First Published: 2010-08-12

 

Wheat rust infection fears in Iraq

 

More than one tenth of Iraq’s 2009-2010 wheat crop feared infected by killer fungus.

 

Middle East Online

Iraq consumed about 5 million tons of wheat this year

BAGHDAD - More than a tenth of Iraq’s 2009-2010 wheat crop has been infected by a killer fungus, according to authorities.

While the strain of wheat rust is not as virulent as the mutant Ug99, infection rates have climbed steeply since last year because of warmer weather and higher temperatures, said Hameed Mohammed Jawad, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s crops protection department.

“We don’t have a final percentage for the damage wheat rust caused last season, but preliminary information indicates it hit at least 10-15 percent of Iraq’s wheat crops,” he added.

Wheat stem rust, also known as wheat black rust, can destroy entire fields and even whole crops. The pathogen enters the stems of the plant and destroys the vascular tissue. There are three types of rust that can harm wheat, but stem rust, of which Ug99 is a variant, is the most feared as few wheat varieties have any resistance to it.

Ug99 was discovered in Uganda in 1999 and soon spread to Kenya and Ethiopia before travelling over the Red Sea in 2006 to Yemen, where it appeared in a more deadly form. In 2007 it blew into Iran. Another mutation was discovered in South Africa in 2009 and four more forms were discovered by scientists in June 2010.

Twenty-six countries are on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) danger list for Ug99, posing a significant threat to one third of global wheat production - not welcome news at a time when 2010 global wheat harvest projections are down sharply on 2009 mainly because of the likelihood of poor harvests in Russia and Eastern Europe.

“We are not sure yet if the new strain of Ug99 has hit Iraq or not,” said Jawad. “We know that it reached Syria, Saudi Arabia and some Iranian areas near the border with Iraq but we’re not sure yet if it passed through Iran to Iraq or not.”

He said that Iraq had recently sent samples of its wheat varieties to a FAO-run lab in Kenya to determine their possible susceptibility to the new strain of Ug99.

He also said that over the past two years his ministry had worked on a survey of all wheat-growing areas in Iraq to determine the scale of the milder wheat rust infection in the country. The survey was completed in May but the results will not be ready until 2011.

Increased wheat production

Despite wheat rust infections, Iraq’s 2009-2010 wheat production (2.75 million tons) was 61.7 percent more than its 2008-2009 production (1.7 million tons), according to Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi, spokesperson for the Planning Ministry’s Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology. The wheat season typically begins in late September or early October and ends in late April or early May.

“The reasons behind this increase were the government’s issuance of equipment, good seeds, fertilizers and loans to farmers, in addition to helping them drill wells,” Al-Hindawi said.

The northern province of Nineva was the most productive area with a contribution of 25 percent of the country’s harvest; second was nearby Ta’amim Province with 13 percent; and third was the southern province of Wasit with 11 percent, al-Hindawi said.

According to Agriculture Ministry figures released early this year, the country’s wheat consumption is estimated to be 4.5-5 million tons this year. Imports will help meet the gap.

© IRIN

 

Gunmen kidnap 17 Turks in Iraq capital

US carries out secret drone campaign in Syria

Netanyahu threatens to shoot stone-throwers

Car bomb kills 10 in Syria regime bastion Latakia

White House wins enough Senate support for Iran deal

Suicide bombers hit Shiite mosque in Yemen capital: witnesses

David Petraeus: Use Al-Qaeda fighters to battle IS

12 Syrian migrants die off Turkish coast

Saudi top cleric slams Iran prophet movie

Iran police to confiscate cars of 'poorly veiled' women

Libya's Tripoli authorities undecided on joining peace talks

Lebanon protesters escalate “You Stink” campaign

Turkey transfers British reporters to new jail

Two Yemeni Red Cross staff killed

Qatar to begin enforcing key labour reform law from November

Syria war takes its toll on heritage riches

Turkey government says it 'had no role' in reporters' arrest

IS claims Tripoli car bomb near oil firm

Dispute with Israel government keeps Christian schools shut

Kuwait charges 24 'linked to Iran' with plotting attacks

Turkey police raid anti-Erdogan media group after British reporters jailed

New Turkey caretaker government holds first meeting

Dozens of Lebanon protesters occupy environment ministry

Shebab attack Somalia AU base

Will Erdogan's political gamble solve Turkey poll impasse?

UN confirms Palmyra temple destroyed

Over 10,000 Icelanders ready to welcome Syrians

Libya loyalist forces battle IS jihadists in Benghazi

South Sudan peace deal in jeopardy

Pressure builds on Europe as refugee crisis exposes splits

Israel confirms jail for Druze ex-MP over visit to Syria

Egypt much delayed elections to start on October 17

Palmyra temple appears ‘largely intact’ after ISIS blast

Turkey to offer cash rewards for tips on ‘terrorists’

Yemen children's hospital on the verge of shutting down

In gruesome video, ISIS shows burning alive of Iraq Shiite fighters

Four years after famine, situation in Somalia remains alarming

A year on, recapture of Yazidi hub remains a distant prospect

IS jihadists move closer than ever to central Damascus

EU leaders call for action to defend migrants’ 'dignity'

IS blows up parts of famed Palmyra temple

Deadly fire at housing complex of Aramco in Saudi Arabia

In historic first, Saudi Arabia allows women to run in local elections

Israel repels protesters with tear gas at separation barrier in West Bank

ISIS brutality in Syria: Over 90 people executed in one month