On yellow (stripe) rust…

“Besides Ug99, Ethiopia has an outbreak of a different type of rust, yellow rust” also known as stripe rust. “Normally, that’s much less severe but it does reduce yields.

“In fact, there is a global problem with yellow rust. It’s also in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Plains. While its consequences are milder than Ug99, it’s economically important.

“We will be able to offer wheat varieties resistant to both yellow rust and stem rust.”

On funding for wheat disease research…

Funding concerns “are still on the front burner. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the USDA have partnered under a special arrangement to support the construction of a new greenhouse in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory.

“That’s a very positive development. The lab is a $4.5 million facility that will be used to evaluate isolates to determine if they’re a variant of Ug99.

“But funding is still a major problem. Generally, funding for agricultural research in the public sector is a tremendous problem. It has been declining for many years and it continues.

“We’re in a lot of jeopardy at our major agricultural universities. It’s very hard to obtain public funds for this kind of essential work.”

I understand the bread price in some African nations has already risen.

“Absolutely. Of course, there are a lot of factors that feed into prices. These kinds of diseases have the ability to affect production in a serious way – and, of course, yellow rust is already affecting production. If stem rust comes, it will definitely drive up prices. And (grain) prices are already at near-record levels.

“The price of food grains is extremely important. It affects the availability of basic food to the world’s poor. Just a small rise in the price of any of the important food grains, harms them all. They’re interdependent. So, the price of wheat and other grains is a big problem.

“North American farmers are pleased with the high prices and they deserve to make a good profit. But, worldwide, it’s very hard on poor people.”

A date you’re looking at for having the Ug99 issues addressed?

The rust initiative, “is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development  for the next five years. That’s $40 million coming from those two institutions, which we much appreciate.

“We certainly hope to achieve these goals by the end of the five years.”