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6th CSISA wheat breeding meeting reviews gains in South Asia

September 17, 2014

On 11-12 September, 61 scientists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal convened in Kathmandu, Nepal, for the 6th Wheat Breeding Review Meeting of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) objective 4 program.

Participants pose for a photo at the 6th CSISA Wheat Breeding review meeting, Kathmandu, Nepal, held 11-12 September.
Photo: Prakash Shrestha.

The meeting was organized by CIMMYT’s Kathmandu office and led by Dr. Arun Joshi. Other CIMMYT participants were Andrew McDonald and Cynthia Mathys. Participants included representatives of the Wheat Research Centre of Bangladesh (Dinajpur); Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), Ghazipur; India’s Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR), Karnal and Shimla; the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi and Indore; Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and Gurdaspur; Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi; the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; Uttarbanga Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Coochbehar, West Bengal; Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur and Powarkheda; Agharkar Research Institute, Pune; Govind Vallabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar; Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology, Kanpur; Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, Mohanpur, Distt. Nadia, W. Bengal; Nepal’s National Wheat Research Program (NWRP), Bhairahwa; Nepal Agricultural Research Institute (NARI); Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC); Renewable Natural Resources (RNR); Research and Development Centre (RDC), Bajo; the Bhutanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forest; and SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The CSISA meeting began with remarks by the chief guest, Dr. Dil Bahadur Gurung, executive director of NARC, along with Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondal, Director General of BARI and McDonald and Joshi of CIMMYT. Within a wider framework of discussions concerning wheat improvement issues, the CSISA meeting reviewed the progress of the 2013-14 cycle and established work plans for the 2014-15 crop cycle. McDonald presented a summary of all CSISA objectives and highlighted the substantial results obtained in wheat breeding. Mondal expressed his satisfaction that CSISA wheat breeding has regional recognition in South Asia and is trying its best to create linkages among regionally important research issues. Gurung highlighted the significance of collaborative research with a regional perspective and reported the successes being achieved by CSISA in wheat research and cropping systems in Nepal. He expressed his appreciation for new research efforts under CSISA and said that, “the South Asia-CIMMYT collaboration is paramount to the food security in the region.”

Four review sessions were conducted, chaired by Mondal, Dr. Ravi Pratap Singh, Dr. Girish Chandra Mishra and Joshi. Three sessions were platforms to present review reports and work plans from the 10 research centers; two other sessions discussed physiology, spot blotch, extension of wheat breeding activities and how to link wheat breeding with seed dissemination and capacity building in South Asia. Another session discussed conducting trials, weather data, advanced and segregating material in Kenya and submission of data booklets and reports. A major discussion was held to encourage the strengthening of existing links with CSISA objective 4 (wheat breeding) and other objectives of CSISA, which include linkages with hubs and other stakeholders,  and explored the possibilities of providing quality seeds from newly released improved varieties to farmers as quickly as possible. The inclusion of conservation agriculture and participatory variety selection were also encouraged.

Joshi also highlighted major achievements by the CGIAR Centers during the last six years of CSISA: breeding for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance gained momentum with around a dozen new varieties released and popularized in South Asia; germplasm exchange with CIMMYT increased significantly; the majority of advanced lines in CIMMYT trials carried resistance to Ug99 and other rusts; shuttling of segregating generations between South Asia and Kenya increased; use of physiological tools for heat and drought tolerance increased in the region; stronger links were formed among breeders, seed producers and farmers; and capacity building was promoted in the region. Many new topics were discussed, including the current status of wheat rusts in SAARC countries by Dr. Subhash Bhardwaj, DWR Shimla; the current status and future options for wheat breeding for salt-affected soils by Neeraj Kulshrestha, CSSRI, Karnal; capacity building options for crop protection at DWR for SAARC scientists by M.S. Saharan, DWR, Karnal; and how DWR can fast-track CSISA wheat varieties to farmers in the eastern Gangetic plains by Dr. Randhir Singh Poswal, DWR, Karnal. Dr. Shree Prakash Pandey of IISER Kolkata presented the outcome of new research on a WHEAT CRP project, “Deciphering phytohormone signaling in modulation of resistance to spot blotch disease for identification of novel resistance components for wheat improvement.” “SAARC Agriculture Centre – Its Introduction and Programs,” was presented by Dr. Tayan Raj Gurung, senior program specialist from SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), Dhaka. He stressed that regional collaboration on wheat breeding for salt-affected soils is urgently required in South Asia and recommended that CIMMYT play a leading role.

The review meeting enabled CSISA wheat researchers to highlight research achievements and increase their understanding of the newer challenges and provided opportunities for further improvements in the coming years.