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Australian visit to CIMMYT-Turkey strengthens decades-long collaboration

The CIMMYT Australia ICARDA Germplasm Evaluation Project (CAIGE) organized a visit for Australian breeders to Turkey during 19 April-3 May. Participants learned about the germplasm evaluation and selection activities by the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP, a joint enterprise of CIMMYT and the Government of Turkey), the CIMMYT-Turkey Soil Borne Pathogen (SBP) program and the Regional Rust Research Center.

Group in field

Crown rot trials in Konya field. From left to right: Drs. Morgounov, Dababat, Dieters, Trethowan, Ed-wards, Kan, Mullan, and Moody.
Photo: SBP-CIMMYT-Turkey.

The CIMMYT-Turkey collaboration has helped farmers throughout Central and West Asia. It all began in 1965, when a farmer in southern Turkey planted a high-yielding variety from Mexico that yielded five tons per hectare– several times more than the Turkish varieties then being planted. Wheat varieties from Mexico and new agronomic practices allowed Turkey to double its wheat production in just a decade, marking the start of a Turkish “Green Revolution.”

Turkey has since become a leader in wheat research. Turkish scientists with IWWIP have led groundbreaking research on zinc deficiency in soils and developed varieties that not only perform well in such conditions but also contain enhanced levels of zinc in the grain. Turkey is also a focal point for collaborative research on the effect of soil-borne pathogens and pests on wheat, as well as developing resistant varieties.

The five Australian breeders experienced first-hand Turkey’s rich history and innovations in wheat research and development. The group first visited the Bahri Dagdas International Agricultural Research Institute-National Drought Center in Konya, where Mustafa Kan, Institute Director and IWWIP Coordinator, welcomed them and gave an overview of the Institute. Alexei Morgounov, IWWIP Leader, and Mesut Keser, ICARDA’s Office Coordinator in Turkey, also gave presentations. The group then visited the labs and greenhouse facilities, crown rot yield trials and IWWIP breeding programs.

The next day, the group visited the Transitional Zone Agricultural Research Institute in Eskisehir. Director Sabri Cakir gave an overview of the Institute, while Savas Pelin, Head of the Institute’s breeding program in Eskisehir, gave a general presentation of its programs and activities. Participants also attended an overview of SBP’s activities, including screening for nematodes and crown rot in growth rooms, greenhouses and fields.

On the third day, attendees visited the Agricultural Research Institute in Izmir and Turkey’s National Gene Bank. They were introduced to IWWIP’s breeding activities, including germplasm evaluation, synthetic winter wheat development, spring x winter crossing and soil borne pathogen screening. The group also visited the Regional Rust Research Center, led by ICARDA scientist Nazari Kumarzi, where they observed the stripe, leaf and stem rust evaluation nurseries and afterwards visited the national barley breeding program.

In Izmir, visitors reviewed the soil-borne pathogen research, screening methodologies and facilities at CIMMYT-Turkey. CAIGE Project Leader Richard Trethowan inspected the germplasm provided by Australia to CIMMYT-Turkey as part of the crown rot initiative, a sub-grant project with the University of Sydney funded through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) aimed at transferring resistant genes into key elite varieties for rapid adoption by breeding programs. Visitors were also briefed about the intensive SBP-IWWIP collaboration, particularly on incorporating resistant sources into high-yielding winter and spring wheats.

The Australian breeders included Richard Trethowan, Professor at the University of Sydney; Daniel Mullan and David Moody, Wheat and Barley Breeders from Intergrain; Mark Dieters, Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland and Ian Edwards, CEO of Edstar Genetics. CIMMYT participants included Alexei Morgounov, CIMMYT-Turkey Country Representative; Amer Dababat, Soil Borne Disease Pathologist and Gul Erginbas-Orakci, Senior Research Associate.