New funding will help develop wheat varieties resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease
A windfall of US$40 million to fund global research on a deadly strain of wheat rust that is threatening the world's wheat supply was announced yesterday by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
It is part of a new collaboration between the two organisations that will see US$102 million invested into agricultural research and the rollout of technologies to small farmers to help manage crop diseases and food security over the next five years.
Cornell University in the United States will receive US$25 million from the foundation and US$15 million from DFID over five years, for research on wheat varieties resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease such as Ug99 which, began in Uganda and is spreading. It is now found in Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Sudan, and Yemen.
"Against the backdrop of rising food prices and wheat in particular, researchers worldwide will be able to play an increasingly vital role in protecting wheat fields from dangerous new forms of stem rust," said Ronnie Coffman, principal investigator at Cornell's Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project.
DRRW, led by Cornell, involves 18 universities and research institutes around the world including national research centres in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas in Syria and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
It also collaborates with scientists and farmers in 40 countries where new stem rust resistant varieties have been distributed for testing and evaluation.
Andrew Bennett, president of the Tropical Agricultural Association, told SciDev.Net: "There is a need to move very quickly. Rusts like Ug99 mutate fast and are carried on the wind. Ug99 has already arrived in Iran and it is not a great distance to get to Pakistan and India, the bread basket of South Asia. It is very important that resistant material is not only developed but deployed."
Leaf and stripe (yellow) rust also threaten wheat crops. But virulent stem rusts such as Ug99 are the most feared because they can quickly lead to the loss of an entire harvest.
The Global Cereal Rust Monitoring System at the FAO in Rome suggests that Ug99 variants are also threatening major wheat-growing areas of southern and eastern Africa, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, North America and Australia.
George Rothschild, chair of the European Forum for Agricultural Research for Development (EFARD) and a former head of the International Rice Research Institute, told SciDev.Net: "It is an exciting initiative to see substantial resources going into this research at a time when resources are very, very tight."
But he warned that such plant diseases tend to evolve rapidly, because there is a need for a broad range of rust-resistant wheat varieties, both traditional and genetically engineered.
Scientists and policymakers "must make sure they don't end up with a dominant variety or one strain" which would accelerate the development of resistance.
"Getting resistant crops out there is very important but in doing that it is vital that farmers do not give up their traditional varieties. The traditional varieties can be used as basis to cross-breed using the resistant genes to get the anti-rust properties in," Rothschild said.
Andrew Bennett is the chair of SciDev.Net's board of trustees.
Nagib Nassar,Universidade Brasilia,Brasil ( Brazil )
28 February 2011
A good initiation, but there is a lot to comment!! What about bread of poor people around the tropics and subtropics ... Cassava!! Always neglected in the same way poor people are in this world, reserved only for rich in the North !! There are millions of poor people suffer of hunger, but nobody is found in this situation in countries where wheat planted and consumed. In the worst hypothesis wheat consumers loose few calories, and eat less fine bread that may be mixed with other cereals flour.
While wheat reached maximum to improve in productivity, cassava still produces less than a third of its capacity. If very few millions of the referred to amount had been available to those neglected and forgotten groups of research in Brazil , it would certainly boost production of this poor people crop. With few thousands of dollars it had been transformed to a nutritive, high protein and vitamin crop. Imagine if some of these provisions been available.
erich ( United States of America )
28 February 2011
Work from Brazil is also showing solutions for Big as well as small scale agriculture
Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel. The unintended consequence has been the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now realized the consequences and developed a more encompassing wisdom.
Modern Agriculture has evolved in the ability to remove the limitations to plant growth, from burning forest for ash fertilizers, to bison bones, to Guano islands, then in 1913, to crafty Germans figuring out how to suck nitrogen from the air to now with natural gas derived fertilizers. These chemical fertilizers have over come nutrient limits to growth for 100 years.
NPK and the "Green Revolution" in genetics have brought us to where we are, all made possible by basically mining soil carbon stocks. So we have now hit a carbon limit in two distinct ways. The first is continued loss of soil carbon content, the second is fossil carbon energy cost. The present farming system spends ten cents of fossil energy delivering one cent of food energy.
We can not go back, but we can go forward with our newly acquired wisdom. Wise land management, conservation agriculture and afforestation can build back our soil carbon, Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, (living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.
We can rectify the carbon cycle, and beyond that, biochar systems serve the same healing function for the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, toxicity in soils and sediments and as a feed additive cut the carbon foot print of livestock by 50%.
US Focused Biochar report
Job Ebenezer ( Technology for the Poor | United States of America )
15 March 2011
I hope a part of this grant is used for growing more vegetables. From my visit to three African countries I noticed poor Africans eat very little vegetables. In order to remedy this situation, I use container and vertical gardens which can be set up for no cost at all and produce good vegetables. Interested persons may visit:http://www.cityfarmer.info/2011/01/12/job-s-ebenezer-and-technology-for-the-poor/
These techniques are simple and can be used in urban gardening. Landless poor can use discarded containers and set up vertical gardens to increase their vegetable production. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Job S. Ebenezer, Ph.D.
Technology for the Poor
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