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Scientist on guard for wheat disease

Fri., June 19, 2009, 2:35 p.m.

PULLMAN — A scientist at Washington State University is keeping watch for a wheat disease that has the potential to wipe out much of the U.S. crop.

The disease was discovered in research plots in Uganda in 1999, and has spread through Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen.

It was reported in Iran in 2007, where prevailing winds are expected to carry the spores to Pakistan, India and eventually, the United States.

Tim Murray, a WSU plant pathologist, is chair of a committee of scientists preparing a recovery plan should the disease reach the United States. Likely routes include spores crossing the ocean. Another route could be the people moving to the U.S. from areas where the disease occurs.

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