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Researchers Discuss Wheat Rust Concerns, Links to Climate Change

20 April 2011: Researchers from 31 countries meeting at an international symposium raised concerns about the increased vulnerability of wheat production in many countries to new varieties of stem rust, which could lead to epidemics threatening regional food security and rural livelihoods, as well as further increases in global food prices.

Hosted by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICRADA) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), among other institutions, the International Wheat Strip Rust Symposium was held from 18-20 April 2011, in Aleppo, Syria.

The Symposium aimed to review the current status of wheat stripe rust epidemics, which have had severe effects on crop yields in Central and West Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa in recent years. Participants explored opportunities for further regional and international cooperation and for resource mobilization, as well as ways to promote sharing of experience and approaches in managing wheat rust through breeding and control strategies.

Participants stressed the link between rising temperatures and increasing variability of rainfall, and the spread and severity of rust diseases. Challenging policy makers to invest more heavily in agricultural research, they noted that country preparedness for outbreaks of wheat rust requires resistant varieties that are known to and accepted by farmers, sufficient quality seeds of those varieties for farmers to use, and affordable and effective fungicides and capacity of farmers to use them.

Participants stated that the use of resistant varieties requires local capacity and the ability of national programmes to rapidly multiply seeds and deliver them to the market. They called for improved country capacity based on long-term planning and  funding, and for improved involvement of farmers in the variety selection process. [ICARDA Press Release] [Symposium Website]