Elaine Meinel Supkis
The Four Horsemen are war, famine, pestilence and religious/political chaos. Mother Nature, at all times, is trying to rebalance the relationships of all living things. This ecological balance often resets due to climatic changes or geological forces. Nature likes to have a status quo that sees interlocking species living in harmony with each other. But humans like to have their own way with Nature and this means constantly unbalancing the various interlocking species in favor of living things that we want for various reasons. The Ug99 wheat rust infection is yet another chapter in a long, long story about human domestication of Nature and her retaliatory counter attacks.
On top of record-breaking rice prices and corn through the roof on ethanol demand, wheat is now rusting in the fields across Africa.
Officials fear near total crop losses, and the fungus, known as Ug99, is spreading.
Wheat prices have been soaring this week on top of already high prices, and futures contracts spiked, too, on panic buying.
Experts fear the cost of bread could soon follow the path of rice, the price of which has triggered riots in some countries and prompted countries to cut off exports.
Throughout history, every time there is economic over expansion, there is a crop failure. Usually, when there are good times, the human population increases greatly. More marginal lands are settled or used for grazing or growing plants. When the human population and the domestic plants and animals reach a critical saturation stage, the Four Horsemen are unleashed and the population declines. If humans prevent any one of these forces from happening, the environmental stresses increase until the Four Horsemen do their dirty work for Mother Nature.
Right now, we are seeing global hysteria over the price and availability of food. As always, this comes on the heels of record crops and record population growth. Throughout history, there have been huge fluxuations in population levels. For example, in the 13th century, the Mongols came pouring out of the Steppes and reduced the teeming farming population of China by nearly 2/3rds and would have eradicated them except a Chinese official explained how labor can lead to endless financial riches via taxation. They swept across Asia to Europe and destroyed farming populations all the way to the Holy Land. And after this disaster, 100 years later, plagues swept Eurasia and killed off a very significant number of people.
Population stresses were controlled after 1349 by the usual methods again which is mostly warfare and overworking the populace. Then the conquest of the rest of the planet relieved stresses on the European sector. They used disease to wipe out the natives of North and South America and the survivors were either hunted or worked to death. But this didn't work in Africa. Since Africa is the birthmother of not only all humans but many other organisms that evolved with humans, Africa is also the home of many diseases. Because of this, European invaders often died of disease long before they could conquer the continent. Only after modern medicine inoculated the invaders, could the Europeans dominate the continent.
Since then, the numbers of humans have mostly increased. Two world wars, the second of which featured a cruel attempt at ethnic cleansing by the Japanese and Germans, failed to slow down the explosion in the numbers of humans. The invention of birth controls has had a strong effect but only on industrialized nations. The numbers of humans still increases to this day. Especially in the Cradle of Humanity, Africa as well as the Middle East.
A constantly increasing population means farming marginal lands and overexploiting the planetary resources to feed more people and their livestock. This is always a problem and it ebbs and flows. But into this process the heavy energy-consuming nations have decided to pursue the worst possible thing: biofuels.
There is a global obesity epidemic caused by ever-weaker nutrition from over-engineered food systems as well as surplus food relative to the value of money. This system is now breaking down under its own weight. Nothing runs to infinity! Foods are nutritious only if the land is good. Both China and India have been heavy buyers in the phosphorus markets. The recent epic ice storms that hit China have directly increased rice prices globally. The earth is always one bad storm away from hyper-inflation in any particular food source.
The biofuels business has created a gold rush mentality in farming and all marginal lands as well as prime land will be put into production in order to feed this insatiable desire. Unlike many other systems, the desire for energy can reach near-infinity. There are so many ways to play with energy! Instead of driving smaller, slower cars, everyone wants faster and bigger cars, for example. When global prices for oil dropped dramatically, the world saw an explosion in the number and size of cars. To keep this going, we are now turning around and burning calories from crops. This is a system that is utterly unsustainable. And Mother Nature deals with this outrage by simply letting her littlest creatures evolve rapidly.
This is a harsh rule of reality: Nature hates voids and loves ecological niches. So if humans plow through the dense biological web of a region and plants monocrops, the larger plants and animals vanish but NOT the smallest! They proliferate in the new niche. They love to do this, they can't help but do this. Monocrops, for example, is like building sky scrapers for single celled organisms.
If publicly financed international researchers move together aggressively and systematically, high-yielding replacement wheat varieties can be developed and made available to farmers before stem rust disease becomes a global epidemic.
The Bush administration was initially quick to grasp Ug99’s threat to American wheat production. In 2005, Mike Johanns, then secretary of agriculture, instructed the federal agriculture research service to take the lead in developing an international strategy to deal with stem rust. In 2006, the Agency for International Development mobilized emergency financing to help African and Asian countries accelerate needed wheat research.
But more recently, the administration has begun reversing direction. The State Department is recommending ending American support for the international agricultural research centers that helped start the Green Revolution, including all money for wheat research. And significant financial cuts have been proposed for important research centers, including the Department of Agriculture’s essential rust research laboratory in St. Paul.
