF for supporting the mechanism to conduct transactions in yuan for rice exports – a request from the Central Bank of China.
Both parties agreed on the proposal to set up a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to begin transactions in yuan and riel at the meeting attended by the Chinese Central Bank, the Cambodia Central Bank (NBC) and commercial banks.
Vibunrith said that there might be an MoU signing ceremony during the Asia-Europe Summit in November, when the leaders of Cambodia, Hun Sen, and China, Xi Jinping, meet each other.
The Cambodia Rice Federation has also suggested to the NBC to fix the exchange rate between riel and the yuan one month ahead of enacting the deals because it is the main barrier for foreign trade.
In 2017, the NBC and the People’s Bank of China (PBC) urged investors and traders to use the yuan and the riel in transactions involving both nations. The yuan-riel exchange rate was officially launched in September 2017 during the China-Asean Expo in Nanning, Guangxi province. The initiative is widely expected to bolster economic relations between both countries, improve efficiency and security and save costs when exchanging currencies.
The Cambodia central bank also allows certain banks and financial institutions to operate in yuan.

Australian-grown black rice could deliver a high value niche crop for farmers

Posted 6hhours ago, updated 6hhours ago

Tobias Kretzschmar is leading a project to determine the agronomic performance of black rice.(Supplied: Southern Cross University)
Description: Tobias Kretzschmar holding a black rice plant.
Black rice is widely promoted as a superfood, and new research hopes to determine if it can provide a niche market for Australian growers.

Key points:

  • Black rice is gaining popularity as a superfood because of its health benefits
  • Research is underway to develop black rice varieties for the Australian environment
·         Black rice could become a high value crop for Northern Rivers dryland rice farmers
Southern Cross University scientists have begun research to try to discover if black rice is suitable for growing in the local environment.
The three-year project, funded $600,000 by the Australian Research Council, will identify drivers of nutritional quality of black rice and whether high UV levels could boost its health compounds.
Project leader associate professor Tobias Kretzschmar said that demand for functional foods, like black rice, with health benefits was growing here and overseas.
"Black rice, as opposed to white rice, contains a lot more micronutrients, but more importantly that's what makes it black or purple," he said.
"It contains valuable anthocyanins and these anthocyanins have antioxidants and inflammatory properties when eaten."
Southern Cross Plant Science has gained access to 300 lines of black rice from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, home to a gene bank with more than 100,000 types of rice.
Mr Kretzchmar, who worked at IRRI for seven years, said so far 256 lines imported into Australia had been released from quarantine.
"We want to most of all focus on the characterisation of this resource looking at how the genetics of that resource interact with the local environments to actually drive the composition and content of those valuable secondary metabolites (such as anthocyanins)," he said.
Description: Tobias Kretzschmar holds a handful of black rice before and after milling.
Associate professor Tobias Kretzschmar from Southern Cross Plant Science is researching black rice.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)
The varieties have already been grown from seed twice — once to pass biosecurity and again in a polytunnel facility to check their agronomic performance.
"We're currently just characterising them for their nutrient content, that is taking pictures of them and running them through lab equipment that will tell us exactly what the composition of these grains is," he said.

The project will also investigate whether the Australian climate, and its high UV levels, could offer an advantage for black rice production here.
"Australia is pretty high in UV radiation as compared to other countries, and whilst that's a detriment for most of agronomy it could actually be of benefit for black rice because these anthocyanins have been shown to be produced at higher concentrations under high UV," he said.
"In fact, in tropical countries good black rice comes from mountainous regions where the UV radiation is higher than in lowland regions."
If the black rice lines do not perform well in field trials, due to start later this year, researchers will look at using them as parents in a breeding program.
Description: Tobias Kretzschmar and Steve Rogers in a rice crop.
Southern Cross Plant Science's Tobias Kretzschmar and Natural Rice Co's Steve Rogers say black rice could be a successful niche crop.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

