• contamination;
  • Magnaporthe oryzae ;
  • microscopy;
  • rice;
  • seeds

Rice blast, caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae, is a serious threat to rice production worldwide. In temperate regions, where rice is not cultivated for several months each year, little is known about the initial onset of the disease in the field. The main overwintering and primary inoculum sources reported are infested residues and seeds, but the subsequent steps of the disease cycle are largely unknown, even though a systemic infection has been proposed but not demonstrated. The present work follows rice blast progression in infected seeds from germination to seedling stage, with direct and detailed microscopic observations under both aerobic conditions and water seeding. With the use of GFP-marked M. oryzae strains, it was shown that spores are produced from contaminated seeds, infect emerging seedling tissues (coleoptile and primary root) and produce mycelium that colonizes the newly formed primary leaf and secondary roots. Using different rice cultivars exhibiting distinct levels of resistance/susceptibility to M. oryzae at the 2/4-leaf stage, it was observed that resistance or susceptibility of a considered genotype is already established at the seedling stage. The results also showed that when plants are inoculated either at ripening stage (mature panicles), heading stage (flowering/immature panicles) or even before heading (flag leaf fully developed), they produce infested seeds. These seeds produce contaminated seedlings that mostly die and serve as an inoculum source for healthy neighbouring plants, which gradually develop disease symptoms on leaves. The possible rice blast disease cycle was reconstructed on irrigated rice in temperate regions.