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Rice is a staple food in most countries of Latin America, a region that encompasses South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. For the last four years, the region has produced just over 22 million tonnes of paddy, supplying almost all its needs. Breeding activities, combined with adjustments in management practices, resulted in a production increase of more than 300 percent since the 1960s.

However, genetic gains obtained recently by national breeding programmes demonstrate that, if the status quo is maintained, similar increases will not be seen in the coming decades. In contrast, regional population growth rates indicate that demand for rice will not even slow down, much less decrease. Breeding and crop management programmes therefore need to find ways of boosting yields.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as it celebrates the International Year of Rice 2004, is pleased to be associated with this publication. The 17 chapters, written by experts in their field, present a series of theoretical and practical examples of how novel use of a broad genetic base and application of population breeding methods can help push the rice crop’s production beyond its current yield plateau. Such innovations will thus help ensure production systems to be resilient enough to feed the region’s burgeoning population.

Mahmoud Solh
FAO Plant Production and Protection Division

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