High value opportunity

Most of the rice produced in Australia is grown under irrigation in the Riverina region but in the Northern Rivers, where the industry is significantly smaller, farmers rely on rainfall to feed their crops.
Local business Natural Rice Co buys the dryland brown rice from local growers and packages it, as well as imported black rice, for sale in supermarket giant Aldi.
Operations manager Steve Rogers said that black rice was a high value crop and it would provide a niche market for local growers.
"Technically it's really only around a 500 to 1000 tonne market, that's why other rice players in Australia haven't really gone down that track, it's just easier to import it," he said.
"But a 500 to 1000 tonne market is quite suitable for us, we can concentrate on that and really give it a good chance of growing."
Description: Steve Rogers kneeling in a rice crop.
The Natural Rice Co's Steve Rogers says growers could expect to receive $600-$700 per tonne for black rice.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)
Mr Rogers could expect to receive a premium for the superfood with prices more than $600 to $700 per tonne.
"So that's a very high value product opportunity for a grower to grow in a lowland area," he said.
"They've now got the possibility of making up around $4,000 to $5,000 a hectare off that."
Mr Rogers said that black rice was something that the local rice industry had been murmuring about for a while.
"We'd like to fast track it, but we understand it all takes time and now we have this great opportunity that's come upon us to actually try and kick-start something going," he said.

Dietary RNA is ripe for investigation
Kenneth Witwer says that RNA in food could have profound effects on the human digestive system and on health more generally.

Credit: John Hopkins Medicine
In the mid-nineteenth century, German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach reviewed a monograph on the influence of food chemicals on the make-up and function of the body. In his essay, he asserted that food affects even cognition, coining the phrase: “you are what you eat”. To change the world, give people better food, he said.
The study of nutrition has progressed substantially since then. How the body extracts molecular building blocks and energy from food is well understood. But could food be more than just fuel? In 2012, an article suggested just that: a dietary component that interacts with the genetic code.
The authors of the study1 reported that short molecules of RNA called microRNAs (miRNA) from rice accumulate in tissues, and regulate an important liver enzyme. This regulation was so effective that, surprisingly, a plant-based diet seemed to significantly boost levels of circulating cholesterol in mice. This, and other reports from the same group on dietary-RNA-containing particles, including extracellular vesicles (EVs), generated considerable excitement.
But despite numerous replication and analysis studies, little or no systemic uptake of dietary RNA has been observed. A faithful replication of the initial experiments, but comparing mice given a nutritionally balanced ricebased diet with animals fed just rice, showed that the cholesterol finding was not the result of miRNA transfer, but rather a starvation response to a nutritionally insufficient rice diet2. In a study this year in cows, researchers found that during the 24-hour window after birth in which calves can absorb antibodies from their mother’s milk, proteins and lipid membranes transferred readily into the circulation—but RNA did not3.
However, systemic transfer, which involves molecules crossing multiple barriers in the body, is not the only way that dietary RNA could affect health beyond serving as fuel4. Dietary-RNA carriers have access to the epithelial and immune-surveillance cells of the alimentary tract. They probably also interact with the diverse species of the community of microorganisms that live in the gut.
Such interactions could be exploited to deliver therapeutic small RNA strands to combat specific health conditions. Early evidence of the transfer of RNA from one organism to another came from the finding that bacteria, given orally, could transfer therapeutic RNA to human colorectal cancer cells transplanted into mice5. The bacteria don’t need to replicate to have these effects, so bacterial EVs could be a safer and highly scalable alternative to live organisms. And bacterial vesicles are not the only possible delivery vehicles. Indeed, food plants, blended and broken up into nanoparticles that resemble EVs, could deliver RNAs and small-molecule drugs to epithelial cells6. Food-based RNA-delivery strategies are likely to be very low risk, because there is no evidence that dietary RNA is harmful.
Particles produced from these plant ‘smoothies’ might affect the gut microbiome—just as host epithelial EVs have been shown to do—and RNAs could play a part in this phenomenon. Because the health of the microbiome is now a recognized factor in conditions such as cancer and neurodegenerative disease, the effects of dietary RNA and EVs should be investigated more intensively. Theoretically, dietary RNA found in food or engineered RNA additives could attenuate or eliminate pathogens by targeting essential genetic elements. It could also be used to fine-tune the balance of microbes in the gut, because different RNA molecules exert different effects across the diverse gut-microbe populations.
In his essay, Feuerbach opined that the uprising of the German people had failed because they ate too many potatoes. A diet richer in beans, he thought, would have brought about political change. Such a notion now seems quaint, and bolstering a person’s political activism through dietary microRNA is a far-fetched idea.
Nevertheless, opportunities abound to study whether dietary RNA is delivered to the cells of the alimentary tract and the microbes that live there. But these investigations must include appropriate controls to determine whether dietary extracellular RNA is mostly a source of nutrition in the form of molecular building blocks or whether specific RNA sequences are transferred into microbial or host gut cells where they regulate other nucleic acids.
If the latter is true, researchers will need to determine whether native dietary RNA is therapeutically effective, or if it is necessary to introduce vesicles loaded with naturally occurring or synthetic RNA. Similarly, can a ‘smoothie’, or even unprocessed food, deliver RNA, or must EV-like particles be separated and concentrated from these sources?
Finally, the mechanisms of delivery and the use of RNA in the recipient cell must be unravelled. Knowing exactly how RNA is taken up and incorporated into regulatory complexes will allow researchers to exploit and enhance these pathways. Although it is not possible to predict how these experiments will turn out, the findings could lead to the use of specific foods and methods of processing as therapy or to enhance gut health.
Depending on the outcome, Feuerbach’s ideas might turn out to be correct on a molecular level he could not have anticipated.

