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Fighting for Food Security: Experts Gather to Battle Wheat Rust

By Linda McCandless

A wheat plague from biblical times has reemerged anew and scientists now find themselves fighting an aggressive wheat stem rust type, Ug99, that threatens to destroy vast amounts of the world's wheat crops. With wheat being one of the world’s most important primary staple food crops, representing approximately 30% of the world’s production of grain crops, Ug99 represents a real threat to global food security.

In April, 2008, Cornell received a three-year $26.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch a broad-based global partnership, the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project, to battle this potentially devastating fungal disease.

In March 2009, these leading wheat experts from 16 partner institutions and 13 countries gathered in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, at the invitation of Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug, to share technical information on Ug99 and new developments in resistant wheat varieties.

For more information on Ug99, visit and keep up with the status and potential spread of Ug99 or derivatives at RustMapper (requires Google Earth).