The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) celebrated the golden anniversary of the international release of IR 8 – the world’s first high-yielding rice variety. The event was attended by Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Professor Swaminathan and leaders of the agriculture sector in India.
The event, titled Rice that Changed the World, was held in New Delhi on Monday and included a series of commemorative awards and speeches as well as panel discussion on the future of the Indian rice sector.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Agriculture Sudarshan Bhagat said, “Our hope is that this anniversary will commemorate a great moment in India’s history and enable ICAR, in partnership with IRRI, to spark a conversation on how to achieve the (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s) seven-point strategy to double farmers’ income and on the role of a strong rice sector in building India’s illustrious future.”
“Technologies must be made accessible and available to farmers and must be able to specifically address the various types of rice value chain,” said Abhay Gandhe of the Tata Trust Foundation during the panel discussion. Smita Bhatnagar of the Self Employed Women’s Association further commented that rice research must be participatory and involve farmers, especially women, in the process.
In his reflections after receiving a commemorative award, MS Swaminathan, noted agricultural scientist and former IRRI Director General, reflected on how IR 8 was developed with the collaboration of scientists and farmers, and how Indian farmers contributed to the success of rice technologies—a role more important until today.
The development of IR 8 began a collaborative relationship between IRRI and India as well as with the governments of other rice-growing Asian nations. IR 8 was soon followed by subsequent high-yielding varieties with increased vigor, better resistance to pests and diseases, better grain quality, and improved crop adaptability.
The story of IR 8 and subsequent varieties of the Green Revolution demonstrated that how the concerted efforts in scientific innovation improved lives. “IR 8 has been used extensively in the development of subsequent rice varieties. We should take what we have learned from our partnership with IRRI and use it for our country to build the rice sector strategy so we can achieve more than what we had previously ,“ said Trilochan Mohapatra, ICAR Director General.
“As much as the journey for IR 8 was a one-of-a-kind technology, the future growth of the global rice sector will not just be a journey of technology, but also a journey of humanity,” said Matthew Morell, Director General of IRRI. He also said, “The scarcity of time and resources means that our science must be multidisciplinary, to bring together those with the specific pieces of the puzzle. Our partnerships must bring the scientist, the development specialist, the agricultural researcher, the extension worker and the farmer of rice-growing countries together to advance rice research and effect progressive policy change. This is the only means by which we will leverage science for maximum benefit of those we serve.”