Njoro — After counting their losses for over a decade, wheat farmers in East Africa are looking forward to a brighter future now that new varieties developed by scientists have proven to be resistant to a devastating wheat disease, and are boosting yields into the bargain.
Known as Ug99, the fungal stem-rust disease thrives in warmer temperatures, and the spores can travel thousands of miles aided by wind, according to Peter Njau, a research scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).
As the name suggests, Ug99 was discovered in Uganda in the year 1999. It has since spread through Kenya to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, and across the Red Sea to Yemen and Iran, causing havoc for farmers along the way. There are fears the disease could reach India and other major wheat-producing countries in Asia.
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