The speed at which PathoTracer is able to identify the strains of bacterial blight can be used for recommending resistant rice varieties in the next cropping season.
Photo: © IRRI


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A new, faster, and more accurate way of identifying infectious organisms—down to their genetic fingerprint—could finally put farmers a step ahead of bacterial blight.

A revolutionary tool called the PathoTracer has been developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos/Philippines, and it can identify the exact strain of the bacterium that causes bacterial blight present in a field in a matter of days instead of several months of laboratory work.

“It is like a paternity test that uses DNA profiling,” said Ricardo Oliva, a plant pathologist at IRRI. “It will not only tell you that you have bacterial blight in your plant. It will tell you the particular strain of the pathogen so that we can recommend varieties resistant to it.”

For more than four years, Oliva and his team worked on deciphering the genetic code of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, the pathogen that causes bacterial blight, to develop the test. Bacterial blight is one of the most serious diseases of rice. The earlier the disease occurs, the higher the yield loss — which could be as much as 70 per cent in vulnerable varieties.

“Bacterial blight is a persistent disease in rice fields,” said Oliva.

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