Three scientists working on wheat research with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have been recognized as 2020 recipients of the Clarivate™ Highly Cited Researchers list.
The honor recognizes exceptional research performance demonstrated by the production of multiple papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for field and year, according to the Web of Science citation indexing service.
Called a “who’s who” of influential researchers, the list draws on data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information™ at Clarivate.
The 2020 CIMMYT honorees include:
Julio Huerta: CIMMYT-seconded wheat breeder and rust geneticist with Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias (INIFAP)
Building on a wealth of existing investment in UK wheat research and development, including the UK Research and Innovation BBSRC-funded Designing Future Wheat programme (DFW), the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) has formed a new European Winter Wheat Hub that will accelerate research discoveries from the UK and globally into commercial plant breeding.
A public-private partnership, the IWYP-European Winter Wheat Hub will combine novel traits discovered by collaborative international teams into a range of high performing European winter wheat genetic backgrounds for assessment and use in winter wheat breeding programs.
The global agriculture companies BASF, KWS, RAGT and Syngenta, in collaboration with the UK National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB), will provide a translational pipeline supporting European winter wheat improvement. In partnership with IWYP, commercial breeders will select key genetic discoveries of potential value for the European wheat community from global IWYP research projects. NIAB will then use its expertise in pre-breeding to produce genetic material for the validation and development of selected IWYP research outputs.
Joining the wider existing IWYP Hub Network of large translational pipelines operating on spring wheat at CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) in Mexico and the recently established NIFA-IWYP Winter Wheat Breeding Innovation Hub at Kansas State University, USA, the IWYP-European Winter Wheat Hub will ensure that cutting-edge discoveries are rapidly available to both the participating wheat breeders and to the global wheat breeding community.
“This is another excellent example of how public-private partnerships (such as the DFW, the Wheat Initiative and IWYP) can work well at both the international and national level,” said Dr. Chris Tapsell from KWS, who is leading the IWYP-European Winter Wheat Hub development.
“And this hub will help ensure that the hard work of the IWYP researchers around the world will deliver impacts that address the twin challenges of increasing wheat production for food security whilst protecting the environment.”
Jeff Gwyn, who leads the IWYP program said, “The addition of this new hub further strengthens the IWYP Hub Network and enables the development of our innovations to reach a wider industry base more rapidly. It is critical for IWYP to have its research outputs taken up and utilized for the public good. Public-private partnerships such as this further demonstrate that the IWYP initiative is filling a significant gap and creating value.”
Tina Barsby, CEO of NIAB commented, “NIAB has a strong track record in pre-breeding of wheat and particularly in working closely with commercial breeders to bring new variability to the market. We are really looking forward to helping to advance IWYP project traits into breeding programs.”
For further information about the IWYP-European Winter Wheat Hub please contact Chris Tapsell (KWS): email@example.com.
For further information about IWYP please contact Jeff Gwyn (IWYP): firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IWYP program is based on an innovative model for public funding and international scientific collaboration to address the global grand challenge of food, nutritional and economic security for the future. The model employs public-private partnerships to scale and drive its research innovations for impact. Operations require active coordination of the international research and development teams whose discovery research focuses on complementary and overlapping sets of potentially high impact novel trait targets deemed likely to underpin yield increases, such as the regulation of photosynthesis, optimal plant architecture, plant biomass distribution, and grain number and size. As the results emerge, it is possible to envisage how to combine them and therefore simultaneously remove multiple constraints affecting yields in farmers’ fields. https://iwyp.org/
NIAB is an independent plant biosciences organisation working to translate fundamental research into innovative solutions and products for the agricultural sector. The IWYP-European Winter Wheat Hub will leverage established expertise in wheat genetics and breeding at NIAB, including newly developed glasshouse and molecular laboratory facilities. https://www.niab.com/
BASF, KWS, RAGT and Syngenta are innovation-led leaders in the wheat breeding industry, developing varieties that deliver consistent year-on-year genetics gain for the benefit of wheat growers throughout Europe and North America. All companies are active members of IWYP and launched this initiative to speed up and ensure the effective utilisation of deliverables from IWYP research projects, which are funded by partners across the globe including the BBSRC in the UK. www.kws.com www.ragt.fr www.basf.com www.syngenta.com
CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) is a non-profit international agricultural research and training organization focusing on two of the world’s most important cereal grains: maize and wheat, and related cropping systems and livelihoods. www.cimmyt.org
The 2020 International Day of Rural Women’s theme is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19.” Through a survey carried out with 100 male and 100 female dryland farmers in rural Egypt and Tunisia, we examine how COVID-19 affected them, and the coping mechanisms they employed to maintain crop and livestock supplies, sales, market connections, and personal wellbeing.
