The county judge in Bastrop County, Texas, (just east of Austin) figures 1,000 head of cattle have died there from lack of food and water. Last year the county got just 17 inches of ran, more than 20 inches under normal. Bastrop is producing only about 20 percent of its normal output of hay. While it rains buckets in the Midwest, about half the counties in Texas are seeking federal drought assistance.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, a disease thought eradicated 50 years ago is now threatening the world’s wheat crop. Stem rust appeared in Kenya in 1999, according to a report in the Washington Post, and has since jumped the Red Sea to reach Yemen and is now in Iran. “Crop scientists say they are powerless to stop its spread and increasingly frustrated in their efforts to find resistant plants,” reports Sharon Schmickle. (For more of Schmickle’s reporting, go here.)
“This is a dangerous problem because a good share of the world’s area sown to wheat is susceptible to it,” said Nobel Peace laureate Norman Borlaug, the world’s authority on the disease. “It has immense destructive potential.” Eighty percent of Asian and African wheat varieties are susceptible to this new strain of stem rust that is capable of infecting strains previously resistant.