US scientists work on preventing wheat epidemic in India


A group of scientists at the University of California have identified a gene that can help tackle a new devastating strain of stem rust, a fungal disease that is quite prevalent in Punjab.


The discovery could help breeders more quickly develop varieties that can resist the deadly pathogens and halt a worldwide wheat epidemic.


A new strain of the stem rust called Ug99, after it was discovered in Uganda in 1999, is spreading throughout the region. According to the researchers, about 90 per cent of the wheat varieties grown worldwide are susceptible to Ug99.


The researchers have identified three different resistance forms of Sr13, a gene from pasta wheat that is effective against Ug99 and another group of virulent stem-rust strains from Yemen and Ethiopia.


The scientists are hopeful that a better understanding of the wheat-rust pathosystem will speed the development of new strategies to control this devastating pathogen.

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