Years ago, I warned people that Bush wanted to play Apocalyptic politics. He hasn't met any of the Four Horsemen without flashing them the devil's horns sign with his hands and yelling, 'Booha, go team!' The US is going bankrupt. Our entire government spends tremendous efforts in assuring us this is not happening. Delusional thinking isn't smart, of course. Not that this has ever stopped anyone. The US is cutting spending to nearly everything that isn't war related. On top of this, the US is rushing forwards the latest fake 'give back' in taxes. The US public is to go out and spend this on things such as...filling the gas tanks of all those grossly oversized cars. In other words, the US public will now have to pay off, via more government debt. So, instead of cutting back on spending on gas which weakens our bottom line, we are making our public bottom line much worse in order to transfer this future wealth to oil producers. A very bad choice.
Right now, thanks to wild government overspending, wars and planned future transfers of wealth to oil producers, the government is cutting back on all other systems we need to have a better civilization. Here is an example from today's news:
Proposed Funding Cut Exacerbates Deterioration
Next year's proposed budget for the federally funded institution has been cut by $2 million, targeted at the arboretum's public face. The amount is small in the scheme of things, but it would reduce funding by 60 percent for the arboretum's public programming and the care of its rich garden displays and pioneering plant collections.
This comes after almost a decade of funding erosion: The operating budget has shrunk 20 percent in five years. A master plan to fix crumbling infrastructure and forge a future has remained essentially unfunded for eight years. Even if next year's money is restored, the arboretum will continue to suffer from years of chronic underfunding and the absence of capital investment.
The US government will hand out many billions to boost the bottom lines of the oil producers but won't spend several million to keep our agricultural systems going. Born Again Christians not only want the 4 Horsemen to ride over us and kill most of us humans off, they are very, very hostile towards any science that talks about evolution. And no one can do any research in life forms of any sort unless they understand evolution. Indeed, at the roots of our inability to 'tame' Nature lies evolutionary forces. Under Ronnie Reagan, the people who were in charge of funding research were born agains who were very uninterested in research. 'We will all be dead and the winners will go to Heaven' was their belief.
The US government pays for most university research and the reduction of resources has been slowly restricting these fields. Now that our own government has unleashed wild, out of control farming in the name of biofuels, we will see our crops ravaged by waves of fungi, viral and unicellular life forms seeking this new allotment of niches. Let's go back to the Ug99, the latest Mother Nature bio-warfare device:
Ug99, which has the designation of TTKS, is a race of black stem rust (Puccinia graminis tritici). It is virulent to the great majority of wheat varieties. The blight was first noted in Uganda in 1999 and has spread throughout the highlands of East Africa. In January of 2007, spores blew across to Yemen, and north into Sudan. In March 2007, FAO announced its concern regarding the spread through Iran based on Iranian authorities report.
Like other Puccinia species, P. graminis has a complex life cycle featuring alternation of generations, the fungus is also heteroecious which means that its various life cycle stages require alternate host species. The complete life cycle of P. graminis requires barberry as well as a cereal species.
In the spring and summer, stem rust infections on wheat plants produce dikaryotic urediniospores, which are spread by the wind to nearby wheat plants, where they germinate, rapidly spreading the infection over a wide area. Towards the end of the growing season, the rust converts to producing teliospores, which have contain two haploid nuclei of opposite mating type. Before the winter, the nucleii fuse to form a diploid cell, which remains dormant until the next spring when it undergoes meiosis to produce four haploid cells known as basidiospores. The basidiospores then undergo a mitotic nuclear division to produce the mature basidiospore which contains two haploid nuclei of the same mating type. Basidiospores cannot infect cereal plants. Instead, they infect young leaves of common barberry (Berberis vulgaris) or other susceptible Berberis, Mahonia, or Mahoberberis species or cultivars. On barberry, the resulting infections produce specialized infection structures called pycnia, which play an essential role in the sexual stage of the fungus.
It was in the Middle East and Africa where wheat was first domesticated thousands of years ago. One of the earliest bread baskets on earth was Iraq. Which is now mostly hostile desert. The other was the Nile valley which is nearly totally overwhelmed by many millions of people. I notice online how there is the usual rumors being spread that Ug99 is actually biowarfare from US labs. This is really stupid. Yes, the irresponsible idiots working for the Pentagon do produce toxic plant and human diseases. This is because they are working for the annihilation of all humans [except themselves, of course]. But this doesn't mean they create all the diseases and difficulties assailing humanity. Mother Nature runs the best labs on earth. She can remold all life forms using her sharp edged tools: survival of the fittest and filling ecological niches.
The human desire to see conspiracies behind absolutely everything is not healthy. It shows a disregard to historical forces or natural forces. It is hubris to imagine that humans order things so that x-y-z happens due entirely to people controlling things. The people trying to rule Nature and humanity would dearly love to be able to do this but they are incapable. As the human biomass grows around this planet, we are, as far as Nature is concerned, we are one big, fat ecological niche aching to be colonized by other life forms. As we thwart this and increase our biomass, the sophistication of the micro organisms that are trying to colonize us grows greater.
