• Tech Tech

Experts recommend wheat farmers grow different crops as fungal plant disease decimates global wheat fields — here's what this could mean for our food supply

Wheat blast currently threatens roughly 16 million acres of cropland.

Wheat blast currently threatens roughly 16 million acres of cropland.

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study has found that rising global temperatures could lead to a sharp increase in wheat blast, a fungal disease that threatens wheat crops, Down To Earth reported.

What's happening?

According to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, wheat blast currently threatens roughly 16 million acres of cropland. By 2050, that number will rise to more than 33 million acres if current trends continue.

Wheat blast is a relatively new threat to global crop production, with the first reported instance occurring in Brazil in 1985, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has proved to be fast-acting and deadly to wheat crops. 

It is only one of the threats wheat crops face because of changes in climate, but it could be significantly impactful, with the study estimating that it could cut worldwide wheat production by 13% by midcentury.

Why is wheat blast important?

Wheat blast does well in warm and humid conditions — and the overheating of our planet has led to changing weather patterns. Extreme weather events are becoming more powerful and frequent overall, while warm and humid conditions are generally increasing (with localized variations). 

Extreme weather has contributed to displacement and caused billions of dollars worth of damages, while rising temperatures and humidity levels have led to many other uninvited consequences, such as the spread of mosquito ranges and, now, the spread of crop-killing fungi.

Wheat is not the only crop being affected by changing conditions. In Texas, the state's last remaining sugar mill was recently forced to close its doors after being unable to endure the megadrought that has affected the region.

What's being done about wheat blast?

The study pointed out that farmers may need to move away from wheat and switch to a different crop that is less susceptible to disease, such as maize. This is already occurring in midwest Brazil, per Down To Earth. It also suggested that farmers could alter their sowing dates to avoid the worst of the outbreaks.

Scientists are also hard at work developing wheat blast-resistant wheat varieties. Elsewhere, scientists have discovered how to breed wheat crops that are resistant to drought.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider