Science: Race 15B

In the Imperial Valley of California last week, twelve acres of assorted wheat plants were growing in the hot desert sun. Department of Agriculture scientists, tending them as carefully as premature babies, hope that one or more of the 600 varieties now being tested will overcome "Race 15B," the new strain of black stem rust that is seriously threatening the U.S. wheat crop.

Wheat rust has been around a long time. It bothered Roman wheat growers so much that they created a special rust god, Robigus, and blamed him for its outbreaks. U.S. plant scientists thought they had licked it. They bred...

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