Wheat stem rust has always been of interest to government and university investigators. Here is the official USDA webpage on this topic:
Stem rust is favored by hot days 25-30 C, mild nights 15-20 C with adequate moisture for night time dews. Wind can effectively disperse urediniospores over great distances. Rain is necessary for effective deposition of uredinospore involved in regional spore transport.
INOCULUM SOURCE AND INFECTION:
Aeciospores from Berberis vulgaris are currently rare, but historically it was an important source of inoculum in northern North America and Europe. Mycelium or uredinia on volunteer wheat, are the most important source of inoculum in tropical and subtropical climates. Windblown urediniospores are usually from earlier maturing wheat from the south in the northern hemisphere, or from the north in the southern hemisphere.
Here is a paper written back in 1971:
Uganda is one of the most densely populated parts of Africa. When Britain invaded in the 19th and early 20th century, they imposed plantation cultivation which changed this pastoral land into a heavy agricultural society. So instead of mixed farming/herding/hunting, it become primarily agricultural. The population stresses have unleashed some of the ugliest ethnic cleansing episodes in human history. The population has long surpassed the breaking point of the previous ethnic cleansing and now is farming nearly all possible land. So it is no surprise to find that this is an ideal spot for evolution to create a truly destructive disease. Just like AIDs evolved in such a way that it attacks the immune systems directly and yet is transmitted by love and desire, in this case, the wheat rust attacks the first domesticated plants that allowed humans to colonize this entire planet.
The basis of all wealth is the ability to grow and store the energy of the sun and use it later to multiply humans. Here is an article from 2 years ago which mentions Ug99:
Identification of Rust Fungi Avirulence Elicitors
Rust fungi (Basidiomycetes of the order Uredinales) are obligate biotrophs that grow and reproduce only in living plant tissue. There are on the order of 5000 or more species of rust fungi that collectively cause disease on most crops, ornamentals, and many other plants. For example, rusts caused by Puccinia species are some of the most important diseases of wheat and other small grain crops worldwide. A new wheat rust epidemic is currently building in East Africa with the appearance of a highly virulent strain of Puccinia graminis tritici called Ug99, which is perceived as a threat to global wheat production and has led to the establishment of a Global Rust Initiative (https://www.globalrust.org/index.html). Common maize rust caused by Puccinia sorghi is a major disease problem of maize, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions such as South Africa and India. The Asian soybean rust caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi has recently spread to Africa and the western hemisphere, including the U.S., and is now a major concern in most of the soybean-growing regions of the world.
Rust fungi have extremely complex life cycles, involving up to five different spore-producing stages. Many rusts are heteroecious, requiring two phylogenetically distinct host plants to complete their life cycle. For example, the wheat rust Puccinia graminis alternates between wheat as the primary host and barberry as the alternate host, and Melampsora epitea willow-conifer rusts alternate between a coniferous primary host, such as hemlock or tamarack, and a willow alternate host. Some rusts, such as the flax rust Melampsora lini, are autoecious and complete their life cycle on a single host plant.
I suspect that these rust diseases have such complex lives is due to human interference. Since these things are attacking unnatural niches, this means that all our attempts at evading or preventing this life form has caused it to evolve faster. This is true of all organisms that try to colonize human systems. As we 'fight' them they win via simple evolution. The need to understand how evolution works is critical here. All our actions are holding actions. Whenever we come up with some trick or scheme that should increase our crops and populations of things we desire, the counter system resets itself and continues to try to colonize the niches we provide. It is very, very rare for humans to kill off the organisms seeking to destroy our domestic ecosystems! Humans are rapidly exterminating huge numbers of species on this planet. We are in the middle of one of earth's greater species die-offs. We have been busy looting or killing off most higher organisms such as fishes, amphibians, reptiles as well as mammals. But we are not only not succeeding in the micro-life forms annihilation, they are counterattacking quite successfully and may I add, with barely any efforts on their part.
The more we annihilate all other species and replace them with the very limited number of life forms which we concoct in our laboratories or breeding farms, the swifter it will be for the micro life forms to triumph. The more we create 'solutions' the micro creatures up the ante. They will win in the end, of course. This is due to Mother Nature's iron evolutionary rule. If we do succeed in manipulating genetic codes to the point that we can cover this entire planet with things that fuel only human life forms and which we can use for fuel so we can have lots and lots of energy, this only will hasten our elimination. Because such a system is unsustainable and nothing ever goes to infinity. It crashes. And if our biological systems have little room for evolutionary forces to recover from a crash, we could destroy all life on earth...except for the micro organisms!
Because they are everywhere and are key to our evolutionary survival. Deep inside of our innermost cells, we hold previous micro organisms. We use them to digest food! They are vital to enriching the soil, breaking down dead plants and animals, they are our staff of life as well as the sword of death. For Mother Nature loves balance. And she grants all living things this dual role! And the least of Her creations are also the greatest power in Nature. They are the foundation of all life, they feed all others from the biggest creatures, whales, down to the smallest seed that needs humus to grow. We should respect this power and work with it, not try to manipulate it so we can have global monocultures.