Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pakistan's Spring Wheat Crop Threatened

A relatively new, aggressive strain of black stem rust, called Ug99 for its 1999 discovery in Uganda, has spread to Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Iran. Most commercial wheat grown world-wide has no resistance to the disease. The threat comes at a time when wheat stockpiles have shrunk because of bad weather and strong demand for wheat-based foods, reports the Wall Street Journal this morning.

Ug99 poses a more serious threat to commercial crops than even the U.S. black-stem-rust epidemic of 1954 that destroyed 40% of the U.S. wheat crop, experts told the Wall Street Journal.

Fears that the disease may have spread to Pakistan haven't been confirmed, experts say, but Pakistan is a concern because of its proximity to India, the world's third-largest wheat producer with over a billion mouths to feed.

The potential for crop loss in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia is higher. Based on wind patterns and the rate of spread, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says countries in the immediate path of Ug99 grow 25% of global production.

While wheat traders are aware of the disease, it hasn't significantly affected wheat-futures prices yet. Friday, the July wheat contract on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 7.5 cents a bushel to $7.5250 ($276 per ton). A metric ton of wheat has 36.744 bushels.

There are also concerns about the lack of rain in Australia impacting the wheat crop this winter. Wheat futures are likely to rise sharply if the forecast rain fails to materialize in Australia’s main eastern growing state of New South Wales, leaving farmers anxiously waiting to plant their next crop. Australia is normally the second-biggest wheat exporter in the world, after the United States.

This latest news adds to the worries about much higher wheat prices driven by potential real shortages exacerbated by speculators in the world futures markets. It would hit poor countries in Africa and South Asia particularly hard with the increased probability of a serious famine.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on wheat seed resistant to rust disease:

The above wheat seed variety has the potential to resist the virus UG99, said PARC Chairman Dr Iftikhar Ahmad while briefing the committee. He further said, “Experts say it is only a matter of time before wind carries a deadly wheat stem pathogen into Pakistan, the ninth largest wheat-producing nation in the world. Known as UG99, the disease could potentially decimate the country’s highly vulnerable wheat crop and cause a huge food security problem.”

Crop scientists say that next destination of this ‘time bomb’ is obviously Pakistan and then India.

UG99 originated in Uganda in 1999 and has migrated to many countries. It has reached Iran and become a regional threat that now confronts wheat production and stability. The PARC has established the UG99 resistance variety and multiplied and provided to farmers at the time of wheat sowing. For this year, the PARC chairman said 72 tonnes UG99 resistance wheat seed is available and being provided on demand. Every year, the seed is multiplying and soon the country will be able to fully protect against the UG99 deadly disease.

Apart from, Ahmad said that PARC is coordinating with all research institutes across the country. We have commodities base coordination on wheat, maize, sorghum and millet, pulses, oilseed crops, fodder crops, rice and rice hybrid and sugar crops. The PARC also helps the government in mechanisation and coordinattion between private sector and concerned departments. Apart from it, there are a number of collaborations with Punjab in promotion of agriculture research and projects.

The committee was also briefed about the livestock department in federal government after devolution process in the country. Livestock Department Head Dr Khurshid told the committee that livestock has 55.1 percent contribution to agriculture value addition and 11.6 percent share in national gross domestic product. During the year 2011-12, the livestock share in total foreign exchange earning is 8.3 percent. During the year 2012-13, the livestock population is; cattle 38.3 million, buffalo 33.7 million, sheep 28.8 million, goat 64.9 million, camels 1.0 million, horses 400,000, asses 4.9 million and mules 200,000 million.

He told the committee that livestock sector’s prospective role towards rural economic development may well be recognised from the fact that nearly 8.0 million families involved in livestock raising are deriving more than 35 percent income from livestock production activities. He said the government has taken a number of measures to improve the pace of development in livestock sector with focus on value addition.

The import of agro based machinery and equipment including machinery and equipment related to livestock farming and dairy processing units is allowed at zero tariff. Import of high-yielding exotic dairy and beef animals and their semen and embryo are allowed. He also informed the committee that sales tax exemption has been allowed to processed milk, yogurt, cheese and flavored milk, butter and cream.

About future plan, he said the department is planning to persuade the polices to achieve 5.0 percent more growth in meat and 8.0 percent or more in milk production through shifting from subsistence livestock farming to market-oriented and commercial farming with a focus on entire market chain. The future road map is to enter into global Halal food trade market, controlling trans-boundary animal diseases of trade and economic importance through provincial participation and rural socio-economic uplift....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on progress in fighting ug99:

Aug. 30, 2012 — The world's top wheat experts have reported a breakthrough in their ability to track Ug99 and related strains of a deadly and rapidly mutating wheat pathogen called stem rust that threatens wheat fields from East Africa to South Asia. With data submitted by farmers and scientists from fields and laboratories, the creators of the "Rust-Tracker" say they now can monitor an unprecedented 42 million hectares of wheat in 27 developing countries in the path of a windborne disease so virulent it could quickly turn a healthy field of wheat into a black mass of twisted stems and dried-up grains.

"Wheat rusts are global travellers with no respect for political boundaries, and it is highly likely that some of the virulent new strains related to Ug99 will eventually be carried across the Middle East and Central Asia and into the breadbaskets of Pakistan, China and India," said Dave Hodson, developer of Rust-Tracker and a scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). "Effective control often depends on finding out what is happening in distant regions, and the Rust-Tracker can help scientists assess the status of stem rust and other rust diseases, not only in their own countries, but also in neighboring countries."
An estimated 85 percent of wheat now in production, including most wheat grown in the Americas, Asia and Africa, is susceptible to Ug99 and its variants. For now, however, only the original mutation, Ug99, has been found outside of Africa -- in Yemen and Iran. Stem rust can cause farmers to lose their entire crop, but a second rust disease is already causing severe losses worldwide. Like stem rust, yellow rust (also known as stripe rust) has in recent years become more of an immediate threat, with the emergence of new, highly-aggressive strains that are able to knock out genetic resistance in many of the most popular varieties of wheat. Among the countries that have suffered devastating yellow rust epidemics are Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with yield losses as high as 40 percent.

"We need urgent concerted action to address yellow rust," said Mahmoud Solh, director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). "It is a significant problem from the Middle East all the way to China. In any new varieties of wheat we develop, we need to build in durable resistance to both stem rust and yellow rust."

Using Rust-Tracker data, Hodson and his colleagues in Beijing are developing "risk maps" that can assist researchers in countries in the path of virulent strains of stem rust and yellow rust to assess the severity of the threat and prepare to resist it...
The BGRI was launched in 2005 by Dr. Norman Borlaug, who often said that "rust never sleeps." He was right. After confirming that Ug99 had overcome the resistance gene he and others had developed for wheat more than 50 years before, Borlaug began his campaign to make the world pay attention to the new threat to global food security.

Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for fighting stem rust, while developing and introducing new varieties of wheat that saved some of the world's poorest people from famine. In the last four years of his life, he took up the battle anew against his ancient enemy, urging significant investments in agricultural research and leaving behind an army of scientists with the means to continue the work.