Integrated strategies for durable rice blast resistance in sub-Saharan Africa

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Samuel K. Mutiga
F. Rotich
V. Devi Ganeshan
D. T. Mwongera
E. M. Mgonja
V. M. Were
J. W. Harvey
B. Zhou
L. Wasilwa
C. Feng
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plant disease
Rice is a key food security crop in Africa. The importance of rice has led to increasing country specific, regional and multinational efforts to develop germplasm and policy initiatives to boost production for a more food secure continent. Currently, this critically important cereal crop is predominantly cultivated by small-scale farmers under sub-optimal conditions in most parts of sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Rice blast disease, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, represents one of the major biotic constraints to rice production under small-scale farming systems of Africa, and developing durable disease resistance is therefore of critical importance. In this review, we provide an overview of the major advances by a multinational collaborative research effort to enhance sustainable rice production across SSA and how it is affected by advances in regional policy. As part of the multinational effort, we highlight the importance of joint international partnerships in tackling multiple crop production constraints through integrated research and outreach programs. More specifically, we highlight recent progress in establishing international networks for rice blast disease surveillance, farmer engagement, monitoring pathogen virulence spectra, and the establishment of local marker assisted rice breeding programs, to facilitate introgression of new resistance genes. A rice breeding pipeline is presented, which utilizes real-time data of pathogen diversity and virulence spectra and utility of known major and minor blast resistance genes, for development of new, durably resistant, high yielding, locally adapted rice cultivars. In addition, coordinated disease diagnoses workshops have enhanced broad stakeholder engagement