Resistance is proving the best defense so far against yield-stealing bacterial panicle blight in rice.

“Panicle blight has been an increasing problem in Arkansas since 1995 when it heavily damaged Bengal and Cypress cultivars statewide,” said Yeshi Wamishe, Extension plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Wamishe discussed her research plan for panicle blight at the Aug. 4 Arkansas Rice Expo at the Rice Research and Extension Center in Stuttgart.

Bacterial panicle blight is considered a seed-borne disease, with no good practical control options once the rice is planted. Hot summer days and nights favor the bacteria that cause panicle blight. The rod-shaped bacteria responsible for panicle blight destroy or rot the developing rice grains, resulting in what’s known as kernel blanking, or partial blanking. The disease can cut yields by up to 60 percent.

“Last year, bacterial panicle blight was observed on many other cultivars, including CL151, CL111, CL181, CL131, Cheniere, Francis and several others.

“Hybrids and Jupiter appear to be resistant to the disease last year, although we found some symptoms in a few Jupiter fields late in the season. We do not know how long-lasting this resistance will be.”

There are hints that the bacteria can survive from season to season in crop residues, something that requires further investigation.

“Planting dates and fertilization, possibly nitrogen and potassium may influence the disease but the details are not well understood yet,” Wamishe said, adding there is still a lot of work to be done in dealing with this difficult disease.

“Clearly this is a big problem and will require more than just a single person to solve. So I simply plan to collaborate with a wide array of scientists here in the United States and also abroad to increase our chances for success in this area in a short time as possible.”

For more, see identifying bacterial panicle blight.

For more information about the research plots, view Wamishe’s tour video.

More videos are available at www.youtube.com/arextension.

The 2011 Arkansas Rice Expo, which featured research tours, displays and family friendly activities, drew more than 1,000 people.