This article and video were originally posted on the CIMMYT website.
Wheat provides, on average, 20% of the calories and protein for more than 4.5 billion people in 94 developing countries. To feed a growing population, we need both better agronomic practices and to grow wheat varieties that can withstand the effects of climate change and resist various pests and diseases.
Watch CIMMYT Wheat Physiologist Carolina Rivera discuss — in just one minute — choosing and breeding desirable wheat traits with higher tolerance to stresses.
China-based CIMMYT-JAAS screening station aims for global impact in the fight against deadly Fusarium head blight
Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), led by the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agriculture in the
Dry Areas (ICARDA), have announced a partnership with the Jiangsu Academy of
Agricultural Sciences (JAAS) in China to
open a new screening facility for
the deadly and fast-spreading fungal wheat disease Fusariumhead blight
The new facility,
based near JAAS headquarters in Nanjing, aims to capitalize on CIMMYT’s
world-class collection of disease-resistant wheat materials and the diversity
of the more than 150,000 wheat germplasm in its Wheat Germplasm Bank to
identify and characterize genetics of sources of resistance to FHB and,
ultimately, develop new, FHB-resistant wheat varieties that can be sown in
vulnerable areas around the world.
participation of JAAS in the global FHB breeding network will significantly
contribute to the development of elite germplasm with good FHB resistance,” said
Pawan Singh, head of wheat pathology for CIMMYT.
“We expect that
in 5 to 7 years, promising lines with FHB resistance will be available for
deployment by both CIMMYT and China to vulnerable farmers, thanks to this new
Fusariumhead blight is one of the most
dangerous wheat diseases. It can cause
up to 50% yield loss, and produce severe mycotoxin contamination in food and
feed – with impacts including increased health care
and veterinary care costs, and reduced livestock production.
Even consuming low to moderate amounts of Fusarium mycotoxins may impair intestinal health, immune function and/or fitness. Deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin the fungus inducing FHB produces, has been linked to symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In livestock, Fusarium mycotoxin consumption exacerbates infections with parasites, bacteria and viruses — such as occidiosis in poultry, salmonellosis in pigs and mice, colibacillosis in pigs, necrotic enteritis in poultry and swine respiratory disease.
In China, the
world’s largest wheat producer, FHB is the most important biotic constraint to
The disease is
extending quickly beyond its traditionally vulnerable wheat growing areas in
East Asia, North America, the southern cone of South America, Europe and South
Africa — partly as a result of global
warming, and partly due to otherwise beneficial, soil-conserving farming practices
such as wheat-maize rotation and reduced tillage.
“Through CIMMYT’s connections with national agricultural research
systems in developing countries, we can create a global impact for JAAS
research, reaching the countries that are expected to be affected the expansion
of FHB epidemic area,” said Xu Zhang, head of Triticeae crops research groupat the Institute of Food Crops of the
Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
collaborative effort will target FHB research initially
but could potentially expand to research on other wheat diseases as well. Wheat
blast, for example, is a devastating disease that spread from South America to
Bangladesh in 2016. Considering the geographical closeness of Bangladesh and
China, a collaboration with CIMMYT, as one of the leading institutes working on
wheat blast, could have a strong impact.
platform is new, the two institutions have a longstanding relationship. The bilateral collaboration between JAAS and
CIMMYT began in early 1980s with a shuttle breeding program between China and
Mexico to speed up breeding for FHB resistance. The two institutions also conducted
extensive germplasm exchanges in the 1980s and 1990s, which helped CIMMYT improve
resistance to FHB, and helped JAAS improve wheat rust resistance.
and CIMMYT are working on FHB under a project funded by the National Natural
Science Foundation China called “Elite and
Durable Resistance to Wheat Fusarium
Head Blight” that aims to deploy FHB resistance genes/QTL in Chinese and CIMMYT
germplasm and for use in wheat breeding.
Xinyao He, Wheat Pathologist and Geneticist, Global Wheat Program, CIMMYT. email@example.com, +52 (55) 5804 2004 ext. 2218
FOR MORE INFORMATION,
CONTACT THE MEDIA TEAM:
Geneviève Renard, Head of Communications, CIMMYT. firstname.lastname@example.org, +52 (55) 5804 2004 ext. 2019.
