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Wheat Rust Diseases Global Programme 2014–2017

Wheat Rust Diseases Global Programme 2014–2017
Jun 2014

Wheat is a source of food and livelihoods for over 1 billion people in developing countries. A major staple food crop in many countries, it is an important source of nutrition, providing on average 40 percent of per capita calorie intake.

Drought, floods and diseases severely affect wheat production. Exacerbated by climatic stress, especially in rainfed areas, the impact of wheat diseases is expected to increase.

During the past decade a number of virulent strains of wheat rust diseases have emerged, causing global concerns to wheat production. The wheat stem rust race Ug99 is highly virulent on the majority of world wheat varieties – the risk that it could cause a global epidemic is real. Ug99 is well established in East Africa and Yemen and has spread to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2010 and 2013, a new, virulent strain of yellow rust, Yr27, has caused severe outbreaks and losses in many countries in North and East Africa, the Near East and South Asia. Due to ever changing genetics of these pathogens they need to be monitored continuously.

Wheat production in Northern and Eastern Africa, the Near East and West, Central and South Asia is vulnerable to rust diseases. These regions account for around 37 percent of global wheat production. The cost of a 10 percent loss in areas at risk is estimated to exceed USD 5.8 billion. The impact on food and nutrition security is estimable. To combat wheat rust diseases continuous surveillance as well as a programmatic management approach are essential.

Considering these challenges, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the Wheat Rust Diseases Global Programme in 2008.

The second phase of the programme (2014-2017) builds on the lessons learned and experience gained thus far. It places specific emphasis on strengthening national surveillance and disease management capacities as well as improved regional and international collaboration and information sharing.

The goal of the programme is to contribute to global food security through the prevention and management of emerging wheat rust diseases and sustainable enhancement of wheat productivity. The two outcomes of activities undertaking will be:

  • improved awareness level and surveillance, preparedness and response capacity of the countries;
  • improved prevention and integrated management of wheat rust diseases at the field level.

The programme proposes six outputs relating to:

  • support to national policy development and contingency planning;
  • enhancement of surveillance and early warning systems;
  • enhancement of national wheat variety registration processes for release and promotion of resistant varieties;
  • enhancement of seed systems for quick multiplication and distribution of quality seeds of resistant varieties;
  • improvement of wheat rust management at the field level through participatory farmer training to minimize risks and improve yields under local farming conditions;
  • enhancement of regional and international collaborations to promote lesson learning and minimize the risk of spread of rust diseases.

The programme covers 32 countries in Northern and Eastern Africa and the Near East as well as in West, Central and South Asia. It involves countries already affected or those at risk of wheat rust diseases. The total budget required for the complete implementation of the four-year programme is estimated at USD 48 million.

The programme reinforces and complements the activities of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, FAO’s Strategic Framework and national institutions. Through this four-year programme, FAO aims to further support the efforts of national governments and the international community to sustainably manage and prevent wheat rust epidemics and crises.

Programme activities are implemented in close collaboration and partnership with national governments, International Agricultural Research Centres and other international institutions, such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the International Atomic Energy Agency.