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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid