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Wheat blast spread to cut global production 13%

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The spread of the fungal disease wheat blast could reduce global wheat production by 13 per cent until 2050 posing a dramatic threat to global food security.

According to the predictions, up to 75 per cent of the area under wheat cultivation in Africa could be at risk in the future. The fungus is also penetrating countries that were previously untouched in East Africa.

With a global cultivation area of 222 million hectares and a harvest volume of 779 million tons, wheat is an essential food crop. 

Like all plant species, it is also struggling with diseases that are spreading more rapidly compared to a few years ago because of climate change. 

One of these is wheat blast. In warm, humid regions, the fungus has become a serious threat to wheat production since it was first observed in 1985 in Brazil from where it spread to neighboring countries. 

In drier conditions with more frequent periods of heat above 35°C, the risk of wheat blast may also decrease. However, in these cases, heat stress decreases yield potential.

The affected regions are among the areas most severely impacted by the direct consequences of climate change. Food insecurity is already a significant challenge in these areas and the demand for wheat continues to rise, especially in urban areas. In many regions, farmers will have to switch to more robust crops such as maize to avoid crop failures and financial losses.

Another important strategy against future yield losses is breeding wheat blast-resistant varieties to help mitigate the effect of wheat blast. 

With the right sowing date, wheat blast-promoting conditions can be avoided during the ear emergence phase. Combined with other measures, this has proven to be successful. In more specific terms, this means avoiding early sowing and late sowing.

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Poor wheat growing techniques lead to low yields by Kenyan farmers

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