The study uncovers the often undervalued and hidden contribution that women make to rural dryland farming practices. It suggests that building women’s resilience to the impact of COVID-19 and even afterward, through better transport, consistent and affordable supplies of feedstock and other agricultural inputs, digital access, and on domestic issues, is a good place to start for strengthening the resilience of households and whole communities. Given the global resurgence of COVID-19 and its expected long-term effects, now, more than ever, we should not overlook what women are already offering.
This research is funded by the UN IFAD CLCA Phase II project, mapped to the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) and the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Livestock.
Alison Bentley, who will be joining the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) next month as director of the Global Wheat Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, joined wheat research colleagues at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Technical Workshop last week to introduce herself and offer her perspective on current prospects for wheat research.
Bentley, who currently serves as director of Genetics and Breeding at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in the UK, emphasized the efforts of CIMMYT and partner scientists in the Accelerating Genetic Gains in Maize and Wheat for Improved Livelihoods (AGG) project.
“AGG is unique, and it’s something that’s really close to my heart in harnessing innovations and deploying them in breeding to deliver genetic gains,” she said.
Bentley gave workshop attendees a sneak preview of new speed breeding facilities in CIMMYT’s Toluca experimental station, which will help wheat breeders reduce cycle time, saving costs and getting high yielding, improved varieties tested and in farmers’ fields more quickly.
“There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in wheat research and breeding,” she told the gathering.
See Alison Bentley’s full presentation from the BGRI Technical Workshop below.
The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) has “a track record of delivering local solutions with a global perspective — and is well positioned to continue this trajectory in the next decade.”
This was a key finding of a recent review of the program aimed to assess WHEAT’s 2017-2019 delivery of quality science and effectiveness, as well as to provide insights and lessons to inform the program’s future.
“Wheat as a crop is bound to be central to global food security in the foreseeable future,” the reviewers stated.
The crop currently contributes 20% of the world population’s calories and protein—and global demand is estimated to increase by 44% between 2005-07 and 2050.
WHEAT — led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) as a key research partner —has two pillars that are essential to meeting this demand: raising potential yield through breeding and closing the yield gap through sustainable intensification at field, farm and landscape scales.
Key recommendations included supporting strategic investment in research partner network development and maintenance, and continuing WHEAT’s trajectory towards modernizing breeding processes and integrating sustainable intensification approaches, including mechanization.
The reviewers warned of challenges for the way ahead, pointing out that partnerships — and WHEAT’s reputation as a reliable partner — are vulnerable to funding volatility. The review also raised concerns about the potential fragmentation of the global breeding program, restrictions to the international exchange of germplasm and ideas, “misguided” emphasis on minor crops, and CGIAR’s “focus on process at the expense of results.”
“This review cuts to the core of what’s so critical—and at risk – not only with our program but wheat research in general,” said Hans Braun, director of the CIMMYT Global Wheat Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat. “Global collaboration and the exchange of improved seeds, data, and especially information.”
“The reviewers rightly point out that limited resources will lead to competition and dampen this collaboration—even between scientists in the same program. We must address this potential risk to improve integration and continue our life saving work.”
“In most of the developing world, the alliance of public sector and CGIAR wheat breeding programs, as well as some national public breeding programs on their own, will remain dominant providers of wheat varieties, until either functioning seed royalty collection systems are established and/or hybrid wheat becomes a reality,” he added.
WHEAT’s strength is its robust global network of research for development partners and scientists linked to global breeding in a ‘wide adaptation’ approach,” said Victor Kommerell, program manager for the CGIAR Research Programs on Wheat and Maize.
“This review underscores that breaking up the breeding program could cause lasting damage to this network.”
More key findings include:
WHEAT is effective and well-managed: In 2017- 2019, WHEAT mainly achieved its planned outputs and outcomes, and in addition achieved unplanned outcomes. For the three years reviewed, WHEAT did not drop any research line.
WHEAT’s strength is its partnerships: WHEAT has catalyzed a global network of research and development (R&D) that has delivered and continues to deliver a disproportionate wealth of outputs in relation to investment.
WHEAT creates, and thrives on, collaboration: The predominantly public nature of wheat R&D (In the period 1994–2014, the public sector accounted for 63% of global wheat varietal releases and more than 95% of releases in developing countries) favors collaboration, compared with other industries.
WHEAT facilitates shared success: The long history of collaboration between CIMMYT, ICARDA and national partners has fostered a sense of belonging to the International Wheat Improvement Network that permits free exchange of information and germplasm, allowing the best varieties to be released, irrespective of origin. International nursery testing delivers elite lines for national program use; data shared by national programs informs WHEAT’s next crossing cycle.
Researchers working on the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) initiative, which aims to facilitate the effective use of genetic diversity of maize and wheat, have genetically characterized 79,191 samples of wheat from the germplasm banks of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The findings of the study published today in Nature Communications are described as “a massive-scale genotyping and diversity analysis” of the two types of wheat grown globally — bread and pasta wheat — and of 27 known wild species.
Wheat is the most widely grown crop globally, with an annual production exceeding 600 million tons. Approximately 95% of the grain produced corresponds to bread wheat and the remaining 5% to durum or pasta wheat.
The main objective of the study was to characterize the genetic diversity of CIMMYT and ICARDA’s internationally available collections, which are considered the largest in the world. The researchers aimed to understand this diversity by mapping genetic variants to identify useful genes for wheat breeding.
From germplasm bank to breadbasket
The results show distinct biological groupings within bread wheats and suggest that a large proportion of the genetic diversity present in landraces has not been used to develop new high-yielding, resilient and nutritious varieties.
“The analysis of the bread wheat accessions reveals that relatively little of the diversity available in the landraces has been used in modern breeding, and this offers an opportunity to find untapped valuable variation for the development of new varieties from these landraces”, said Carolina Sansaloni, high-throughput genotyping and sequencing specialist at CIMMYT, who led the research team.
The study also found that the genetic diversity of pasta wheat is better represented in the modern varieties, with the exception of a subgroup of samples from Ethiopia.
The researchers mapped the genomic data obtained from the genotyping of the wheat samples to pinpoint the physical and genetic positions of molecular markers associated with characteristics that are present in both types of wheat and in the crop’s wild relatives.
According to Sansaloni, on average, 72% of the markers obtained are uniquely placed on three molecular reference maps and around half of these are in interesting regions with genes that control specific characteristics of value to breeders, farmers and consumers, such as heat and drought tolerance, yield potential and protein content.
The data, analysis and visualization tools of the study are freely available to the scientific community for advancing wheat research and breeding worldwide.
“These resources should be useful in gene discovery, cloning, marker development, genomic prediction or selection, marker-assisted selection, genome wide association studies and other applications,” Sansaloni said.
The study was part of the SeeD and MasAgro projects and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), with the support of Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), the United Kingdom’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and CGIAR Trust Fund Contributors. Research and analysis was conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and the James Hutton Institute (JHI).
The International Maize and What Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is the global leader in publicly-funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR System and leads the CGIAR programs on Maize and Wheat and the Excellence in Breeding Platform. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies. For more information visit www.cimmyt.org.
The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) is proud to release our 2019 Annual Report, celebrating shared achievements through partnerships around the world for the 7th year of the program.
In this year’s report, we highlight cutting edge work by researchers and partners — particularly our primary research partner, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) — to help farmers grow wheat that is nutritious, resilient, and high-yielding—while decreasing environmental impact.
DNA fingerprinting, a smartphone-powered warning system, no-till innovations and the joint release of 50 new CGIAR-derived wheat varieties are just a few markers of success in a busy, challenging, and exciting year.
The threat of the current global pandemic highlights the crucial role wheat plays in the health and livelihoods of millions. We look forward to continued productive collaborations as we transition with our partners into an integrated, inclusive “One CGIAR” designed to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Read more in the full SPARK, web-based annual report here.
A new quantitative genetics study makes a strong case for the yield testing strategies the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) uses in its wheat breeding program.
