Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4

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Wheat rust epidemics


Wheat, Puccinia, Western Australia

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Stem rust of wheat is probably the most damaging plant disease in the world. The rust fungus attacks stems, leaves and heads, producing characteristic red-brown pustules which affect the plant's ability to fill out the grain. Yield loss is directly related to the amount of rust in the crop and the length of time the crop is infected.

In Western Australia it is not uncommon to find rust on crops in mid-October, but usually there is negligible loss of yield. In fact this pattern is quite normal throughout the world: In general, rust arrives too late to cause an epidemic. Why is this?