International Rice Research Institute

Satellite image of the International Rice Research Institute campus in Los Baños, Laguna.

Since I’ve talked about the Nagacadan Rice Terraces the last time and there’s a global rice supply crisis at the moment, I guess it’s prudent to feature the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI next. This global organization is tasked to study and to improve on methods rice production, to train farmers and agricultural scientists, as well as to develop high-yielding varieties of rice. The institute’s headquarters is in Los Baños, Laguna and is located very near the University of the Philippines, Los Baños campus which also specializes in agriculture. Aside from the Philippines, IRRI has satellite offices in several other nations.

IRRI was created in 1960 through an agreement between the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and the government of the Philippines. Research activities started in 1962 and one of their early successes was developing IR8, a high-yielding variety of rice dubbed the “Miracle Rice” that was instrumental in staving off what had been an impending famine in India in the 1960s and made that nation a net rice-exporting country today. IRRI was also a vital institution that helped in the Green Revolution, a period of rapid advances in modern—yet environmentally-controversial—methods of agricultural production that made the production of rice, wheat, and maize, among other crops, keep pace with the world population.

Aerial photo of IRRI. Photo by IRRI. (CC-BY-2.5)

It’s actually ironic that while IRRI is located in the Philippines, this country is actually a rice-importing nation and one of the largest such nations together with Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh. (Many sources in fact say that the Philippines is the world’s biggest rice importer.) While the agricultural policies and practices of the Philippines is much to blame, I personally think that a fundamental reason why the Philippines is not able to produce enough rice on its own is that archipelagic nations don’t have enough land. Indonesia and Japan are other archipelagic and rice-importing nations as well.

The 252-hectare Los Baños campus, as shown in Google Maps, shows the many buildings used for administrative, residential, and research purposes. There are several greenhouses found there as well, and the area is surrounded by many rice paddies or rice fields used for testing rice varieties. You can check out the IRRI Map to find out what these buildings are and if you want to learn more you can check out the official website or the Wikipedia article.

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Posted on
July 6, 2008
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