Winter wheat

May 14, 2012

International Winter Wheat Improvement program (Turkey-CIMMYT-ICARDA)


Winter wheat is a major food crop in the developed world. It occupies large proportion of arable land in Western Europe where the yields are very high reaching 7-8 t/ha in countries like UK (FAO, 2007). The developing world grows approximately 117 mln ha of wheat out of which winter or facultative wheat occupies roughly 30% (Dixon, et al, 2008). The demand for wheat, based on production and stock changes, is expected to increase from the current level of approximately 625 million tons to around 813 million tons in 2030 and more than 900 million tons in 2050 (FAO 2006, 2007). The importance of winter wheat is difficult to underestimate in reaching this production increase both for developed and developing countries. The high yield potential of winter wheat in Western Europe contributes to global food security. The high production of winter wheat in USA provides export potential for many countries and the regions of the world which are not self sufficient in wheat grain like Africa and Middle East. In the developing world the main area of winter and facultative wheat is in Western and Central Asia in the regions and the countries where the rural poverty is widespread and wheat productivity increase is an important strategy to improve the livelihood of people (Dixon J., et al, 2001).

International Agricultural Research Centers like CIMMYT and ICARDA play an important role in developing new varieties and technologies for the developing world. Global adoption of new wheat varieties resulted in substantial increase of grain production in the 1960s and 1970s associated with the “Green Revolution”. The process of cooperation with the developing world in wheat research and improvements has been successfully continuing since then on spring wheat. In winter and facultative wheat the partnership includes Turkey National Research Program as a key cooperator in hosting the global international efforts on improvement of this crop. International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) representing this collaboration is a subject of the this paper aiming to give an overview of its activities and results with some emphasis on Georgia as the paper is devoted to the 80th anniversary of prominent Georgian breeder and wheat scientist Dr. Petre Naskidashvili.

History of IWWIP

In the late 1970s and early 1980s CIMMYT has realized that winter/facultative wheat breeding for the developing world remains largely un-addressed. Small efforts to breed facultative wheat during the winter cycle in Toluca were primarily based on selection from the germplasm introduced from Eastern Europe and USA. However, the winter in Toluca was not cold enough for development of competitive lines. The target region for winter/facultative wheat was in Central and West Asia region covering 15-20 mln ha of the crop in Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Caucasus. The early work in Toluca resulted in identification of good winter parents and some competitive lines which were used mainly for spring x winter crossing program with Oregon State University. This germplasm was not sufficiently adapted and neither it was on a scale to provide the winter wheat breeding programs in the target region with competitive diverse material. The important decision of CIMMYT at that time was to establish winter/facultative wheat breeding program outside of Mexico and directly in the region. Turkey was chosen due to its diversity of environments and being a major winter wheat producer in the region. The agreement signed in 1981 between the Government of Turkey and CIMMYT anticipated development of new winter/facultative germplasm through a cooperative breeding program.

The newly established program operated through several key research institutions in Turkey: Central Field Crop Research Institute in Ankara, Anatolian Agric. Research Institute in Eskisehir and Bahri Dagdas International Agric. Research Center in Konya – the latter being established specifically to work on winter wheat breeding. The initial breeding efforts were based on screening the large collection of Turkish, East European and US varieties and making crosses. At the same time Spring x Winter Program operated by Oregon State University (Prof. W, Kronstad) supplied F3-F4 populations originating from crosses between Mexican spring wheats and winter wheats. The lines selected from introduced germplasm in Toluca were also sent to Turkey. All the populations and lines from CIMMYT and OSU, germplasm from Eastern Europe and USA were screened in Turkey and the best ones selected for distribution through winter/facultative international nurseries. The Turkey-CIMMYT winter wheat program was joined by ICARDA in 1991 to form International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP). Eventually, Toluca-based winter wheat activities were discontinued. The winter/facultative germplasm presently distributed from Turkey combines the germplasm developed by IWWIP through its breeding program in Turkey and Syria as well as new varieties and breeding lines from all cooperators who are willing to share germplasm. The programs in Eastern Europe, USA and Central Asia routinely submit the germplasm which goes through selecting procedure and the best material is included for international distribution. This is a specific feature of winter wheat program highly appreciated by the cooperators.

