Posts Tagged ‘DRRW’

Dave Hodson highlights “major breakthroughs” in rust disease response at the 2020 Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Technical Workshop

By Madeline Dahm

Dave Hodson, principal scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), examined over a decade of progress from global partners in the battle to detect and respond to global wheat rust diseases at a keynote address at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Technical Workshop in early October.

International training participants learning to evaluate stem rust symptoms on wheat. Photo: Petr Kosina/CIMMYT.

Rust response in the 2000s: sounding the alarm

When the first signs of Ug99 – a deadly strain of wheat stem rust – were noticed in Uganda in 1998, farmers and researchers did not understand the full threat of this disease, or where it would travel next. After Nobel Prize-winning breeder Norman Borlaug sounded the alarm to world leaders, the BGRI was formed and stakeholders from around the world came together to discuss this quickly growing problem. They realized that first, they must develop effective monitoring and surveillance systems to track the pathogen.

Starting in 2008, the initial vision for the global rust monitoring system was developed and the first steps taken to build the global rust surveillance community. Expanding surveillance networks requires a strong database, increased capacity development and well-established national focal points. With standardized surveillance protocols, training and GPS units distributed to over 29 countries, data began to flow more efficiently into the system. This, combined with a preliminary study of the influence of wind and rainfall patterns, improved scientists’ ability to predict areas of higher risk. Furthermore, the group knew that it would be key to integrate race analysis data, expand access to information and eventually expand the system to include other rusts as well.

“Fast forward to today, and we’re now looking at one of the world’s largest international crop disease monitoring systems. We have over 39,000 geo-referenced survey records from >40 countries in the database now, and 9500+ rust isolate records,” said Hodson.

Implementation  of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) and Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) projects – predecessors to Accelerating Genetic Gains in Maize and Wheat for Improved Livelihoods (AGG)  – and other key projects advanced this surveillance system, providing early warnings of potential rust epidemics to scientists and farmers.

An important part of this success comes from the Global Rust Reference Center in Denmark, where scientists have put together a state-of-the-art data management system, known as the “Wheat Rust Toolbox,”; providing a flexible centralized database,  rapid data input from mobile devices, data export and a suite of database-driven display tools. The system is flexible enough to handle multiple crops and multiple diseases, including all three wheat rusts.  

A united front

Another critical element to this surveillance system is a global network of rust pathotyping labs around the world. 

“We currently have good surveillance coverage across the world, especially the developing country wheat-growing areas,” says Hodson. “Coupling sampling from that survey network to these labs have enabled us to track the pathogen.”

This is particularly important in the face of a rapidly mutating pathogen. Not only are new variants of Ug99 appearing and spreading, but also other important new races of stem rust are being detected and spreading in places as far-flung as Sicily, Sweden, Siberia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Georgia. In many regions, we are seeing a re-emergence of stem rust as a disease of concern.

“We now know there are 14 races of Ug99 confirmed across 13 countries. We have seen increased virulence of the pathogen, it  is mutating and migrating, and [has] spread over large distances.”

Furthermore, yellow rust has emerged as a disease of major global importance. The spread of yellow rust and appearance of highly virulent new races seems to be increasing over time. Several regions are now experiencing large-scale outbreaks as a result of the incursion of new races. For example, in South America, causing one of the largest outbreaks in 30 years.

Major breakthroughs in prediction and surveillance

Despite the increased spread and virulence of wheat rusts, the global community of partners has made serious advances in prediction, tracking and treatment of pathogens.

The University of Cambridge and the UK Met Office have developed advanced spore dispersal and epidemiological models for wheat rusts, resulting in a major leap forward in terms of understanding rust movements and providing a foundation for operational, in-season early warning systems. Operational, early warning is already a reality in Ethiopia and similar systems are now being tested in South Asia.

“These models are actually able to predict many of the movements we are now seeing globally,” says Hodson.

“In Ethiopia, information is going out to partners in weekly advisories, as well as targeted SMS alerts using the 8028 farmer hotline developed by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), with over 4 million subscribers. It makes it possible to get ahead of the disease in key areas–a major breakthrough,” he said, noting plans underway to expand the system to more countries.

In addition, innovative diagnostics such as  the award-winning MARPLE rapid, field-based diagnostic tool developed with the John Innes Centre and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), are transforming the time it takes to detect potentially damaging new races. Resulting in more opportunities for early warning and timely, effective control responses.

The future of wheat research and disease management 

“Clearly, we’re going to need more multidisciplinary approaches to combat these increasing threats from transboundary diseases,” he says, though very optimistic for the future of wheat rust disease forecasting, early warning systems and diagnostics.

Thanks to a “truly fantastic” global community of partners and donors, the global scientific community has built one of the world’s largest crop disease monitoring systems to track and combat aggressive, rapidly spreading wheat rust diseases. Its continued success will depend on embracing state of the art technology – from molecular diagnostics to artificial intelligence – and developing a plan for long-term sustainability.


Hans Braun receives prestigious Norman Borlaug Award for Lifetime Achievement in Wheat Research

Oct. 12, 2020

This story is based on a piece posted on the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative’s (BGRI) blog written by Linda McCandless. View the original post here.

The BGRI community honors four individuals who have been integral to the BGRI from the beginning. Photo: BGRI

Hans Braun, the director of the Global Wheat Program (GWP) at the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT), has received the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Technical Workshop on Oct. 9, for nearly four decades of wheat research.

“We rest on the shoulders of a lot of mighty people who have come before us,” said Ronnie Coffman, vice chair of BGRI, speaking to a global audience of wheat scientists and farmers at the Technical Workshop as he presented four individuals with the award. “Each of these individuals has contributed to the improvement of wheat and smallholder livelihoods in major and enduring ways.”

Responsible for technical direction and implementation of the GWP and CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), Hans Braun leads and manages a team of 40 internationally recruited scientists who develop wheat germplasm. This germplasm is distributed to around 200 cooperators in wheat producing countries worldwide, and is responsible for the derived varieties being grown on more than 50 percent of the spring wheat area in developing countries.

Lifetime achievement

“In his 35 years with CIMMYT, Hans has become familiar with all major wheat-based cropping systems in the developing and developed world,” said Coffman, who called Hans Braun an important collaborator and close personal friend.

“Hans was integral to the BGRI’s efforts in preventing Ug99 and related races of rust from taking out much of the 80% of the world’s wheat that was susceptible when Ug99 was first identified in 1999,” said Coffman. He “has been an integral partner in the development and implementation of the Durable Rust Research in Wheat (DRRW) and Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) projects.”

At the virtual BGRI workshop, Hans delivered a keynote speech accepting the award and discussing the bright future of wheat, despite the many challenges that lie ahead.

“The future of wheat improvement in developing countries remains on the shoulders of public organizations and institutions. It is paramount that we share germplasm, information and knowledge openly,” he said.

Hans Braun has dedicated nearly four decades to wheat research. Photo: BGRI

He emphasized the need to “keep the herd together” and maintain strong, global partnerships.

He also noted the importance of continuing to improve nutritional content, growing within planetary boundaries, and taking farmers’ preferences seriously. He highlighted CIMMYT’s exceptional capacity as one of the world’s largest and most impactful wheat breeding programs, and encouraged national partners to continue their close collaboration.

He recalled what Norman Borlaug told him in 2004, when he became head of the Global Wheat Program: “‘Hans, I have confidence you can lead the program and I will always help you’ – and how he did.”

“I would like to thank all with whom I cooperated over four decades and who contributed to make CIMMYT’s program strong,” concluded Hans. “I am very optimistic that the global wheat community will continue to develop the varieties farmers need to feed 10 billion.”

Read the original article, learn more about the other highly distinguished scientists receiving this high honor, and access the entire workshop outcomes on the BGRI website.