Crop disease pandemic coming ‘sooner rather than later’?

Global trade and monoculture will lead to crop disease pandemics that jeopardise world food systems, experts warn.
A healthy wheat crop in Uganda, just weeks from harvest, turns into a tangle of black stems and shrivelled grains. As much as 80 per cent of the harvest is lost, a fate that destroys the farmer’s investment in the fields and damages the livelihood of the family.

Soon wheat fields in Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt experience the same fate. Iran follows, along with India, Pakistan and Lebanon. Then countries in Asia and Europe show signs.

The culprit is wheat stem rust. A plant disease that has been known for decades, a virulent new strain, Ug99, emerged in 1999 to ravage wheat production across the globe — and was spread by the wind.” Read More>>>

Wheat stem rust is a fungal disease caused by the Puccinia graminis f. sp. Tritici (Pgt) fungus that can affect wheat, barley, oat, rye and triticale when seasonal conditions are favourable. The fungus survives on host plants and can spread quickly over large distances by wind, movements of infected plant materials and contaminated farm machinery, equipment and clothing.

Wheat stem rust can attack all above-ground parts of the plant, including the stem, leaves and inflorescence. Infected wheat plants may also produce shrivelled grain. An untreated infection could reduce grain yield by up to 90 per cent.

Wheat stem rust is present in many wheat growing areas throughout the world, and around two-thirds of global wheat growing areas are climatically suitable for the disease. Areas vulnerable to stem rust is shown in the Figure above. Read More>>>

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