India, the world's second biggest wheat producer, has developed 22 wheat varieties, which are resistant to the deadly Ug99 fungal disease.
"During the course of our research we found that certain varieties developed by us were already resistant to this fungus. We have at least 22 varieties which are resistant to Ug99 disease," Karnal-based Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) Project Director S S Singh said.
Of 22 wheat varieties, some of the varieties such as DBW 17, PBW 550, and Lok 1 are being cultivated in wheat-growing states in India, which is a member of the US-based Borlaug Global Rust Initiative to combat Ug99 disease globally, he said.
Ug99, a fungal disease originated in Uganda in 1999, belongs to a race of black stem rust, which brings 100 per cent crop loss unlike other rusts that partially affect the yield.
Singh said, "India realised that it has already developed strain of wheat varieties resistant to Ug99 after we started working on a global campaign for combating Ug99 under an agreement with the US-based Borlaug Global Rust Initiative."
Interestingly, 22 wheat varieties developed by Indian scientists are also being cultivated in other member nations, he said.
Asked if there was any threat of fungal disease in India, Singh said, "At present, there is no threat to India as many of the 22 wheat varieties resistant to Ug99 are arleady under cultivation in several parts of the country especially in Punjab and Haryana."
At present, Ug99 disease is spreading across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which is a cause of major due to large number of people being dependent on wheat for sustenance.