Wednesday 23 January
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Jan 31, 2016 @ 2:19

Japanese Imperial couple visits IRRI to check on updates on rice research


Just before heading home, their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko dropped by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna connecting with Filipino and Japanese rice experts associated with the organization.

According to the IRRI, the Japanese Imperial couple, who were in the Philippines for a 5-day state visit, were particularly interested how IRRI, the front runner in rice research studies, is able to plant rice three times a year at the world’s longest-running rice research project—the Long-term Continuous Cropping Experiment (LTCCE).

“They were quite surprised that we have been planting rice at the LTCCE three times a year,” Yoichiro Kato one of the Japanese rice researcher at the living field laboratory.

“In Japan, farmers usually plant only one crop a year. They were very interested in the different effects of fertilizer and pests on rice plants,” Kato said.

Her Majesty, on the other hand, “was particularly keen on salt-tolerant rice.”

In Japan, rice played a significant role in its creation as a country. Based on Japanese mythology, Amaterasu, a major deity of the Shinto religion and the sun goddess and the universe gifted one of her offspring with rice. The descendant was Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan who was tasked to turn the country into a land of rice.

Emperor Akihito, Jinmu’s 125th direct heir, is currently Japan’s rice farmer-in-chief, according to Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, a Japanese anthropologist and authority on Japanese rice. Traditionally, Japanese emperors serve as the priest-kings.

In keeping with tradition and to maintain his ties to rice, Emperor Akihito has yearly plants and harvests rice at the paddy on the Imperial Palace grounds—a tradition his late father, Emperor Showa started in 1927.

In Japan, rice farmers are heavyweights who can exercise their political clout in government, particularly in the legislature.

  1. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy general for communication and partnership, said the Imperial couple also expressed special interest in IRRI’s work on climate-ready rice, “particularly submergence-tolerant rice.”

“They also seemed pleased about the long-term relationship IRRI has had with the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), and that the institute has always had a Japanese national on its board of trustees since its founding in 1960,” Tolentino said.

Japan and IRRI has a long-standing partnership  that dates back to 1960 when the organization was founded. Japan has since provided leadership to IRRI with a representative on the IRRI board of trustees.

According to IRRI, the government of Japan has been one of IRRI’s most generous and staunchest financial supporters, having given a total of more than US$211-million since 1971.

Through the years, JIRCAS have sent over several Japanese scientists to work in the Philippines through collaborative projects at IRRI.

Takashi Yamano, one of the scientists who discussed with the couple the institute’s contributions to the Green Revolution said they “were very interested in our work.”

“They asked many questions about rice production and our contribution to increasing rice seeds and reducing rice prices,” Yamano said.

“They were curious about various stresses being caused by climate change that affect rice,” Keiichi Hayashi said another prominent scientist at the IRRI. (By: Ched Romulo)


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