Do the microRNAs we eat affect gene expression?

Studies have suggested that genetic material can be transferred from diet. But some researchers have their doubts.
Huang-Ge Zhang has shown that nanoparticles from grapes can deliver therapeutic RNA. Credit: Univ. Louisville
Until September 2011, Janos Zempleni’s main focus was working out how the bodies of mammals use chemical compounds such as vitamins. But new research published online at the time changed that.
Zempleni, a molecular nutritionist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, like many others in the field, was struck by the findings of an astonishing study published in Cell Research suggesting that food could provide something other than nutrients—information from ingested plants could switch mammalian genes on and off1. In the study, researchers reported that microRNAs (miRNAs)—very short fragments of non-coding RNA molecules — originating from plants such as rice had been found in the bloodstream of mice, cows and humans. And in a mouse model, one particular rice-derived miRNA seemed to reach the liver, where it directly inhibited the expression of a gene that normally serves to clear ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from the blood. After learning about the work, Zempleni was keen to follow up on the possible transfer of genetic material from dietary components, and to determine how extensive this phenomenon might be.
When Kenneth Witwer, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, read the paper, he immediately realized the potential significance of the work. “I thought, wow, this is amazing. I want to do this, too.” He remembers thinking, “maybe this is some evolutionarily conserved way that we can extract something else from our food other than just nutrition.” He corralled some of his lab’s resources and set about trying to verify the findings in a small animal study of his own.
But misgivings about the Cell Research study soon began to surface. Not only were Witwer and several others unable to reproduce the findings, but some of its basic premises were also called into question. Scientists doubted that diet-derived miRNAs could make it into the systemic circulation of animal hosts at sufficient levels to have a meaningful impact. Follow-up work2 also revealed the strong possibility that the ‘diet-derived’ miRNAs were actually the result of contamination.
Initial excitement about the possible health effects of rice-derived miRNAs gradually tapered off. Some researchers, including Witwer, gave up studying it altogether. But others persevered with the idea that what we eat can directly affect gene expression. What’s at stake is a clearer understanding of how humans relate to, and derive benefit from, their food.

A tall glass of exosomes

Zempleni, after a brief and disappointing spell looking for broccoli-specific miRNAs in humans, turned his attention to miRNAs in milk. “We settled on milk because of the importance for infant nutrition and because Americans consume lots of milk,” he says.
Zempleni wondered whether the miRNAs in milk go beyond the gastrointestinal tract. But he quickly encountered a problem: the miRNA molecules themselves rapidly degraded in the gut. “We realized what matters is really not just the miRNAs,” Zempleni says. “What’s at least equally important is the shell in which these miRNAs are packaged.” This shell is a bubble-like vessel called an exosome. “In order for miRNAs to be bioavailable and to be absorbed from the gut, they have to be encapsulated in these exosomes,” Zempleni says. As others had shown, fragile miRNAs need to be protected in these containers to be transported from cell to cell.
The exosomes accounted for how the miRNAs could remain intact in the host’s digestive tract, but the next challenge was to work out how they end up in different places in the body. As a way of testing whether the milk miRNAs could go beyond the mouse gut, Zempleni and his colleagues devised a method for labelling the miRNAs contained in cow’s milk exosomes with fluorescent compounds. These could then be tracked in animal models. “This technology confirmed that these microRNAs, if encapsulated in exosomes, accumulate in various tissues,” he says—mainly the brain, liver and intestinal mucosa3.
This established that the miRNAs could reach not just local sites (the gut wall), but also distant ones. Turning, then, to the question of how the miRNA-containing exosomes were affecting host health, Zempleni carried out various experiments in which he gave mice a diet deficient in both free miRNAs and miRNA-containing exosomes, and compared them with other mice consuming a diet that had normal levels of each. He found a range of effects, including a decrease in the cognitive performance4 of mice receiving the depleted diet, a decrease in fecundity5 and changes in muscular growth6.
Zempleni is now tackling the question of whether these health effects are conferred by the dietary miRNAs or something else, such as the entire exosome or a component of the exosome besides miRNAs. He and his colleagues are looking at a group of mice engineered to lack miRNAs in their milk. Initial unpublished results show that their offspring, whose diet consists only of their mother’s milk, have numerous health and developmental problems. If confirmed, this would specifically implicate the diet-derived miRNAs as major players in health—at least, those in milk during early life.
Zempleni says that “miRNAs and exosomes are way more bioavailable in milk than in plants”. He speculates that this might have evolutionary underpinnings: “Nature may have made them to be bioavailable because of infant nutrition,” he says. Zempleni is investigating other foods of animal origin, and, as part of an ongoing study, he is looking at whether he can track how dietary chicken-egg exosomes deliver miRNA cargo to mouse tissues.

