Scientists in Kenya are taking part in a complicated and long-lasting global fight against Ug99, a fungal disease called 'wheat rust' that could destroy 80 percent of all known wheat varieties.
Plant scientists Peter Njao and Ruth Wanyera said the fungal disease, which was thought to be under control, is back and could cause major problems if it isn't stopped in its tracks.
The big fear is that, under the right climate conditions, stem rust will spread further. In Kenya, wheat rust has been devastating for the farmers who use a few of their acres to grow the crop and earn some extra income.
Many farmers have had to apply costly chemicals to salvage their wheat crops, but not all farmers can afford to purchase the expensive fungicide.
In an attempt to find a solution, scientists are in Kenya's Rift Valley testing wheat varieties from around the world to find the most resistant strains.
Njao said about 10 percent of the experimental new varieties are showing good resistance to stem rust. But that's just the first step.
"There is still a number of stages to go. You need, after that, to do adaptation trials, seed multiplication and seed distribution to the farmers. Each one of that requires time. And that is what we are fighting with," he said.
Scientists in Minnesota are also trying to find a solution.
Brian Steffenson, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues are trying to create resistant wheat varieties by crossbreeding different varieties in hopes of hitting the right combination of genes and traits.
Back in Kenya, Bruce Nightingale has been trying a new variety developed by the Kenya Institute derived from a Brazilian species. He's cautious, but hopeful.
He said it's too soon to say, but, visually, they look very promising. And in the trials that we have seen, they looked to be more resistant against fungal infections, although not entirely resistant.
"Without the fungicide, there will be no wheat in this country and most other countries." - Bruce Nightingale, farmer.
1. What is a crop?
2. What is a fungus?
3. What is fungicide?
1. What is 'wheat rust'?
2. Why are scientists around the world trying to find a solution to control wheat rust?
3. What do you think would happen if 80 percent of all known wheat varieties were destroyed?
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