The Agricultural Research Service is committed to global efforts combating wheat rust diseases threatening US crops and food supplies. Wheat rust is a fungus that can also infect barely and rye. An especially tough strain, Ug99, was discovered in in Uganda in 1999. Ug99 is a threat to up to 80% of the global wheat supply, including the US crop. It is highly contagious, and spreads quickly through the air.
US scientists are searching for wheat strains naturally resistant to Ug99 and other critical plant diseases. These resistant varieties can then be crossed with local varieties, making them resistant when Ug99 moves in. The research effort already discovered resistant plants, and testing crosses to see if they are as productive as current varieties is underway.