SINGAPORE – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is set to receive US$1.4 million worth of funding from non-profit organization, Crop Trust in a partnership to ensure conservation and sharing of 136,000 varieties worldwide.

The seeds, stored at IRRI’s high-tech facility in Los Baños, Philippines, will be used by scientists worldwide to develop improved rice varieties that can withstand climate change impacts, severe flooding and drought while keeping pace with the growing world population and changing consumer preferences.

The funding is tailored to address challenges such as drought and flooding especially in key rice-producing regions, including India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“This is fantastic news for the future of rice research,” said Matthew Morell, Director General of IRRI.

“Half of the world’s population, around 3.5 billion people eats rice every day and the IRRI genebank is fundamental to global efforts to make the rice sector more resilient, sustainable and equitable.

The Crop Trust funding enables IRRI to focus on using its large and diverse rice collection to benefit the world.”

The first phase of the funding running from 2019-2023 will cover conservation, regeneration and distribution of IRRI’s cultivated and wild seed collections.

IRRI has developed ‘scuba rice’, a variety that withstands flooding for up to two weeks, set to benefit farmers tending to some 20 million hectares of rice land across Asia regularly hit by flooding.

Rice is a staple crop that feeds more than three billion people across the globe and according to IRRI, annual global rice consumption is estimated to rise from 450 million to 525 million tons by 2050.

The rice is currently grown in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Laos, the Philippines and Indonesia. Researchers are now adapting the rice for Africa.

Another breakthrough is IRRI-developed IR8, the world’s first high-yielding rice grown in Asia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar (then Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

IRRI will also provide expert advice to five national genebanks to help their crop conservation efforts.

“This is a landmark moment for IRRI and for the Crop Trust,” said Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust.

“At a time when many donors have increasingly complex demands on their resources, it’s important that the world’s crop collections are safe, secure and the genebanks functioning effectively.”

“Today’s announcement validates 20 years of work and 50 years of thinking on how the international community can safeguard crops used for food and agriculture.”