Rice yields under Rhamphicarpa fistulosa-infested field conditions, and variety selection criteria for resistance and tolerance


The facultative parasitic weed Rhamphicarpa fistulosa, is a widespread problem in rain-fed rice production systems in Africa. Little is known about rice varietal differences in infection level and yields in fields infested by this root hemi-parasite. During three cropping seasons (2012–2014), an experiment was conducted to address these knowledge gaps and to identify suitable variety selection criteria for R. fistulosa resistance and tolerance. Sixty-four adapted lowland rice varieties, including all interspecific lowland varieties of NERICAs, their most common parents – IR64 and TOG5681 – and two locally popular varieties – Mwangulu and Supa India – were grown in an R. fistulosa-infested field in southern Tanzania. As expected from a facultative parasite, host plant varieties had no effect on R. fistulosa numbers. Consistent varietal differences in R. fistulosa biomass were however observed, with no Year × Variety effects, and this parameter can therefore be used to select for resistance. Parasite-free observation plots were established in the last year. Due to the facultative nature of the parasite, creating such R. fistulosa-free plots was simply obtained by regular early weeding. The presence of parasite-free control plots enabled assessment of worthwhile additional information such as parasite-free yield, parasite-inflicted yield losses (RYLR) and varietal differences in tolerance. Under R. fistulosa-infested conditions (3-season averages, no Year × Variety interaction effect), rice grain yields ranged from 1.2 t ha−1 for the worst performing variety (TOG5681) to 2.4 t ha−1 for the best performing varieties (NERICA-L-39, -20). Under R. fistulosa-free conditions (2014 only) rice grain yields ranged from 2.4 (NERICA-L-22) to 5.4 t ha−1 (NERICA-L-17). Tolerant varieties were characterized by a low RYLR and a high parasite biomass (e.g. Supa India, NERICA-L-20). The selection measures identified are effective, easy and practical under field conditions. They facilitated identification of thirteen varieties with high resistance, sixteen varieties with low RYLR and two varieties with high tolerance. These varieties would be invaluable for future rice breeding programs. For farmers in R. fistulosa-endemic areas the most promising varieties are probably NERICA-L-40 and -31, as they combine good yields under infested conditions with low levels of parasite infection

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Last time updated on February 7, 2018

This paper was published in Greenwich Academic Literature Archive.

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