The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) have published a report about the damage Typoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) did to farming. Here it is.
Filipino farmers grow rice (Oryza sativa) twice each year: a wet-season crop and a dry-season crop. The IRRI/DA report explains that in the most badly affected province (Leyte), most of the wet-season rice crop was already in before Haiyan hit. But infrastructure was badly damaged.
V Bruce J Tolentino at IRRI said, ‘The most serious issues will arise from extensive losses resulting from the storm surge—in farm machinery, storage, housing, and damage to roads and irrigation. These will need replacement and rehabilitation… access to markets is constrained and household food stocks are down to zero, causing a spike in local food prices.’
[Edit] At the end of November IRRI published satellite images showing the typhoon damage.
Yesterday I asked, ‘What next for rice after Haiyan?’ Plenty, it seems. Here’s IRRI’s summary of what it was already doing before Haiyan to develop climate change-ready rice. The research there tackles drought, submergence, cold, heat, salinity and poor soils.
Some of IRRI’s rice development work involves genetic modification (GM, genetic engineering, GE). Alongside the GM, IRRI scientists are using marker-assisted selection (MAS, marker-assisted breeding, MAB.) That’s another kind of biotech.
As you know, I think that too many people outside the research world focus on GM crops. I think MAS deserves more attention. It’s like conventional breeding, but quicker. It avoids the legal and political minefields that now surround GM. Those minefields are partly to do with concerns about farmers’ ownership of seeds and partly to do with concerns about how GM changes the plant. GM involves a tight focus on one gene, or a few genes. MAS is a broader brush. I’m learning a little about MAS from somebody who does it for real (yes, …, I’m talking about you) but this blog post isn’t about details of biotech. More about what IRRI biotech is doing for rice farmers. What it was already doing before Haiyan, and what it continues to do.
I’ll finish with an example. As part of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), IRRI offers farmers Green Super Rice. That isn’t just one variety. It’s a set of varieties to suit different growing conditions.