Stem Rust of Wheat: From Ancient Enemy to Modern Foe takes a historical look at the significance of major aspects of research on stem rust of wheat in the 20th Century. The exploration of plant pathology’s response to stem rust can serve as a case study for assessing how plant pathology developed and functioned in its first full century.Stem rust of wheat is one of the most significant of all plant diseases. This new book commemorates nearly a half century without a major stem rust epidemic in any of the major wheat-producing regions of North America. This suggests remarkable achievements by plant pathologists in both the fundamental knowledge of the pathogen’s biology and disease control.Just as the work on Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici by legendary plant pathology figures, including Anton De Bary and E. C. Stakman, has already advanced the understanding and appreciation of plant diseases, the historical research in this book will provide plant pathologists, plant breeders, mycologists, agronomists, historians, students, teachers and other scientists with insight into the work on stem rust of wheat in the 20th century and its impact on plant pathology’s past and future.Norman Borlaug, esteemed plant pathologist who has spent 56 years battling the stem rust pathogen in many countries, has contributed the foreward of this book. He reiterates the question posed by the authors, “Is the stem rust pathogen a vanquished enemy of the past or a menacing foe of the future?”
I am pleased to have been invited to write the forward for this important book, Stem Rust of Wheat: From Ancient Enemy to Modern Foe. This invitation probably stems primarily from the fact that I have spent 56 years as a plant pathologist working in many countries and battling the stem rust pathogen, Puccinia graminis f.sp. tritici. During this long period, I have experienced many frustrations and lost many battles as I have seen vast tracts of wheat destroyed by this shifty pathogen. But I have also enjoyed participating in breeding programs that finally brought together genes that have produced a functional, stable type of stem rust resistance which has remained effective world wide for the past 48 years.This book commemorates nearly a half century of success without a significant stem rust epidemic in any of the major wheat producing regions of the world. Certainly, plant pathologists can claim this as one of their greatest achievements. Between the covers of this book, six well-qualified scholars weave together and present a fascinating story of the destructiveness of this fungal pathogen from earliest history as well as efforts to understand it; the campaign to eradicate the alternate host of the rust pathogen, the common barberry, so as to prevent or greatly reduce the number of new pathogenic races and, thereby, contribute to prolonging the effective life of rust-resistant varieties; and, an account of the early researches on the genes for pathogenicity in the rust pathogen and the genes for rust resistance in the wheat plant and how these were combined in early breeding programs to develop rust-resistant wheat varieties—which, unfortunately, remained effective for only a few years because of the appearance of new pathogenic races in the rust population. The book also includes the heretofore little publicized story about the biowarfare research on the range of virulence and on the epidemiology of the stem rust pathogen during the Cold War.Finally, the authors raise the question: Is the stem rust pathogen a vanquished enemy of the past or a menacing foe of the future? Isn’t it quite possible that the greatest ally of the pathogen is our short memory of the disastrous stem rust epidemics from 1951-1954 across much of the wheat-producing regions of North America? The reader is left to ponder: Is the complacency that currently restricts research on this shifty enemy the result of nearly a half century without an epidemic?
“This book will be useful for local history and agricultural research. University libraries should also strongly consider it as a good introductory book on stem rust.” -- E-STREAMS
“…an amazing read and is an historical account of the North American assault on the stem rush pathogen of wheat…I recommend it highly.” -- IMPnet News
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