J.K. Ladha receives Crop Science Society of America award for outstanding contributions to agronomy

J.K. Ladha, a principal soil scientist and agronomist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is the recipient of the 2015 International Service in Crop Science Award for his outstanding contributions to agronomy. The award is given by the Crop Science Society of America.

Dr.  Ladha is a recognized authority in science and technology for food security and sustainable management of the world’s major cereal cropping systems. He is also the IRRI representative to India and Nepal, and provides leadership in developing and executing the vision and agenda of the Institutes’s research on crop and resource management in South Asia.

The impact of his research is evident from the number-one rank for number of publications in refereed journals and in h-index for citations in the whole CGIAR system. Dr. Ladha authored or co-authored 209 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals, and 95 in proceedings or books. Currently, Dr. Ladha is the regional editor of the journal Biology and Fertility of Soils.

The award will be formally presented to Dr. Ladha on 17 November during the scientific society’s International Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

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Crop Science Society of America Announces 2015 Award Recipient

India must use Science-based improvements to improve agriculture 

Science-based improvements in agricultural technology have been at the forefront of alleviating hunger and poverty. The first Green Revolution that started in the 1960s, GR1.0, converted India from being a basket case to a bread basket.

The science of GR1.0 basically built high-yielding semi-dwarf rice and wheat plant architecture adapted to low-stress environments, which benefited mostly farmers in favourable irrigated areas. The science of GR2.0, the second Green Revolution, has gone one better by ‘leaving no farmer behind’, especially poor rice farmers growing their crop in marginal environments.

GR2.0 in rice started in 2008 when farmers began adopting flood-tolerant rice, which can withstand total submergence for more than two weeks. Since then, these Sub1 varieties — named after the Sub1 gene discovered and deployed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Indian scientists — have spread in eastern India and other regions where flooding is a perennial problem.

Around 2030, GR3.0 will commence when farmers start planting yield-plateau-busting C4 and nitrogen-fixing rice. These varieties will be extraordinarily environmentally friendly as, to produce higher yield, they will need half the amount of water and nitrogen currently used. However, this vision could be delayed or thwarted altogether.

The anti-science, anti-technology and anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) movements hindering the use of transgenic crops in India, such as Bt brinjal and pro-vitamin A-fortified Golden Rice (GR), are having a chilling effect on students who are now wondering if they should devote any time at all to studying agriculture and biology.

India is home to the world’s largest population of vitamin Adeficient (VAD) people, most of whom are pregnant women and children. For more than a decade, the IRRI has had a close relationship with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi, the Indian Institute of Rice Research in Hyderabad and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in developing GR varieties adapted to local conditions. One hopes policymakers will allow this crop to proceed and not suffer the same fate as Bt brinjal.

When one considers the large amount of pesticides applied to brinjal in India, the release of the Bt version would bring tremendous environmental benefits. Its availability would be a health benefit to farmers, economically attractive to them, and a big win for the environment. Consumers won’t have to eat brinjal with pesticide residue on it.

Interestingly, Bangladesh approved Bt brinjal based on the data generated in India. Many countries, like India, already have rigorous approval processes for genetically engineered products, crops, food, etc. Countries in South Asia could mutually recognise those approval processes, much as they recognise the food standards in the Codex Alimentarius rather than insisting that each test be repeated locally.

In October 2014, agriculture ministries of India, Bangladesh and Nepal signed an agreement to fast-track the release of any rice variety undergoing proper evaluation protocols in any one of their countries. India has already directly released four rice varieties from Bangladesh and two from Nepal for Indian farmers growing rice in similar agroecologies. The poor are depending on scientists and policymakers to work together. We really don’t have time to keep reinventing the wheel.


Water Scarcity and Labor Shortages in South Asia Demand Shift from Puddled Transplanting to Direct Seeded Technique, Says IRRI Scientist

In an exclusive interview to Oryza, Dr. Jagdish Ladha, Principal Scientist and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) representative for India and Nepal, has shared a number of developments taking place in South Asian rice production techniques and other aspects.

Oryza: First of all Congratulations on behalf of Oryza for receiving the 2014 Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) Fellowship Award. What do you think were the major contributing research factors for this award?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: My contributions to international agriculture through research, training, and extension activities in several Asian countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand) on problems that cross national and regional boundaries. My program in India and other countries in South Asia has been tackling the concerns that underpin enhancement of resource-use efficiency, crop productivity, and farmers’ income in cereals, especially rice and wheat, which provide many of the calories for billions of people. My work, in collaboration with many national and international partners, took a holistic systems approach covering various components of agronomic, soil, and water management.

