Rice blast, caused by the fungus Pyricularia oryzae is the most devastating rice disease and the major rice cultivation constrain worldwide. Moderate field infections can cause approximately 50 % yield reductions. It is remarkable that estimates revealed that rice blast destroys rice grain each year that would feed 60 million people. Rice blast is favourable by particular environmental conditions of favourable air temperature, relative humidity, hours of leaf wetness and solar radiation. Furthered, the use of moderate or susceptible rice varieties and the excessive application of nitrogen fertilization increases the disease severity, showing that poor management can lead to even greater losses. Because of the nature of the devastation due to rice blast fungus, farmers tend to overspray rice paddies for crop protection even when environmental conditions are not favourable for blast development. This way of the disease management and control has negative impact on the environmental footprint of the rice cultivation. The EU-funded project RICE-GUARD with the title “In-field wireless sensor network to predict rice blast”, initiative developed a novel in-field monitoring system to help rice farmers protect their crops from rice blast outbreaks. The network consists of low-cost, solar-powered wireless sensors that monitor environmental and climatic conditions. The system operates by collecting real-time data of temperature, relative humidity, leaf wetness and solar radiation from within the rice canopy level. It relays that information to a central server, which runs a prognosis model to forecast rice blast outbreaks, 5 to 7 days prior to appearance in order to give enough time for decision making. One of the system’s most important features is its ability to provide remote readings of field conditions as well as the level of risk at a radius of 77 to 100 ha. The result is that farmers get timely updates on the likelihood of a rice blast infection and can make informed management decisions in response. The researchers tested the RICE-GUARD monitoring system at five locations in Europe and found it was able to provide valuable information in all instances. It was installed in rice paddies under controlled and uncontrolled conditions to prove the adaptability of the model. Rice growers were able to track their local conditions through a user interface that shows the level of susceptibility to rice blast. The RICE-GUARD monitoring system is able to assist rice growers in managing the incidence of rice blast. Thus, RICE-GUARD is increasing rice yields and ensuring sensible applications of fungicides, toward to a sustainable and environmental friendly agriculture.
Monitoring system, disease, rice blast, fungus, RICE-GUARD, wireless sensor network