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.
The spores arrived from Kenya on dried, infected leaves ensconced in layers of envelopes.
Working inside a bio-secure greenhouse outfitted with motion detectors and surveillance cameras, government scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., suspended the fungal spores in a light mineral oil and sprayed them onto thousands of healthy wheat plants. After two weeks, the stalks were covered with deadly reddish blisters characteristic of the scourge known as Ug99.Nearly all the plants were goners.
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.”
My comment: Something else to watch with respect to the agricultural markets. I am reminded of what Don Coxe has said many times. The world has had over a decade of excellent harvests and that we are overdue for a crop failure. This is in addition to the fact that grain carryover stocks are at generational lows and you now know why I am still bullish on agriculture going forward. I am not going to fear monger and say this fungus will over run the world because I am not a scientist. However everytime there is a crop failure somewhere the price of these grains will head higher. If there was an 80% wheat crop failure there would be famine in the world.