ABOUT CGIAR RESEARCH PROGRAM ON WHEAT: The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) as a primary research partner. Funding comes from CGIAR, national governments, foundations, development banks and other agencies, including the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
ABOUT CIMMYT: The International Maize and Wheat 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 Research 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.
Academy of Agricultural Sciences (JAAS):
Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (JAAS), a comprehensive agricultural research institution since 1931, strives to make agriculture more productive and sustainable through technology innovation. JAAS endeavors to carry out the Plan for Rural Vitalization Strategy and our innovation serves agriculture, farmers and the rural areas. JAAS provide more than 80% of new varieties, products and techniques in Jiangsu Province, teach farmers not only to increase yield and quality, but also to challenge conventional practices in pursuit of original ideas in agro-environment protection. For more information, visit home.jaas.ac.cn/.
This article by Matthew O’ Leary was originally posted on the CIMMYT website.
Wheat blast is a fast-acting and devastating fungal disease that threatens food safety and security in tropical areas in South America and South Asia. Directly striking the wheat ear, wheat blast can shrivel and deform the grain in less than a week from the first symptoms, leaving farmers no time to act.
The disease, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype triticum (MoT), can spread through infected seeds and survives on crop residues, as well as by spores that can travel long distances in the air.
Magnaporthe oryzae can infect many grasses, including barley, lolium, rice, and wheat, but specific isolates of this pathogen generally infect limited species; that is, wheat isolates infect preferably wheat plants but can use several more cereal and grass species as alternate hosts. The Bangladesh wheat blast isolate is being studied to determine its host range. The Magnaporthe oryzae genome is well-studied but major gaps remain in knowledge about its epidemiology.
In 2016, wheat blast spread to Bangladesh, which suffered a severe outbreak. It has impacted around 15,000 hectares of land in eight districts, reducing yield on average by as much as 51% in the affected fields.
How does blast infect a wheat crop?
Wheat blast spreads through infected seeds, crop residues as well as by spores that can travel long distances in the air.
Blast appears sporadically on wheat and grows well on numerous other plants and crops, so rotations do not control it. The irregular frequency of outbreaks also makes it hard to understand or predict the precise conditions for disease development, or to methodically select resistant wheat lines.
At present blast requires concurrent heat and humidity to develop and is confined to areas with those conditions. However, crop fungi are known to mutate and adapt to new conditions, which should be considered in management efforts.
How can farmers prevent and manage wheat blast?
There are no widely available resistant varieties, and fungicides are expensive and provide only a partial defense. They are also often hard to obtain or use in the regions where blast occurs, and must be applied well before any symptoms appear — a prohibitive expense for many farmers.
The Magnaporthe oryzae fungus is physiologically and genetically complex, so even after more than three decades, scientists do not fully understand how it interacts with wheat or which genes in wheat confer durable resistance.
Researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are partnering with national researchers and meteorological agencies on ways to work towards solutions to mitigate the threat of wheat blast and increase the resilience of smallholder farmers in the region. Through the USAID-supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) projects, CIMMYT and its partners are developing agronomic methods and early warning systems so farmers can prepare for and reduce the impact of wheat blast.
Uma Rao, Tushar K. Dutta, Vishal S. Somvanshi and Abdelfattah
A. Dababat contributed to this story.
Fifty delegates from across the globe
recently gathered at the 7th International Cereal Nematode Symposium
in New Delhi, India to discuss the spread of cereal nematodes, strategies to
lessen their impact on crops and ways to boost international collaboration on
Nematodes, microscopic plant parasites
that include the Heterodera species
of cereal cyst nematode and the Pratylenchus
species of root lesion nematodes, are widespread in wheat production systems
throughout West Asia, North Africa, parts of Central Asia, northern India, and
China, and pose a grave economic problem for wheat production systems globally.
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have been working over the last 12 years — in collaboration with the International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), national program partners, and research institutions in Australia and Europe – to understand the importance and distribution of these species of cereal nematodes, as part of the ICARDA-CIMMYT Wheat Improvement Program (ICWIP).
“Because cereals are the staple food for the majority
of the world’s population, cereal nematodes pose an enormous threat to global
food security,” said Abdelfattah Dababat, leader of CIMMYT’s Soil Borne
“The symposium allows scientists from around the world
to share their findings, lessons and strategies to combat this threat.”
The symposium, organized by ICWIP and hosted by the Division of Nematology at the ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), was held November 3-6 at New Delhi’s National Agricultural Science Complex. The conference was inaugurated by Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General of ICAR & Secretary DARE, Government of India. It included sessions on the global status and distribution of cereal nematodes, their economic importance and population dynamics, management strategies both with and without using host resistance, the genomes and parasitism genes of cereal nematodes, and the use of molecular tools for cereal nematode research.
Among the notable global developments
shared, highlights included the following.
Scientists from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Israel described the distribution and management status of Heterodera spp. in their region.
Hendrika Fourie from South Africa’s North West University, and colleagues, discussed the nematode problems in South Africa.
Rebecca Zwart and Senior Research Scientist Grant Hollaway, from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, presented findings on the Pratylenchus menace in wheat in Australia.
Uma Rao, a co-organizer of the symposium from IARI, and colleagues, discussed the deployment of molecular tools to manage the problem of the Meloidogyne graminicola nematode in rice-wheat cropping systems.
Richard Sikora, from the University of Bonn, Germany, summarized the current challenges in nematology, especially pertaining to wheat and maize, and reiterated the need for new technologies and management approaches for the small- and medium-sized farms of the future. He also highlighted the role of remote sensing in detecting nematode diseases.
A.K. Singh, Joint Director of Research at IARI gave a formal presentation on molecular breeding of Basmati rice.
Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General of
ICAR & Secretary Dare, and Arun K. Joshi from CIMMYT’s India office were
among the other distinguished speakers.
Following the symposium,
participants observed nematode-related research work underway at IARI’s
Division of Nematology, the largest nematology center in India. They also visited
the IARI museum and the institute’s Division of Entomology.
Symposium supporters include CIMMYT, the CGIAR Research Program On Wheat, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Corteva, Syngenta, and the Plant Breeders Union of Turkey (BISAB). Previous symposiums have been held in Turkey, Austria, China and Morocco.
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.
Ethiopia has huge potential and a suitable agroecology for growing wheat. However, its agriculture sector, dominated by a traditional farming system, is unable to meet the rising demand for wheat from increasing population and urbanization. Wheat consumption in Ethiopia has grown to 6.7 million tons per year, but the country only produces about 5 million tons per year on 1.7 million hectares. As a result, the country pays a huge import bill reaching up to $700 million per year to match supply with demand.
A new initiative is aiming to change this scenario, making Ethiopia wheat self-sufficient by opening new regions to wheat production.
“We have always been traditionally a wheat growing country, but focusing only in the highlands with heavy dependence on rain. Now that is changing and the government of Ethiopia has set a new direction for import substitution by growing wheat in the lowlands through an irrigated production system,” explained Mandefro Nigussie, director general of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). Nigussie explained that several areas are being considered for this initiative: Awash, in the Oromia and Afar regions; Wabeshebelle, in the Somali Region; and Omo, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).
A delegation from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) recently met Ethiopian researchers and policymakers to discuss CIMMYT’s role in this effort. Ethiopia’s new Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Umar Hussein, attended the meeting.
“We understand that the government of Ethiopia has set an ambitious project but is serious about it, so CIMMYT is ready to support you,” said Hans Braun, director of the Global Wheat Program at CIMMYT.
CIMMYT and the Ethiopian government have identified priority areas that will support the new government initiative. These include testing a large number of advanced lines to identify the right variety for the lowlands; developing disease resistant varieties and multiplying good quality and large quantity early generation initial seed; refining appropriate agronomic practices that improve crop, land and water productivity; organizing exposure visits for farmers and entrepreneurs; implementing training of trainers and researchers; and technical backstopping.
