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September 22, 2017

Facility at ILRI to monitor rice blast outbreak

Richard Karinde at the maize plantation at the Mombasa Agricultural Show on August 29, 2016. /ELKANA JACOB
Richard Karinde at the maize plantation at the Mombasa Agricultural Show on August 29, 2016. /ELKANA JACOB

A screening facility has been developed to monitor the outbreak of rice blast.

Lusike Wasilwa, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation director for crop systems, said this will go a long way to securing one of the four most important food crops in Kenya.

“Based on the current challenges facing the number one crop, maize, rice may become even more significant for food security in Kenya,” he said.

The bio-bank of different rice blast-causing fungi has been established at the International Livestock Research Institute, under the Durable Rice Blast Resistance for Africa project.

Nick Talbot, the project leader from the University of Exeter, said the facility will make it easier to monitor outbreaks and identify specific forms of the pathogen.

“In this way, we can facilitate efficient screening of African rice varieties for blast resistance and guide future rice breeding programmes,” he said.

He said rice is steadily becoming a staple food for a large population in Africa, yet its production is outstripped by demand, resulting in net imports. Rice blast is one of the major production constraints to rice production in Africa.

The Bioscience Eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignouna said between 2013 to 2017, they have collaborated with international and regional partners to develop rice varieties that are resistant to blast and enhance production in sub-Saharan Africa.

“There is need to translate the research to impact. We have to ensure that all the research efforts being made to address this challenge eventually get to the farmer,” he said.

He added that the four-year plan has made significant progress in breeding for durable resistance against blast in rice varieties that are adapted for Africa, and developed a robust collection of resources for outreach and awareness creation.

The multidisciplinary team of experts in this project are drawn from national, regional and international research institutions.

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