Fungus that threatens global wheat production could spread faster than expected

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Washington, March 26 (ANI): A novel research by scientists has suggested that a new fungus that threatens global wheat production could spread faster than expected.

The research, done by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and other institutions, has determined that both plant and human diseases that can travel with the wind have the potential to spread far more rapidly than has been understood.

It concluded that invading diseases do not always progress in an orderly, constant rate.

Historical studies of both plant and animal diseases show that some pathogens that can be carried through the air can actually accelerate as they move, and can become widespread problems much faster than had been thought possible.

"It's now becoming clear that some types of diseases can spread more rapidly and widely than we anticipated," said Chris Mundt, a professor of plant pathology at OSU. This makes it especially important, in some cases, to stop a spreading disease quickly if you hope to stop it at all," he added.

The researchers suggest that a new fungal pathogen of wheat that emerged a few years ago in Uganda may pose a much more urgent threat to wheat production around the world than first thought.

The research, in fact, used stripe rust of wheat, which has spores that can spread on the wind, as a model to help explain how this and other pathogens can move.

"If we didn't have crops that could resist wheat stem rust, we pretty much wouldn't have a wheat industry," said Mundt.

"From this pathogen, we've learned a lot about plant disease resistance in general, and also how pathogens can move and spread. And this new study confirms that it is crucial to get prepared for the rapid spread of a new variety of wheat stem rust that appeared in Uganda in 1999," he added.

According to Mundt, that new type of wheat stem rust has the potential to attack 75 percent of the world's known wheat varieties, and in a bad year might cause up to 50 percent crop losses in some parts of the world.

"This is something that we shouldn't take a chance on. It's already spread to Iran, and the new research shows that its global spread may be about to pick up speed," Mundt said.

"People are aware of this problem, already working on it, and hopefully they will be able to develop wheat varieties that are more resistant to it," he further added. (ANI)

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