Annual Report 2011Uprooting underground killers
in areas with erratic rainfall and poor soil fertility. Both species are dif-cult to manage because the rst4 to 7 weeks of their life cycle takeplace underground, inaccessible for mechanical control.
can becontrolled by herbicides, but effectiveand affordable herbicide technolo-gies are not yet available for ricefarmers in Africa.
Fatal chemical attraction
plant is capable of pro-ducing up to 250,000 tiny seeds,which can remain viable in thesoil for many years.
germinate only in the presence of
host-derived chemicals such asstrigolactones, as this guaranteesthe existence of a suitable host toparasitize. Rice roots exude suchstrigolactones.“The very small seeds of
have very small energy reserves,”explains AfricaRice weed scientistJonne Rodenburg. “Hence, theyhave to tap into host-plant resourcesvery quickly.”
Getting at the root of the problem
As part of a project funded by theUK Department for InternationalDevelopment and the Biotechnologyand Biological Sciences ResearchCouncil, and led by the Universityof Shefeld, Dr. Rodenburg’s teameld-screened 18 upland NERICAvarieties, their parents, and resistantand local checks for their resistanceto both species.“From work on sorghum andmaize, it is known that durable re-sistance is hard to nd,” says Dr.Rodenburg. “
species are ge
-netically highly variable, and so theytend to overcome resistance basedon a single mechanism very quickly.It takes only one or a few plants ableto circumvent the resistance to re-infest a whole eld over a few crop-ping seasons.”AfricaRice has partnered withWageningen University to look atpreattachment resistance. Muham-mad Jamil, a PhD student with Prof.Harro Bouwmeester, screened up-land NERICA varieties and their par-ents in the laboratory to identify andquantify strigolactones.Varieties that produced signi-cantly fewer strigolactones showedlower
infestation, whereasthose that produced the largestamounts of strigolactones showedthe most severe infestation (seebox).Meanwhile, Mamadou Cissoko,a PhD student at the University of Shefeld, under the supervision of Prof. Julie Scholes, was looking for
postattachment resistance or mecha
-nisms for preventing the develop-
in rice after it has ger
-minated and attached to the roots.Heavy infestation can result in com-plete crop failure.Two main species of
-tack rice in Africa.
is a problem in Côte d’Ivoire,northern Nigeria, and Uganda. Itinfests about 40% of all cereal-producing areas (including sorghum,millet, and maize) of sub-Saharan Africa, causing US$7 to $13 billion inlosses annually, according to gurescited by Infonet Biovision.
is prevalent in Madagascar,Malawi, and Tanzania and causessevere damage in rice, particularly
More information:Jamil M, Rodenburg J, Charnik-hova T, Bouwmeester HJ.2011. Pre-attachment
resistance of New Rice for Africa (NERICA)cultivars based on low strigolactone production. New
Cissoko M, Boisnard A, Rodenburg J, Press MC, Scholes JD. 2011.New Rice for Africa (NERICA)cultivars exhibit different levelsof post-attachment resistanceagainst the parasitic weeds
. New Phytol. 192:952-963.
Starving the enemy.
Mamadou Cissoko, a PhD student at the University of Shefeld, is lookingfor postattachment resistance that prevents the development of
in rice after it has germi
-nated and attached to the roots.