The Los Angeles Times ran an in-depth feature on the potential impact of Ug99 last Sunday, attracting attention from bloggers and Twitter users typically uninterested in agricultural pathogens.
Ug99, a stem rust so named because it was first discovered in Uganda in 1999, can cause 100 percent yield loss in infected plants. The disease, which is primarily spread through wind, has traveled as far as Iran, putting it on the doorstep of major wheat producing areas of Asia. An estimated 80 percent of wheat worldwide is susceptible to the disease.
The Times story focused on the history of rusts – which have plagued crops for thousands of years – and work being done by U.S. scientists to identify resistance genes and breed new varieties of wheat that could survive a Ug99 outbreak.
Not highlighted in the story were the efforts of NAWG, the National Wheat Improvement Committee and other wheat groups that have worked in recent years to secure additional funding for important Ug99 research, especially through international research centers. The FY2009 omnibus spending bill included $1.5 million for Ug99 research, and these groups have communicated needs for the FY2010 allocations in recent weeks.
More on Ug99 is available on NAWG’s research Web page, www.wheatworld.org/issues/research
The original Los Angeles Times story is accessible at http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-wheat-rust14-2009jun14,0,2930855.story