The process for breeding for grain yield in bread wheat at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) involves three-stage testing at an experimental station in the desert environment of Ciudad Obregón, in Mexico’s Yaqui Valley. Because the conditions in Obregón are extremely favorable, CIMMYT wheat breeders are able to replicate growing environments all over the world, and test the yield potential and climate-resilience of wheat varieties for every major global wheat growing area. These replicated test areas in Obregón are known as selection environments (SEs).
This process has its roots in the innovative work of wheat breeder and Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug, more than 50 years ago. Wheat scientists at CIMMYT, led by wheat breeder Philomin Juliana, wanted to see if it remained effective.
The scientists conducted a large quantitative genetics study comparing the grain yield performance of lines in the Obregón SEs with that of lines in target growing sites throughout the world. They based their comparison on data from two major wheat trials: the South Asia Bread Wheat Genomic Prediction Yield Trials in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh initiated by the U.S. Agency for International Development Feed the Future initiative, and the global testing environments of the Elite Spring Wheat Yield Trials.
The authors found higher average heritabilities, or trait variations due to genetic differences, for grain yield in the Obregón SEs than in the target sites (44.2 and 92.3% higher for the South Asia and global trials, respectively), indicating greater precision in the SE trials than those in the target sites. They also observed significant genetic correlations between one or more SEs in Obregón and all five South Asian sites, as well as with the majority (65.1%) of the Elite Spring Wheat Yield Trial sites. Lastly, they found a high ratio of selection response by selecting for grain yield in the SEs of Obregón than directly in the target sites.
“The results of this study make it evident that the rigorous multi-year yield testing in Obregón environments has helped to develop wheat lines that have wide-adaptability across diverse geographical locations and resilience to environmental variations,” said Philomin Juliana, CIMMYT associate scientist and lead author of the article.
“This is particularly important for smallholder farmers in developing countries growing wheat on less than 2 hectares who cannot afford crop losses due to year-to-year environmental changes.”
In addition to these comparisons, the scientists conducted genomic prediction for grain yield in the target sites, based on the performance of the same lines in the SEs of Obregón. They found high year-to-year variations in grain yield predictabilities, highlighting the importance of multi-environment testing across time and space to stave off the environment-induced uncertainties in wheat yields.
“While our results demonstrate the challenges involved in genomic prediction of grain yield in future unknown environments, it also opens up new horizons for further exciting research on designing genomic selection-driven breeding for wheat grain yield,” said Juliana.
This type of quantitative genetics analysis using multi-year and multi-site grain yield data is one of the first steps to assessing the effectiveness of CIMMYT’s current grain yield testing and making recommendations for improvement—a key objective of the new Accelerating Genetic Gains in Maize and Wheat for Improved Livelihoods (AGG) project, which aims to accelerate the breeding progress by optimizing current breeding schemes.
This work was made possible by the generous support of the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and managed by Cornell University; the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future initiative; and several collaborating national partners who generated the grain yield data.
New research platform focuses on helping smallholder farmers sustainably increase production and adapt to climate change, reducing yield and efficiency gaps in major crops
Nine CGIAR centers, supported by the Big Data Platform, launched the Excellence in Agronomy 2030 initiative today at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) online summit.
The Excellence in Agronomy 2030 (EiA 2030) initiative will assist millions of smallholder farmers to intensify their production systems while preserving key ecosystem services under the threat of climate change. This initiative, co-created with various scaling partners, represents the collective resolve of CGIAR’s agronomy programs to transform the world’s food systems through demand- and data-driven agronomy research for development.
EiA 2030 will combine big data analytics, new sensing technologies, geospatial decision tools and farming systems research to improve spatially explicit agronomic recommendations in response to demand from scaling partners. Our science will integrate the principles of Sustainable Intensification and be informed by climate change considerations, behavioral economics, and scaling pathways at the national and regional levels.
A two-year Incubation Phase of EiA 2030 is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project will demonstrate the added value of demand-driven R&D, supported by novel data and analytics and increased cooperation among centers, in support of a One CGIAR agronomy initiative aiming at the sustainable intensification of farming systems.
Speaking on the upcoming launch, the IITA R4D Director for Natural Resource Management, Bernard Vanlauwe, who facilitates the implementation of the Incubation Phase, said that “EiA 2030 is premised on demand-driven agronomic solutions to develop recommendations that match the needs and objectives of the end users.”
