Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Debts of the World: New Wheat Fungus Has Potential To Destroy Crops

A bit sensationalist - by the time you read something like this the commercials have already digested the raw data. I will believe it when the USDA starts issuing press releases and the agronomists start cracking on fumigators. Still, it is a tail event. After all, as I have been saying for weeks here, the weather in the US has been unusually wet. But for a fungal strain to be transmitted in any meaningful quantity requires infected strains to be imported w/in a nation's borders.

I advise readers to watch Russia closely - the projected bumper crops of the Eurasian breadbasket could be negatively affected through the Black Sea corridor (grain barges in transit through Turkey and docking in Ukraine - Russia is landlocked but retains access to the Black Sea b/c of long term leases w/their former client state).

The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust, could wipe out more than 80% of the world's wheat as it spreads from Africa, scientists fear. The race is on to breed resistant plants before it reaches the U.S.

Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America -- if it doesn't hitch a ride with people first.

"It's a time bomb," said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it's going to be here. It's a matter of how long it's going to take."

Though most Americans have never heard of it, Ug99 -- a type of fungus called stem rust because it produces reddish-brown flakes on plant stalks -- is the No. 1 threat to the world's most widely grown crop.
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