Global effort to fight wheat rust

April 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Scientists, research managers, policy makers and donors from 31 countries have outlined steps to combat stripe (yellow) rust, perhaps the world’s most widespread wheat disease. A virulent new strain of the disease has caused massive epidemics in at least nine countries in the past two years, reducing wheat harvests by up to 40% in affected areas.

Opening session of the symposium. Left to right: Dr Ronnie Coffman, Vice Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative; Dr Wafaa Khouri, Agricultural Officer, FAO; Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General; Dr Hans-Joachim Braun, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program; and Dr Maarten van Ginkel, ICARDA’s Deputy Director General – Research

The International Wheat Stripe Rust Symposium, held at ICARDA headquarters, 18-20 April, warned that global food security could be severely threatened by future epidemics, and that the CWANA region (Central and West Asia and North Africa) was particularly vulnerable. The symposium was organized by ICARDA, with support from FAO, IDRC, AARINENA, the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, IFAD and CIMMYT.

Symposium participants visit field trials at ICARDA’s Tel Hadya research station

It sought to:

  • Share information on the current status of wheat stripe rust epidemics and control efforts
  • Develop an integrated approach for disease prevention and control
  • Identify investment, research and capacity building gaps, as well as complementarities among national wheat research programs.

Introductory presentations provided regional and global overviews. Dr Robert MacIntosh, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney, delivered the keynote address. This was followed by a series of technical presentations on different aspects, including detailed country status reports.

Two stalwarts of rust research: Dr Robert MacIntosh, pathologist (left) and Dr Sanjay Rajaram, breeder

“Stripe rust does not respect national borders,” said Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General. “No one single country or organization can control the disease on its own – regional and international cooperation is vital.”

The conference culminated in the Aleppo Declaration, which calls for coordinated action to combat stripe rust, as well as other rust diseases such as stem rust, that could be potentially even more damaging. The Declaration calls for urgent replacement of susceptible varieties, establishment of epidemic forecasting systems, investment in building national R&D capacity, and other measures. Participants agreed that follow-up actions would be coordinated by a group led by ICARDA, with the involvement of BGRI, CIMMYT, FAO and national research programs in the countries most affected by stripe rust. For more details, see the conference website

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  1. The focus given to yellow rust is good. But it is good that the recommendations/presentations of the symposium reach to the wider international research and development community to be on the same foot with others.

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