Christian Witt, Senior Program Officer from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, lauded the initiative as a cornerstone for One CGIAR. “It is ingenious to have a platform like EiA 2030 that looks at solutions that have worked in different settings on other crops and whether they can be applied in a different setting and on different crops,” Witt said.
Martin Kropff, Director General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), spoke about the initiative’s goals of becoming the leading platform for next-generation agronomy in the Global South, not only responding to the demand of the public and private sectors, but also increasing efficiencies in the development and delivery of solutions through increased collaboration, cooperation and cross-learning between CGIAR centers and within the broader agronomy R&D ecosystem, including agroecological approaches.
CGIAR centers that are involved in EiA include AfricaRice, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
As the world grapples with a disastrous human health crisis, scientists will gather virtually October 7-9 to discuss strategies to safeguard the health of one of the planet’s most important food sources — wheat.
The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative’s (BGRI) virtual technical workshop will bring together scientists at the forefront of wheat science for cutting-edge training and knowledge sharing. Experts from global institutions such as Cornell University, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and the John Innes Centre, with presenters from Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Australia, Finland, Mexico, the United Kingdom and United States, will lead in-depth talks and discussions on the most pressing challenges facing global wheat security.
“Right now we are witnessing the devastation that the global spread of disease can cause, and it underscores the continual threat that diseases pose to our most important food crops,” said Ronnie Coffman, vice-chair of the BGRI and an international professor in Cornell’s Department of Global Development and School of Integrative Plant Science. “Devastating wheat epidemics would be catastrophic to human health and wellbeing. October’s workshop is an opportunity for wheat scientists to converge virtually for the practical training and knowledge-sharing we need to fight numerous challenges.”
The three-day workshop in October will be broken up into sessions with keynotes from leading experts and presentations focused on key areas of wheat research:
Molecular host-pathogen interaction
The BGRI is a strong proponent of responsible gene deployment to ensure the efficacy of disease resistant genes available to breeders. Since 2012, the BGRI has bestowed the Gene Stewardship Award in recognition of excellence in the development, multiplication and/or release of rust resistant wheat varieties that encourage diversity and complexity of resistance. The winners of the 2020 BGRI Gene Stewardship award will be announced at the workshop.
Maricelis Acevedo, associate director for science for the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) project and researcher in Cornell’s Department of Global Development, said: “The BGRI has been at the forefront of developing the next generation of wheat warriors, especially in strengthening the technical and professional skills of women and men scientists from developing countries. We are taking a global approach to help reduce the threat of diseases that can overwhelm farmers’ wheat fields. Issues related to improving world food security, especially in the face of climate change, can only be addressed by a diverse and united global community.”
She added: “The BGRI’s technical workshop has long been the premiere meeting ground for wheat scientists around the world. It’s more important than ever that we come together to address the challenges before us.”
The BGRI 2020 Technical Workshop originally planned for June 1-4 in Norwich, United Kingdom was postponed due to COVID-19.
Wheat is one of the world’s largest primary commodity, with global production of over 700 million tons, grown on over 215 million hectares. Eaten by over 2.5 billion people in 89 countries, wheat provides 19% of the world’s total available calories and 20% of all protein.
Over the past 20 years, the global area under wheat production has not increased. To produce the required amount of wheat needed to feed the world’s growing population, researchers predict wheat yields must increase at least 1.4% per acre through 2030.
Wheat faces pressure from the changing environment and diseases, especially rust diseases increasingly prevalent in wheat-growing regions everywhere. The BGRI was formed in 2005 in response to a novel strain of rust discovered in East Africa known as Ug99 that posed risks of epidemic proportions to global wheat production. Norman Borlaug galvanized global scientists and donors in a bid to combat Ug99 and other disease pressures.
“The world averted disaster thanks to the commitment of researchers and farmers from all over the world who participated in the BGRI’s coordinated global response,” said Coffman. “With the backing of far-sighted donors, the BGRI focused on delivering rust-resilient varieties of wheat to farmers around the world, and dedicating our efforts to small-holder farmers in wheat-producing countries in Africa and Asia — men and women who do not always have access to new technologies and improved seed.”
The BGRI is a community of hunger fighters dedicated to protecting the world’s wheat. The initiative receives funding through the DGGW project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.