Friday, September 18, 2020

UK-Thailand research yields rice progress 

Jan 28. 2019
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By Brian Davidson
Special to the Nation

Science and innovation is at the forefront of the modern partnership between Thailand and the UK. Both countries recognise the importance of strong science as key to our continuing development and prosperity. We also recognise the importance of international collaboration to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery. 

This international collaboration is exemplified by the Newton UK-Thailand Research and Innovation Partnership Fund. Launched in 2014, the Fund is supporting up to Bt325 million worth of joint science and innovation activities – and is jointly funded by both the UK and Thailand. 

Under the Partnership Fund, the UK and Thai governments support a diverse range of world class science. This includes research on human and animal health, agriculture; resilience against drought and other extreme weather, as well as the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship. This work helps to tackle difficult global challenges, as well as supporting Thailand 4.0, the Kingdom’s ambitious economic development strategy.

Earlier this month, Thailand’s National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), hosted a workshop in Bangkok on sustainable rice production. The workshop brought together scientists from the UK, Thailand, China, the Philippines and Vietnam to discuss the outcomes of their joint research, which was funded through the Sustainable Rice Research Initiative under the Newton Fund.

The scientists presented some of the key findings from their research. They also discussed some of the opportunities and challenges in relation to rice. These included improving rice breeding and the development of new strains, increasing the nutritional value of rice, as well as maintaining crop yield under difficult environmental conditions. 

After three years of research, initial findings look promising. The researchers are helping to make rice production more resilient to the growing risks of climate change, ensuring it will continue to play its vital role as a staple food in both Thailand and the region. The burning of rice straw is also a major contributor to pollution and greenhouse gases, and researchers are looking closely at the alternatives. 

At the workshop in Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Jantong presented awards to some of the most exciting and innovative projects in the initiative. He spoke about the importance of rice to the Thai economy and the Thai people, as well as to consumers around the world. He also spoke about the importance of research into improvements to the way rice is bred and grown, so that it can be more resilient to the threats of pests, climate change and weather extremes. 

This Sustainable Rice Research Initiative has brought together UK and Thai scientific excellence, with partners from around the region, to improve our understanding of a crop which is vital for health and economic wellbeing. I look forward to further work under the Newton UK-Thailand Research and Innovation Partnership Fund in other, equally important, areas of science and innovation, and to continuing to deepen our research and innovation cooperation with Thailand. 

Brian Davidson is British ambassador to Thailand.

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