The Dissemination Workshop for Newton Rice Initiative was held during 16-18 January 2019 in Bangkok. Co-hosted by NSTDA and the Biotechnology and Bioscience Research Council (BBSRC) which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the workshop brought together the funding agencies, key research

organizations and academia from the UK, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand to share results and impact of joint research projects conducted under the Newton Fund Sustainable Rice Research Initiative, and provided an opportunity to set the future research direction and cooperation among researchers from across the partner countries to enhance the impact. The workshop welcomed over 100 participants from five partner countries.

Newton Fund Sustainable Rice Research Initiative is a program in which UKRI BBSRC works with funding agencies in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to co-fund thirteen exciting projects on a wide variety of topics, including applying fundamental plant science to increasing rice yield, increasing the resilience of rice plants to biotic and abiotic stresses, and making rice straw more digestible for use as feed or an energy feedstock.

In his opening remark, Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong stated that rice ranks among top research agenda in Thailand, and Thai rice breeding program has produced a number of varieties with better yield, improved resistance to pests and diseases and suitable to local climate and soil conditions.  Examples include RD41 and RD47 that are resistant to disease and pest and RD61 suitable for a flood plain and poorly irrigated land. Advanced technologies have been employed not only to speed up the breeding process but also to improve rice quality, farm management, post-harvest and processing to enhance the overall value chain of rice production. Antioxidant-rich Riceberry, high-iron Sinlek, high-iron Pinkaset and low GI RD43 are among premium rice varieties derived from advanced biotechnology. He further commended Newton Fund Sustainable Rice Research Initiative for enabling researchers across these five countries to work together to develop innovative solutions contributing to long-term sustainable rice production.

During the workshop, Best Scientific Poster awards were presented to the following researchers:

  1. Mr. Eric Belfield from the University of Oxford, UK for the work on Super-Rice: a UK-China Collaboration to Improve Rice Nitrogen Use Efficiency (UK-China);
  2. Mr. Tran Dang Khanh from Agricultural Genetics Institute, Vietnam for the work on Exploiting a Cyanobacterial CO2 Concentrating Mechanism to Increase Photosynthesis and Yield in Rice (UK- China); and
  3. Ms. Phanchita Vejchasarn from Rice Department, Thailand for the work on Rhizo-Rice: A Novel Ideotype for Deeper Roots and Improved Drought Tolerance (UK-Thailand).

Also attending the workshop representing Thai funding partner of Newton Rice Initiative was NSTDA President Dr. Narong Sirilertworakul who highlighted the achievements of three projects performed by Thai scientists with international collaborators. In one project, scientists developed new rice lines that have root traits that permit them to have both improved soil exploration and more efficient water capture under drought conditions. In another project, scientists studied genes associated with stomatal development in order to enhance drought and heat stress tolerance of rice. In the last project, scientists developed and applied a combined modelling and field monitoring approach for bacterial blight to find a solution to the current threat of the expanding aggressive bacterial blight strain in northern Thailand. All three projects have potential to make great impact to rice production in Thailand.