“Ug99 is not an immediate threat to India’s crops” – Scientist Ronnie Coffman
As per noted scientist Ronnie Coffman from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University (US), India does not face any immediate threat from the Ug99 wheat rust disease that hits the stem of a wheat plant. However it has to be prepared.
What is Ug99?
Ug99 is a lineage of wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici), which is present in wheat fields in several countries in Africa and the Middle East and is predicted to spread rapidly through these regions and possibly further afield, potentially causing a wheat production disaster that would affect food security worldwide. It can cause up to 100% crop losses and is virulent against many resistance genes which have previously protected wheat against stem rust.
So far the Indian sub-continent had been safe. If the disease were to hit Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, it would hurt wheat availability around the globe. The spread of the wind-blown disease would depend on the west-east air flow pattern.
What are the possible remedies to tackle Ug99?
India, which has been one of the biggest sources of providing plant material for developing rust resistant varieties for the world, may use its rust resistant varieties of wheat to replace the wheat which is vulnerable to Ug99. Furthermore, the disease can be kept under control by surveillance and fungicide sprays with full participation of farmers.
What is the status of Wheat production in India?
The wheat production in India is steadily increasing and currently it is preparing to boost its output to a record level of 100 million tonnes in 2015. India is the second largest wheat producer and consumer in the world. In 2012-13, the country produced 92.46 million tonnes of wheat. This is 13.2% of the world’s production.