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LA Times: A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop

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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:36 AM
Original message
LA Times: A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop
A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop
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.

By Karen Kaplan
June 14, 2009


The spores arrived from Kenya on dried, infected leaves ensconced in layers of envelopes.

Working inside a bio-secure greenhouse outfitted with motion detectors and surveillance cameras, government scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., suspended the fungal spores in a light mineral oil and sprayed them onto thousands of healthy wheat plants. After two weeks, the stalks were covered with deadly reddish blisters characteristic of the scourge known as Ug99.

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.

"It's a time bomb," said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it's going to be here. It's a matter of how long it's going to take."

Though most Americans have never heard of it, Ug99 -- a type of fungus called stem rust because it produces reddish-brown flakes on plant stalks -- is the No. 1 threat to the world's most widely grown crop. ..........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-wheat-rust14...




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Billy Burnett Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:44 AM
Response to Original message
1. GM crops to the rescue.
Just in time too. :eyes:


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enki23 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 10:04 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. hey, stem rust is natural. starving children are entirely "organic".
.
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imdjh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:44 AM
Response to Original message
2. Africa gives us such nice things.
Personally, I wait breathlessly each year to see what the hurricanes will be like.
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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:50 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Thank goodness we and the rest of the West haven't taken resources from Africa....
:think:
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imdjh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 10:12 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. More proof that nothing is free, you get what you pay for, etc....
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Auggie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:45 AM
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3. Recommended
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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 09:45 AM
Response to Original message
4. I guess this is news -- news that repeats itself every year.
US wheat breeders have been reacting to impending disease invasions for more than 75 years.
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pop goes the weasel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 12:05 PM
Response to Original message
8. the problem is monocropping
Not only is wheat the chief grain grown, there are very few strains of it grown. Reliance on a single food source is a set-up for disaster.
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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 12:41 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. No, it isn't. Plant diseases are typical -- normal.
Combatting diseases in good crops goes back thousands of years. Welcome to the reality of feeding more than 5 people at a time.
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NickB79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-16-09 12:37 PM
Response to Reply #9
17. 1000-acre fields didn't exist for thousands of years, though
Look at almost any rural area in a developing nation, such as rural China. Farmers have a few acres of land, and it is divided into dozens of plots, each growing a different variety of grain or vegetable. That incredible amount of diversity makes it harder for diseases to spread. Those strips of cabbage, rice, corn, etc, act as buffers between the fields of wheat, for example. If a field did become infected, it could be destroyed before the disease spread very far, and without endangering the entire food supply of the region. That was the primary way that cultures fought diseases for thousands of years, and it has been discarded in the age of factory farms.
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reggie the dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 05:40 PM
Response to Original message
10. we will have to plant cannabis everywhere
seeing as the flour milled from hemp is better for our health and contains more essential amino acids than wheat flour that will not be so bad.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 05:49 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. That's one way to take our minds off the problem.
Of course, cannabis gives you the munchies, and with our wheat supplies being toast (you should pardon the pun) there will be increasing competition for potato chips. Time to buy shares in Frito-Lay.
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reggie the dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-15-09 02:58 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. no, I am talking about eating the seeds
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-15-09 10:38 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Ah. I guess that's one way to get rid of the waste material...
:hippie:
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reggie the dog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-16-09 02:08 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. If you make hash the north African way
you harvest seeded plants, shake them to make hash, and keep the seeds for food.
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bertman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-14-09 10:20 PM
Response to Original message
12. This is probably a stupid question, but why don't they try some diversity in their grains?
Don't barley and quinoa and other grains grow in similar conditions as wheat?

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NickB79 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-16-09 12:32 PM
Response to Reply #12
16. Monocropping is easier in a factory farming environment
A 1000-acre field of nothing but wheat is easier to tend to than that same field divided up into 3-4 plots each with a different crop on it. You don't need to think about different requirements for each plot, different pesticide and fertilizer needs, different harvesting times, and if you need new equipment specifically designed to harvest the different species of grains. You just buy one type of seed, one type of fertilizer, and a few pieces of farm equipment and you're set.

Putting all your eggs in one basket is dangerous, but it also makes it easier to carry the eggs.
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