Main conclusion: Rice sheath blight research should prioritise optimising biological control approaches, identification of resistance gene mechanisms and application in genetic improvement and smart farming for early disease detection. Abstract: Rice sheath blight, caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG1-1A, is one of the most devasting diseases of the crop. To move forward with effective crop protection against sheath blight, it is important to review the published information related to pathogenicity and disease management and to determine areas of research that require deeper study. While progress has been made in the identification of pathogenesis-related genes both in rice and in the pathogen, the mechanisms remain unclear. Research related to disease management practices has addressed the use of agronomic practices, chemical control, biological control and genetic improvement: Optimising nitrogen fertiliser use in conjunction with plant spacing can reduce spread of infection while smart agriculture technologies such as crop monitoring with Unmanned Aerial Systems assist in early detection and management of sheath blight disease. Replacing older fungicides with natural fungicides and use of biological agents can provide effective sheath blight control, also minimising environmental impact. Genetic approaches that show promise for the control of sheath blight include treatment with exogenous dsRNA to silence pathogen gene expression, genome editing to develop rice lines with lower susceptibility to sheath blight and development of transgenic rice lines overexpressing or silencing pathogenesis related genes. The main challenges that were identified for effective crop protection against sheath blight are the adaptive flexibility of the pathogen, lack of resistant rice varieties, abscence of single resistance genes for use in breeding and low access of farmers to awareness programmes for optimal management practices. © 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.