Challenges in rice research from a Root Health perspective


An interview with Dr. Oliva of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines.

Basel, Switzerland
June 24, 2014


Dr. Oliva

Dr Ricardo Oliva holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the ETH in Zurich. He has a strong background in molecular pathology and plant microbe interaction, with a focus on the function and evolution of effector genes. Since 2012, he has worked on host plant resistance as a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Oliva during the 2013 Global Root Health Forum in Beijing.
Video interview with Dr. Oliva


What are the main challenges that you see coming in rice production?

Rice is the world’s most important crop and a major source of calories and protein for half of the world’s population. With rising global demands, intensification of cropping systems will be a huge challenge in the context of a changing environment. In the future, we will have to produce more rice with less water and less manpower. The challenge will be to provide the technologies that enable us to continue increasing the rice yield despite the limited resources.


What are the challenges you think of for the root health of rice?

We will have an increase in disease frequencies – more specifically an increase of nematodes and pythium – and believe these will be two main challenges that we will have to overcome in rice to avoid an decrease in rice yields.


What do you think is needed to overcome these challenges?

In order to overcome these challenges, it is important to understand how the soil interacts with the plant, how the plant interacts with the pathogen and finally how the pathogen and other microorganisms in the soil interact amongst each other. When we understand those interactions, we will hopefully also be able to come up with solutions. Therefore we will need to have active research focusing on these three areas.


In the IRRI, you developed a genetic database with genomic information of different microbes. How do you think this database can help overcome the challenges that rice production is faced with in the future?

At the IRRI, we try to understand the interaction amongst the microbes in the rhizosphere and of all the pathogens that interact with rice. For this research, we are developing a web based genomic resource that can be used as a tool in many other rice research areas as well. This resource contains genomic sequences of hundreds of microbes that interact with rice. We believe this can help a lot to build up new research areas and new solutions.



Dr Ricardo Oliva was interviewed by Dr. Melanie Goll, Technical Innovation Manager, Syngenta. Melanie holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology and focuses on seed treatment development, especially fungicides and nematicides.