Ug99 – Rust Never Sleeps


In a series of short videos, 'Rust Never Sleeps' tells the story of how a tiny fungus came to threaten to destroy one of the most important crops in the world, and how we may or may not be able to stop it.

  • €24,380 Budget in Euros
  • 2016 Final release date
  • 5 Round winner
  • 3 Locations
  • 5 Durations in months

Rust Never Sleeps is a web series of six short videos about the history, ecology and economic impact of the new and extremely virulent strain of wheat stem rust, Ug99. The fungus is tiny, but this story of one crop and one pathogen represents many fundamental principles of ecology, agriculture and evolution that are at the root of many food security issues. The story comes with strong characters and high stakes, because wheat is quite literally our daily bread.

The example of Ug99 shows that while international collaboration and support are important, local solutions that are adapted to specific geo-ecological conditions and cultural traditions are essential for success. As a consequence, much of the work for food security is currently done in countries like Kenya or Ethiopia and then 'exported' to the rest of the world. The team of Rust Never Sleeps will visit local scientists, breeders and farmers and learn first hand about their perspective on the struggle for food security. What works well and where are their challenges?

They will pay special attention to the collaboration between scientists and farmers. What works in the lab does not necessarily work in the field, and scientists are increasingly relying on local farmers to identify feasible solutions. They also rely on them for finding and identifying crop wild relatives and local varieties. Questions of ownerschip, access, and patents will be addressed in the videos, too, as they form the backdrop to nearly all issues of crop improvement and diversity. There are still many unresolved mysteries around wheat and its pathogens, and this sense of exploration and discovery will be a strong emotional tie that holds the parts of the series together.

© Photo by Jayneandd via Flickr Creative Commons

Follow us and join the conversation