CIMMYT has been providing technical support and resources for wheat and maize production in Ethiopia for decades. As part of this support, CIMMYT has developed lines that are resistant to diseases like stem and yellow rust, stress tolerant and suitable for different wheat agroecologies.
“This year, for example, CIMMYT has developed three lines which are suitable for the lowlands and proposed to be released,” said Bekele Abeyo, wheat breeder and CIMMYT Country Representative for Ethiopia. “In India, the green revolution wouldn’t have happened without the support of CIMMYT and we would also like to see that happen in Ethiopia.”
“With our experience, knowledge and acquired skills, there is much to offer from the CIMMYT side,” Abeyo expressed. He noted that mechanization is one of the areas in which CIMMYT excels. Through a business service providers model, CIMMYT and its partners tested the multipurpose two-wheel tractors in Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and the southern regions. Good evidence for impact was generated particularly in Oromia and the south, where service providers generated income and ensured food security.
“Import versus export depends on a comparative advantage and for Ethiopia it is a total disadvantage to import wheat while having the potential [to grow more],” said Hussein. “The Ministry of Agriculture is thus figuring out what it can do together with partners like CIMMYT on comparative advantages.”
Hussein explained that the private sector has always been on the sidelines when it comes to agriculture. With the new initiative, however, it will be involved, particularly in the lowlands where there is abundant land for development under irrigation and available water resources, with enormous investment potential for the private sector. This, he noted, is a huge shift for the agricultural sector, which was mainly taken care of by the government and smallholder farmers, with support from development partners.
Thinking beyond the local market
As it stands now, Ethiopia is the third largest wheat producing country in Africa and has great market potential for the region. With more production anticipated under the new initiative, Ethiopia plans to expand its market to the world.
“We want our partners to understand that our thinking and plan is not only to support the country but also to contribute to the global effort of food security,” Hussein explained. However, “with the current farming system this is totally impossible,” he added. Mechanization is one of the key drivers to increase labor, land and crop productivity by saving time and ensuring quality. The government is putting forward some incentives for easy import of machinery. “However, it requires support in terms of technical expertise and knowledge transfer,” Hussein concluded.
Farmers around the world face constant threats from crop pests and diseases. One such threat is wheat blast, a disease that attacks maturing grains, causing them to shrivel. Fortunately, new advances in technology and modeling are making it easier to identify, prevent and control diseases like this.
Outbreaks of wheat blast in South Asia — a region where people consume over 100 million tons of wheat each year — have a major impact on food security and income. In 2016, a wheat blast outbreak struck South Asia unexpectedly. In Bangladesh alone, 25 to 30 percent of wheat was negatively affected, threatening progress in regional food security. Blast disease has the potential to reduce wheat production by up to 85 million tons in Bangladesh — a projected $13 million loss in farmers’ profits each year when an outbreak occurs.
Luckily, with support from Feed the Future and its partners, there is a reason for hope. A new digital early warning system can help farmers and scientists get ahead. It integrates mathematical models that, when combined with weather forecasts, can simulate disease growth and risks to provide an advanced warning about potential wheat blast outbreaks. With three years of data already recorded, the system — originally piloted in Brazil, where the wheat blast originated in 1985 — is being rolled out across Bangladesh to deliver real-time disease updates to extension workers and smallholder farmers via SMS and voice message.
“Through collaborative research with Professor Jose Mauricio Fernandes, a crop pathologist from Embrapa, and Mr. Felipe de Vargas, a computer scientist with Universidade de Passo Fundo, we have established a model to identify areas at risk of wheat blast infection with five days advanced warning,” said Timothy J. Krupnik, senior scientist and systems agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). “It can provide Bangladesh’s 1.2 million wheat farmers a head start against this disease.”
This data-driven early warning system analyzes environmental conditions for potential disease development in crucial wheat-growing areas of Bangladesh and Brazil. Using this information, the system generates forecast maps and automatic advice for farmers of where and when an outbreak is most likely to strike.
This innovation can also save wheat farmers money. Many apply fungicides on a calendar basis — between two to three times per season — as a preventative measure. This is costly and risks negative environmental effects. Now, the early warning system can push advice to extension agents and farmers, indicating when disease control is really needed.
