The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat and its lead center, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico, are responding to the threat of COVID-19 and taking measures to ensure our worldwide staff is as safe as possible. While we adjust to the “new normal” of social distancing, temperature checks and quarantines, we will continue to perform field and desk research as best we can, and share our progress and findings with you through our website, newsletter, and Facebook page.
times such as this, we step back and remember the vision that brings us all
here: a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. We would
not be able pursue this vision without your support.
We hope you, your colleagues and loved ones stay safe and healthy. We are all in this together and we look forward to continuing our conversation.
Community celebrates nearly 50 years of achievements; highlights ways to meet future challenges
It was 1974. In the
United States, the environmental movement was in full swing, with the first
celebration of Earth Day, the establishment of the Environmental Protection
Agency, and the publication of Rachel Carson’s revolutionary book, Silent Spring. Around the world, the
public was gaining awareness of the danger of overuse of pesticides, as a small
group of crop breeders and entomologists decided to get together in what would
become the first International Plant Resistance to Insects (IPRI) workshop.
Today, the need for insect resistance is even greater. The UN,
which has named 2020 as the International Year of
Plant Health, estimates that almost 40% of food crops are lost
annually due to plant pests and diseases. The losses due to insects total up to
$1billion a year for wheat alone. Climate
change is another factor affecting the population and geographical
distribution of pests.
Last week, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Center (CIMMYT) hosted IPRI’s 24th biannual session, convening
entomologists, pathologists, breeders and nematologists to validate past work and
highlight innovative solutions. To name
South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council has
developed 43 new cultivars of wheat that are resistant to Russian Wheat Aphid.
CIMMYT precision scientists are using high-tech
cameras on drones or planes to measure individual plants for signs of biotic
stress, to allow farmers advance notice of infestation.
North Dakota State University’s mapping of the
Hessian Fly H26 gene has revealed two clear phenotypic responses to Hessian fly
attacks, bringing breeders a step closer towards developing resistant wheat
CIMMYT-designed Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
packages are helping farmers from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds
and cropping systems effectively fight the devastating maize pest fall armyworm
through a combination of best management practices.
A recurring theme was the importance of collaboration
between entomologists and breeders to ensure breakthroughs in resistance genes
are taken up to develop new varieties that reach farmers.
“There is a disconnect between screening and breeding,” CIMMYT
Global Wheat Program Director Hans Braun told attendees. “We need more and better collaboration between
disciplines, to move from screening to breeding faster.”
Communicating to farmers is crucial. Pesticides are
expensive, harmful to both human health and the environment, and can lead to crop
resistance. However, they can appear to
be the quick and easy solution. “IPM also means ‘integrating people’s
mindsets,’” said B.M. Prasanna, director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program.
National policies instituting strict quarantines pose
another serious barrier to the exchange of seeds required for testing and
To mark the workshop’s 24th anniversary, Michael
Smith, entomologist at Kansas State University and longtime IPRI participant, offered
a brief history of the event and the field—from the first insect-resistant
wheat developed in the early 1920s to the wake-up call of pesticide abuse in
“We’ve grown, we’ve made enormous technological changes, but
‘talking to people’ is still what we’re here for,” he stated. He added a
challenge for his colleagues: “We need
to tell a better story of the economic benefits of our science. We need to get
to the table in an even more assertive way.”
He also shared some lighter memories, such as the sight of
imminent plant scientists relaxing in leisure suits at the 1978 session. A traditional
mariachi serenade and traditional Mexican cuisine ensured that more memories
were made in 2020.
Leonardo Crespo-Herrera, CIMMYT wheat breeder
and workshop moderator closed with encouraging and provocative words for the
“The ultimate objective is to reduce the use of pesticides,” he said, adding: “How do we get this research out of the lab and into the field?”
A perfect storm of conditions led to the locust attack currently tearing through East Africa and Pakistan, where countries are deploying pesticides, military personnel and even ducks.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has given the ultimatum of March to bring Africa’s desert locust outbreak under control, calling for US$76 million to fund insecticide spraying.
But the ongoing outbreak is only the latest example of the devastation that crop pests can cause – there are tens of thousands more that farmers have to contend with, from diseases and fungi to weeds and insects.
And with such a variety of threats to harvests and yields, there is no silver bullet to protect against losses and damage. Rather, an integrated approach is needed that incorporates all available tools in the toolbox, from better forecasting and monitoring technologies to the controlled spraying of crops with biocontrol products, all supported by stronger partnerships.
