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Rice Today Vol. 12, No. 4 Beating Blight

Rice Today Vol. 12, No. 4 Beating Blight

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Published by Rice Today
With an ever-evolving pathogen and changing climate, scientists continue to improve defenses against bacterial blight
With an ever-evolving pathogen and changing climate, scientists continue to improve defenses against bacterial blight

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Published by: Rice Today on Oct 07, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Rice Today
October-December 2013
nmindful of the heat andthe humid air circulatingfrom an industrial fan inthe glasshouse, CasianaVera Cruz, plant pathologist at theInternational Rice Research Institute(IRRI), met with her team to check theprogress of the rice plants that exhibitresistance to bacterial blight. Severalrows of plastic boxes with plants from
dierent rice-growing countries lled
the facility.“Some varieties are from SouthAsia while others are from SoutheastAsia,” said Dr. Vera Cruz. ”The plantslook healthy for now but, in the nextfew weeks, we will see the plants thatare more resistant to bacterial blight,as they have been inoculated.”
A deadly disease
Among rice diseases, bacterial blightis one of the most costly,” said Dr.Vera Cruz. “It can damage as muchas 60–70% of the plant and can evenresult in crop failure, especially whendisease strikes at the seedling stage.”Once infected at the seedlingstage, the leaves turn grayish green
With an ever-evolving pathogen and changing climate, scientists continue toimprove defenses against bacterial blight 
and roll up. And, as the diseasespreads, the leaves turn yellow to
straw-colored and then wilt. The
result can be a grim nightmare forfarmers as they helplessly watch theirseedlings dry up and die.This is exactly what happenedto farmers in Haryana and Punjabstates in India in 1980 when for
the rst time, the rice they were
growing succumbed to a bacterial blight outbreak. It is the same diseasethat has been associated with majorepidemics that ruined the fortunes offarmers in China, Korea, Indonesia,the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Myanmar,Laos, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.The disease also occurs in Australiaand Africa.It is no surprise that farmersare taking this disease seriously.Although there are chemicalsdeveloped to control this disease,
none of them are completely eective
at eliminating outbreaks.
Breeders at work 
However, farmers no longer need toworry spend very much on chemicalsto combat bacterial blight thanksto the scientists at IRRI and otherresearch organizations who have beenscouring the world for rice plants thathave natural resistance to bacterial blight.“Many improved rice varietiesnow have major genes for resistanceto the disease,” said Dr. BertrandCollard, IRRI plant breeder. “Thus,the chances of farmers losing theircrop to bacterial blight are lower.”As early as the 1970s and‘80s, rice scientists found varietiesTKM6 and DV85 that had inherentresistance to bacterial blight. Recently,
researchers have identied more than
30 genes (named
thatimpart blight resistance.
“Making rice resistant is notonly most economical, but it is alsoa sustainable way of controlling bacterial blight,” said Dr. Vera Cruz.“A good example is IR20, one of theelite varieties that has been promoted by IRRI since 1975. Even after morethan 35 years, IR20, which carriesthe X
is still resistant to somestrains of bacterial blight.”
Lanie Reyes
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