Questions for ‘As infections ravage food crops, scientists fight back’


Melese Tsegaye, a farmer in Kulumsa, Ethiopia, holds seed heads taken from stalks of wheat. Wheat is one of many crops that have suffered from disease outbreaks.

Peter Lowe/CIMMYT/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

To accompany feature “As infections ravage food crops, scientists fight back”


Before Reading

1. Have you ever seen a plant that looked sick? How could you tell?

2. Think about what you’ve eaten so far today. What plants have been on your plate? (That includes fruits or veggies — and don’t forget grains!)

During Reading

1.   What type of plant does swollen shoot disease affect? What symptoms does this illness cause?

2.   What drastic step to control swollen shoot disease was announced in 2018?

3.   What type of microbe causes swollen shoot disease?

4.   What type of organism causes wheat rust? What are the three main types of this disease?

5.   What natural method do farmers use to prevent wheat rust?

6.   What does the tool called MARPLE do? How could this help farmers?

7.   What method for changing the genes of a crop would be faster than breeding new varieties?

8.   What type of microbe is behind citrus greening disease? What are the symptoms of this blight?

9.   How is a company in Florida using dogs to tackle citrus greening disease?

10.   How might wasps help protect citrus trees?

After Reading

1.   How do you think climate change might make it even harder for researchers and farmers to fight crop diseases?

2.   Do some research on Ug99. Are there concerns about it spreading to North America? How important a wheat growing region is North America? What effects might the disease have if U.S. outbreaks occurred on a scale similar to what’s seen in parts of Africa today? How widely might the effects of such outbreaks be felt? Explain your assessment.