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African Ug99 fungus could wipe out 80% of the world's wheat [View All]

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steven johnson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 12:00 AM
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African Ug99 fungus could wipe out 80% of the world's wheat
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A significant humanitarian crisis is inevitable if the Ug99 fungus spreads before resistant wheat is bred. This is an old pest which has lately mutated to a more virulent form. Oklahoma State University is trying to crossbreed wheat for the predicted 12 year breeding process but they are only three years into the process. I guess we cross our fingers.


By Karen Kaplan
June 14, 2009

The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust, could wipe out more than 80% of the world's wheat as it spreads from Africa, scientists fear. The race is on to breed resistant plants before it reaches the U.S.

Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America -- if it doesn't hitch a ride with people first.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico estimates that 19% of the world's wheat, which provides food for 1 billion people in Asia and Africa, is in imminent danger. American plant breeders say $10 billion worth of wheat would be destroyed if the fungus suddenly made its way to U.S. fields.

After several years of feverish work, scientists have identified a mere half-dozen genes that are immediately useful for protecting wheat from Ug99. Incorporating them into crops using conventional breeding techniques is a nine- to 12-year process that has only just begun. And that process will have to be repeated for each of the thousands of wheat varieties that is specially adapted to a particular region and climate.


A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop
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