MIDDLE EAST: Yellow Rust Epidemic Affects Regional Wheat Crops

Posted: July 27, 2010 in Middle East, natural disasters
Tags: , ,

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service
Commodity Intelligence Report June 10, 2010

Agricultural scientists at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) and the International Center for Agricultural Research for the Dry Areas (ICARDA) have reported that a major outbreak of a virulent new strain of yellow (stripe) rust has been identified in prime Middle Eastern wheat growing regions. The outbreak has reached epidemic proportions in Syria’s major grain producing provinces bordering Turkey and Iraq, with significant national crop losses expected.

Outbreaks have also been reported in central and southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, north, west and southern Iran, and in Lebanon. Outside the Middle East, yellow rust outbreaks have also been identified in Morocco, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan this year.

The current outbreak is primarily affecting soft bread wheat varieties, which form the backbone of the regions wheat crop. Hard wheat’s such as Durum are also grown in the region, but these varieties are a minority of total acreage. Scientists report that the new strain of yellow rust has plagued soft wheat crops that were previously resistant to the fungus owing to the incorporation of the gene Yr27. This implies that the majority of soft wheat grown in the region is under threat until newer resistant varieties are developed. The last major outbreak of yellow rust in the region was reported in the late 1980’s, resulting in a 21 percent reduction in regional wheat production.

Prior to the announcement of the current rust epidemic, wheat production in the Middle East was expected to rebound from several years of drought to a level of 41.1 million tons (an increase of 12 percent). The generally favorable environmental conditions which prevailed during the current winter growing season which would normally create bumper crop production potential, including above normal rainfall, mild winter temperatures, and lush crop growth, also apparently contributed to enhancing the spread of yellow rust and the severity of infection this season. Ideal meteorological conditions encouraged rapid development of yellow rust infections, massive spore production, and a lengthy period of time to infect regional crops.

http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2010/06/Middle%20East/

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