To counter the resurgence of wheat stem rust originating in neighboring Uganda, Kenyan plant breeders have introduced two new varieties resistant to this yield-robbing disease. The varieties were developed using a nuclear technique for crop improvement known as mutation breeding.
By exposing seeds or plant tissues to radiation, scientists accelerate the natural process of mutation and are able to select and develop new varieties more quickly. This process was supported by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency and Food and Agriculture Organization.
The two Kenyan varieties are resistant to Ug99, the wheat stem rust fungus that has moved from Africa to the Middle East by the wind and can destroy almost all of a wheat crop if not prevented.
Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said that wheat rusts are a major threat to food security, and called this international project a “major breakthrough,” showing the benefits of FAO/IAEA cooperation. For more about this development, visit http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196127/icode/.