Vietnam, IRRI boost cooperation

07:02 | 01/12/2016 Events

The rice sector in recent years has suffered heavily from climate change and natural disasters such as droughts and salinity intrusion. Undertaking research to create high-yield and pest-resistant rice varieties is of great importance in this context.  

vietnam irri boost cooperation

Challenges from climate change

At a recent meeting between the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Cultivation Department Deputy Director Tran Xuan Dinh said climate change and its impacts have come faster and more frequently than forecast with extreme climatic phenomena such as droughts, salinity intrusion, and damaging cold. This year, Vietnam has faced the longest El-Nino spell in history, which destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of rice fields in the south central provinces of Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, and Phu Yen due to serious water shortages. Meanwhile, the intrusion of high-salinity sea water has also damaged many rice fields of coastal provinces in the Mekong Delta. Total area of rice fields nationwide in June 2016 decreased by 31,100ha compared with the same month last year, leading to a decline of 1.32 million tonnes in output.

Climate change has created big challenges for the Vietnamese rice sector, requiring it to carry out research projects to create new rice varieties that can adapt to climate change. According to Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute Director Tran Ngoc Thach, some new rice varieties such as OM6677, OM576, and OM6976 which are salt and alum-resistant have been created for pilot cultivation in salinity affected areas.

Each year, Vietnam seeks about 40 best rice varieties from other countries and uses them for pilot cultivation to choose the most suitable varieties to the soil and climatic conditions in Vietnam, Thach added.

At the meeting, representatives from research institutes expressed their wish to continue the cooperation with the IRRI in training, post-harvest research, deep processing of rice products, and research on major rice markets including China.

According to Agricultural Genetics Institute Director Le Huy Ham, as one of the countries suffering heavy impacts of climate change, Vietnam has high demand for rice varieties which can withstand drought and high salinity. Through cooperation with the IRRI, Vietnam wants to find drought and salinity-resistant genes for transplantation into existing rice varieties in the country. Vietnam also wishes to cooperate with the IRRI in new scientific fields such as agronomic genes.

Developing gene resources

According to IRRI Director General Matthew Morell, as a major rice exporter with significant supplies to the global rice market, Vietnam plays an important role in ensuring food security. Promoting international cooperation to restructure the rice sector and enhance its adaptability to climate change is crucial for Vietnamese agriculture. Vietnam and the IRRI can further expand cooperation in developing gene resources, selecting and assessing varieties, improving rice quality, as well as in capacity building and enhancement.

The IRRI’s objective is to help farmers make higher incomes, ensuring socioeconomic and environmental sustainability. Along with efforts to create high quality, salt and pest-resistant rice varieties, Vietnam should build brands for rice exports. “Since the hesitation of importers in US, Africa, and Europe about rice from Vietnam, the country should join market connections and learn carefully about consumer demand in these markets. The IRRI pledged to send its specialists to Vietnam to provide on-site training, Matthew said.

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh, the cooperation between Vietnam and the IRRI in the coming time will focus on (1) setting up rice supply chains based on market research; (2) creating high quality rice varieties; (3) improving technical packages for each rice cultivation area with the aim to increase yields and improve the quality of each variety while at the same time reducing the cost of cultivation; (4) making climate change predictions and proposing specific measures to cope with climate change in Vietnam; and (5) human resource training.

Matthew Morell said that the IRRI’s gene resources would help Vietnam create suitable rice varieties that are adaptable to climate change. The IRRI will assist Vietnamese partners in minimizing the yield gap and reducing the use of pesticide, fertilizer, water, manpower, and varieties. “The IRRI will work with farmers to help them access the market and make higher profits through cooperatives, brand building and market information provision,” Matthew said.

The partnership between Vietnam and the IRRI was established in 1963. Over the past more than five decades, the IRRI has helped Vietnam achieved breakthrough results in selecting and creating high-yield rice varieties that can adapt to the adverse impacts of weather changes. The cooperation has also helped Vietnam promote sustainable rice cultivation and conserve the genetic diversity of rice varieties (3,000 Vietnamese rice varieties are preserved at the IRRI’s gene banks; the IRRI has provided Vietnam with 2,000 rice samples for use in research to create new varieties).

Nguyen Hanh