Notes to broadcasters on new wheat varieties

    | October 24, 2011

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    The Ug99 strain of stem rust has been spreading across Africa and the world since it was discovered in 1999. Ug99 can devastate fields, leaving farmers with little or no harvest. Fungicides provide some protection, but are expensive and often unaffordable for small-scale farmers. As a result, many farmers have abandoned growing wheat. Research institutes in Kenya and Ethiopia have been working hard to produce new varieties of wheat that are resistant to Ug99. The first varieties, named Eagle10 and Robin, will be available to farmers in Kenya in the coming months.

    The following UN Food and Agriculture Organization web pages track and report on stem rust generally:

    …and Ug99 in particular:

    Basic information on, and photos of, wheat stem rust can be found here:

    For more news reports, see:

    -Kenya: KARI Brings Wheat Threat Under Control

    -Plans to combat disease will boost sector

    Agfax interviewed Peter Njau, a plant breeder at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, on Ug99 in April 2011. The audio and transcripts are available here:

    FRW reported on the spread of Ug99 in July 2010:

    -Global: Stem rust returns to threaten wheat crops again (IPS, IRIN, The Economist)

    Farm Radio International has produced a number of scripts on pests and diseases in crops. For example:
    Understanding plant diseases (Package 72, Script 2, September 2004).
    Farmers try to beat a virulent disease (Package 81, Script 6, August 2007).

    If you broadcast to a region where farmers grow wheat, you could produce a story highlighting stem rust.
    -Is stem rust a disease that farmers know how to deal with?
    -Have they heard of Ug99, or reports of new strains of the disease?
    -How do they currently manage diseases in wheat?
    -Would they use fungicides to control rust? Are fungicides affordable?
    -If not, what would they do if they discovered stem rust in their fields?
    -How often do they check their wheat for signs of disease?