International Rice Research ConferenceThe main event of IRC 2023, the International Rice Research Conference will gather key experts and thought leaders from all over the world to discuss emerging, current, and future challenges of rice-based food systems, and present exciting and innovative solutions.
IRC 2023 will gather stakeholders from across the world to discuss a research agenda that will drive the development of solutions to accelerate urgently needed transformations in the rice sector. Moreover, it will also provide an inclusive and safe space to share and debate new ideas and suggestions, to forge partnerships, and to explore opportunities. The themes of IRC 2023 will encompass concepts from the smallest scale of genes through fields, farms, landscapes, and value chains, all the way up to national and global levels.
Fast-Tracking Genetic Solutions and Varieties
Over the last couple of decades there has been a phenomenal success in the progress on genome sequencing and genotyping of crop plants including rice. The use of such data to generate novel varieties with desirable traits needs to catch up with the immense data available.
While some desirable traits such as yield remain consistent, traits such as heat tolerance and biotic stress tolerance to new pathogen strains become critical due to changing climate and farming conditions. Generating, analyzing, and using extensive molecular data at the DNA, RNA, proteins, metabolites, and ions level to generate new crop varieties requires the critical interface between molecular biology and breeding through a rigorous pipeline approach. Advances in molecular networks and data analytics on one hand and phenotyping data for genomic selection on the other hand provide such an interface. Finally, speed breeding and gene editing provide powerful tools to generate new varieties in much shorter time frames. The theme will welcome research updates on these topics.
One-Health and Nutritious Rice Value Chains
Crop breeding has come a long way since the days of the Green Revolution and yield increase per unit resource has increased over time. However, in rice, the selection for grain quality in terms of nutritional content and organoleptic properties (texture, taste, etc.) was a secondary process resulting in several varieties having increased yield but non-optimal grain quality. A change in paradigm over the past decade has enabled selection for nutritional and textural properties earlier in the breeding process resulting in grains enriched for micronutrients and other market driven grain traits.
Yet many challenges remain in generating nutritionally rich grains which recently have started to be addressed at the genetic level instead of at the selection from within the diversity especially for traits such a low GI. This is a much desirable trait as most cereals have been bred to contain high starch content. Altering such nutritional traits cannot be limited to addressing the question at the crop level but must consider customer mind-shift and value chain aspects to ensure the acceptability of the novel products. This theme will accept research updates on improving the nutritional and other value-added grain traits.
Digital Solutions Across Scales
Agricultural undertakings are increasingly becoming more technology driven even for the small farms as opposed to such a paradigm for large farms. The advent of the use of remote sensing and GIS towards decision support services, drones for phenotyping and resource application, and other digital technologies such as laser land leveling are leading towards what is known as precision agriculture.
These technologies also amass extensive data across large scales and such data must be duly analyzed for its biological relevance and utilization in a practical manner for efficient farming systems. Aspects of machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning of such massive data – collectively called Big data -- are increasingly becoming a part of farming systems in cooperatives. This theme will entertain research updates on all aspects of digital tools and their utility on farms for efficient agriculture and increased returns to the farmers with benign environmental sustainability.
Nature-Based Farming Solutions
Resource intensive Green Revolution based farming practices to increase yield have resulted in neglecting the soil, water, air, and energy nexus. Similarly, monocropping has resulted in reduced biodiversity especially in relation to beneficial tri-trophic interactions. While the physical aspects of such neglect have been realized for some time, the biological aspects in relation to microbiome and beneficial farm organisms have only recently been recognized.
Much interesting data is coming through in these aspects and soil, microbiome, biodiversity amelioration is in the offing through a interface between modern intensive framing practices and the nature based regenerative, organic and ecological practices. Water and soil management in combination with Bag Data facilitated global level understanding of the changes in the farms is being helpful in ensuring that agriculture remains sustainable for the society, environment, and the economics of the farms. This theme will welcome research updates in areas where improved management practices feed into a sustainable agriculture.
Transforming Rice Landscapes for Climate Resilience
Agriculture has been identified as the biggest contributor to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and within crop farming rice is the largest source of GHG emissions. However, rice farming also provides the maximum scope to reduce GHG while a larger source of emissions, livestock rearing, does not afford much scope for GHG reduction unless major diet shifts occur in the consumption patterns of the global population. Meanwhile there are many aspects of rice farming that can reduce GHG emission. These include water and soil management practices, DSR system, mixed farming with fish, duck, etc.
To make such changes happen the Monitoring, Measurement, Verification (MRV) tools are a critical component for a better understanding of the alternative approaches/ models. Additionally, mitigation and adaptation approaches to climate change must go hand in hand as an overarching route to sustainable agriculture. Finally, financial models that incentivize benign and sustainable practices must become part of the solution. This theme will look at all such proposals that lead to reducing the climate change mediated harm to society, environment, and the economies
Partnerships for Scaling and Impact
Many plant breeding efforts do not make any dent in overall increase in production or productivity due to lack of routes to farmers and markets. Indeed, it is known especially in rice that still the most popular varieties grown around Asia are more than 20 to 3 years old and varietal replacement is a limiting factor while investments in research tend to go to waste. Partnerships for scaling and impact are thus a critical component of modulating the agriculture paradigms if efforts to increase sustainability are to get anywhere.
Public-private partnerships form the bedrock of scaling. Also, if research investments are to be continued beyond the immediate financial gains – then assessing the impact on reduction of poverty and hunger through agriculture and ameliorating climate change due to agriculture becomes critical. Monitoring evaluation and learning tools should become part of regular research dissemination and deployment processes. This theme will look forward to research updates on all such tools, models and approaches that facilitate dissemination and deployment and impact assessment of the novel research products.
Sustainable Global Rice Economy
Investments in agricultural research are known to be the best way to reduce not just hunger but long-term poverty. A society or community becomes more responsible to global crisis only if sufficient and nutritious food is available. Clear examples exist of entire countries going from underdeveloped to developing to developed progressively as food self-sufficiency increases e.g., the rise of Korea after rice self-sufficiency based on research products from IRRI.
Understanding the role of government policies that support novel agricultural research products is critical even in designing the new products. Market drivers through customer and industry demand and institutions that make such demand clear to policy makers through foresight studies feeds into policy formulations. This for any agricultural research to be of use the socio-political and economic drivers must be understood and harnessed. This theme will consider updates on all such aspects that clarify the role of policy and institutes in increasing success in the market towards sustainable agriculture.
Societal Equity, Equality, and Prosperity
Market forces that contribute to the success of novel research products must feed into societal equity, equality, and prosperity through engagement and supplying to different strands of the society especially the vulnerable communities including women. In agriculture assessing the involvement of youth is also critical under the present scenarios when most youth are going away from agriculture into urban settings. This is largely due to no or opaque financial and insurance incentives that could be available to the youth to engage in agriculture.
This theme welcomes presentations that capture the influence of socio-economic transformations on rice agri-food systems including migration, labor markets, and feminization. Specifically, we look for evidence and learnings on addressing gender gaps through effective delivery systems and addressing structural barriers and retrogressive social norms; strengthening innovation capacity of vulnerable social groups; engagement of women and youth in entrepreneurial roles in rice value chains.