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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Sept. 11, 2009 at 5:44 PM   |   Comments

Scientists urge isolation of wheat rust

ALEPPO, Syria, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Wind-borne wheat diseases threaten food security in at least 26 countries and genetic diversity worldwide, scientists in Syria said.

Of particular concern is the black stem rust Ug99, which emerged in East Africa, invaded West Asia and now appears headed to South Asia, where wheat is essential to survival, said Dr. Mahmoud Solh, head of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

Solh and other scientists at a conference in Aleppo, Syria, called for a global wheat rust reference laboratory to isolate and interrupt wheat disease, Solh said in a release Friday.

The laboratory would hold samples of all known species of wheat rust in secure containment, identifying new sources of resistance in wheat and developing new wheat varieties, said Ronnie Coffman, vice chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.

"We are running against time to ensure development of durable resistant varieties," Coffman said.


Single road changes life in national park

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Hunters are emptying Ecuador's Yasuni National Park of wildlife via a single road built by oil companies, scientists say.

"Communities existing inside and around the park are changing their customs to a lifestyle of commercial hunting," said Esteban Suarez, lead author of a Wildlife Conservation Society study.

The road is being used to carry large numbers of peccaries, tapirs, monkeys and other species to markets in more populated areas, Suarez said in the journal Animal Conservation.

The commercial wild meat market emerged shortly after the oil company Maxus Ecuador built the 92-mile road in 1992, said anthropologist Avecita Chicchon, a conservation society director.

The road's existence encouraged members of the Waorani tribe to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle, Chicchon said. Today, three Waorani communities live along the road and use firearms to kill animals rather than blowguns and other traditional weapons, Chicchon said.


Seeds being saved ahead of ash borer

AMES, Iowa, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Thousands of ash tree seeds must be saved before the emerald ash borer completes its destructive drive across North America, biologists said.

The ash borer so far has killed an estimated 70 million trees -- the devastation spreading from Michigan, where the Asian pest was discovered in 2002, said Mark Widrlechner, who heads a nationwide effort to collect seed from stands of healthy green, white, blue, and black ash.

Widrlechner estimates he's collected about 10 percent of the seed needed to reintroduce ash trees in the future, he said a release from the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa.

"It doesn't just attack sick trees," Widrlechner said the borer. "It attacks healthy trees. It attacks small trees. So you don't have just big, old trees falling to this, you've got 2 to 3 inch saplings falling to this."

Seeds collected from healthy ash trees could be used to make a more resistant variety of ash tree, Widrlechner said.


Pesticide restrictions to protect salmon

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Additional restrictions on three pesticides will help protect salmon in four western states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.

Changes in the use of three organophosphate pesticides -- chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion -- should keep water cleaner in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, EPA officials said in a release.

The changes, to be noted on product labels, include the addition of pesticide buffer zones and application limits based on wind speed, soil moisture and weather conditions, said Steve Owens, EPA assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances.

Chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion are made by Dow Chemical, Cheminova and Makhteshim Agan of North America, respectively.

The new restrictions, developed in consultation between the EPA and the National Marine Fisheries Services, apply to surface waters used by 28 salmon and steelhead species in the four states.

The EPA and the fisheries service are to monitor the effectiveness of the restrictions on fish populations.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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