Innovation leadership for the global rice sector

Anticipating and shaping the future

The long lead times of rice sector research—with most research stretching to a 5– to 10-year horizon or more—means that IRRI is continuously working to assess current impacts and anticipate future needs. We will anticipate emerging problems and drive the research and development agenda of the rice sector in response.

  • Link with the best climate, population, and economic models to produce accurate foresighting and modeling.
  • Focus on system-level solutions that overlay a diversity of factors, geographic, climatic, soils, germplasm, production systems, and socioeconomic.
  • Pursue medium- to long-term innovations through advanced genetic technologies such as novel durable disease resistance mechanisms to address profound productivity limitations.
  • Convene and assemble “big data” sets to develop fresh insights into the status of the rice-agri-food sector for novel research directions and policy interventions.

Addressing the food-energy-water nexus

The food- energy-water nexus is a particularly acute challenge for rice producers: water is more critical for rice than other crops and often entails high costs to access it and increased energy to lift water for irrigation and to mechanize operations. As highly contestable resources, there will be increasing competition from other sectors for water and energy for rice production in the face of population growth, urbanization, large-scale land degradation, and climate change.

  • IRRI will continue to deploy a powerful array of tools to maximize the resource-use efficiency of rice-based farms and reduce rice’s ecological footprint.
  • Develop rice varieties and production systems that need fewer inputs such as water, fertilizer, and pesticide.
  • Leverage advances in mechanization to address the challenges of labor shortages, facilitating the role of women farmers, and delivering increased profitability.
  • Develop, adopt, and translate technologies to facilitate the use of rice by-products (straw, rice hull) as either energy or animal feed-generating products, enhancing incomes and delivering environmental and sustainability benefits.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change

Sector-wide investments in mitigating the impacts of climate change are lagging in agriculture relative to other sectors such as energy and transport. Yet, a truly sustainable agriculture sector will only be possible if consistent investment is made in innovations to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change. IRRI will substantively invest in climate mitigation research for the rice sector and rally partners and supporters to invest in the same.

  • Develop climate-smart rice varieties, sustainable crop management techniques, and technologies that reduce dependence on inputs such as nitrogen fertilizer and water.
  • Reduce GHG emissions from rice production by reducing the methane produced by anaerobic organisms in flooded rice systems.
  • Contribute to public discourse on mitigation of urban health issues resulting from air and water pollution as a result of rice farming practices.
  • Build on IRRI’s expertise in biophysical and biological processes to derive robust solutions that deliver in the face of climate change and changing production systems.

Generating incisive information and analysis

IRRI generates and accesses vast amounts of data about the biophysical, biological, and socioeconomic factors underpinning the global rice sector. Through this information, we will generate an enhanced evidence base from which we can drive research exploration and innovations as well as advice on vital economic, financial, and political aspects of the rice sector.

  • Using a multidisciplinary approach, generate information and analysis advancing the understanding of the social and economic fabric of rice systems—from household use to policy levels—to guide geographic distribution and market response.
  • Provide equivalent baseline data feeds for individual governments, national agricultural research and extension partners, and private sector partners to democratize data and increase access to information.
  • Work closely with individual governments, agriculture research and extension partners, and the private sector to provide information tailored to their specific needs on terms consistent with IRRI’s commitment to CGIAR policies on open access and the use of intellectual assets.

Maximizing impact of unique traits and germplasm

The International Rice Genebank at IRRI holds the world’s largest collection of rice accessions—a huge reserve of genetic material to lead the fight against global hunger and malnutrition. IRRI is best placed to harness these resources to discover and validate the novel traits that will benefit both farmers and consumers.

  • Develop the capacity to incorporate high-value traits into successive new generations of rice using new molecular breeding techniques such as gene editing.
  • Enrich new varieties with genes that protect against and mitigate the effect of new pests and diseases.
  • Establish concerted processes to examine proof of concept and the value of traits accessed either through IRRI’s discovery pipeline or from partners.
  • Explicitly tailor product profiles to meet women’s preferences, market inclinations, and nutritional value.
  • Reinvigorate breeding pipelines against internationally benchmarked performance indicators for delivery and cost.