News: The health benefits of rice research, February 2018

Thanks to the Crawford Fund in New South Wales, Functional Grains Centre (FGC) PhD Candidate, Shiwangni Rao travelled to the Philippines as one of the 14 successful International Agricultural Student Award recipients. With Rao’s research focused on the potential health benefits of coloured rice, she was invited to attend a three-week ‘Rice Research to Production’ Training.

Shiwangni Rao on location in the Philippines

Hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, the training program is designed to build the next generation of rice scientists to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the various rice varieties and their production in Southeast Asia, to meet other emerging scientists in this field and pick up some new skills that I can put into practice in my own research,” Rao said.

“I learnt a lot about new innovations in rice research, such as production of golden rice with enriched beta carotene, zinc enriched rice, climate ready rice and C4 rice. I was also able to step out of the lab and gain an understanding of some of the difficulties of a small holder farmer in Southeast Asia.”

The training covered all aspects of rice cultivation and research, from basics to high-end genomics research through workshops, field work and practical’s. Reflecting on the impact the course had on her studies, Rao said, “the course broadened my understanding on why grain handling is just as import as getting a higher yield, with poor post-harvest handling costing farmers nearly 50 per cent of their profits in the Philippines.”

“It was also amazing to see the contribution of Australian origin wild rice in the germplasm at IRRI and to learn of the Australian Government’s contribution towards facilities for research in drought tolerant rice.”

“The training was an excellent learning experience that will greatly benefit my PhD research.”

Shiwangni’s trip to the Philippines is part of our efforts to support and encourage young Australians in study, careers and volunteering in international agricultural research, our International Agricultural Student Awards from Crawford Fund State Committees will be supporting 14 Australian tertiary students to gain international agricultural research experience and expertise. 

Throughout 2017 and the early part of 2018, the 14 successful International Agricultural Student Award recipients will travel to their host countries to research and explore their chosen topic areas. You can keep up with their journey here on the Crawford Fund website and read more about their findings, learnings and any challenges they encounter.