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Scientists Meet to Discuss Wheat Rust Epidemic

20 April 2011

SYRIA - More than 100 scientists from 31 countries are gathering on 18-20 April in a special international meeting in Aleppo, Syria, to develop strategies to prevent an epidemic of the wheat rust disease that threatens food security in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucuses North Africa and South Asia.

Scientists will meet with policy makers at the International Wheat Stripe Rust Symposium at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to share experiences, examine strategies and approaches to managing wheat rust. They will explore the latest research developments that can benefit wheat farmers and consumers in the region.

Countries will exchange experiences of the impact of wheat rust diseases, successes in national wheat breeding, seed multiplication, and control strategies â€" from Ethiopia, Iran, Morocco, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. "In the past year, aggressive new strains of stripe rust have decimated up to 40% of farmers' fields in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya, causing loss of income for farmers and their families," said Mahmoud Solh, Director General of ICARDA. "This strain of rust could cause major problems of food insecurity in our region."

Ronnie Coffman, the Vice-Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), an international consortium on rust diseases of wheat, said, "This crisis is an opportunity to link scientific innovation with the needs of farmers by introducing new varieties of wheat that are resistant to two of the major rusts that infect wheat: stripe rust and stem rust."

According to Hans Braun, the Director of the wheat project at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), "The potential wheat rust epidemic illustrates the fragility of today's food security situation for many countries: crop diseases are emerging more frequently and spreading much faster."

At the meeting, scientists and policymakers will explore long-term solutions to fighting rust. These include sustained investment in research on rust-resistant wheat varieties, rust surveillance and monitoring, and crop diversity strategies to slow the progress of rust across large areas.

TheCropSite News Desk

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