EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 10 - 2020 Num. article: 2020/228

First report of wheat blast in Zambia and in Africa

Wheat blast caused by Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype triticum (MoT) is a severe disease which has emerged in 1980s in South America. In 1985, it was first reported from Parana in Brazil, and then spread to neighbouring countries including Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. In 2016, the disease was recorded for the first time outside the American continent in Bangladesh, where it affected around 15% of the wheat production area of the country. M. oryzae is a seed-borne disease, and once present in an area, fungal spores can also be easily spread further by wind.

In Zambia, wheat blast symptoms were observed for the first time on wheat (Triticum aestivum) grown in experimental plots and in 5 farmers’ fields in Mpika district of Muchinga Province during the 2017–2018 rainy season. Disease incidence ranged from 50 to 100% and averaged 84.8%. The identity of the fungus was confirmed by morphological, pathogenicity and molecular tests. This first record in Zambia is also the first one for Africa. FAO reports that research and control measures are being taken to prevent any further spread of wheat blast to new territories.


CGIAR (2020) Researchers in Zambia confirm: Wheat blast has made the intercontinental jump to Africa https://wheat.org/researchers-in-zambia-confirm-wheat-blast-has-made-the-intercontinental-jump-to-africa/

IPPC (2020) Prompt pest reports from Zambia and Jordan: enhanced global cooperation on pest prevention and control. https://www.ippc.int/en/news/prompt-pest-reports-from-zambia-and-jordan-enhanced-global-cooperation-on-pest-prevention-and-control/

Tembo B, Mulenga RM, Sichilima S, M’siska KK, Mwale M, Chikoti PC, Singh PK, He X, Pedley KF, Peterson GL, Singh RP, Braun HJ (2020) Detection and characterization of fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum) causing wheat blast disease on rain-fed grown wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in Zambia. PLoS ONE 15(9), e0238724. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238724