Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bacterial blight management is crucial to strengthening Pakistan's rice breeding program and enhancing its rice productivity

Participants learn to identify, diagnose, and collect rice leaf samples infected with
bacterial blight. Inoculation and disease assessment in breeding populations were also part of the course.

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Eleven rice researchers from Pakistan attended a workshop on managing a bacterial rice disease as part of the Agricultural Innovations Program (AIP) that aims to strengthen Pakistan’s breeding program for Basmati and indica rice.

Bacterial blight is one of the most serious diseases of rice. The earlier the disease occurs, the higher the yield loss. It can damage as much as 60–70% of susceptible rice varieties and can even result in crop failure, especially when disease strikes at the seedling stage. Rice infected by bacterial blight near its reproductive phase produces poor quality grains, high sterility, and low grain weight.

The proper management of the disease would impact the value chain of Pakistan’s cereal crops, according to Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, deputy director general for Research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) where the workshop was held on 27-31 March.

“Understanding the impact of environmental stresses on plant resistance gene interaction will guide the breeding for the best gene combinations for durable resistance under a variable climate,” said Casiana Vera Cruz, a plant pathologist at IRRI. “A set of pre-breeding lines with combined resistance to diseases and tolerance of harsh environmental conditions are being developed at IRRI, which can serve as diverse genetic resources for the breeding program in Pakistan.”

“There is a need to shorten breeding cycles and release new crop varieties in Pakistan as soon as possible,” Abdelbagi Ismail, head of IRRI’s Genetics and Biotechnology Division. He emphasized the importance of strengthening current and future collaborative efforts between IRRI and its national program partners in building up breeding programs.

Dr. David Johnson, head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division and IRRI’s principal scientist as Lead for AIP, encouraged the participants to keep communications open between Pakistan’s rice research centers and IRRI. “With the excellent achievements of the NARES partners, I am optimistic that future collaborations will follow this project.”

The training program covered field disease diagnosis and assessment, pathogen isolation, culture collection maintenance, molecular approaches for detection of a pathogen, advances in breeding high-yielding rice varieties with disease resistance and tolerance to flooding, drought, and salinity.  The participants who attended the workshop were from the Rice Research Institute at Kala Sha Kaku, Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology, National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, National Agricultural Research Centre, Soil Salinity Research Institute, and Engro Fertilizer Ltd.

The AIP for Pakistan is funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

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