Korea and the Philippines sow mutual benefits from 45-year partnership
by International Rice Research Institute
Los Baņos, Philippines (4 May) -- Rice growers in Bohol, an island province of the Philippines, are expecting higher rice yields and income thanks to new japonica rice varieties developed in collaboration with Korea and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Early last month, as part of IRRI's 50th anniversary celebrations and to commemorate the 45-year partnership between the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of Korea and IRRI, MS11, one of the new rice varieties, was ceremonially handed over to the Bohol Japonica Rice Growers Association by Dr. Jae-soo Kim, administrator of the RDA.
"This is our symbol of gratitude toward the International Rice Research Institute for helping Korea, through collaborative research, become self-sufficient in rice," said Dr. Kim.
Japonica rice is a high-quality medium-grain rice that attracts a premium price in countries where it is not traditionally grown - including the Philippines. Usually it grows only in temperate climates such as those found in Korea, but Maligaya Special 11 (MS11) can grow in tropical climates.
IRRI Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler attested that "Korea, through the RDA, had remained not only a donor, but also a vital partner through the years in providing scientific support to IRRI."
IRRI and the RDA started collaborating in 1963 by developing the indica/japonica rice variety Tong-il that can be grown in the temperate climate of Korea. Tong-il, coupled with a rapid seed multiplication program, helped Korea significantly raise rice production in the 1970s, transforming the country from a rice importer to a self-sufficient rice producer.
By 2008, MS11, the first japonica rice suited to tropical climates, was released in the Philippines, followed by its sister variety, Japonica 1, in 2009. These rice varieties outyield local tropical varieties and sell at higher prices - boosting farmers' income.
RDA and IRRI plan to continue working together where RDA will contribute US$100,000 per year for 2010-2011, focusing on developing drought-tolerant rice using marker-assisted backcrossing, developing cultivars resistant to high temperature, and improving high-yielding Tongil-type cultivars and their adaptability to tropical regions.
RDA is also funding a $100,000 joint project that will address Asia's impending food crisis caused by climate change and population growth. The joint project is seen to steer rice-importing countries in Asia toward self-sufficiency. "Asian countries should build an institutional model for agriculture," said Dr. Kim. "This is the first and most important step toward achieving agricultural development."
At the same event, RDA launched the book "Partnership for 50 Years Between IRRI and Korea," documenting past experiences and the continuing association between the two institutions. A tree-planting was also held at IRRI, led by Dr. Zeigler, Dr. Kim, and the IRRI Board of Trustees, to symbolize the continuing relations between IRRI and Korea. (PIA) [top]