Smallholder farmers are on the frontline when a pest outbreak takes hold. A small swarm of desert locusts can eat the equivalent food of 35,000 people per day, for example, while crop losses resulting from the spread of fall armyworm across sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to cost up to $6.1 billion a year.
Yet while their livelihoods are most at risk, smallholders can also play a significant part in tackling crop pests like the desert locust.
By giving farmers access to better surveillance technology that enables them to monitor pests and forecast potential outbreaks, infestations can be tracked and managed effectively.
A project in Bangladesh that helps farmers to deal with fall armyworm is one example of how this can be done effectively. Led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the initiative has trained hundreds of farmers and extension agents in identifying, monitoring and tackling infestations using combined approaches.
Yet effective pest management is not the responsibility of farmers alone – nor does it begin in the field. Behind every farmer dealing with a crop pest is a scientist who has supported them by developing better seeds, crop protection methods and scouting apps to identify weeds.
Using either conventional breeding or genetic modification, scientists can develop seeds that produce pest-resistant crops, for example.
CGIAR researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) developed and released a modified cassava variety in Colombia, bred to be resistant against high whitefly, which outperformed regional varieties without the need for pesticides.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has also developed maize varieties resistant to the stem borer insect for use in West and Central Africa.
And last year, the Nigerian Biosafety Management Agency approved the commercial release of genetically modified cowpea to farmers – a variety resistant to the maruca pod borer, a type of insect.
Better seeds and crop protection products are vital – but we need to do still more.
Some biocontrol pesticides such as Green Muscle and Novacrid have been highly effective in the past if used against locust hopper bands before they congregate into swarms. But they have limited impact once the swarms start to move as well as limited availability and regulatory approval, and a relatively short shelf-life.
Further research into crop protection methods will pave the way for new chemical and biological solutions, which can keep pest outbreaks under control – or prevent them altogether.
But we also need closer collaboration with governments, research institutions, universities, donors and investors, and – crucially – farmers to address the challenges of pest infestations, and lessen their impact on food systems.
Collaboration is central to IITA’s Biorisk Management Facility (BIMAF), a partnership established around the need for better coordination between researchers, civil society, farming communities, and non-governmental, public and private organisations.
There is no single, superior way to fight and control agricultural pests like the desert locust – battling them on all fronts is our best hope. Of course, prevention is the ultimate goal, and it is achievable. But stopping an outbreak in its tracks requires a huge amount of coordination and sustained financial support.
We must work together to develop new crop protection methods and get them into the hands of those who need them the most. The current locust outbreak – and future pest infestations – will only be defeated with a united front.
In celebration of International Women’s Day the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) hosted today a graduation ceremony for the first cohort of fellows of the Arab Women Leaders in Agriculture (AWLA) program.
Being the first of its kind, the program is managed by ICBA and is designed to empower women researchers to spearhead positive changes in agriculture and food security while addressing the challenges they face in their careers.
The first cohort included 22 women scientists from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia. They completed a 10-month program from 2019 to 2020, which was delivered through 12 online R&D modules and face-to-face workshops in Tunisia and the UAE.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Chairperson of ICBA’s Board of Directors, said: “International Women’s Day is an important occasion when we celebrate women and girls around the world and showcase their invaluable contributions to different fields, including science. Unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in research and development around the world, but more so in the Middle East and North Africa. This is despite research showing that gender-balanced teams improve innovation and productivity and that women are critical to innovation. That is why it is great to see how programs like AWLA are creating opportunities for women scientists from across the Middle East and North Africa and equipping them with skills and tools to grow in their careers and make greater contributions in their communities and countries.”
For her part, Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of ICBA, said: “We are delighted to see the inaugural cohort of AWLA fellows graduating on such a special occasion – International Women’s Day. The AWLA fellowship program was able to open a door of opportunities for 22 Arab women scientists by providing them with soft skills to positively impact their communities and countries.”
“I want to thank the Islamic Development Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, for their exceptional support for the program. I would also like to thank the Council for Australian-Arab Relations for supporting the study tour of two AWLA fellows,” Dr. Ismahane Elouafi added.
Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi, Deputy Director General of ICBA, remarked: “As we are celebrating International Women’s Day, it gives me a great pleasure to congratulate all AWLA fellows and commend them for the exceptional dedication they demonstrated during their AWLA journey. AWLA is a unique program that significantly contributed to our efforts to empower women in science and agriculture. AWLA extends the right skills and opportunities to fellows to boost their intellectual collaboration by exchanging ideas, good practices, and stories on how women can make a difference in agriculture. Moreover, the program offers new perspectives on research and leadership to make a positive difference not only in the professional lives of fellows but also towards the prosperity of agriculture across the nations and regions they represent.”
Ms. May Ali Babiker Eltahir, Manager at the Women and Youth Empowerment Division, the Islamic Development Bank, commented: “AWLA, through empowering young Arab women working on food, nutrition and water security issues, has contributed to the pillars of the IsDB Women’s Empowerment Policy, namely improving women’s access to services and resources and promoting women’s agency and participation.”
Mr. Hassan Damluji, Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “Empowering women to take up leadership positions in all fields, particularly critical sectors like agriculture and science, is an essential lever towards achieving gender equality globally. AWLA is a wonderful example of partners coming together to deliver concrete solutions that help break down barriers for Arab women researchers”.
“Women make up an important part of the agricultural labor force in MENA, and any solution to the region’s critical food security challenges should ideally be evidence-based and innovative, making use of all talent by being gender-inclusive and by greatly improving cross-border collaboration,” said Mr. Victor Kommerell, Program Manager for the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (CIMMYT, ICARDA, and partners).
“I am confident this cohort of AWLA graduates from 6 countries will have a powerful impact on the future of agriculture in the region,” Mr. Victor Kommerell added.
Dr. Farah Baroudy Mikati, an AWLA fellow from Lebanon, who works as an agricultural engineer at the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, said: “The spirit of AWLA reminded me about my ambitions and strength, especially after seeing that things like research for impact exist and can succeed. Before AWLA, I used to give less importance to some managerial knowledge, but now I consider it as a priority. In addition, I started learning project proposal writing skills through this program. In general, AWLA made me aim for more even in harsh conditions!”
“During the program, the fellows got the opportunity to learn through interactive online and classroom training, coaching and mentoring, and continuous assessment. The fellows worked on a variety of individual assignments in addition to four team-based capstone projects that connect and translate their learning and impact as the golden thread,” Mr. Ghazi Jawad Al-Jabri, Capacity Building Specialist at ICBA and AWLA Coordinator, said.
AWLA’s long-term goal is to improve food security and nutrition in the region through empowering women researchers and helping them realize their full potential. The program contributes to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Gender Equality (SDG 5), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life on Land (SDG 15), and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17).
In crop research fields, it is now a common sight to see drones or other high-tech sensing tools collecting high-resolution data on a wide range of traits – from simple measurement of canopy temperature to complex 3D reconstruction of photosynthetic canopies.
This technological approach to collecting precise plant trait information, known as phenotyping, is becoming ubiquitous on research fields, but according to experts at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and other research institutions, breeders can profit much more from these tools, when used judiciously.
In a new article in the journal Plant Science, CIMMYT Wheat Physiologist Matthew Reynolds and colleagues explain the different ways that phenotyping can assist breeding — from simple to use, “handy” approaches for large scale screening, to detailed physiological characterization of key traits to identify new parental sources — and why this methodology is crucial for crop improvement. The authors make the case for breeders to invest in phenotyping, particularly in light of the imperative to breed crops for warmer and harsher climates.
This work was supported by the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP); the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) Project by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) of the Government of Mexico; and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT).
On February 3rd of 2020, the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) launched its annual Basic Wheat Improvement Course (BWIC). The Borlaug Training Foundation’s Janet Lewis had a chat with Fatima Camarillo Castillo, CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program Training Coordinator, to discuss the course and her role as coordinator.
Janet Lewis: “Can you give our audience a brief description of the Basic Wheat Improvement Course?”
Fatima Camarillo Castillo: “The wheat improvement courses at CIMMYT are short-term programs designed to train breeders working on national agricultural programs from countries where wheat is a major staple crop. During the basic training program, we provide participants an overview of the breeding pipeline and review breeding methodologies utilized in the Global Wheat Program for developing superior wheat germplasm. We also review core concepts on support disciplines for breeding such as genetics, statistics, plant pathology, and physiology. A set of practical and hands-on exercises follow where trainees collaborate directly with scientists and technicians on breeding activities of the program.”
