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CIMMYT scientist David Hodson to speak on pathogen surveillance systems in Washington

January 26, 2016

David Hodson delivers presentation at the International Wheat Conference in Sydney, Australia, September 2015. CORNELL/Christopher Knight


WHAT: David Hodson, senior scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will speak at a “Pathogens Without Borders” session; leading a discussion titled “Building Plant Pathogen Surveillance Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa” in Washington, D.C. He will be available for media interviews.

The “Pathogens Without Borders” session is part of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2016 Annual Meeting.

The session explores the challenges to and progress of coordinated surveillance, early detection and control methods of new emerging crop disease threats across large geographic regions.

Trans-boundary pathogens pose an increasing threat to global food security. New emerging strains or new pathogens colonizing new areas can cause significant crop losses. Blown by the wind or increasingly spread by travel and commercial trade, pathogen changes in one region can quickly result in serious impacts in other distant regions. The detection of a new, highly virulent race of wheat stem rust in Uganda in 1998/99 (Ug99) caused alarm bells to ring throughout the global wheat community. Wind-borne stem rust is the most destructive disease of wheat – which provides 20 percent of calories and protein consumed globally – but largely through resistance breeding it had been effectively controlled worldwide for over three decades. With the detection of Ug99 a very large proportion of the world’s wheat crop was once again vulnerable to a killer disease. Hodson will discuss operational surveillance networks, such as the web-based “Rust Tracker”, which he operates. “Rust Tracker” covers all the major wheat growing countries in Africa, Middle East and South Asia. He will explore how the participation of a large number of multi-disciplinary partners under the umbrella of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative has been critical for gains made against the disease. The presentation will also look at how stem rust has spurred new surveillance systems that are being applied to other important trans-boundary diseases.

WHEN: Sunday, February 14, 2016: 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Marshall Ballroom East, Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Rd N.W., Washington, DC 20008

ABOUT AAAS: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a U.S. international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists and advancing science for the benefit of all people.


David Hodson is a senior scientist with CIMMYT based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has led investigations into pathogen surveillance and currently runs the website Rust Tracker.org – supported by the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project, led by Cornell University and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID, UK as part of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative – which monitors wheat rust globally in order to fight its spread and ill effects. The information provides an early warning system for disease and can help farmers prepare for epidemics. He also contributed to the development of the CIMMYT Wheat Atlas 3.0 project, an online resource that provides statistics on wheat production and trade, wheat varieties, production challenges and international wheat nurseries, which evaluate the suitability of wheat to diverse environments.


MORE INFORMATION: Contact — Julie Mollins, CIMMYT communications, by email at j.mollins@cgiar.org or by mobile at +52 1 595 106 9307 or by Twitter @jmollins or by Skype at juliemollins; Genevieve Renard, head of CIMMYT communications, atg.renard@cgiar.org or  +52 1 595 114 9880 or @genevrenard


CIMMYT, headquartered in El Batan, Mexico, is the global leader in research for development in wheat and maize and wheat- and maize-based farming systems. CIMMYT works throughout the developing world with hundreds of partners to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems to improve food security and livelihoods. CIMMYT is a member of the 15-member CGIAR Consortium and leads the Consortium Research Programs on Wheat and Maize. CIMMYT receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.