Annual meeting in Ciudad Obregón fosters international research partnerships
By Katie Lutz
Each year, hundreds of wheat researchers from across the globe gather in Ciudad Obregón, Mexico to participate in the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center’s (CIMMYT) Global Wheat Program (GWP) Visitor’s Week at the Campo Experimental Norman E. Borlaug (CENEB.) This year 220 guests from 31 nations attended visitor’s week during 14-18 March, ending just one week before what would have been 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former CIMMYT wheat breeder, Norman E. Borlaug’s, 102nd birthday.
The events held in Obregón help to foster a relationship between wheat researchers and facilitate partnerships worldwide. Participants are invited to attend the GWP Field Day at CENEB during the peak of the Obregón wheat growing season to learn more about CIMMYT programs and hear updates on the latest research.
In addition to Field Day this year, numerous meetings were held with the collective goal to contributing to the improvement of wheat research across the globe. Meetings held during visitor’s week included discussions based on exploring priority research areas in wheat.
A brainstorming session discussing future collaborations between the UK and CIMMYT, included dialogue on breeding for tolerance to high ambient temperatures, durable disease resistance, input use efficiency in nitrogen and quality and nutrition. Future collaborations between CIMMYT- Australia were also explored with the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the CIMMYT-Australia-ICARDA Germplasm Exchange group (CAIGE). 2Blades, a US-based organization supporting the development of durable disease resistances in crop plants and their deployment in agriculture also joined the conversation expressing the need for the use of safe, sustainable strategies for crop production.
Additionally in exploring international collaborations, the second meeting of the Expert Working Group on Nutrient Use Efficiency in wheat aimed to improve international coordination on NUE (nitrogen and other nutrients) research between Australia, UK, France, Mexico, Italy, Spain and Germany. During the NUE meeting an executive committee was appointed, Malcolm Hawksford, Head of Plant Biology and Crop Science at Rothamsted as Chair and Jacques Le Gouis, of INRA as Vice Chair.
Amidst the meetings and international collaborations, the International Wheat Yield Partnership held their first official program conference. During the IWYP conference, program director Jeff Gwyn, discussed outcomes and objectives for the next 20 years.
With the large audience of global wheat researchers, The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative used this platform to launch their new project, Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat, after announcements of the $24 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were made. DGGW will mitigate serious threats to wheat brought about by climate change and develop and deploy new strains of wheat that are heat tolerant as well as resistant to wheat rusts and other diseases.
With the hope of increasing data and information sharing, the International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN) awarded Mehmet Nazım Dincer of Turkey the IWIN Cooperator Award for his contribution of data to the international nurseries. Dincer was selected from a lottery of researchers who provided data to IWIN for the international nurseries in the last year. Dincer was congratulated for his collaborative efforts with a one week paid travel to Obregón for GWP Visitor’s Week and honored with an award during the festivities. The next winner will be selected in a lottery in November among co-operators who had returned 2016 International Nursery data. As Hans Braun stated, he is not aware of other lotteries with so few participants in which the jackpot is a trip to Obregón. So IWIN co-operators, return the data and win.
This week is not only an important time for international collaborations and brainstorming, but also for capacity development and training early career scientists. Coinciding with visitor’s week is the GWP Basic Wheat Improvement Course, a three month training course that targets young and mid-career scientists, focusing on applied breeding techniques in the field. In addition to attending Visitor’s Week events, trainees were offered special courses with guest lecturers. Joining the BWIC at this time were winners of the Women in Triticum 2016 Award. WIT winners and female trainees joined women across CIMMYT in a “Women in Agriculture” discussion led by Jeannie Borlaug, daughter of Norman Borlaug, to discuss difficulties and successes as women in science and agriculture.