Containing the menace of wheat rusts

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Wheat showing symptoms of stem rust (Puccinia graminis), in this case the virulent Ug99 race. The reddish brown pustules contain masses of urediospores, and may occur on both sides of the leaves, on the stems, and on the spikes. These pustules coalesce during heavy infections, and the disease also causes chlorosis and tissue death. This wheat is being grown, and will be assessed for symptoms, as part of an ongoing screening program at the Njoro research station in Kenya. The station is part of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), which is working in partnership with CIMMYT to identify sources of resistance to Ug99. This strain of the disease, which emerged in Uganda in 1999, is already endemic in the area, making it possible to use Njoro as a testing ground for wheats from all over the world. More than 30,000 wheat lines are now being screened each year. For more information on the disease, see CIMMYT's Wheat Doctor: http://wheatdoctor.cimmyt.org/en/pests-a-diseases/list/122?task=view. For more on CIMMYT's ongoing work on Ug99, see the following e-news stories: 2010, "Planting for the future: New rust resistant wheat seed on its way to farmers": http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/231-2010/716-planting-for-the-future-new-rust-resistant-wheat-seed-on-its-way-to-farmers. October 2009, "From Cairo to Kabul: Rust resistant wheat seed just in time": http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/38-2009/460-from-cairo-to-kabul-rust-resistant-wheat-seed-just-in-time. December 2008, "Report from the field: Wheat stem rust resistance screening at Njoro, Kenya": http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/37-2008/110-genetic-resources-program. December 2006, "Threat level rising": http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/82-2006/263-threat-level-rising. September 2005, "The World’s Wheat Crop is Under Threat from New Disease": http://www.cimmyt.org/newsletter/86-2005/331-the-worlds-wheat-crop-is-under-threat-from-new-disease. Photo credit: Petr Kosina/CIMMYT.

Wheat showing symptoms of stem rust, in this case the virulent Ug99 race.

In the 2014/15 cropping season, Ethiopia produced 4.23 million tons of wheat grain on 1.7 million hectares of land, with an increase of more than 2 million tons since 2007/8. Wheat is an incredibly important crop in Ethiopia and significantly contributes to the livelihood of smallholder farmers and urban consumers.

Nevertheless, wheat production and productivity are constantly being threatened by new emerging diseases, in particular, wheat rust diseases. In response, there have been a number of efforts in the research and development area to combat these threats.

According to the introduction of Containing the Menace of Wheat Rusts: Institutionalized Interventions and Impacts, “This book documents ICARDA’s experience in rapid deployment of rust resistant wheat varieties through bilateral and multilateral projects in general and the ICARDA-EIAR project entitled Deployment of rust resistant varieties for ensuring food security in Ethiopia in particular highlighting the framework of fast track variety testing and release and accelerated seed production to mitigate and/or control wheat rusts.”

To learn more about efforts at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas(ICARDA) to combat and contain wheat rust diseases in Ethiopia read Containing the Menace of Wheat Rusts: Institutionalize Interventions and Impacts here.

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