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The Rise of the Bakanae Disease of Rice in the Philippines
22.03.2013

Bakanae or “foolish seedling” in Japanese is a common seedling disease in rice caused by the fungus Fusarium fujikuroi. (Gibberella fujikuroi). Infected seedlings exhibit abnormal elongation and in severe cases stunting leading to death. The disease is considered minor in most rice growing fields in the Philippines, however bakanae is found to be increasing in incidence and severity in certain areas of the country, specifically in Ilocos Norte, Agusan and Nueva Ecija.

What is the cause of the upsurge of the disease? According to a survey conducted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), 46% of farmer-respondents in IIocos Norte, 39% in Agusan, and 54% in Nueva Ecija use PSBRc82 - a popular high yielding but highly susceptible rice variety. Due to the threat this pathogen poses to rice security and safety, knowledge about its population structure, aggressiveness and toxin produced may provide knowledge on the biology and evolution of F. fujikuroi and may aid in the development of sustainable disease management strategies.

Information generated from this study could be useful in future bakanae disease resistance breeding programs in the Philippines. For example, isolates with stable aggressiveness could be used in evaluation of disease resistance. High variation in aggressiveness of the isolates of F. fujikuroi and widespread use of susceptible varieties that are high yielding and with good eating quality could explain the resurgence of bakanae disease. Based on the data on genetic diversity, aggressiveness, and fumonisin production of F. fujikuroi isolates, development of control strategies such as breeding of resistant varieties is deemed necessary to minimize or even eliminate the threat that the pathogen poses to the Philippine rice industry.

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