AGP - International Conference on Wheat Stem Rust Ug99


The new virulent strain of the wheat stem rust disease (Ug99) is now confirmed to occur in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran. The regions of the Near East, Eastern Africa and Central and South Asia are at immediate risk and they account for some 37% of global wheat production. In most countries of these regions, wheat is the staple food crop, providing on average some 40% of the per capita calorie supply, and is especially important in the diets of the poorest. This new rust strain is highly virulent to almost all wheat varieties grown in these regions and most wheat varieties around the world. The risk of it causing global epidemics is very real and could result in devastating yield losses. Fortunately, from the results of coordinated and harmonized wheat rust field surveys undertaken in several countries and reported in late 2008, there are no indication of further movement of Ug99 to new countries, probably due to the droughts occurring in wheat-growing areas in Iran and some countries of Eastern Africa.

FAO and the Government of India organized the International Conference on Wheat Stem Rust Ug99 - A Threat to Food Security in New Delhi from 6 to 8 November 2008 to raise awareness on the current status of Ug99 and wheat rust threats and promote global knowledge sharing. The conference was attended by over 170 participants from 33 countries. Major participating organizations included FAO, ICAR, CIMMYT, ICARDA, CSIRO and ACIAR (Australia), Cornell University, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  FAO sponsored the participation of over 60 delegates representing policy makers from the national plant protection, agricultural research and extension units and seed sectors from 30 countries.

The conference concluded with recommendations, a road map and a declaration approved by all participants, pledging to work together on capacity building, surveillance and monitoring, sharing of knowledge and technologies, and contingency planning. Another declaration on cooperation was also signed by the Ministers of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) whose meeting in Delhi overlapped with the International Conference on Wheat Stem Rust Ug99.

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