CHICAGO (B)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has proposed to reduce the geographical area in Arizona regulated for the presence of karnal bunt, as well as to reduce some restrictions on the movement of harvesting and seed conditioning equipment.

In a notice published in the April 18 Federal Register, APHIS proposed to reduce the size of the regulated area by eliminating "non-infected" acreage located more than three miles from a field or area associated with a bunted wheat kernel.

This action would have the effect of reducing the size of the areas regulated for karnal bunt in the Arizona counties of La Paz, Maricopa and Pinal. The agency said such a buffer zone is adequate to contain karnal bunt within a regulated area. A three-mile buffer zone also applies to affected areas in California and Texas.

Further, under the proposal, mechanized harvesting and seed conditioning equipment would be required to be cleaned and disinfected before leaving a regulated area only if it was used on host crops that test positive for karnal bunt.

Karnal bunt is a disease of wheat, durum wheat, triticale and rye caused by the fungus tilletia indica (mitra) mundkur and is spread through the movement of infected seed. While the fungus does not pose a human health concern, it reduces crop yields. Flour produced from heavily infected wheat has an objectionable odor and taste.

Comments are to be submitted by June 9 to: Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Suite 3C03, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverside, MD 20737-1238. APHIS requests that those commenting submit four copies and that they include a reference to docket number 99-077-1.

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