International experts convene to continue the battle against bacterial blight of rice

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Bacterial blight

MANILA, Philippines—The threatening nature of bacterial blight (BB) on rice production was recognized only when TN1 and IR8, the first generation of semidwarf, high-yielding rice varieties, were attacked by the disease. The ensuing BB epidemics in the 1960s prompted international research efforts to control it.

So, in this continuing effort, internationally renowned experts will be gathering in Manila, 17-19 October, to present the latest breakthroughs in reducing the incidence of this serious rice disease. About 100 participants from 19 countries are expected to attend the Fifth International Conference on Bacterial Blight of Rice (ICBB05). They will be welcomed by Philippine Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is organizing and hosting the 3-day event.

BB, caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae or Xoo, can spread rapidly via water droplets. Infected plants often develop symptoms in a matter of days. As the disease progresses, the leaves of infected plants turn yellow and wilt, causing rice seedlings to dry up and die. The earlier BB occurs, the higher the resulting yield loss will be. In severe cases, farmers experience yield losses of up to 60%. The infection is also difficult to control with appropriate pesticides.

Historically, since the onset of the Green Revolution, BB has inflicted major economic damage in India, Bangladesh, China, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The disease also occurs in Australia and Africa. This year in Bangladesh, about 13,000 hectares planted to paddy rice in Gazipur District were afflicted with a severe BB outbreak, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

Significant progress has been made in understanding BB through analysis of the interactions between Xoo and rice. Through recent advances in new tools and sequencing resources in both rice and Xoo, a tremendous amount of knowledge has been generated in a relatively short time. These new innovations will be highlighted during the ICBB05 as participants plan future management strategies.

Dr. Jan Leach, distinguished professor at Colorado State University; Dr. Adam Bogdanove of Cornell University; and Dr. Wolf Frommer from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford will be keynote speakers. The status and global assessments of BB will be discussed by Dr. Tom Mew, former head of the Entomology and Plant Pathology Division at IRRI, and Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, IRRI plant pathologist. Dr. Vera Cruz also chairs the local ICBB05 organizing committee.

Also during the conference, the online resource, Rice diseases: their biology and selected management practices, will be soft launched especially for the ICBB05. Featured, for now, are the Preface and Introduction (The Future Impact of Rice Diseases) and the full section on BB. The latest information on around 70 more rice diseases will be placed online as it becomes available from the technical editors.

This unique resource is being funded by the Global Rice Science Partnership and published with the assistance of a number of partners, especially IRRI, the Africa Rice Center, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

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