A gut feeling

Some of Zempleni’s animal-model work is based on the idea that exosomes interact with the gut microbiota—the community of microorganisms involved in the health effects conferred by a host’s diet. This led to the hypothesis that the gut microbiota might mediate cell-to-cell communication between milk exosomes and mammalian hosts.
It’s in this realm that Witwer predicts much of the progress in the field will occur over the next few years. “We can shift our focus from the circulation and the tissue of the animal, to the gut,” says Witwer. He thinks that interactions of diet-derived exosomes with gut epithelial cells or particular gut microbes hold promise.
The gut has also been a central focus for researchers studying the extra-nutritional health effects of dietary plants. Immunologist Huang-Ge Zhang at the University of Louisville in Kentucky is pursuing the question of how plant foods, such as grapefruit, carrots and mushrooms, might affect specific cells. He studies the plant equivalent of exosomes, entities called exosome-like nanoparticles, which are protective vesicles with similar precious cargo inside: protein, lipid and RNA. In 2018, Zhang reported how ginger exosome-like nanoparticles are stable in the intestine, and how they regulate gut bacterial composition7.
According to Zhang, when introduced into mammals, exosome-like nanoparticles can home in on different cells in the intestine with remarkable specificity. He has shown, for example, that exosome-like nanoparticles from grapes are taken up by gut stem cells8, and that nanoparticles from grapes, ginger, carrots and grapefruit target gut-associated macrophages9.
Zhang’s view is that the miRNAs in these exosome-like nanoparticles might have been incorrectly singled out in earlier work as responsible for host health effects. Because exosome-like nanoparticles consist of numerous proteins, lipids, RNAs and polysaccharides, says Zhang, they might do many things at once. “Multiple factors carried by a single nanovesicle can be taken up by the same cells,” he says. “Therefore, we can see multiple molecules as regulating multiple pathways.”
Zhang hopes that, by learning which host cells (in the gut and elsewhere) preferentially take up different plant-derived exosome-like nanoparticles, researchers could assemble new nanoparticles for use as drug-delivery vehicles to very specific cell types in the body. Having abandoned his own studies on milk exosomes around 2008, he says that plant nanoparticles have several distinct advantages over exosomes of animal origin. Not only are exosome-like nanoparticles safer because they avoid possible transfer of cow-derived pathogens, but they are also more versatile—drug developers looking to target a particular cell type can explore the exosome-like nanoparticles derived from thousands of different types of plant, each with its own target in the host. Furthermore, Zhang says, purification of milk exosomes is particularly challenging, and large quantities of exosomes are more expensive to produce than are plant nanoparticles.
Molecular biologist Jiujiu Yu, also at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, became interested in the therapeutic potential of plant-derived vesicles because they could be extracted in large numbers from various plant foods. In particular, she wanted to know how vesicles affected metabolic inflammation and obesity. Her lab developed a cell-culture system to screen dietary exosome-like nanoparticles from ginger or mushrooms to find out how they affected the cells implicated in inflammatory processes related to metabolic disease.
Yu is focused on identifying the part of the exosome-like nanoparticle responsible for anti-inflammatory effects. Her latest work, which has not yet been published, has shown that only in rare cases is the RNA component necessary for the anti-inflammatory effects of the vesicles. She wants to explore the possibility that, for a given food, any part of the exosome-like nanoparticle could be responsible for a health effect. “People try to focus on miRNA because it’s a new component,” Yu says. “Protein and lipids are not that exciting. But we should try to study all these components of the vesicles, not just focus on something that catches the eye.”
Yu thinks there is much more still to learn before exosome-like nanoparticles from plants are put to therapeutic use in humans. Her lab has found that ginger purchased from different grocery stores contains different exosome-like nanoparticles that yield different results10. The vesicles can have strong or mild anti-inflammatory effects, or even promote inflammation. “There’s inconsistency, so we need to be very careful if we want to just use those dietary vesicles for therapeutic use,” she says. “I really want to identify the active molecule.”
Zempleni, meanwhile, sees applications for milk exosomes on the horizon. “If you load milk exosomes with cancer drugs, you could deliver them to tumour sites in cancer patients — even if the drugs themselves are not very bioavailable or not very stable,” Zempleni says. “That’s a big story these days.” Indeed, Pure- Tech Health of Boston, Massachusetts, in collaboration with pharmaceutical giant Roche, is already working to advance technology that uses milk exosomes for drug delivery.
The ultimate goal is to learn the language in which our food speaks to us—and to discover whether miRNAs might serve as a Rosetta Stone.

Rules soon to block cheap imports from China, others: Ram Vilas Paswan

New regulations being finalised to ensure imported products abide by Indian norms for quality.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2020, 08.39 AM IST
Description: Description: PASWAN_BCCLHe said there was no need for people to buy goods from the hostile neighbour.
New Delhi: The government will soon announce regulations to block imports of cheap, sub-standard goods from China and other countries, while people should themselves boycott products shipped in from the hostile neighbour, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

People should boycott goods from China because they must not take its aggression and hostility lightly and they should remember that George Fernandes, former defence minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, had clearly named China as India’s enemy No 1, Paswan told ET in an interview.