More recently, my program established four production-level research platforms focusing on “ecological intensification,” in which the team sought a balance of productivity, profitability, sustainability, and environmental protection through fine-tuning of agro- ecosystem management. My work identified and explored options for best management practices through a blend of quantitative measurements and participatory evaluation following the principles of conservation agriculture (CA). My work focused on farmer-participatory approaches for developing several resource-conserving technologies— notably laser-leveling, direct-seeded rice, and need-based management of nitrogen—that have been adopted on a large scale, thus helping resource-poor farmers. My leadership in the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia and Rice-Wheat Consortium has been instrumental in bringing together innovators, investors, and implementers to develop and promote the system and region-specific technologies.

Oryza: What is direct seeding of rice? What are different means of implementing this method? How is it different from traditional rice farming technique? How are major rice producing countries such as India adopting this method? What further research is taking place in this regard?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: In Asia, rice is commonly grown by transplanting seedlings into puddled soil (land preparation with wet tillage). Puddling benefits rice by reducing water percolation losses, controlling weeds, facilitating easy seedling establishment, and creating anaerobic conditions to enhance nutrient availability. But, repeated puddling adversely affects soil physical properties by destroying soil aggregates, reducing permeability in subsurface layers, and forming hard-pans at shallow depths, all of which can negatively affect the following non-rice upland crop in rotation. Moreover, puddling and transplanting require large amounts of water and labor, both of which are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, making rice production less profitable. Also, the drudgery involved in transplanting—a job largely done by women—is of serious concern.

All these factors demand a major shift from puddled transplanting (CT-TPR) to direct- seeding (DSR) in irrigated areas. Depending on water and labor scarcity, farmers are changing either their rice establishment methods only [from transplanting to direct- seeding in puddled soil (Wet-DSR)] or both tillage and rice establishment methods [puddled transplanting to dry direct-seeding in unpuddled soil (Dry-DSR)]. Direct-seeding can be categorized as (1) wet direct-seeding (Wet-DSR), in which sprouted rice seeds are broadcast or sown in lines on wet/puddled soil, and (2) dry direct-seeding (Dry-DSR), in which dry rice seeds are drilled or broadcast on unpuddled soil either after dry tillage or zero-tillage or on a raised-bed. Another category of DSR is water-seeding, in which sprouted rice seeds are broadcast in standing water. Wet-DSR is primarily done to manage the labor shortage, and is currently practiced in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. But, with the increasing shortages of water, the incentive to develop and adopt Dry-DSR has increased. Dry-DSR production is negligible in irrigated areas but is practiced traditionally in most Asian countries in rain fed upland ecosystems. Water-seeding is widely practiced in the United States (U.S.), primarily to manage weeds such as weedy rice, which are normally difficult to control.

Oryza: What are the major drivers of the shift from puddled transplanting to direct-seeding?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: The rising scarcity of water and labor is the major driver for this shift. Puddled transplanting is the main user of fresh water and it requires large amounts of labor. However, water and labor for agriculture are becoming increasingly scarce resources in many rice production areas. The share of water in agriculture is declining because of its increased demand in other non-agriculture sectors. Groundwater is being depleted at an alarming rate, especially in South Asia. Similarly, labor availability for agriculture is declining because of increased demand in non-agriculture sectors associated with rapid economic growth in many Asian countries. Moreover, in the current socioeconomic environment, most people, especially young workers, are unwilling to undertake tedious farm operations such as transplanting. In addition, high labor demand during the critical operation of transplanting leads to shortages and increasing labor costs. These factors provide incentives for farmers to shift to some form of direct- seeding, which requires less water and labor.

Oryza: Can DSR be as productive as conventional puddled transplanted rice?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: Available published data in the literature show variable responses of crop productivity under DSR. Wet-DSR with line-sowing (CT-wet-DSR) tends to be as good as or superior to CT-TPR. Dry-DSR has been more inconsistent, with a yield penalty ranging from 7.5% to 28.5% in India and Pakistan, whereas, in other countries, it was similar to CT-TPR. However, the gradual improvement in productivity observed in Wet- DSR is likely to also occur for the more recently introduced Dry-DSR systems as optimal complementary management practices are developed.

Oryza: Is DSR economically attractive to farmers?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: Farmers have perfected puddling and transplanting over time and are reluctant to try alternatives. However, economics play an important role in the decision making of farmers. Trials that are largely conducted by researchers clearly show economic advantages in DSR over puddled transplanting. Overall, based on 77 studies, DSR compared with CT-TPR had a lower cost of production by US$22-80 ha-1 and savings in production costs increased in the following order: ZT-dry-DSR > Bed-dry- DSR> CT-dry-DSR ≥ CT-wet-DSR > CT-TPR. Overall, except for Bed-dry-DSR, all DSR methods resulted in US$30-50 ha-1 higher economic returns than CT-TPR, but with a lower cost of production.