JL: “What is your main role as the Training Coordinator?”
FCC: “I organize the content of the programs and communicate with the scientists to conduct the course. I also contribute to the training by lecturing on basic statistics, programming and genetics. During the training course, participants submit reports and prepare an oral and poster presentation. I support them by providing feedback on these activities. With the assistance of the training team, we also facilitate all the accommodations and arrangements for the participant’s trips and lodging in Mexico.”
JL: “What sparked your interest in being the training coordinator at CIMMYT?”
FCC: “As an alumnus, I personally understand the value of being part of this course. My goal as the current coordinator is to contribute to ensuring food security worldwide through training and capacity building on wheat research!”
JL: “2019 was your first year as the training coordinator. What experiences captivated you the most from 2019?”
FCC: “My greatest experience last year was that, as a coordinator, you do not expect to learn. The class of 2019 was a wonderful group of bright researchers that challenged me to keep working to become a better teacher and scientist. Some of them already excel in specific disciplines, so they provide me invaluable support to cover the academic content of the program.”
JL: “The 2020 class started on February 4th. Do you have any special expectations this year? The Women in Triticum group is participating this year, yes?”
FCC: “We will spend a couple of weeks at the CIMMYT research station at El Batan and move to Ciudad, Obregón to complete the training. We hope that trainees will interact with current scientists already established in Obregón. In the past, trainees were assigned to specific research groups in the middle of the course, but this year trainees will be integrated into the breeding activities starting the first day of their arrival in Obregon! We expect this will expose and familiarize the trainees with the breeding pipeline on a larger scale.
This year we will also have the recipients of the Women in Triticum Early Career Award. All our young scientists that have dedicated their scientific career to wheat research from Ethiopia, Uruguay, Germany, India, China, Mexico, and Pakistan.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Basic Wheat Improvement Course or any programs offered at CIMMYT, you can find them at https://www.cimmyt.org/events/
“This will make us one of the world’s best breeding programs,” says visiting scientist
A select group of plant breeders, quantitative geneticists,
pathologists, statisticians, mathematicians, and other scientific and technical
experts from the public and private wheat breeding sectors spent three days at
the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
last week debating ways to improve CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program.
The group, who traveled from as far as away as Canada, India
and China, challenged each other to come up with a set of recommendations to
move CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program to two ambitious goals: to increase the
rate of genetic gain in wheat yields and to mainstream high zinc levels into
all new improved wheat lines.
We caught up with a few of these visiting scientists to
understand why they came and how they saw their role in this renewed push for
food security through wheat research.
Gary Atlin, Senior
Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Q: There is a sense of urgency in this meeting. Why is it
important to raise genetic gain – and nutrition — in wheat now?
A: The urgency is
generally around increasing the effectiveness of breeding in the face of
climate change and intensifying cropping systems in the target countries that
we serve. There is also an increasing
recognition that micronutrient deficiencies are a major health problem in many
areas where a lot of protein and calories come from wheat.
Donors are looking at
breeding investments and realizing that although programs like CIMMYT are
extremely effective they could probably be more efficient and effective.
It’s an ambitious
goal: to increase the rate of genetic gain — and move the needle on zinc —
within the context of an agronomic breeding program that’s already very
effective. This will make us one of the world’s best breeding programs.
Q: Do we have what it takes?
A: Absolutely. The
engine already works very well. But there are lots of new tools, new ways of
organizing breeding being tried out in the public and private sectors that we
can use. CIMMYT has an excellent skill set here and very experienced people.
It’s all there — but it’s a complex problem.
Q: How do you see the role of wheat research in the move
to transform the many CGIAR centers into OneCGIAR?
A: Well, along with
rice, wheat is among the top two in terms of area and contribution to total
calories worldwide. So OneCGIAR will have a wheat research program as the core
of its wheat offering. One CGIAR will hopefully do away with dysfunctional
separations and boundaries between programs so it should be easier and we won’t
have to duplicate programmatic leadership and administrative structures.
Wheat will be just as
important. The idea of OneCGIAR is to provide a better platform for the
research programs. I’m very optimistic that it’s going to help.
Valentin Wimmer, Head of Cereals Breeding Technologies, KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, Germany
Q: Why did you decide to come help CIMMYT’s wheat
A: I would have
regretted it if I hadn’t come. The exchange, the process of disclosing a
program, having an in-depth discussion and coming up with a proposal — that is something that rarely happens.
