Japan Today

Japan commits $25 million to international rice research


Japan has committed $20 million toward international rice breeding efforts and an additional $5 million for extension training of African rice specialists, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) announced this week in Tokyo. The funding will be provided to IRRI, the Africa Rice Center, and their national partners.

"Japan’s decision to substantially increase support for international rice research is coming at a crucial time for global food security, especially in the face of major threats such as climate change," said Dr Elizabeth Woods, the chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees.

The long-term partnership between IRRI and Japan is based on their common interest of pursuing the potential of rice to meet rising global food needs.

Low-input rice, direct-seeding technology, rice tungro control, and rice's adaptability to water stress are collaborative projects IRRI and Japan have worked on together. Japan has also funded IRRI to research submergence-tolerant rice and post-harvest technologies.

This latest Japanese contribution of $20 million over five years is aimed at the development of rice seeds resistant to heat and drought. The activities would include development of the next generation of modern rice varieties for Africa and other new high-yielding rice varieties and hybrids – with improved stress tolerance and insect resistance – and tailored to the consumption preferences of African consumers.

The $5 million over five years for extension training of African rice specialists aims to improve the quality and quantity of rice harvests through a cadre of extension agents, cooperating with skilled technicians, to effectively transfer farm management knowledge, and up-to-date production and post-production technologies to farmers directly and through other extension agents.

Japan is the world’s top government donor to agriculture, providing one-quarter of total bilateral agricultural development assistance, grants, and loans of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Rice yields in Japan are 70% higher than the world average, a testament to Japan's long-term public investments in research to generate better rice varieties and production methods.

"This latest investment in rice research from Japan will build on Japan's outstanding history of rice research to help rice farmers worldwide produce more rice and to do so in a sustainable way," said Dr Woods.

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If Japan would stop covering up its prime rice growing land with concrete or asphalt, it would have land to grow all the rice it needs. Research is wonderful, but it will be of no value if there is no land or mud in which to grow the rice in Japan. The area between Osaka and Kobe is a prime example. I predict that in the very near future Japan will have to import even more rice from other countries. This means that Japan needs to export more products such as automobiles. Is it possible?

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hollywood1: huh? There is no shortage of rice in Japan. The self-sufficiency rate is over 90%, and demand continues to drop. Instead of being recklessly paved over as you say, Japan's mini-mini mom and pop rice paddies enjoy subsidies and protection unheard of in the rest of the world. Nevermind that they are an incredibly inefficient way to use farmland and human resources, and produce enough greenhouse gas (methane) to easily offset any gains from Japan's obsessive-compulsive carbon dioxide reduction culture.

The article attributes Japan's "70% higher" rice yield (probably per unit area) to R&D and public investment. But the elephant in the room is that better things might have been achieved with that land, money, and human resource.

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The marginal return on this kind of RandD continues to fall. I would guess that research funds would be better spent at development of better machinery and practices than trying to tweak more out of the genome. The technology transfers better, too.

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