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Photographer's Note

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Miracle Rice IR8


One of the rice seeds the IR8 made giant agricultural revolution around the world, and legends in Vietnam but I didnt know until last week.



In 1960, IRRI hired a Taiwanese plant geneticist, Te Tzu Chang, to study the variety's genes, and the American scientists made numerous crosses, creating a new generation of plants that eventually produced a dwarf variety.

Two years later, IRRI hired Beachell, who then selected plants resulting in a semi-dwarf rice, IR8 a "super" rice that could be grown not only in many latitudes but at almost any time of the year. IRRI sent IR8's seeds all across Asia. Trials showed that while average Philippines rice yields were 1 ton per hectare, IR8 yielded an average of 9.4 tons. Sample yields in Pakistan were as high as 11 tons per hectare.

Shortly thereafter, Beachell moved to IRRI's station in Indonesia, and increased rice yields there by 100%. (Source: Sarah Whalen)



One of the American soldiers came to the Vietnam War with his special weapon: IR8. His name is Lt. Tom Hargrove. Here is his brief story:

I arrived in Vietnam in June 1969 as a first lieutenant. The legendary John Paul Vann (made famous by the book and movie A Bright Shining Lie) ran the war in the Mekong Delta. Vann reviewed my records, saw my farm and educational background, and assigned me, as an adviser to the Vietnamese military and government, to Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MAC-V) Team 73 in Vi Thanh in Chuong Thien Province, in Vietnams southern Ca Mau Peninsula. Seventy percent of Chuong Thiens population was rice farmers.

Chuong Thien was an awful place for a dryland cotton farmer. The average elevation was less than 1 meter, and 97% of its land was covered by waterrice fields or swampduring the 6-month monsoon season.

Chuong Thien was also a Viet Cong (VC) stronghold. The U.S. military constantly classified it as one of the two least secure South Vietnamese provinces. Putting it another way, Chuong Thien was one of the VCs two most secure provinces.

A dozen U.S. advisers were killed in Chuong Thien during my 1-year tour. Five were killed in sampans. These boats were our only transport, unless we could hitch a ride on helicopters, along the rivers and canals during 6 or 7 months of monsoon rain. No one survived a sampan ambush.

IR8 had arrived in Chuong Thien Province in 1968a year before me. The first IR8 seeds were smuggled into Vietnam in 1967 by my colleague Jose Ona, a Filipino agronomist who had done his M.S. research at IRRI, then was hired as USAID rice agronomist for the Mekong Delta. A friend at IRRI had harvested the IR8 seeds from IRRI experimental plots, and given them to Ona.

Ona then set up IR8 demonstration plots in each province of the Mekong Delta. I feel safe in saying that no farm technologyanywhereever spread faster than IR8 seeds in the Delta, even at the height of the fighting.

IR8 was called Nng Nghiệp 8, or Agriculture 8, in North Vietnam. Information is scarce about how IR8 and other IRRI varieties spread in North Vietnam during the war. Ive read that in 1968 or 1969, an Eastern European vesselI believe it was Polishpurchased a shipload of IR8 seeds at Dhaka (then in East Pakistan) and quietly off-loaded the seeds at Haiphong, the main North Vietnamese port. From there, the seeds went to farmers in the Red River Delta.

A former high-ranking North Vietnamese agricultural official told me that IR8 reached North Vietnam in other ways. Some of the few North Vietnamese soldiers who went back north on the Ho Chi Minh Trail carried a kilo or two of IR8 seeds. (Source)



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