IRRI mourns the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Thailand on 13 October.
His Majesty, 88, was the world’s longest reigning monarch at more than 70 years. He was a great supporter of IRRI’s work since its founding.
IRRI and Thailand’s formal collaboration started in 1960, when Thailand's Prince Chakrabandhu became a founding member of IRRI's Board of Trustees. The IRRI Thailand office was established in 1966.
The first IRRI scientist assigned to work in Thailand was Dr. B.R. Jackson, who worked in the country for 16 years (1966-1982). His first year of collaboration in plant breeding was a turning point for rice improvement in Thailand.
In August 2009, Director General Robert Zeigler and Development Director Duncan Macintosh had a royal audience with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the King's Klai Kangwan Palace in the coastal city of Hua Hin. They discussed the International Rice Genebank and IRRI's work in Thailand.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand officially opened the 6th International Rice Genetics Symposium at the Manila Hotel in November 2009. The Princess also formally launched IRRI's 50th anniversary at IRRI’s headquarters in the Philippines.
The largest regular conference and exhibition of global rice scientific research community and industry, the 4th International Rice Congress (IRC2014), was held in Bangkok in October 2014 under the patronage of the Royal Government of Thailand, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Called the "Olympics of rice science." IRC2014 gathered around 1,500 participants from 69 countries at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC). It highlighted the latest rice research to ensure global food security. Thailand hosted, co-organized, and provided financial support for the IRC. The country was chosen as the location for the congress as it is a leader and key player in world rice trade.
In 1974, Thailand and IRRI established a joint research and training program for deepwater rice. The need for such a research facility was due to the instability of deepwater rice yields that are then sprawled across 9 million hectares of land. The Prachinburi Rice Research Center became Asia’s leading centers in deepwater research.
Current research and development with Thailand
Breeding better varieties
IRRI is currently developing stress-tolerant rice for poor farmers as well as conducting studies that connect observable characteristics of rice performance in drought, with its genetic make-up. IRRI is also researching tools to detect chalk in rice, as a step towards developing chalk-free varieties.
Postharvest-IRRI is collaborating with the Thai Rice Department in the promotion of the hermetic bags, a special kind of re-usable plastic that protects rice harvest from moisture and pests. It also preserves its normal germination condition.
GROWING RICE IN UNFAVORABLE ENVIRONMENTS
As part of the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments (CURE), IRRI and its national partners are developing drought-tolerant rice and improved weed management practices. With the help of the Rice Department, IRRI is also adapting submergence-tolerant rice to Thai conditions and exploring ways to facilitate adoption of and capacity-building of local breeders and scientists.
Protecting rice farmers
Using remote sensing technologies, rice production is being observed and mapped to aid government decisions in staving off potential food shortages and to make farmers less vulnerable.
Improving food security
IRRI strives to close rice yield gaps by optimizing productivity and sustainability of irrigated rice production systems.
Addressing climate change
Under the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) program, IRRI works with other research centers to explore many ways by which the effects and threats of climate change on agriculture and food security can be overcome.
In the 1970s, Thailand had 9 million hectares of deepwater rice land. To stabilize yield from these unfavorable areas, Thailand and IRRI established a joint research and training facility for deepwater rice—the Prachinburi Rice Research Center—in 1974.
IRRI and Thailand worked together to develop breed new varieties with special characteristics or specified utilization.
Increasing farmer income and sustainable production
Approaches and recommendations for effective utilization of natural resources in Thai rice production focusing on site-specific integrated fertilizer management have been developed; as well as cost-saving cultivation models and technologies, including mechanized cultivation; and the development of a range of safe cultivation technologies, including development of bio-fertilization and testing of biochar as an option to to be more environmentally sustainable.
In June 2011, IRRI expressed support to the Thai government for its efforts to stop the misuse of pesticides abamectin and cypermethrin. This move was in-part borne of IRRI findings that the indiscriminate use of certain pesticide chemicals is a major cause of the current brown planthopper outbreak in the country and some parts of Asia. In 2011, brown planthopper had affected 30% of Thai rice paddies. IRRI helps farmers and nations deal with the pest through ecological engineering - building up of the biodiversity in rice farms to fight pests. IRRI also recommends using pest-resistant varieties, synchronization of planting, and other integrated pest management (IPM) approaches.
With the help of the Rice Department, IRRI has been adapting flood-tolerant rice to Thai conditions and finding ways to improve its adoption. Drought-tolerant rice and better weed management are also being developed with partners. Interventions such as the use of suitable varieties and sustainable practices have enabled upland farmers in northern Thailand to be commercially successful.
Genetic diversity conservation
IRRI's International Rice Genebank currently conserves more than 6,000 rice types from Thailand. Types of rice conserved in the genebank before 1993 can be shared, while those conserved from 1994 onwards cannot be shared (after the Convention on Biological Diversity, when Thailand became a non-member of the Treaty). So far, 5,245 non-Thai rice samples have been dispatched to Thailand for breeding of new varieties.
Thai Rice Knowedge Bank
IRRI has helped develop the Thai Rice Knowledge Bank – a repository of best practice rice management practices for Thailand. An evaluation of the Thai Rice Knowledge Bank showed that extension officers saved an average of US$2,500 per year when they used it.
Upland rice ecosystem development
Farmers in Northern Thailand, through sustainable upland farming practices, have become commercialy successful by incorporating environmentally-sound farming practices as well as best rice varieties suitable to upland environment. The collaboration, supported by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), sought to increase farmers' income through a sustainable farming practice By intensifying food production in favorable pockets of the uplands, pressure on less favorable but more fragile areas will decrease.
IRRI has supported a total of 191 scholars from Thailand from 1966 to 2009. This included 73 Master’s scholars, 30 PhD scholars, about 86 on-the-job (OJT) trainees and two interns. As of 2008, a total of 674 participants from Thailand attended IRRI’s short-term courses.
Rice is economically and culturally important to Thailand. The country lays claim to being the producer of the coveted, high-quality and aromatic Jasmine rice. Thailand is also the world's top exporter. Rice occupies 55% of Thailand's arable land and is the staple food of the population across income brackets.
Looking past the salient facts that Thailand is the world's top exporter and the fifth largest cultivator of rice in the world, rice has strong cultural ties with the Thai people. Ceremonies invoking rain and bountiful harvest are commonly performed by rice farmers before planting seasons.
Between 1960 and 1980, Thailand invested significantly in agricultural development, particularly in irrigation systems, road networks, marketing facilities and agricultural research and extension. The increase in rice cropping intensity and in the adoption of modern rice varieties regenerated growth in production.
In 2008, Thailand exported about 10 million tons of rice, which made up about 33% of the world's rice trade. According to the Board of Trade of Thailand, the biggest importers of Jasmine rice in 2009 were China, the United States, and Malaysia.
You may also view IRRI's YouTube playlist about Thailand.
- Thailand's rice mortgage program: Is it really that bad for global food security? (Sam Mohanty's blog)
Media release and news items
- Rice Science Academy conducts training on reducing postharvest losses
- Thai Rice Department and IRRI intensify joint R&D program
- More Asian rice farmers to benefit from CORIGAP technologies
- Thailand invests in partnership-driven rice research