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Controlling rice bacterial blight in Africa: Needs and prospects

Valérie Verdier, Casiana Vera Cruz, Jan E. Leach
Journal of biotechnology 2012 v.159 no.4 pp. 320-328
Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, biotechnology, blight, crop production, cultivars, disease control, farmers, food security, genes, marker-assisted selection, pathogens, research institutions, rice, Africa
Rice cultivation has drastically increased in Africa over the last decade. During this time, the region has also seen a rise in the incidence of rice bacterial blight caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae. The disease is expanding to new rice production areas and threatens food security in the region. Yield losses caused by X. oryzae pv. oryzae range from 20 to 30% and can be as high as 50% in some areas. Employing resistant cultivars is the most economical and effective way to control this disease. To facilitate development and strategic deployment of rice cultivars with resistance to bacterial blight, biotechnology tools and approaches, including marker-assisted breeding, gene combinations for disease control, and multiplex-PCR for pathogen diagnosis, have been developed. Although these technologies are routinely used elsewhere, their application in Africa remains limited, usually due to high cost and advanced technical skills required. To combat this problem, developers of the technologies at research institutions need to work with farmers from an early stage to create and promote the integration of successful, low cost applications of research biotech products. Here, we review the current knowledge and biotechnologies available to improve bacterial blight control. We will also discuss how to facilitate their application in Africa and delivery to the field.