Wheat stripe rust, a fungal disease that can reduce yields by 40 percent, has "swept through fields from Oklahoma to Kansas up into the Dakotas and east into the Great Lakes states," says DTN. The disease arrived as the winter wheat crop nears harvest; USDA will update its estimate of the crop on Friday.
The fungal diseases called wheat rust "have the capacity to turn a healthy-looking crop, only weeks away from harvest, into nothing more than a tangle of yellow leaves or black stems and shriveled grains at harvest," says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Nearly half of the world's wheat-growing land is sown with varieties developed by an international network of plant scientists, or their national partners, says a report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Adoption of the new varieties has been particularly brisk since 2010, "which may be due to the introduction of rust-resistance varieties in recent years," says the study.
David Hodson, senior scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), sat down with FERN editor-in-chief Sam Fromartz in Washington to discuss the re-emergence of rust disease, a virulent fungal pathogen that attacks wheat plants and causes devastating crop losses, especially in poorer countries.