It has recently been reported by experts that a fungal disease is threatening to destroy wheat. Researchers in both Europe and Africa have been frantically racing to develop a resistant grain variety to try and halt the likely spread of the air borne spread of the fungus across continents.

Scientists have warned, “Wheat is facing a serious threat from a fungal disease that could wipe out the world’s crop if not quickly contained. Wheat rust, a devastating disease known as the “polio of agriculture”, has spread from Africa to South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with calamitous losses for the world’s second most important grain crop, after rice. There is mounting concern at the dangers posed to global food security.”

However, this isn’t the first time the world has been threatened by a major epidemic. The last one was in Uganda in 1999, where it was discovered that the outbreak was caused by a virulent mutation of the fungus. The main concern is the speed in which mutations have developed and spread to other continents.

Yet, since the last reported outbreak, other smaller outbreaks have taken place. And they seem to be more and more frequent, with Germany reporting its first stem rust outbreak in more than fifty years. The reasons for the outbreak as explained by Kerstin Flath, the representative of the Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants in Germany, is because of unusually high temperatures and abnormally late development of the wheat crop “due to cold spring and early summer temperature”.

Fazil Dusunceli, of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned, “Countries need to react quickly to counter the new fungal varieties. Production of new seed varieties is critical. Developed countries have well-established institutions, programmes and capacities that developing countries lack. The developing countries are not sufficiently prepared to fight against these diseases and so when epidemics occur they encounter significant losses”.

What are the main reasons behind this outbreak?

According to scientists, climate change is partly behind this threat. They claim that, the aggressive spread of two forms of the fungus is widely believed to be linked to its rapid adaptation to warmer conditions.

It is not only the threat to wheat, there are other implications to. The most common are pests and diseases. They will be costing farmers millions in lost production, including adverse weather conditions. There are no easy solutions to the problem. Year by year, and day by day we see many problems regarding the cultivating of crops on our lands, and they are only going to get worse than better.

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