Oryza: What are the various soil improvement techniques available in South Asia?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: Good soil, water and crop management contribute to maintenance and improvement of soil fertility. In my view, best management (good agronomy) including conservation agriculture practices should be promoted. The CA includes no or minimum tillage, crop residue mulch and crop rotation.

Oryza: Declining nitrogen (N) levels due to long-term growing of rice has become a major concern. What are the possible means of increasing nitrogen use efficiency? What further developments are expected in this regard in India?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: After water, N is the 2nd most important input required for a crop. Nitrogen-use efficiency can be improved by adopting fertilizer, soil, water, and crop management practices that will maximize crop N uptake, minimize N losses, and optimize indigenous soil N supply. Management decisions that increase fertilizer-N use by crops can focus on two approaches: (1) increase fertilizer-N use during the growing season when the fertilizer is applied and (2) decrease fertilizer N losses, thereby increasing the potential recovery of residual fertilizer N by the subsequent crops. Removing plant- growth-limiting factors would increase crop demand for N, leading to a greater use of available N and consequently higher NUE.

Oryza: Per hectare yield in India at around 3.63 tons is nearly 21% lower than the global average of 4.41 tons and about half of neighboring China's 6.72 tons. China is the world's largest rice producer with around 144 million tons and India is the world's second largest producer of rice with around 105 million tons per annum. If the yield per hectare in India increases considerably, India's production levels could come close to that of China's or even surpass it. What kind of research is taking place to increase per hectare yield in India?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: There are two avenues where research is active to increase rice productivity: rice varietal improvement and development of best management practices. Researchers in India and at IRRI are developing rice varieties which are high yielding, pest and disease resistant and also tolerant to various abiotic stresses such as drought, submergence, salinity. Side by side, agronomists are developing best management practices to efficiently use land, water, nutrient, labor and other inputs. There is much progress made in both the areas and we have many good technologies which are ready to be delivered to the farmers. There is an urgent need to develop efficient technology delivery mechanisms.

Oryza: How are South Asian countries combating the climate change factor? What are the other challenges faced by rice farmers in the region?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: Issues related to climate change are same in all the countries in South Asia. Other challenges include rising temperature specially night temperature, highly variable rainfall pattern, drought, flooding and rising greenhouse emissions.

Oryza: What kind of support do you get from governments in implementing the results of the research on field? How do you specially overcome the challenge of educating the farmers in understanding newer concepts in farming?

Dr.Jagdish Ladha: IRRI and India have been successfully collaborating for more than four decades with a wide range of NARES institutions involved in agricultural research and development, which include ICAR institutes, state agricultural universities, the Department of Agriculture (central and state governments), Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. IRRI jointly with our partners in India organize training and technology transfer programs.

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Crop Science Society of America Announces 2014 Award Recipient

MADISON, WI, Jul 01, 2014 – The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) announces the following 2014 award recipient to be formally presented at the CSSA Awards Ceremony on 2014-11-03 during the scientific society’s International Annual Meeting, 
Nov. 2-5, 2014. The annual awards are presented for outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, national and international service, and research.


Jagdish Kumar Ladha, IRRI-International Rice Research Institute, New Delhi INDIA – CSSA Fellow: J.K. Ladha is a Principal Soil Scientist at the International Rice Research Institute. He also serves as the representative of IRRI in India and Nepal. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Banaras University. He is internationally recognized as an authority for his work to improve the productivity of rice in diverse cropping systems and has taken a holistic systems approach that covers different components of crop production with farmers’ involvement.

He (co)-authored 200 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals, and 90 in proceedings/books, and (co)-edited 13 books. The impact of his research is evident from the number-one rank for number of publications in refereed journals and in h-index for citations in the whole CGIAR system.

He is a fellow of the AAAS, ASA, SSSA and Indian Academy of Agr Sciences (NAAS). He has served in the editorial board of the several international journals, and currently he is the regional editor of Biology and Fertility of Soils.

CSSA Fellow

Fellow is the highest recognition bestowed by the Crop Science Society of America. Members of the Society nominate worthy colleagues based on their professional achievements and meritorious service. Up to 0.3 percent of the Society's active and emeritus members may be elected Fellow. Read More

More focused strategic approach for STRASA Phase 3

Following its successful first two phases, the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project recently launched its third phase at its inception and planning workshop on 20–23 May in Delhi, India. Building on its already strong network of partners in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Africa, STRASA Phase 3 will have more focused and strategic approaches that will integrate efficient breeding pipelines with gender-focused monitoring and evaluation and dissemination roadmaps.

