The outbreak of devastating epiphytotic brown spot disease of rice (Helminthosporium spp) in the then Bengal province (the areas of which are now in the state of West Bengal and Bangladesh) in 1942 resulted in a serious shortage of rice. Added to this, the failure of civil administration to cope with such a disastrous situation culminated in what was called the Great Bengal Famine of 1943. With this background, the Central Government, in the year 1944, decided to intensify research on all aspects of rice crop. In the following year, the Government decided to establish a Central Institute for Rice Research and this culminated in the establishment of the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) on April 23, 1946 at Bidyadharpur, Cuttack, Odisha with an experimental farm land of 60 hectares provided by the Government of Odisha. Dr. K Ramiah, an eminent rice breeder, was its founder Director. Subsequently, in 1966, the administrative control of the Institute was transferred to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
NRRI is one of the institutes of ICAR under Crop Science Division. The Institute has two research stations, one at Hazaribag, Jharkhand for carrying out rice research on rainfed upland ecologies and the other at Gerua, Assam for carrying out rice research on flood prone rainfed lowland ecologies. Two Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) also function under the administrative control of CRRI. The KVKs are located at Santhapur, Cuttack, Odisha and Jainagar, Koderma, Jharkhand.
The Institute is located at Cuttack in the state of Odisha (20.5 Degree North, 86 Degree East) and has an elevation of 23.5 m above mean sea level (MSL). The annual rainfall at Cuttack is about 1500 mm and is received mostly during June to October (Kharif or wet season). Minimal rainfall is received between November to May (Rabi or dry season) from south west monsoon. The Institute is located on the Cuttack-Paradeep State highway, about 35Km away from the Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhubaneswar and about 7 Km from the Cuttack Railway Station.