1.8 billion people live in South Asia. Particularly in Bangladesh and Nepal, wheat is the second and third most consumed cereal respectively, and projected to increase. Multiple wheat rust epidemics in South Asia contributed to major famines during the mid-20th century. Recently, new and virulent races pose a threat to the region once again. Stripe rust is prevalent in northern regions of Pakistan, India and Nepal, and shows signs of adaptation to warmer climates to the south. Being warm and humid during the growing period, the region is also very suitable for new strains of stem rust infection to which current varieties are likely to be susceptible. An early warning system for wheat rust is successfully operating in Ethiopia, crucially incorporating long distance dispersal forecasts.
This presentation introduces the adaptation of the wheat rust early warning system to the South Asia region with a focus on Bangladesh and Nepal, as part of the Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) project supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). For the first time, a multi-national network of wheat rust surveillance will inform real-time forecasts of infection risk. Results will be shown for recent historical analysis as well as the concept-stage of the early warning system for South Asia.
Wheat yields are also challenged by other wind-borne diseases, such as leaf rust and wheat blast, which may be integrated into the early warning system.
The development of such an early warning system in South Asia supports efforts to build resilience against anticipated changes in climate.