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About the Project

Rice is vital for food security

Rice is the most important food crop in developing countries and the staple food for more than half of the world's population. Unlike the other two staple crops, wheat and maize, 80% of the world's rice farmers are smallholders, with less than 2 hectares under cultivation. In addition, in low-income countires, more than two-thirds of workers are employed in rural areas. This means that food insecurity and rural poverty often go hand in hand.

Although 90% of the world's rice production is grown in Asia, its growth is not limited to that continent. In fact, rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica. It thrives in a wide variety of soils and climates - from the high mountains of the Himalayas to the tropical Mekong Delta to the semi-arid desert of West Africa. All of this has been possible through centuries of breeding efforts that have produced adaptable rice varieties that, among other things, have developed resistance to existing threats.

In sub-Saharan Africa, rice is the fastest growing staple food. However, Africa does not produce enough rice to meet demand and must import rice at a high economic cost. In 2008, rice imports for sub-Saharan Africa were an estimated $3.6 billion. To close this gap in rice production, rice yields must be increased.

Science must directly address the needs of small-scale producers to end hunger

A large number of scientific projects are addressing the question of how to combat world hunger. Unfortunately, a major study by an international consortium called Ceres2030 has shown that scientists often set the wrong priorities. The Ceres2030 team members found more than 95% of the agricultural-research publications they assessed were unable to provide solutions, to the needs of small-sclae producers and their families.

One of the scientific challenges is to make the cultivated rice more resistant to climatic changes or diseases. However, these achievements must also be shared with small-scale producers to the right extent to ensure efficient cultivation. It has been shown that small-scale producers are more likely to adopt new approaches, such as growing resistant crops, if they are supported by technical advice, input, and ideas known as extension services. 

Therefore, in our project, we combine scientific expertise for the generation of new disease resistant rice lines, together with the help of experts from international and national organisations to  support the small-scale producers in multiple ways. This already includes education in disease detection and assistance with prevention strategies and hygiene measures. For example, we created a diagnostic toolbox that already enables a rapid disease diagnosis of newly occurring pathogenic bacterial strains. In addition, we will distribute our resistant lines to smallscale producers in the future to prevent crop losses in severely affected regions.

(click here for more information on the Nature article about Ceres2030)

The Threat: Yield loss due to severe crop diseases

Crop pathogens and pests can massively reduce the yield and quality of rice production. They do not only cause economic losses for the small scale farmers but can reduce local and global food security. Learn more about the most devastating rice diseases that are present in large parts of Asia and Africa by clicking on the diseases below:

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