Wheat Rust Surveillance in Ethiopia

Reducing the Global Threat of Wheat Stem Rust

In response to 2013 and 2014 wheat stem rust epidemics in Ethiopia, a new collaborative research and education team formed to study the biology and control of new, dangerous forms of the wheat stem rust pathogen that emerged in East Africa and other parts of the world and to provide Ethiopian scientists and farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to successfully combat wheat stem rust. The Stakman-Borlaug Center plays key efforts in supporting research and capacity building efforts through organizational efforts, organization of training programs and execution of communications.

In February of 2015, the SBC organized and hosted the official launch of the Rust Surveillance and Warning component of the project “Seed multiplication and delivery of high-yielding rust resistant bread and durum wheat varieties to Ethiopian farmers”. This project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), includes scientists from the University of Minnesota (UMN), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture (EIAR), and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Dr. Matt Rouse, Dr. Yue Jin, and Dr. Les Szabo serve as the project leaders at the University of Minnesota and USDA-ARS and the overall project is led by CIMMYT. Research to date has revealed that the epidemic in Ethiopia was caused by a new race of wheat rust fungus (TKTTF). The project also identified a new resistant cultivar, released for widespread agricultural use by EAIR in 2015.

The SBC plays a critical role in the training of future scientists and the expansion of global research capacity. In November of 2015, the SBC coordinated training workshops for Ethiopian scientists. Plant Pathology Professor Ruth Dill-Macky and Plant Pathology Research Associate Dr. Pablo Olivera traveled to Ethiopia to lead research workshops on wheat stem, leaf, and stripe rust, Fusarium head blight and septoria leaf blotch. Approximately twenty-five Ethiopian Junior Scientists participated in the theoretical and practical training on wheat pathology and breeding. Back home in Saint Paul, the SBC periodically facilitates a 6-week rust-phenotyping course for international researchers, taught by Dr. Pablo Olivera. During the course, participants gain hands-on experience identifying various wheat rust phenotypes.