The economic challenges of rice blast disease in Vietnam

Alternating floods and droughts in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam are threatening to reduce rice yields. These climate changes increase the development of rice blast disease (Pyricularia Oryzae), caused by a fungus that is decimating paddy fields. Chemical treatments are insufficient to control the spread of the disease. How can quality and productivity of yields be reconciled in Vietnamese rice fields?

paddy fields vietnamVietnam, the world’s second biggest exporter of the most-consumed cereal in Asia, is seeing the future of its “Rice bowl” threatened. Vietnam is the world’s 4th biggest rice producer (43.7 Mt). Its paddy fields covered 4.1 Mha of agricultural land in 2012, i.e. 63% of the country's arable land. This region is responsible for a large proportion of the country’s total production, but prolonged episodes of drought, along with river dams, are reducing the amount of fresh water available, allowing salt water to take over. How can current rice production yields be maintained in Vietnam? This is a crucial challenge that needs an urgent solution: the population of this country is expected to increase from 86 million to 100 million by 2020.

Why are the paddy fields of the Mekong Delta particularly affected by rice blast disease?

The Mekong Delta is a vast rice-growing plain criss-crossed by canals and rivers. The region is increasingly suffering extreme, unpredictable weather episodes, with both prolonged droughts and devastating floods. By 2050, the temperature of the Mekong Delta is expected to increase by between 3 and 5°C and its water level is set to rise by one meter by 2100. This is a genuine threat: temperature variations cause major losses in productivity and encourage the proliferation of diseases. One third of the 90 rice species could be under threat due to these changes. This context is favourable to the development of rice blast disease.

What is rice blast disease?

rice blast disease stalk vietnamRice blast disease is one of the most devastating fungal infections affecting paddy fields. It forms a black ring on the stalks, preventing the circulation of sap towards the grain. Losses can be as much as 10 to 30% of the total harvest, or even 100% in some cases. In the event of severe attacks in highly sensitive plants, the lesions can join together and cause the leaves to die. The result of this is a decrease in photosynthesis activity, leading to reduction in tillering, plant height and the number and weight of the grains.

Experimental tests in greenhouses on rice blast disease in Vietnam

Strict quality requirements now take precedence over yield requirements in Vietnam, since rice production has reached its maximum level. These challenges require sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions. Hence our recent trials in this area.

Would you like to find out more about our research and development activities or the results of our product trials? Don’t hesitate to contact our specialists for more information.

 

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