“What? No bread photo?” I hear you ask. “No photo of mill stones?”
This is in honour of Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist who discovered a gene that boosted wheat crop yields, and, more importantly, resisted P. graminis, the most severe form of the fungal infection that attacks and kills wheat. It is commonly called wheat rust. No photo because wheat rust is on the march again – in new and different forms that are difficult to fight and that travel widely. There is wheat rust now in many parts of Africa, including South Africa, and it has shown up in the Punjab – one of the worlds largest wheat growing areas. To give an idea, wheat rust periodically killed 20% of the US wheat harvest.
This is a problem because wheat is our most widely planted crop and accounts for 20% of the human calorie consumption on the planet. A resurgence of wheat rust – with the resultant destruction of acres and acres of the wheat crop – would surely lead to hugely inflated wheat prices and, ultimately, famine. The Economist magazine ran two interesting articles in the July 3 2010 issue which we should all read. No bread. No photo.
Is this a job for genetic engineering? Stay informed. Join the debate.