STRASA, which continues to be the flagship program for IRRI, Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), began at the end of 2007 to develop and deliver rice varieties tolerant of abiotic stresses to the millions of farmers living in unfavorable rice-growing environments in Asia and Africa.  “STRASA not only develops products but also develops strategies that help get its products into the hands of the right people,” said Bas Bouman, director of GRiSP.  

Gary Atlin, senior program officer for BMGF, emphasized how the project was extremely innovative during its two previous phases and looks forward to how STRASA will maintain its successes and impacts for the next 5 years.   

The event was attended by about 300 participants from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, including dignitaries from India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Subbanna Ayyapan, director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education, thanked the project for its contribution in transforming poverty to prosperity for many people in underserviced areas.

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Training organized on “Basic Experimental Designs and Data Analysis Using STAR”

IRRI organized training on “Basic Experimental Designs and Data Analysis Using STAR" held on May 5-9 at IRRI South Asia Hub, Hyderabad, India under flagship of CSISA project.

Fifteen participants (6 female+ 9 male) from different universities (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, University of Agricultural Science-Raichur, and Punjab Agricultural University), national centre (Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Nepal) and CG centre (CIMMYT and IRRI) attended the training.

The training was designed to acquaint researchers with the principles of experimental design, basic experimental designs used in crop research, analysis of variance and regression and correlation analysis.  It also introduces the Statistical Tool for Agricultural Research (STAR), a user-friendly software that uses GUI created in Java and functions developed in R to assist crop scientists in the design and analysis of data. 

Resource persons of the course were Alaine Gulles and Ms.  Rose Imee Zhella Morantte from PBGB-Biometrics division of IRRI.

Raebareli District Rep, Sonia Gandhi notes IRRI efforts on stress-prone areas of eastern India
Oct 25, 2013, 1:38 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
by Sudhanshu Singh

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, member of Parliament, Raebareli district and chairperson of National Advisory Council, and of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, India, noted IRRI’s great contribution to increase rice productivity in eastern India’s stress-prone areas. This took place during a training program organized by IRRI for rice farmers on salt-tolerant rice varieties in KVK, Raebareli on 8 October, 2013, where Mrs. Gandhi also distributed the salt-tolerant varieties of wheat viz KRL-19 and KRL-213 among the farmers for cultivation during the Rabi reason. She was accompanied by her daughter, Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi, where they showed a keen interest in getting information about stress-tolerant rice varieties developed by IRRI and urged rainfed farmers to adopt new technologies quickly to improve their livelihood conditions.

Sudhanshu Singh, IRRI agronomist, South Asia and V.K. Mishra, head, CSSRI-Regional Research Station in Lucknow, briefly discussed about the on-going  STRASA and NFSM (National Food Security Mission) programmes in the district, as well as, the impact of salt-tolerant rice and wheat varieties in enhancing productivity and income of the farmers. After the seed distribution of wheat varieties, Mrs. Gandhi congratulated IRRI/ STRASA team for organizing these demonstrations in eastern India and remembered the timely help rendered by IRRI to flood-affected farmers of Assam last year by distributing seeds of the flood-tolerant Sub1 rice varieties. She mentioned that this gesture of IRRI was appreciated in Indian Parliament. She also praised the stress-prone area characterization work IRRI has undertaken for eastern India including Raebareli and Amethi districts for the targeting of stress-tolerant rice varieties.

IRRI, through its STRASA project and Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, through their NFSM and BGREI (Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India) programmes have joined hands to rapidly promote flood tolerant (Swarna-Sub1 and other Sub1 varieties), drought tolerant (Sahbhagi dhan) and salt tolerant (CSR 36, CSR 43 and Narendra Usar dhan 3) rice varieties in eastern India through large scale cluster demsontrations at farmers fields and awareness creation. These stress tolerant rice varieties have potential to usher green revoultion in eastern India, which is primarily rainfed and prone to abiotic stresses like flood, drought or sodic/saline soils. One such large scale demonstration of CSR 36, involving more than 270 farmers during current rice season, is being conducted in Jagatpur and Rohaniya blocks covering almost an area of 125 hectares in 8 villages that have a big chunk of sodic lands in Raebareli district.

Out of 50,000 hectares, sodicity affected fields in Raebareli district, almost half of the areas has been reclaimed in the district by different government agencies using gypsum based technology. This has increased the productivity of these lands to about 6 tons /hectare /year. However, further increase in productivity of about 1-1.5 t/ha and 2 t/ha can be achieved by using salt-tolerant varieties of rice and wheat, respectively, without any additional inputs in the partially reclaimed sodic soil. With these significant benefits from salt-tolerant varieties, the program was organized in KVK, Raebareli district by IRRI.