Tackling wheat diseases through integrated pest management

The SARD-SC wheat commodity value chain is leaving no stone unturned to tackle common diseases affecting wheat harvests in target  countries. Currently, researchers are working to protect valuable wheat harvests against diseases, pests, and parasites by testing and validating Integrated Pest Management (IPM) packages in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

Wheat crop diseases are a major threat to grain production and food security across sub-Saharan Africa and harvests are constantly spoiled by diseases such as stripe (yellow) rust, which destroyed up to 80% of Ethiopia’s crops in 2010. Stripe rust also damages the country’s wheat production in the cooler highlands, and stem rust, as well as leaf rust, is a major threat in warmer areas.

In response to this threat, the SARD‑SC program is committed to developing IPM solutions, which combine practical and environmentally-friendly methods to control disease and prevent the spread of pest populations that damage crops.

IPM concentrates on using cultural and biological interventions. Pesticides are seldom used, and only in a targeted manner. But if alternative methods have been exhausted, and the cost of using these chemicals is not too much, and there is no threat to existing agro-ecosystems, pesticides may be employed.

In Ethiopia, a major IPM effort is being made by breeders and pathologists to diversify the gene pool by bringing in breeding materials developed in nurseries from the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) as well as other respected sources.

SARD‑SC is educating farmers on the advantages of diversifying the varieties of wheat being grown and avoiding planting the same genotypes over large areas. Also breeding material and nurseries are continuously evaluated for prevailing and new strains of pathogens and efforts are made to introduce wheat genes from other regions that are resistant to these diseases.

In Sudan, 1,900 bread and durum wheat lines have been tested for resistance to diseases and about 14% of them have showed some resistance to stem rust, while more than 44% showed resistance to leaf rust.

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