Understanding resistance in inter-specific rice cultivars to the parasitic witchweed Striga
Author: Cissoko, Mamadou
Awarding University: University of Sheffield, England
Level : PhD
Both cultivated rice species, Oryza sativa (L.) and Oryza glaberrima (Steud.), are grown in Africa. To take advantage of superior traits from each species, AfricaRice Center and partners developed inter-specific rice cultivars called NERICA (NEw RICe for Africa) for rain-fed upland ecosystems. NERICA rice cultivars showed different susceptibilities to both S. hermonthica and S. asiatica species under controlled environment conditions. Some cultivars showed good broad-spectrum resistance against several Striga ecotypes and species whilst others showed intermediate resistance or were very susceptible. In addition, some cultivars showed resistance to a particular ecotype of Striga but were susceptible to others. The phenotype of a resistant interaction was often characterized by necrosis at the host parasite interface and an inability of the parasite to penetrate the host root endodermis. In general, the most resistant NERICA cultivars grew better than the very susceptible cultivars although even a small number of parasites caused a reduction in above ground host biomass. There was however, genetic variation for tolerance to Striga (the ability to grow and yield well in the presence of Striga) amongst the NERICA cultivars. The NERICA cultivars were also grown in field trials at Kyela in Tanzania (under S. asiatica infestation) and at Mbita Point in Kenya (under S. hermonthica infestation) in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of environment on the expression of resistance. The resistance of the NERICA cultivars against S. hermonthica and S. asiatica, in the field, was broadly similar to that observed in the laboratory although there were some exceptions. These results allow us to recommend particular cultivars for Striga-infested regions but they also illustrate the necessity of understanding the genetic basis of resistance to different ecotypes of Striga for breeding of durable resistance (and pyramiding of appropriate resistance genes) in host cultivars adapted to different rice agro-ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa. Sixty four lines of an inter-specific CSSL population and the parent cultivars O. glaberrima MG12 and O. sativa Caiapo were phenotyped for resistance to S. hermonthica. MG12 showed good resistance to S. hermonthica whilst Caiapo was very susceptible. The CSSLs showed a range of susceptibility to the parasite, however, only two CSSLs showed the same strong resistance phenotype as MG12. Graphical genotyping and a Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) analysis revealed a large QTL on chromosome 12 (designated STR12.1) which explained at least 80 % of the variation for resistance in the population and suggests that resistance to S. hermonthica (in MG12) is due to one (or a few genes) of major effect. This finding opens the way for the identification of candidate Striga resistance genes (through fine mapping approaches) and their transfer to farmer-preferred cultivars via marker assisted breeding.