Scientists declare all-out defense against a bacterial menace of rice at international conference

 Maria Rowena M. Baltazar   |  

MANILA, Philippines—Prominent scientists declared an all-out defense against a major disease of rice at the 5th International Conference on Bacterial Blight of Rice (ICBB05) on 17-19 October.

Bacterial blight (BB) of rice, caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae or Xoo, is one of the most economically devastating bacterial diseases of the crop. It can damage as much as 60–70% yield of rice and can even result in crop failure, especially when the disease strikes at the seedling stage. Although there are chemicals developed to control this disease, none of them are completely effective at eliminating outbreaks.

“Our goal is to identify sources of rice genes that are broadly resistant against Xoo as well as the bacterial leaf streak pathogen,” Dr. Jan E. Leach, University Distinguished Professor of the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions at Colorado State University, said in her pre-recorded keynote speech. “Since the ICBB04 in India last 2013, the discovery of new sources of resistance and learning about this mechanism as well as significant advances in BB science, have been made.”

Prof. Adam Bogdanove, Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology at Cornell University. highlighted some of these advances in Xoo genomics in his presentation. “Unprecedented power to understand pathogen movement, adaptation, and advances in rice genomics leads to unprecedented power to find useful genes to better understand host-pathogen co-evolution,” he said.

“We need interdisciplinary, inter-institutional collaborations, and international partnerships to keep us moving,” Bogdanove emphasized. “We need to break down barriers to sharing materials and information as well.”

Dr. T. W. Mew, former head of the Entomology and Plant Pathology Division at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), updated the participants on the global assessment of the bacterial blight disease problem. Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, IRRI plant pathologist and overall chair for the conference local organizing committee, discussed experiences in rice bacterial blight research and the continuing challenges to global rice production due to the changing climate.

More than 30 topics covering the advances in the fight against BB were presented at ICBB05. The conference ended with a panel discussion about future strategies in combating BB.

The online resource Rice Diseases: Their Biology and Selected Management Practices was also launched during the event.

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