Escalating Threat of Wheat Rusts
Science Mag editorial
“Last month [6/10], nearly 600 scientists from more than 80 countries convened… to discuss the world’s most widely planted crop… [and] the rapidly spreading fungal diseases known as wheat rusts… causing epidemics that require urgent action.
In the 1940s… new plant varieties [were bred] to resist the causative pathogens… But in 1999, a virulent fungal strain (Ug99) was detected… new virulent and aggressive strains of yellow rust fungus (also known as stripe rust) now pose a severe threat to the world’s wheat supply… This epidemic trend may continue because the aggressive strains, which can tolerate higher temperatures, are still evolving [emphasis mine].”
Activity: Present this as a problem, and have students come up with solutions.
Activity: Analyze each others’ solutions for evolutionary explanations. For example, why are fungicides a short-term solution? What are the implications of some solutions for genetic diversity? For example, of replacing wheat with certain varieties. How can humans speed up evolution? Identify the postulate of natural selection we modify to speed up evolution, and explain why other species in nature can’t do this.
Preparation: What guidance and foundational knowledge do they need for this?