British wheat could be in danger as it is thought a strain of fungal disease could wipe out half of this year’s crop.
The ‘Warrior’ is a new and virulent variety of yellow rust and could have a "devastating" effect on our wheat, according to The Times. The disease forms ’rust’ on leaves and eventually chokes plants to death. It has been known to wipe out as much as 80% of crops it infects. The fungus thrives on dry, mild weather and already possesses some resistance to crop sprays.
An HGCA statement said that although diseases such as yellow rust do pose a “real threat” to wheat crops, many wheat varieties are resistant to many of them, including ‘Warrior’ types. However, resistance could easily be overcome by a new strain of the disease.
“For diseases like yellow rust, where plant disease resistance is based upon single resistance genes, there is a real threat that new races of the disease would be able to cause disease on previously resistant crop varieties – as we saw following the arrival of the Warrior race in 2011. However, we know that, of the 41 winter wheat varieties on the 2015/16 HGCA Recommended Lists (RL) for Cereals and Oilseeds, 21 are resistant to current UK yellow rust races, including ‘Warrior’ types.
“Therefore we’re confident that varieties with an RL yellow rust rating of 8 or 9 are resistant to the current ‘Warrior’ type isolates in the UK. However, as resistance is based on single genes, changes in the current disease population or the arrival of a new race from overseas could rapidly overcome this resistance.”