News last update:6 Aug 2012

Scientists warn of wheat disease Ug-99

Scientists say poorer populations in vulnerable countries are in trouble if a disease called Ug-99 hits yields hard enough to push up wheat prices. Ug-99 is a form of black stem rust that prevents wheat taking up nutrients and can wipe out whole harvests.

There is already a global wheat shortage and UN agencies are concerned about the impact of high food prices. Scientists at the John Innes Centre, inEngland, are trying to find wheat with a natural resistance to the disease.

They are testing a wide variety of native wheats from Asia and Africa to see if they can find natural resistance to the disease and breed new varieties from them. But this could take more than five years, by which time Ug-99 could already be causing wide spread harvest failure.

The UN World Food Programme has warned that the rise in basic food costs could continue until 2010 because of rising energy and grain prices. Some food prices rose 40% last year, and the WFP fears the world's poorest will buy less food, less nutritious food or be forced to rely on aid.

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John Innes Centre   

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