“Our hope is that it will help reduce unnecessary fungicide use and empower farmers to implement cost-effective and resilient practices to overcome wheat blast risks instead,” Krupnik said.
With wheat as a key crop in Bangladesh, the digital warning system will help prepare farmers to get a head start to reduce the impact of wheat blast with crucial advice from extension agents in areas of need.
Researchers present highlights from 40 years of collaboration on wheat genomics, breeding for disease resistance and quality improvement.
This article by Emma Orchardson was originally posted on the CIMMYT website.
Global wheat production is currently facing great challenges, from increasing climate variation to occurrence of various pests and diseases. These factors continue to limit wheat production in a number of countries, including China, where in 2018 unseasonably cold temperatures resulted in yield reduction of more than 10% in major wheat growing regions. Around the same time, Fusarium head blight spread from the Yangtze region to the Yellow and Huai Valleys, and northern China experienced a shortage of irrigated water.
In light of these ongoing challenges, international collaboration, as well as the development of new technologies and their integration with existing ones, has a key role to play in supporting sustainable wheat improvement, especially in developing countries. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has been collaborating with China on wheat improvement for over 40 years, driving significant progress in a number of areas.
Notably, a standardized protocol for testing Chinese noodle quality has been established, as has a methodology for breeding adult-plant resistance to yellow rust, leaf rust and powdery mildew. More than 330 cultivars derived from CIMMYT germplasm have been released in the country and are currently grown over 9% of the Chinese wheat production area, while physiological approaches have been used to characterize yield potential and develop high-efficiency phenotyping platforms. The development of climate-resilient cultivars using new technology will be a priority area for future collaboration.
In a special issue of Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering focused on wheat genetics and breeding, CIMMYT researchers present highlights from global progress in wheat genomics, breeding for disease resistance, as well as quality improvement, in a collection of nine review articles and one research article. They emphasize the significance of using new technology for genotyping and phenotyping when developing new cultivars, as well as the importance of global collaboration in responding to ongoing challenges.
In a paper on wheat stem rust, CIMMYT scientists Sridhar Bhavani, David Hodson, Julio Huerta-Espino, Mandeep Randawa and Ravi Singh discuss progress in breeding for resistance to Ug99 and other races of stem rust fungus, complex virulence combinations of which continue to pose a significant threat to global wheat production. The authors detail how effective gene stewardship and new generation breeding materials, complemented by active surveillance and monitoring, have helped to limit major epidemics and increase grain yield potential in key target environments.
In the same issue, an article by Caiyun Lui et al. discusses the application of spectral reflectance indices (SRIs) as proxies to screen for yield potential and heat stress, which is emerging in crop breeding programs. The results of a recent study, which evaluated 287 elite lines, highlight the utility of SRIs as proxies for grain yield. High heritability estimates and the identification of marker-trait associations indicate that SRIs are useful tools for understanding the genetic basis of agronomic and physiological traits.
New research describes a revolutionary new early warning system that can predict and mitigate wheat rust diseases in Ethiopia.
Using field and mobile phone
surveillance data together with forecasts for spore dispersal and environmental
suitability for disease, an international team of scientists has developed an
early warning system which can predict wheat rust diseases in Ethiopia. The
cross-disciplinary project draws on expertise from biology, meteorology,
agronomy, computer science and telecommunications.
Reported last week in Environmental Research Letters, the new early warning system, which is the first of its kind to be implemented in a developing country, will allow policy makers and farmers all over Ethiopia to gauge the current rust situation and forecast wheat rust up to a week later.
Ethiopia is the largest wheat producer
in sub-Saharan Africa but the country still spends in excess of $600 million
annually on wheat imports. More can clearly be grown at home and the Ethiopian
government has targeted to achieve wheat self-sufficiency by 2023. However
increasing yields has its challenges.
One major challenge to wheat
production are wheat rusts. The fungal diseases can be dispersed by wind over
long distances, quickly causing devastating epidemics which can dramatically
reduce wheat yields. Just one outbreak in 2010 affected 30% of Ethiopia’s wheat
growing area and reduced production by 15-20%.
The pathogens that cause rust diseases
are continually evolving and changing over time, making them difficult to
control. “New strains of wheat rust are appearing all the time – a bit like the
flu virus,” explained Dave Hodson, principal scientist CIMMYT and co-author of
the research study.
In the absence of resistant varieties,
one solution to wheat rust is to apply fungicide, however the Ethiopian government
has limited supplies. The early warning system will help to prioritize areas at
highest risk of the disease, so that the allocation of fungicides can be
The early warning system works by taking near real-time information from wheat rust surveys carried out by EIAR, regional research centers and CIMMYT using a smartphone app called Open Data Kit (ODK). This is complemented by crowd sourced phone surveys using ATA’s 8028 Farmers’ Hotline.
The University of Cambridge and the UK Met office then provide automated 7 day advanced forecast models for wheat rust spore dispersal and environmental suitability based on disease presence.
Interestingly, the dispersal model was
originally developed by the UK Met Office for volcanic eruptions and nuclear
accidents to predict where particles would be dispersed in the air. The
University of Cambridge and the UK Met Office then adapted the model to predict
where wheat rust spores would be dispersed and to provide a 7-day forecast.
“It’s world-class science from the UK being applied
to real world problems,” said Hodson.
All of this information is fed into an
early warning unit that receives updates automatically on a daily basis. An
advisory report is sent out every week to development agents and the national authorities
and the information also gets passed on to researchers and farmers.
“If there’s a high risk of wheat rust
developing, farmers will get a targeted alert by SMS sent by ATA. This gives
the farmer about three weeks to take action,” explained Hodson. The ATA Farmers’
Hotline now has over four million farmers and extension agents registered,
enabling rapid information dissemination throughout Ethiopia.
“Rust diseases are a grave threat to
wheat production in Ethiopia. The timely information from this new system will
help us protect farmers’ yields, and reach our goal of wheat self-sufficiency,”
said EIAR Director Mandefro Nigussie.
The system puts Ethiopia at the
forefront of early warning systems for wheat rust.
“Nowhere else in the world really has
this type of system. It’s fantastic that Ethiopia is leading the way on this,”
At the same time, CIMMYT and partners have been racing to develop wheat rust resistant varieties to allow farmers to avoid the diseases altogether. Recent estimates, based on DNA fingerprinting, indicate that these rust resistant varieties have been widely adopted throughout Ethiopia, and that varietal replacement is occurring frequently.
The near real-time diagnostics tool MARPLE () is also making huge leaps in wheat rust detection. Strains of yellow rust can be identified in just 48 hours using this suitcase sized kit – a process that normally takes months. The researchers recommended that this new technology be used in conjunction with the Early Warning System, to allow more accurate assessments and predictions of disease spread in Ethiopia.
The Norman Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program at Washington State University, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, facilitates international collaboration to fight soil borne pathogens
Soil borne pathogens (SBPs) are microorganisms that thrive in the soil and attack cereal crops, notably wheat. They cause high yield losses and reduce grain quality and quantity. SBPs include nematodes, a kind of round worm — including the Heterodera species of cereal cyst nematode and Pratylenchus species of root lesion nematodes — and crown rot caused by the Fusarium species, all of which attack roots of cereal crops. Drought and monoculture farming exacerbate this damage.
chemical, biological and other options can be used to keep pathogen population
levels low, the most environmentally friendly and biologically effective method
of control is through a resistant crop variety.
However, up to now, only a few resistance genes have been identified
against the cereal cyst nematode, Heterodera filipjevi, and this resistance
is not yet present in high yielding cultivars.
For nearly 20 years, research to fight these pathogens has benefited from a productive collaboration between the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Program (CIMMYT) in Turkey and Washington State University (WSU) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in the United States through a fellowship program named after CIMMYT founder and Green Revolution pioneer Norman Borlaug. CIMMYT wheat breeders in Turkey have been working with breeders in Pullman, Washington to find stronger resistance genes to cereal cyst nematodes identify pathotypes, and other research areas that strengthen both CIMMYT and WSU wheat breeding programs.
pathologist and Turkey Country Representative Abdelfattah Dababat has been
working with WSU and USDA-ARS since 2010. Dababat, who joined CIMMYT as a
postdoctoral student studying soil borne pathogens (SBPs) in 2009, recently
spent two months in Pullman as a Norman Borlaug International Agricultural
Science and Technology Fellow, sponsored by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). There he was able to
share CIMMYT work with members of the WSU Department of Plant Pathology,
USDA-ARS, exchange ideas with well-known pathologists, and even travel to
Cleveland, Ohio to attend the meeting of the American Phytopathological
experience at WSU has been productive and inspiring.” said Dababat. “I have
learned from some of the best minds in plant pathology, and worked on SBP
issues that plague farmers both in my region and theirs.
like to thank CIMMYT, especially Dr. Hans Braun, for the opportunity to obtain
this great fellowship visit to WSU.”
relationship was strengthened when the two institutions collaborated on a proposal
for an Ethiopian PhD student at the University of Ankara, Turkey to work on
SBPs. Through the sponsorship of a Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in
Agriculture Program (LEAP) scholarship, Elfinesh Shikur Gebremariam spent four
months at WSU in 2013-14 to learn about molecular aspects related to crown rot
diseases. She published three peer-reviewed papers in high impact factor
Paulitz, a research plant pathologist with USDA-ARS and an adjunct professor in
WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology has also been an active member in this
collaboration, contributing to two master classes on soil borne pathogens in
cereals at CIMMYT’s Turkey research station.
Paulitz has made tremendous impact in our region,” said Dababat. “He trained
more than 50 young scientists who are now in a high scientific and or
managerial positions and are contributing not only to their own food security
but also to international food security.”
SBP resistance progress and challenges
screens hundreds of wheat germplasm lines each year against SBPs at its
research station in Eskisehir, Turkey, in collaboration with the Grain Research
Development Corporation of Australia. Using association mapping, CIMMYT
researchers have been able to identify new sources of resistance to cereal cyst
nematodes, and many new lines have been approved as moderately resistant to
resistant compared known varieties. As a
result, hundreds of lines of winter and spring wheat germplasm moderately
resistant to SBPs are available.
cyst nematodes (CCN) are a persistent problem, however. Among the most damaging
nematode pests to small grain cereal production, CCN are common from the Middle
East, North Africa and Central Asia to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. These
nematodes alone are estimated to reduce production of crops by 10% globally. Breeding for resistance is difficult because
breeders must use live nematodes to phenotype, or measure, the lines, and there
are few molecular markers linked to the resistance genes against the major CCN
species to help identify them.
CIMMYT research — involving targeted genetic exploitations, classical
selection breeding of resistant genotypes discovery of quantitative trait loci
(QTLs) associated with resistance genes, as well as recent genome-wide
association studies (GWAS) to associate nematode resistance or susceptibility
with particular regions of the genome — has seen some success. One important
source for disease-resistance genes is found in wheat’s wild relatives. So far, 11 resistance genes have been
reported. Nine of these were transferred into common wheat from its wild
relatives (like Aegilops or goat
grass, and other Triticum species) to
enhance resistance against the H. avenae
species of nematode.
Recently, CIMMYT and the University of Bonn, Germany performed GWAS on 161 winter wheat accessions and identified 11 QTL associated with resistance against the H. filipjevi species of nematode. These QTLs were intercrossed into susceptible winter wheat germplasm and the first generation material (F1) along with the parents were sent to WSU as part of the Borlaug fellowship. CIMMYT and WSU also conducted several surveys in countries including Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to detect SBPs in cereals.
research will help both institutes to find stronger resistance genes to the
cereal cyst nematodes.
Washington State-based part of Dababat’s Borlaug fellowship is drawing to a
close, but the collaboration and relationship between the two institutions remains.
In June of next year, Paulitz will visit him in Turkey to follow up on his
international collaboration between CIMMYT and WSU shows how much progress we
can make when we work together,” said Dababat. “I look forwarding to continuing
our partnership to help farmers around the world find resistance to SBPs.”