I was also interested
because I thought I could also learn. There are many other smart people here.
It’s a give and take.
Q: What is your reaction to CIMMYT’s wheat breeding plan?
Do you think we can do it?
A: I think it’s very
ambitious but I was positively surprised by the output. Given the limited amount of time, we really
made good progress.
Q: How do you see your role in this consultation and in
the future with this effort?
A: My background is in breeding technologies,
statistical modeling and simulation and breeding scheme modeling—all areas of
discussion here. I also have expertise
in a corporate environment – so I can provide input on logistics and time
I will be available to offer additional
feedback and answer questions – or if the program wants to send someone to us
for training- I could imagine that, too.
Curtis Pozniak, Professor
and Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Program Chair in Durum and
High-Yield Wheat Breeding and Genetics, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Q: How has your experience been at this workshop?
A: I work closely with the CIMMYT wheat breeders
in exchanging germplasm, particularly on the durum wheat side. To be able to visit CIMMYT and help move the
program forward was quite an honor for me, particularly given the excellent
relationships I’ve had with CIMMYT scientists. It’s been a fantastic
Q: How do you see your role as a research partner and
your involvement as this effort moves forward?
A: It’s clear that
CIMMYT has extensive breeding capability capacity, structure, people, and know-how.
They’re doing an excellent job. Our role at this workshop is to review how
decisions are made and think about how CIMMYT wheat programs apply new technologies to improve the rate of
genetic gain in wheat. It is nice to see that the program is starting to
embrace a data driven selection system.
One of the things we
were talking about here is the importance of germplasm exchange, and how to fit
that into not only the CIMMYT program but the international programs both in
developed and developing countries. I use CIMMYT germplasm in my own crossing
program, and we exchange genetic mapping populations and genotypic information
amongst our programs to make better sense of the data in the context of our own
germplasm, relative to our specific environments. I am happy to give back.
Kudos to CIMMYT for
reaching out and really doing an excellent job presenting their program and
asking a whole range of experts to provide feedback on their wheat program and
listen to our collective experiences on how we might improve not only the
breeding program at CIMMYT, but national programs as well. I don’t see this as a “one-off” but the first
step to building a much stronger relationship, and something that will
“Change can be
painful and can take us out of our comfort zone,” said CIMMYT Director of
Genetic Resources Kevin Pixley, who co-moderated the workshop, “but a constant
pursuit of improvement is what differentiates exceptional from good, and the
challenges facing wheat farmers in coming decades will require the best that
science can offer.”
Wrapping up the technical expert meeting, Gary Atlin put
these efforts into perspective. “Genetic gains mean income for farmers,” he
reminded the group. “That’s what drives me, and I know that’s what drives you
This week, the world’s eyes are upon global leaders gathered in Madrid for COP25 to negotiate collective action to slow the devastating impacts of climate change.
According to the UN, the world is heading for a 3.2 degrees Celsius global temperature rise over pre-industrial levels, leading to a host of destructive climate impacts including hotter and drier environments and more extreme weather events. Under these more extreme conditions, the world’s staple food crops are under threat.
A new video highlights the work of the Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Network (HeDWIC), a global research and capacity building network under the Wheat Initiative, that harnesses the latest technologies in crop physiology, genetics and breeding to help create new climate-resilient wheat varieties. With the help of collaborators and supporters from around the world, HeDWIC takes wheat research from the theoretical to the practical by incorporating the best science into real-life breeding scenarios.
Wheat research leaders from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) recently traveled to Turkey to discuss continued collaboration among Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the two institutions.
director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program and the CGIAR Research Program on
Wheat and Michael Baum, program director for Biodiversity and Crop Improvement at
ICARDA, met with Deputy Minister Mustafa Aksu and General Director for
Agricultural Research of the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
(GDAR) Ozkan Kayacan to evaluate the current and potential areas for collaboration,
both in Turkey and the region.
with Turkey has been longstanding and very fruitful,” said Hans Braun. “We are
pleased to continue and grow this partnership between CGIAR Centers and Turkey
towards a bigger CGIAR-wide crop improvement initiative.”
