Washington State U Researcher Part of Global Wheat Rust Fight

Washington State U scientist to help in global fight against wheat rust.

Published on: Mar 30, 2011

Washington State University spring wheat breeder Michael Pumphrey is a team leader in a $40 million, global effort to combat UG99, an evolving wheat rust pathogen that poses a dangerous threat to the world food security.

He will head a group of 17 principal investigators for the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project led by Cornell University.

The United Kingdom's Department of International Development will contribute about $15 million to the project over the next five years; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle, Wash, will fund $25 million the effort.

"WSU's leadership role in this global effort speaks to the overall quality of plant science being conducted here," says Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean and director of the university's Agricultural Research Center.

"It is important work that could make a major difference in how we feed the world in years to come. And, what we learn as a result of this project will benefit our own wheat breeding efforts for Washington growers."

The project will focus on identifying new stem rust resistant genes in wheat, improving surveillance for the pathogen, and multiplying and distributing rust-resistant wheat seed to farmers."

Cornell University, national research centers in Kenya and Ethiopia, scientists at the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas located in Syria, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, and advanced research labs in the U.S., Canada, China, Australia, Denmark and South Africa will all participate in the project.

More than 20 universities and research institutes throughout the world will participate, along with scientists and farmers from more than 40 nations.

Pumphrey's team will focus on identifying new sources of resistance to UG99 and then making those resources useful in wheat breeding. His program conducts detailed genetics, pathology and molecular marker research and develops wheat lines for breeders to use in resistance efforts.