November 20, 2008


World wheat producers to fight wheat disease Ug99


Representatives of major wheat producing countries have called for urgent coordinated action to prevent and control the wheat stem rust disease strain Ug99, FAO announced.


The fungus is capable of causing heavy damage to wheat crops and is a major threat to food security.


In a declaration adopted by the International Conference on Wheat Stem Rust Ug99 - A Threat to Food Security in New Delhi (November 6-8, 2008), countries pledged to strongly support prevention and control of the wheat stem rust as a matter of national policy and international cooperation.


FAO said affected countries and countries at risk should do the following:

  • Develop contingency plans to prevent rust epidemics that could result in devastating yield losses
  • Share surveillance information and a global early warning system should be immediately established
  • Intensify plant breeding research and enhance international cooperation to develop new Ug99 resistant varieties
  • Multiple quality seeds of rust resistant wheat varieties nationally and distribute to needy farming communities

Over 130 participants from ministries of agriculture of 31 countries, senior policy makers, researchers, seed producers and plant production experts attended the meeting, jointly organised by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Government of India, FAO and its Borlaug Global Rust Initiative partners.


"We will continue supporting countries in building national capacities for research, extension, plant protection and seed production and get the support of the international community for achieving our common goals in responding to the wheat rust global threat and improving livelihoods through enhanced food security," said Modibo Traore, FAO Assistant Director-General, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department.


A new virulent strain of the wheat stem rust disease, called Ug99 after its discovery in Uganda in 1999, has spread from East Africa to Yemen, Sudan and in late 2007 to Iran. Currently there is no evidence that the fungus has spread to any other country. A recent field survey, funded by Cornell University in the US, showed that Ug99 is not present in India, Pakistan, Egypt and China.


It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of all wheat varieties planted in Asia and Africa are susceptible to the new strain. The spores of wheat rust are mostly carried by wind over long distances and across continents.


FAO has recently launched its Wheat Rust Disease Global Programme that supports 29 countries in East and North Africa, the Near East and Central and South Asia, that are either affected or at risk of the disease and that account for 37 percent of global wheat production. FAO supports countries in emergency prevention, contingency planning, the release of improved varieties, seed multiplication and the training of farmers.

Video >

Follow Us