A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Sun 15 Mar 2009
From: Jack Woodall
On 6 Mar 2009, the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture,
put out a warning of potential problems because of bakanae disease if
Californian rice seed is imported into Arkansas to replace a shortage
of local seed [ProMED-mail post no. 20090313.1029].
It was said that this is a seed-borne disease and not known to be
present in Arkansas or other southern states. The fungus poses a high
risk to rice and also affects other crops. Letting it loose in
Arkansas would be a major, irrecoverable disaster. On top of that,
Californian rice varieties would be useless due to their high
sensitivity to Arkansas rice blast strains.
What concerns me is the further statement, "We're not sure if other
states are preventing this risky seed movement at this time, although
our State Plant Board is advising them to be aware of the situation."
I recall the sad story of the attempted eradication of _Citrus
tristeza virus_ [CTV] in California, where citrus growers refused to
fell their trees in order to protect their neighbors' orchards, so
that now the disease is endemic (see ProMED-mail post no.
20080305.0899). In that update ProMED commented: "It appears that a
short sighted decision 10 years ago has led to the present problem.
As a result of ignoring scientific advice at the time, much more
expensive measures are now necessary to ameliorate the effect of CTV
on the industry than would have been needed to maintain the CTV-free
status of the trees used for providing budwood."
Are we going to see the same short-sighted, self-serving actions from
Arkansas rice growers, who may be willing to risk importing diseased
seed rather than having no rice crop, regardless of what they will
let loose in the state, which could spread to other crops there
besides rice, and to every other rice-growing state? Are other states
going to refrain from somehow obtaining Californian seed and passing
it off to Arkansas as local grown? Is there going to be an efficient
plant quarantine this time? Precedent does not encourage optimism.
Perhaps concerned ProMED-PLANT readers would care to contact state
agricultural officials and insist on a properly supervised
[quarantine] ban. ProMED-mail would be interested to hear of any
developments regarding this particular problem.
Associate Editor, ProMED-mail
Rio de Janeiro