News / Africa

Wheat Rust Threatening Crops in Africa, Asia and Mideast

Wheat rust in Kenya
Wheat rust in Kenya

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Scientists met this week to discuss an aggressive new strain of wheat rust disease that has the potential to devastate crops in many parts of the world.

It’s been found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Uzbekistan. A meeting has just concluded in Aleppo, Syria, where experts made recommendations to stop the spread of the disease and ensure the health of future crops.

The danger

“Yellow rust or stripe rust, as it is known in the U.S., is considered to be the most important economic disease on wheat in, I would say, West Asia, Central Asia and North Africa,” said Mahmoud Solh, the director-general of ICARDA, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

Recently, much attention has centered on a rust strain called UG99, which originated in Uganda and spread to Kenya, Sudan, Yemen and Iran in 2007. Yellow or stripe rust has been in the region for many years but was contained by using certain resistant crops. Last year, however, a new, virulent strain emerged.

“Farmers lost up to 40 percent of their production through this heavy infestation. It was actually an epidemic last year,” he said, “which affected food security.”

Mutation

An ongoing drought contributed to the problem. “This is one of the implications of climate change in this part of the world. Last year, the average temperature in winter was about four to five degrees higher than normal. So, apparently, the high temperature did contribute to new mutants that were there in the strain,” said Solh.

Farmers inadvertently helped bring about the mutation by using sprinklers to water their crops to ward off the effects of the drought.

“The sprinkler irrigation created the right environment with the high temperature for this disease to spread widely in a very short period of time,” he said. What’s more, wind can carry rust spores hundreds of thousands of kilometers.

What to do?

Scientists and other experts meeting in Syria agreed on the Aleppo Declaration, which offered recommendations for fighting the disease.

“The first one,” said Solh, “was certainly to pledge more support for strengthening the Global Rust Reference Laboratory in Denmark and upgrade the skills and facilities of the national and regional rust laboratories.”

Another recommendation was to replace varieties of wheat prone to yellow rust with new, resistant crops.

“We have resistant varieties and already three are now released. All we need at this stage is a quick seed multiplication,” he said. Also, fungicides are being used in the short term.

It’ll take time, however, to replace the crops threatened or already affected by rust.

Solh said, “We need at least two to three years of very hard work to replace at least more than 50 to 60 percent of what we have. After the two or three years, then I think we will have the opportunity to go on a much larger scale. So, you are talking about four to five years where you can really have full coverage.”

ICARDA is one of 15 centers supported by CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, based in Aleppo.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid