Black stem rust is an important disease of wheat. It has a wide host range including wheat, oats, barley, rye, timothy, wild and grasses and barberry. It is caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis. The fungus is heteroecious, alternating from cereal to barberry or Mahonia. While the fungus is coexistent with wheat through out the world, the disease causes most damage in moderately moist areas and in moist seasons in areas with low average rain fall. Eradication of barberry in northern regions is an important strategy to control black stem rust.
The common barberry was brought to North America by early settlers. Barberries made an excellent hedge because their dense growth and sharp spines discouraged penetration by livestock and poultry. In America the fruit became a favorite for sauces, jellies, wines, and preserves, and the bark was used as a source of yellow dye. Thus, the barberry became established in areas where it was a close neighbor to the small grain cereals, and both were moved by farmers as agriculture spread west in the early 1800s.
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