IWWIP, a joint
program of Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and CIMMYT since the
mid-1980s with ICARDA joining in 1991, develops winter wheat germplasm for
Central and West Asia and facilitates a winter wheat germplasm exchange for the
global breeding community. The program
works jointly with research institutes of the Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry to distribute germplasm globally through observation nurseries around
the world. At least 42 varieties from IWWIP
have been released in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and
Soil Borne Pathogens Program, a world-class center for research on soil borne
pathogens, benefits from ongoing support by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry to fight against diseases affecting cereal crops, which occupy 65
percent of Turkey’s farmland.
one-day meeting, the group, which included representatives from the Turkish
Ministry’s Field Crops Department, IWWIP, the Sakarya Research Institute and
others, reviewed current progress of the ongoing joint programs and developed
work plans for next steps to improve the strong cooperation. New areas of collaboration
with potential support by the Turkish government include joint
research with CIMMYT’s maize program
and opportunities for capacity building support in wheat improvement.
Meeting attendees included Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Deputy General Directors Ilhan Aydin and Ihsan Arslan, Head of Field Crops Department Ayfer Sahin, IWWIP Coordinator Fatih Ozdemir, Sakarya Research Institute Director Yavuz Agi, and Specialist Merve Altan, CIMMYT Global Wheat Program Director Hans Braun; CIMMYT Country Representative for Turkey Abdelfattah A.S. Dababat, CIMMYT Consultant Seher Turkyilmaz Sinclair, ICARDA Program Director Michael Baum, and Turkey Country Representative for ICARDA Mesut Keser.
Hans-Joachim Braun and Alexey Morgunov receive awards and fellowships at annual meeting of crop science peers.
This article by Marcia McNeil was originally posted on the CIMMYT website.
Two scientists working in the world’s leading public wheat breeding program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have been recognized with awards and fellowships this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.
Hans-Joachim Braun, director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, has been honored with the American Society of Agronomy’s International Agronomy Award.
Alexey Morgunov, CIMMYT principal scientist and head of the Turkey-based International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) received the distinction of Fellow from the Crop Science Society of America. Braun was also distinguished with this fellowship.
Excellence in agronomy
The American Society of Agronomy’s International Agronomy Award recognizes outstanding contributions in research, teaching, extension, or administration made outside of the United States by a current agronomist. Braun received the distinction during an awards ceremony and lecture on November 12, 2019. The award committee made its selection based on criteria including degrees, professional positions, and contributions and service to the profession such as publications, patents, and efforts to develop or improve programs, practices, and products.
The award recognizes Braun’s achievements developing and promoting improved wheat varieties and cropping practices that have benefited hundreds of millions of farmers throughout Central Asia, South Asia and North Africa. Nearly half the world’s wheat lands overall — as well as 70 to 80% of all wheat varieties released in Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and North Africa — are derived from the research of CIMMYT and its partners.
“I am honored to be recognized by my fellow agronomists,” Braun said. “This award highlights the importance of international research collaboration, because the food security challenges we face do not stop at national borders.”
Braun began his 36-year CIMMYT career in Mexico in 1983. From 1985 to 2005, he led the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program in Turkey, implemented by CIMMYT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). As director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program since 2004 and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat since 2014, he is responsible for the technical direction and implementation of a program that develops and distributes wheat germplasm to more than 200 collaborators in more than 100 countries, grown on over half the spring wheat area in developing countries.
Braun and Morgunov were also chosen as Fellows, the highest recognition bestowed by the Crop Science Society of America. Members of the society nominate worthy colleagues based on their professional achievements and meritorious service. Fellows are a select group: only three out of every 1,000 of the society’s more than 4,000 active and emeritus members receive the honor.
Morgunov joined CIMMYT in 1991 as a spring wheat breeder, working with former Global Wheat Program Director and World Food Prize laureate Sanjaya Rajaram. In 1994, he moved to Turkey to work as winter wheat breeder, and then to Kazakhstan, where he worked to develop and promote new wheat varieties for the Central Asia and the Caucasus region. He has led the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program in Turkey since 2006. In this role, he has been responsible for the release of more than 80 varieties in the region. He also completed a national inventory for wheat landraces in Turkey.
“I am pleased to be recognized as [a Crop Science Society of America] Fellow,” Morgunov said. “I hope this award brings more attention to the importance of finding, saving and using the vast diversity of crop varieties in the world, for resilient crops and healthy food for all.”
Braun and Morgunov were formally recognized as Fellows on November 13.
The annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America convenes around 4,000 scientists, professionals, educators, and students to share knowledge and recognition of achievements in the field. This year’s meeting was held in San Antonio, Texas.