T.V. Sivanandan

GULBARGA: Scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) are preparing to meet the serious threat to wheat cultivation in the country from the “stem rust” “Uganda-99”.

The stem rust, which wiped out the wheat crop in Africa, has now made its way to Afghanistan damaging the crop in large tracts of agricultural fields, and it is likely to enter India soon.

IARI Director and renowned agricultural scientist S.A. Patil, in an interview to The Hindu here on Sunday, said scientists in the ICAR and the IARI, who had started work on controlling stem rust effectively, had organised the “International Conference on Stem Rust Disease” in New Delhi from November 6 to 8 to work out a detailed plan to contain the entry of Uganda-99 into India and its management.

Stem rust, nicknamed “biological bomb” by scientists for the manner in which it devastates the crop, is an air-borne fungal spore.

Dr. Patil said the scientists and research scholars of the IARI were now working on aspects such as climate change, development of biofuel, waste management, development of varieties and hybrids through marker assisted selection and biotechnology and market extension.

Dr. Patil said there were 23 divisions in IARI offering M.Sc and Ph.D programmes such as school of crop input, natural resource management, plant protection, basic science and social science.

He said the IARI also undertook basic and fundamental research on all aspects.