The Government of the Republic of Korea has been collaborating with IRRI through the Rural Development Administration (RDA) since the 1960s. Their works include breeding of the temperate Japonica rice variety with the tropically grown indica variety. This produced the rice variety Tongil, which transformed Korea from a rice importer to a self-sufficient producer.
The South Korea-IRRI collaboration brought the Green Revolution to the country and helped transform Korea from a rice importer to a self-sufficient rice producer. Since then, Korea, has supported IRRI and completed 43 projects.
In December 2001, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between RDA and IRRI the previous year, the IRRI office in South Korea was formally inaugurated. In 2010, RDA committed USD 2.09 million for cooperation, training, and support to INGER and other ongoing projects.
The partnership between Korea and IRRI continues to flourish. RDA and IRRI signed a new rice research agreement to develop a collaborative work plan for 2014-2015, which includes the approval of new project proposals. Among the priority areas of research in the new agreement are the development of abiotic stresses and disease tolerance in temperate japonica, and the development of rice cultivars with tolerance to high temperature.
Key research areas in the IRRI-RDA collaboration include developing cold-tolerant rice lines, rapid multiplication of seeds, exchanging rice genetic materials for large-scale planting, and developing high-quality and high-yielding temperate japonica rice lines. IRRI is also interested in developing the capacity of farm workers and extension officers in South Korea, and building the scientific human capital of the country.
Current research and development with South Korea
Exchange of genetic materials for rice hybridization
The open exchange of rice germplasm among IRRI, RDA and a network of research institutions facilitates the study of breeding lines that can be used as parents for breeding with local varieties. IRRI and RDA have used elite breeding lines to produce hybrid varieties released and widely planted in several countries.
Rapid seed multiplication to advance the cropping season
Rice seeds were planted in the tropical environment of IRRI during Korea's winter season, and then airlifted back to Korea in time for planting during summer. This advances the cropping season for planting rice not normally possible during winter.
Breeding temperate japonica rice suited to the tropics
High quality and high-yielding japonica rice, typically grown in temperate environments like Korea, is being crossed with the tropically grown indica variety. Japonica fetches a higher price in the market, thereby allowing farmers higher incomes from producing this semi-glutinous rice.
Temperate rice improvement
Through a consortium of research institutions, scientists are working on improving temperate rice by broadening its genetic base, studying nitrogen efficiency and water use, and using improved production technologies.
Developed premium quality varieties
As part of the Top Rice Project launched in 2005, RDA and IRRi initiated the Large-Scale Korean Seed Multiplication Project in 2005-06 and developed premium quality varieties known as Gopumbyeo and Unkwangbyeo.
By 1995, a total of 1,500 lines had been planted to advance a second generation of rice cultivation not normally feasible during the country's winter season. More than 120 lines were also produced for small-scale seed increase.
In 1991, the Germplasm Utilization Value Added developed high-quality and high-yielding temperate japonica rice varieties suited to Philippine conditions—IRRI 152 and MS11. MS11 was released in the Philippines in 2008. IRRI 152 and MS11 were also approved for large-scale planting by the National Seed Industry.
RDA and IRRI have been training farmers and extension workers where farm technologies can be transferred from the source to the end users. In 2002, the two institutions started holding the Rice Technology Transfer Systems (RTTS) workshop, the first of its kind in Asia.
Since then,130 practitioners from 17 Asian countries have learned from a two-week course on models of technology transfer in rice. Trainees have been exposed to contemporary rice technology issues and have developed their capacity to critically analyze the components of successful research-extension linkage. With courses conducted in Korea, trainees had the opportunity to observe first-hand and apply what they have learned directly to their respective countries.
Further, IRRI has supported the academic training of almost 200 Korean scholars pursuing either a master's degree or a doctorate while working at IRRI. More than a hundred had also been on-the-job trainees (OJTs) and interns.
It is believed that rice was introduced to the Korean Peninsula from China in the early Bronze Age, around 3,300—2,200 B.C., through two possible routes, either across the West Sea or along the northeastern seashore from China. Rice cultivation spread widely throughout the peninsula a thousand years on.
During the proto-three kingdom period — considered to be the latter part of the iron age in Korea — rice productivity greatly increased with the use of iron farming implements. Rice productivity was sustained until the two kingdoms Silla and Koryeo were unified, and changes in land use and taxation were implemented. Agricultural productivity further improved when China introduced new farming methods and developed cropping techniques that were suitable to Korean soil and climate.
Today, South Korea produces an average rice yield of 7.3 tons per hectare from a harvested area of 936,766 hectares. Rice is planted in the summer from May-June where average temperature ranges from 11°C-29°C and harvested before the onset of winter in October and November.
Tree planting at IRRI to celebrate 45 years of collaboration with South Korea
Media release and news items
- Asian agriculture experts attend 14th annual rice technology transfer workshop in Korea
- South Korean documentary reenacts development of Tongil miracle rice
- South Korea appoints IRRI plant breeder as honorary scientist
- Mayor of Cheongdo County in South Korea visits the “birthplace” of Tong-il rice