This week we were privileged in visiting the international rice research institute (IRRI) in Manilla. We were joined by Jim Geltch a 1986 scholar who contributed greatly to the studies. The institute is positioned perfectly with science, technology and funding and I have wanted to visit IRRI because I was intrigued that Bill Gates is the major philanthropic investor, initially I thought it was for commercial interest in Agriculture but it is due to the ability that rice has as the largest staple food in the world to address poverty and starvation. 3.5 Billion people worldwide depend on rice for their Daily Calorie intake and consume in excess of 100kg per person per year. There are 200 million rice farms in Asia and the institute is focused on accelerating quality and efficiency through trials on the 110 thousand varieties they have accumulated. The greatest advance in Rice is through their work on gene mapping the top 3000 commercial varieties to identify resistance to particular diseases and pests and to create higher yields with fewer inputs. It is good to note that in the sheep industry we have mapped all the genes recently at UNE, this information will be vital for selection parameters for identifying hybrid sheep with in flocks and has altered the course of my project to a molecular level. Instead of visual appraisals to determine traits we can utilise gene mapping individual sheep as the costs of marking will reduce significantly in the future.
I have taken a photo of a trial plot started in1963, it has been harvested 3 times per year since then and has had no fertiliser ever applied. The yield difference is down 30% compared with the conventional crop which represents 12 tonne per hectare as opposed to 18 tonnes. Our next leg is China and Inner Mongolia