Genetic diversity of Oryza species in Niger ; screening and breeding for resistance to rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV)
Rice is a staple food in many West African countries, including Niger. However, both regional and national rice production have failed to meet demand due to several constraints, among which is the Rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV). Moreover, attempted intensification of rice cultivation and the introduction of modern cultivars are encouraging farmers towards abandoning local landraces for high yielding, but often susceptible varieties. The study was primarily oriented towards rice pre-breeding, and identifying priorities for rice breeding in Niger in relation to farmers' preferences and their environment. A secondary aim was the development and evaluation (for release at the regional level) of new breeding lines with resistance to RYMV. This study aimed to: 1) Establish farmers' perception of rice varieties as well as the main constraints on rice production in Niger and particularly those posed by RYMV; 2) Create a collection of rice species from Niger for ex- situ conservation, and to determine the phenotypic variability within this collection; 3) Determine the genetic diversity and population structure of the collection; 4) Screen the collection for resistance to RYMV, so that new sources of resistance could be detected; 5) Improve five elite varieties from West Africa for resistance to RYMV using marker-assisted selection (MAS). The germplasm collection and PRA of this study were conducted in 2008 and 2009 in Niger, while the field and the laboratory researches were conducted in 2008 and 2009 at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) in Benin. For the PRA, data was obtained from a semi-structured group discussion carried out in 14 villages, individual questioning of 153 farmers and visits to farmers' field and storage facilities. The local farmers' union was the only formal seed dissemination system. Seed exchanges between farmers and the use of seeds from previous harvests were important. The RYMV and the bacterial leaf blight (BLB) were cited as the prevalent biotic stresses in the irrigated agrosystem, where the varieties IR1529-680-3 and Waihidjo were found to be the most popular. Flood, birds and hippopotamus were the most damaging agents in the lowland cropping system, and the landrace Degaulle/ D5237 was the preferred variety. Apart from the yield, farmers preferred varieties with good grain quality (milling quality and good taste), high market value, stress tolerance (drought, flood, disease, birds, rodents), and those recommended by the local farmers' association. These findings should be included in breeding goals, seed production and dissemination systems. During collection, a total of 270 rice accessions were assembled, comprising the two cultivated rice species Oryza sativa L. and O. glaberrima Steud. and its two wild relatives Oryza barthii A. Chev. and O. longistaminata Chev. et Roehr. The region of the Niger River and its tributary (the Dallol Maouri) provided the majority (80.7%) of the accessions. Apart from a few wild O. barthii accessions, the accessions found around Lake Chad and the Komadougou river (South-East) were also collected in the Niger River area. Farmers' naming and ecological classification of rice varieties was generally consistent. Three major phenotypic groups were found during the field trials, and the overall phenotypic variability of the collection (as measured by the Shannon-Weaver Diversity Index) was relatively high. There was no significant difference in diversity between the main eco-geographical zones of collection, as well as between the identified phenotypic groups, suggesting a high level of germplasm exchange between the regions in Niger. From the collection, 264 accessions were genotyped from the collection using 18 well distributed SSR markers and two main genetic compartments were detected, comprising O. sativa subsp. indica varieties and O. glaberrima and its wild relative O. barthii and O. longistaminata. The O. sativa group in Niger was divided into irrigated and floating rice, bound by lowland rice. The wild progenitor O. barthii was widespread but without any clear genetic differentiation from O. glaberrima, probably due to the presence of admixtures within the collected samples of O. barthii. Allelic diversity was relatively high, despite the geographical distance from the centre of domestication of African rice, and the points of entry of Asian rice to Africa. The findings reflect the underuse of Niger's rice landraces genetic potential for rice breeding, given that all the "improved" varieties released during the last 25 years in Niger were clustered together on the dendrogram. The response of a set of the rice collected from Niger and some accessions from Mali to inoculation by RYMV was evaluated using five different virus isolates from Niger (3), Benin (1) and Burkina Faso (1). All rice varieties were susceptible to the disease. However, depending on the virus strain, a few O. glaberrima accessions displayed partial resistance, similar to the highly resistant TOG5681. Allelic research based on primers derived from the RYMV1 gene revealed one accession with allele rymv1-3, and two accessions with allele rymv1-4, and one accession with a different resistance gene. The implications of the finding were discussed and a strategy proposed for breeding varieties with a comprehensive resistance to RYMV. After three generations of backcrossing, the major resistance gene of the variety Gigante was successfully introgressed into five elite rice varieties of West Africa by Marker-Assisted Backcross (MABC). The newly developed BC3F3 progenies were screened for resistance to RYMV in farmers' fields in Guinea and Mali and also under controlled conditions in a screenhouse in Benin. As shown by low virus content and level of disease incidence, low tiller number and plant height reduction, the transferred gene was fully functional in the new genetic background. Moreover, some lines also displayed a high level of resistance to rice blast (Pyricularia oryzae) and stem borer infestation in Guinea. Four of those lines are in the second year of multi-location trial in seven West African countries. Therefore, effective deployment of the newly developed varieties, coupled with good cultural practices, should reduce the damaging effects of RYMV in lowland and irrigated rice cropping systems and thereby increase the income of small scale farmers from rice cultivation.
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