He said there was no need for people to buy goods from the hostile neighbour. “If China has made such an attack, and our soldiers have been martyred, then at the diplomatic level there are talks, but we can at least boycott their goods. Why should it be that Ganeshji is worshipped in Indian homes, but Ganeshji travels to India from China,” he said.

The minister said the government had strengthened the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

New rules and regulations are being finalised to make sure that imported products abide by Indian norms for quality, he said. This will eliminate cheap, low-quality imports that are often clandestinely shipped in, he said.

“In our Consumer Affairs Department, there is BIS which makes standards for 25,000 products. Now we have a new law. Its rules and regulations are in the last stage. When our goods reach abroad, they are checked. Our Basmati rice exports can get rejected, but when their goods come to India, there is no strict quality control. Once the regulations are strictly implemented, sub-standard goods will stop coming in,” Paswan said.

He said the new rules and regulations on quality were “almost ready” but other sections of the government were also involved.

Apart from the minister, the Confederation of All India Traders has also called for a boycott of Chinese goods, while Indian entrepreneurs are investing in sectors dependent on Chinese imports. Industrialist Gautam Adani recently told ET in an interview that after his group’s investment in local solar equipment manufacturing, Chinese imports, which have an overwhelming dominance in the sector, will be virtually eliminated in a few years.

Paswan said that apart from boycotting Chinese products, Indian entrepreneurs also need to ensure that locally made products are priced competitively and meet quality standards. Asked about the impact of a boycott on small businessmen who thrive on Chinese imports, the minister said: “The nation comes first, organisations come next and individual interests come after that.

On the broader strategy towards trade with China, Paswan said other wings of the government such as the ministries of finance and commerce would take a call. “I can’t say if under WTO rules we can stop imports or restrict the quantity of imports, but when there is an awakening among the people, nobody can force people to buy imported products. In my own department, I don’t want Chinese goods to be purchased.”

“In the current situation, the China issue should not be taken lightly…In many cases, there may be Chinese money invested, but I think the regular things we buy from the market, one should certainly make sure that we avoid Chinese products.”

He said the prime minister’s message for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and make-in-India campaign had the same message: “Unless it is something absolutely essential, avoid imported goods.”

Every time they attack, capture some land, their confidence is increasing. They have to be reined in. What is the way, I can’t say but they can’t be given a free hand.”

Government yet to deposit Rs 1,000 crore in bank accounts of Telangana farmers

Roushan Ali | TNN | Updated: Jun 17, 2020, 09:37 IST
Representative image
HYDERABAD: The government is yet to deposit Rs 1,000 crore into the bank accounts of thousands of farmers from whom paddy was procured for yasangi, formerly known as rabi, crop. The procurement through the Telangana State Civil Supplies Corporation (TSCSC) ended on Monday.
Officials said Rs 11,000 crore has already been deposited into the bank accounts of farmers for the paddy procured and added that the remaining Rs 1,000 crore would be deposited in a couple of days. “Those farmers who came with paddy at the last moment are yet to get the amount. There is no problem with the money. Farmers will get the deposits in their bank accounts soon,” said an official.
The government has procured 65 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of paddy from the farmers out of the total 1.05 crore MTs produced during yasangi.
Though 65 lakh MTs of paddy procured is a little over 65% of the total paddy to be procured, the government said it has to be assumed as 100% procurement.
Rythu Bandhu Samithi chairman Palla Rajeshwar Reddy told TOI that of the total 1.05 crore MTs of paddy produced in the rabi, 65 lakh MTs was procured by the government, another 15 lakh MTs is kept by farmers for self-consumption and five lakh MTs would be used as seed for next season. “Over 20 lakh MTs of fine rice variety will be sold to rice millers or private traders directly by the farmers at a higher price,” he added.
TSCSC chairman Mareddy Srinivas Reddy said the government has procured 1.12 crore MTs of paddy from two crop seasons in 2019-20 from farmers at the rate of 65 lakh MTs in yasangi-2020 and the remaining in vanakalam-2019.