FAO: Wheat rust diseases remain constant but neglected threat
According to the report, especially yellow (stripe) rust has been damaging on susceptible varieties in some parts of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. A widespread epidemic similar to one in 2010 has nevertheless not occurred, thanks partly to the progressive introduction of resistant cultivars, chemical control and warming weather conditions.
However, in some locations disease severities increased to high levels requiring fungicide applications.
In Pakistan, there was a marked increase in reports of high (above 40 percent) and moderate (above 20 percent) severity for all three types of rust diseases, but the effects of yellow rust were most pronounced, appearing in 53% of the surveyed fields.
In Afghanistan, yellow rust appeared in the East, North and Northeast zones at the end of March. Incidence and severity increased on susceptible crops until the last week of April, but warmer weather is expected to curtail further disease spread.
In Morocco, stripe rust was widespread in almost in all areas: 40% of fields surveyed registered a 50% or more severity, requiring fungicide applications.
Prevention, early warning and rapid response key
Using resistant cultivars and early intervention are the key principles of controlling wheat rust diseases, but monitoring for rusts on the ground is typically weak and likewise the reporting times are slow in many countries.
In an effort to cut reporting times, Dusunceli says, FAO recently launched a pilot mobile phone surveillance system in Turkey, using smart phone and SMS reporting technology. A key point is the fact that the task of reporting has been assigned to agricultural extension officers, who in their daily work would normally be visiting wheat fields in each district on a regular basis.
“The information is now instantaneous,” says Dusunceli, “and it is now funneled directly into a database housed in the Agriculture Ministry. That data will give institutions the knowledge and early warning signs needed to react quickly.”
Wheat Rust Disease Global Programme and partnerships
FAO has been running a global programme since 2008 to provide policy and technical support to the concerned countries in collaboration with CIMMYT, ICARDA, IFAD and Cornell University in the context of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. Emphasis is placed on prevention, by encouraging the development and planting of resistant cultivars, use of certified seed, rapid seed multiplication, training of farmers, strengthening surveillance and emergency response capacities and international cooperation.