Canada to invest C$1.3M toward fighting wheat disease known as Ug99

OTTAWA , November 20, 2013 (press release) – Government of Canada researchers, led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Dr. Tom Fetch in Winnipeg, are making progress in combatting a potentially devastating wheat disease known as Ug99. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced today a $1.26 million investment under Growing Forward 2 in ongoing research, which builds on the $13 million the Government provided in 2009.

"The discoveries coming out of this research will protect farmers' livelihoods and help provide food security in Canada and around the world," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "As we continue to work more with industry through broad networks like the new wheat cluster and the Canadian Wheat Alliance, we will continue to produce public good research that will prove invaluable to the prosperity of the sector."

The research team has identified three genes providing resistance to Ug99. Molecular markers are being developed and will be useful in wheat breeding efforts. This additional funding will help scientists discover and genetically map these sources of resistance in the fight against the disease.

Ug99 is a wheat stem rust first discovered in Uganda in 1999. Crops from Africa to Western Asia are already being affected and an estimated 90% of global wheat varieties – including wheat grown in Canada – are susceptible to the disease.

Although Ug99 is not yet present in North America, AAFC scientists have been proactively working to not only protect Canada's wheat crops but also to help the global effort in protecting world wheat supplies. Through coordinated crossbreeding efforts, AAFC researchers will speed up the replacement of susceptible varieties with new varieties that are higher yielding and durably resistant to Ug99.

The AAFC team includes geneticists, pathologists and plant breeders from its research centres across the country. The goal is to incorporate resistance to Ug99 into Canadian wheat lines and ensure that new cultivars have at least two effective resistant genes to help prevent rust pathogens from adapting to the resistance.

The AAFC team also participates in international efforts to protect wheat crops from the disease, including the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). DRRW is an international effort that unites 23 research institutions studying all aspects of wheat rust - from pathology to variety development and distribution. The Government of Canada has provided seed of the resistant lines to wheat breeders at CIMMYT to develop improved local varieties in affected areas and in developing countries that are most at risk.

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