Highlights from around the world
A study of plant DNA showed that farmers in Ethiopia have widely adopted improved rust-resistant bread wheat varieties since 2014. Ten varieties accounted for over 81% of the wheat area sampled; of these, four were rust-resistant varieties released after 2010, corresponding to an estimated additional 225,500 tons of production in 2016-17, valued at $50 million.
One of the initiatives contributing to this impact was the Wheat Seed Scaling project. CIMMYT and its partners identified and developed new rust-resistant wheat varieties, championed the speedy multiplication of their seed, and used field demonstrations and strategic marketing to reach thousands of farmers in 54 districts of Ethiopia’s major wheat growing regions.
The project points up the need to identify new resistance genes, develop wheat varieties with durable, polygenic resistance, promote farmers’ use of a genetically diverse mix of varieties, and link farmers to better and more profitable markets. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the project, and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) was a key partner.
CIMMYT announced the successful development of three CIMMYT-derived fall armyworm-tolerant elite maize hybrids for eastern and southern Africa.
By leveraging tropical insect-resistant maize germplasm developed in Mexico, coupled with elite stress-resilient maize germplasm developed in sub-Saharan Africa, CIMMYT worked intensively over the past three years to identify and validate sources of native genetic resistance to fall armyworm in Africa.
Together with national agricultural research system (NARS) partners, CIMMYT will nominate these hybrids for varietal release in target countries in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in eastern and southern Africa. After national performance trials and varietal release and registration, the hybrids will be sublicensed to seed company partners on a non-exclusive, royalty-free basis. This will allow accelerated seed scaling and deployment, for the benefit of farming communities.
As part of a rural resilience project, CIMMYT published a guide to stress-tolerant crop varieties for smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.
The guide is a critical output of a project led by CIMMYT and the international humanitarian response agency GOAL, in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Government of Zimbabwe and other partners.
Among the project components is the promotion of stress-tolerant seed and climate-smart agriculture practices to rural smallholders.
CIMMYT released a new category of maize inbred lines called CIMMYT Maize Genetic Resource Lines (CMGRL). They are derived from crosses between elite CIMMYT lines and landrace accessions, populations or synthetics from the CIMMYT Germplasm Bank.
The inaugural class of CMGRLs includes five subtropical-adapted lines for tolerance to drought during flowering and grain-fill, and four tropical-adapted lines for tar spot complex resistance. CIMMYT will periodically release CMGRLs as superior lines are identified for economically important abiotic and biotic stresses as well as end-use traits.
The 2020 Innovative Applications in Analytics Award (IAAA) – which emphasizes novelty and creativity
in analytics applications along with real-world impact – was awarded to CIMMYT, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) for their Integrated Analytics for Sustainable Agriculture in Latin America project.
The winning submission recognizes groundbreaking data systems and tools by publicly funded research and field technicians who advise more than 150,000 farmers who participate in MasAgro, CIMMYT’s bilateral collaboration project with Mexico for sustainable maize and wheat production.
The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) and the International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) 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 Fusarium head blight, or FHB.
The new facility, based near the JAAS headquarters in Nanjing, aims to identify and characterize genetic sources of resistance to FHB and, ultimately, develop new FHB-resistant wheat varieties that can be sown in vulnerable areas around the world. It will capitalize on CIMMYT’s world-class collection of disease-resistant wheat materials and the diversity of the more than 150,000 seed samples in its Wheat Germplasm Bank.
Research by an international team of scientists, including CIMMYT agricultural systems and climate change scientist Tek Sapkota, identified the optimum rates of nitrogen fertilizer application for rice and wheat crops in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India.
By measuring crop yield and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes over two years, Sapkota and his colleagues reported that the optimum rate of N fertilizer for rice is between 120 and 200 kilograms per hectare, and between 50 and 185 kilograms per hectare for wheat. The results of the study have the potential to save farmer’s money and minimize dangerous greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining crop productivity.
The Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) announced the release of six new wheat varieties for multiplication and distribution. They will offer increased production for Nepal’s nearly one million wheat farmers and boosted nutrition for its 28 million wheat consumers.
The varieties are tailored to the conditions in a range of wheat-growing regions in the country and to stresses including wheat rust diseases and wheat blast.
The five high-zinc, biofortified varieties were developed through conventional crop breeding, by crossing modern high-yielding wheat with high-zinc progenitors such as landraces, spelt wheat and emmer wheat.
Genomic atlas for wheat improvement
In a landmark discovery for global wheat production, an international team led by the University of Saskatchewan and scientists from CIMMYT sequenced the genomes for 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programs around the world, enabling scientists and breeders to identify influential genes much more quickly for improved yield, pest resistance and other important crop traits.
The research results, published in Nature, provide the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences ever reported. The 10+ Genome Project collaboration involved more than 95 scientists from universities and institutes in Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Massive-scale genomic study
Researchers working on the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) initiative have genetically characterized 79,191 samples of wheat from the germplasm banks of CIMMYT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The findings of the study, published 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.
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.