Stripe rust – or Puccinia striiformis – is an extremely destructive disease of wheat, particularly in Central and West Asia and North Africa. Attacking early in the growing season, plants are often stunted and weakened. Crop losses can be severe (50 – 100%) due to damaged plants and shriveled grain.
The historical view is that stripe rust is principally a disease of wheat grown in cooler climates (2°C – 15°C), and generally associated with higher elevations, northern latitudes or cooler years. But recent outbreaks have defied this assumption with current strains of the disease more adapted to high temperatures, and hence countries closer to the equator.
This website provides new perspectives, shares country experiences, and highlights potential solutions to the wheat rust diseases that are re-emerging today, threatening livelihoods and productivity growth in many low-income countries. Practical solutions and strategies that can be scaled-up and applied worldwide include:
- Surveillance and information exchange between countries
- Planning awareness and preparedness to rapidly deliver appropriate seeds and fungicides
- Enhancing capacity and skills in ministries, extension services, and at the farm level to develop effective strategies for managing rust diseases
- Crop research for continued, long-term efforts to develop new varieties that are resistant to emerging races of wheat rust
These approaches are based on decades of crop science research on the development of disease-resistant wheat varieties that are used by farmers today in the world’s major wheat growing areas.
Wheat: a crucial commodity in low-income countries
Wheat is the world’s most important food crop and its most traded. In the developing world it is the second most important crop after rice. Wheat feeds about 2.5 billion poor people (living on less that USD 2 per day) in some 90 countries and is a crucial source of calories and protein.
Amongst all the discussions on world food security, wheat is a central issue. There is currently a red alert for global food security – and much of that alert is down to the state of wheat.
Demand for wheat currently outstrips the world’s ability to produce it, so global stocks are constantly under pressure. It’s not hard to see that modern, international, commodity-driven markets fail the poor and the under-nourished. Such people are now clearly being priced out of the world wheat arena.
There is an urgent need to increase and protect local wheat production in low and middle-income countries. The shepherding of natural systems to deliver boosted wheat production isn’t easy. Nature has some surprises up her sleeve – and not all of them are pleasant, wheat rusts included.