Local wheat infected, government denies findings [Archives:2007/1018/Local News]

January 22 2007

SANA' Jan, 21 ) A new form of stem rust, a virulent wheat disease, has jumped from eastern Africa and is now infecting local wheat, according to a scientific study.

The study, conducted by researchers with the Global Rust Initiative and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, confirmed conclusively the existence of the wheat disease in Yemen. There is also evidence that the disease has spread into Sudan, but more tests are needed to confirm the finding. This strain of stem rust, now called Ug99, was found in Uganda in 1999, and it has since spread to Kenya and Ethiopia. It is thought to have the potential to seriously damage wheat production. The disease has overcome resistance in wheat offered by the commonly deployed Sr31 gene.

The study warned that this disease could easily spread to the vast wheat-growing areas of North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and India. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, countries in the predicted, immediate pathway grow about 25 percent of the Earth's wheat.

However, Abdullah Al-Siani, official of plant quarantine in the Ministry of Agriculture denied any kind of wheat infection in Yemen saying that the ministry did not register any cases of wheat infection.