Plant Pathologists Fighting Global Threat To Wheat Supply

– One of the main premises of the Perfect Storm hypothesis is that humanity is edging nearer and nearer all the time to various disaster thresholds – any one of which could cause major problems with global civilization, the biosphere and the environment.

– One of those potential disasters is food shortages. We live in a world where humanity has grown so large that there’s not much slack left in the world’s ability to grow sufficient food to feed all of us. In fact, many of us go hungry now – but that’s another issue.

– So, if this wheat rust epidemic breaks out world-wide, it is likely to cause a large drop in the world’s wheat supplies. Maybe scientists will come up with a treatment before is spreads too far, maybe its virulence is over-rated. Maybe what looks like a global food threat will evaporate. Or maybe this time we won’t dodge the bullet.

– Remember that most of the wheat grown in the advanced nations consists of mono-culture plantings which are vulnerable, en masse, to problems like this.

– But the point is that as we, humanity, work our way into ever narrower and narrower corners pushing to our consumption patterns to the edge or beyond the edge of sustainability, sooner or later one of these nascent disasters will manifest. And, like a house of cards, the many delicate systematic dependencies we all rely on will begin to crumble like a house of cards.


Science Daily A new, highly destructive strain of wheat stem rust is continuing to evolve and has the potential to devastate wheat production worldwide, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society.


Stem rust of wheat was responsible for massive epidemics on wheat during the early 20th Century in North America. In the mid-1950s, wheat breeders developed wheat that had genetic resistance to the disease, making it all but disappear. Despite this success, a new, virulent strain of wheat stem rust, Ug99, evolved in Uganda and has already spread into Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen, with the potential to spread into Pakistan, India, and China, and eventually North America.

Wheat Stem Rust

“This new race could attack wheat varieties in many countries and could virtually overcome most of the wheat resistant varieties around the globe,” said David Marshall, research leader with the USDA-ARS, Raleigh, NC.

According to Marshall, if this new strain were to reach regions at risk, it could create epidemics more severe than farmers have encountered in decades and destroy farmers’ harvests in wheat-producing areas worldwide.


3 Responses to “Plant Pathologists Fighting Global Threat To Wheat Supply”

  1. David says:

    The spread of Ug99 and strategies to combat this are highlighted in a blog post
    Dangerous rust puts strain on food security, based on an article, “Current status, likely migration and strategies to mitigate the threat to wheat production from race Ug99 (TTKS) of stem rust pathogen”, by Ravi P. Singh, David P. Hodson, Yue Jin, Julio Huerta-Espino, Miriam G. Kinyua, Ruth Wanyera, Peter Njau and Rick W. Ward, appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 2006 1, No. 54.

  2. Kenda says:

    The image above showing wheat stem rust is impressive. Do you have information for where this was initially published and/or who the photographer for this image it? I would like to get a copy of this photograph.

    Thanks in advance!

  3. Dennis says:

    Kenda, check out the following address:

    I found the image there by searching Google for “Wheat Stem Rust” and then looking at the Google images associated with that phrase.