Researchers discover origin of deadly wheat virus

Researchers discover origin of deadly wheat virus

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A team of international researchers from South Africa, Australia and Minnesota have discovered the origin of a wheat pathogen that threatens the global food supply. 

The strain of fungus is called "Ug99" and was said to be a problem because of its ability to attack most wheat varieties around the world. It was first discovered in 1998 in Uganda and spread through Africa and the Middle East a year later. 

Researchers determined the pathogen traced to two different rust strains fusing together and exchanging intact nuclei. This hybrid strange is a rarely seen occurrence.

"The more you know your enemy, the more equipped you are to fight against it. Knowing how these pathogens came about means we can better predict how they are likely to change in the future," Dr. Melania Figueroa said. "This discovery also means that we can better identify the resistance genes, which can be bred into wheat varieties to give crops long-lasting protection against rust."

"As plant scientists, we are always looking for an advantage over stem rust in order to develop more durably resistant crops. The data obtained from this study will provide us with new insights on how Ug99 emerged to threaten wheat across the world," Dr. Feng Li added. 

This new information will also help researchers monitor the global movement of the pathogen. 

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