Vietnam’s rice production has increased every year since the 1980s, with the country now being the world’s second-largest rice exporter. Rice research and the development of new rice varieties in particular greatly contributed to this.
In a recent study, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) looked at the economic impact and value of rice breeding work of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) between 1985 and 2009 across Southeast Asia.
During this time, rice farmers in southern Vietnam achieved yield increases of 9.8% and gained an additional US$127 per hectare due to IRRI’s breeding contributions. This is the highest dollar gain for farmers among the country's rice-producing neighbors included in the study: the equivalent average annual benefits for Indonesia and the Philippines, are $76/ha and $52/ha, respectively.
Benefits in northern Vietnam were lower than in southern Vietnam due to the popularity of rice breeding material from China for northern Vietnam.
For the 25 years ending 2009, the annual value of IRRI’s rice breeding benefits across all three countries studied by ACIAR averaged $1.46 billion and around 42% of these benefits – or $610 million – flowed directly to Vietnam.
Rice is the staple food in Vietnam like in most Asian countries. The Vietnamese government recognized its importance and formed partnerships with countries and research institutions, including IRRI, to help the country develop its rice sector.
"Vietnam has been one of IRRI's key partners because of the strong response from the government in testing and adapting IRRI breeding material and adopting modern varieties," said Dr. Robert Zeigler, IRRI’s director general.
IRRI's early work in Vietnam was characterized by directly releasing varieties. From 2000 up to now, IRRI lines are mostly used as parents or ancestors of the varieties locally bred by Vietnamese rice scientists.
According to the ACIAR report, 15,900,000 ha of harvested area from 1985 to 2009 were planted with leading rice varieties given directly by IRRI to Vietnam.
Every year, new rice varieties connected to IRRI are released in Vietnam and combined. They are among the most popular with farmers, particularly in southern Vietnam. An example is IR64, an IRRI-bred rice variety, locally known in Vietnam as OM89, planted from 1988 to 2009. It reached the largest area planted of 4,500,000 hectares. This variety not only gives high yield but also resists a number of diseases and pests.
Dr. Bui Ba Bong, vice minister of agriculture and rural development, stated, "IRRI has played an important role as Vietnam's partner in rice research and development. The varieties directly provided by IRRI are of great assistance to the country.
"Today, as Vietnam develops its own lines, IRRI continually provides parental lines for our Vietnamese rice scientists to develop highly suitable varieties for the conditions in Vietnam," he added. "The country still has various collaborative programs with IRRI."
IRRI has been collaborating with Vietnam since 1963. In 2010, Prime Minister Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung presented IRRI with a prestigious First Class Friendship Order, one of the highest honors Vietnam bestows on an international organization. In addition, nine IRRI scientists were presented with Merit Medals "For the cause of science and technology development of Vietnam" and another six received Merit Medals "For the cause of agriculture and rural development of Vietnam."
Research collaboration is ongoing, including pest and disease management, sustainable farming systems, and conserving the genetic diversity of rice, with breeding new rice varieties remaining a priority.
"Today, we are collaborating with IRRI on the development and use of material for high yield, good grain quality, and tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses such as drought, salt, and submergence," said Dr. Nguyen Thi Lang, head of the Genetics and Plant Breeding Department of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute.
"In addition, IRRI has hosted numerous training courses and workshops on rice technology transfer systems for key extension people in Vietnam to expose them to innovative technologies and effective processes of technology transfer to Vietnamese farmers," he concluded.
Despite the successes that IRRI had achieved and continue to achieve, there's still a lot of work that needs to get done and the Institute can’t do it alone. Funding plays a very important role on whether or not we could do more. This is where you come in.
Help us continue this project by donating to IRRI. The donation you give will enable us to continue our important research and, ultimately, help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
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Rice breeding having a billion-dollar impact
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