Climate change threatens rice production

October 16, 2009

Once-in-a-lifetime floods in the Philippines, India's delayed monsoon, and extensive drought in Australia are taking their toll on this year's rice crops, demonstrating the vulnerability of rice to extreme weather.

Rice Today's October-December 2009 edition focuses on and its potential impact on . It reveals that it is difficult to prove climate change is responsible for current weather events.

However, by using advanced modeling techniques, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has mapped rice-growing regions in the Philippines that are most likely to experience the negative effects of climate change, showing the extent to which climate change threatens rice production.

Solutions to help farmers adapt are nevertheless available. Cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc on the rice crops and communities of Myanmar in 2008. Since then, IRRI has sent submergence-tolerant and salt-tolerant rice varieties for testing there as more resilient options for farmers.

Massive rat infestations in Myanmar followed cyclone Nargis. Horrific rat infestations also occurred recently in Laos and Bangladesh, where the rodents ate up to 100% of , invaded house stores of food, bit sleeping people, and likely propagated disease. IRRI is hosting an international conference on rodents in rice to help find solutions.

IRRI takes on the future challenges of adapting rice to climate change backed by its strong history of rice science.

In this issue we pay tribute to science giant Norman Borlaug. He greatly contributed to combating poverty by helping develop high-yielding crop varieties - part of the foundation upon which we can build to tackle the next generation of rice-production issues farmers face.

This issue also kicks off IRRI's 50th anniversary celebrations, starting with the 6th International Rice Genetics Symposium in the Philippines. The symposium will attract today's rice scientists from around the world as it will serve as an avenue for exchanging information regarding the latest rice genetics research.

In California, USA, rice growers are directly funding their own research to develop rice varieties suited to their conditions. Japonica rice production there is trying to meet the global shortfall aggravated by drought in Australia. In sub-Saharan Africa, rice growers are being guided by research to help them adopt suitable mechanization techniques to improve their production.

Source: International Rice Research Institute

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