IWWIP breeding activities

IWWIP breeding system targets both irrigated and semi-arid environments reflecting the diversity of the target region. The location of the breeding program in Turkey provides very important advantage of utilization of the soil and climatic diversity of this country in breeding. Figure 1 shows the locations of the main breeding sites used by IWWIP in Turkey. The crosses are made according to coordinated plan in Izmir, Eskisehir in Turkey and in Aleppo, Syria. The resulting F1 is grown in Izmir and Aleppo to allow back- and top-crosses. Annually around 1500-2000 crosses are made. The F2-F4 are grown simultaneously at 2-3 locations to identify better rust resistant populations. Normally 5-10 spikes are taken from the best populations which are threshed in bulk. The populations are head rowed in F5 and then after 3-4 years of yield tests the best lines are distributed globally through international nurseries. The crosses and populations targeting irrigated and semi-arid conditions are handled jointly until F5-F6 when they are separated into three respective streams of germplasm: irrigated (yield potential of 5 t/ha and above); semi-arid (yield limited by moisture below 2-2,5 t/ha) and supplementary irrigation (areas with the target yield of 3-4 t/ha). During the preliminary yield trials at several locations the germplasm is group according to the target adaptation. Broad adaptation, resistance to rusts and grain quality remain important priorities for breeding.

IWWIP international nurseries

The history of IWWIP international nurseries from Turkey-CIMMYT-ICARDA program reflects the evolution of the program itself as well as its approach to serve better the numerous global collaborators. In the 1980s the only international nursery distributed from Turkey was International Winter Wheat Screening Nursery. It combined the germplasm from Turkish programs with introduced material and the lines bred by IWWIP. In 1992 the nursery was transformed into Facultative and Winter Wheat Observation Nursery (FAWWON) to accommodate the facultative germpalsm from ICARDA which joined the partnership at that time. Since then IWWIP has been distributed globally to over 100 cooperators in 50 countries. In 1997-1998 regional screening nurseries and trials were established to deliver faster the superior wheat germplasm bred in Turkey as well as to have regional data on their performance. Winter Wheat East European regional Yield Trial (WWEERYT) was launched in 1999 as a separate project to yield test elite varieties from Eastern Europe, IWWIP, CAC region and USA. In 2007 the whole system of international nurseries was revised to maintain FAWWON as a global observation and screening nursery separate for irrigated and semi-arid environments. The regional yield trials were maintained to keep the yied tests of the elite germplasm. The detailed information on the nurseries and the respective requests mechanisms are available through the web site The data from the international nurseries is summarized and made available to cooperators through the above mentioned internet site as well as through the hard copy. Quite clearly the global and regional testing allowed identification of the lines and varieties with borad adaptation to a range of locations. These lines have been successfully tested by the national programs and also utilized in crosses by IWWIP and its collaborators.

Wheat varieties released from IWWIP material

In retrospective, the establishment of winter/facultative breeding program in Turkey seemed to be a well justified move resulting in closing the gap in provision of germplasm for Central and West Asia. The information on the release of varieties originating from IWWIP proves its high success in developing the germplasm which is well adapted to the region and competitive with the local material. By January 2008 39 varieties originating from IWWIP have been released in 10 countries of Central and West Asia including Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. These varieties being competitive in grain yield possess higher level of genetic protection against dominating diseases and especially yellow rust. The genetic diversity of these new varieties is very broad as their pedigree incorporates not only CIMMYT parents but also a wide range of genetically un-related winter wheats from Turkey and Iran, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the whole diversity of US winter wheats. Interestingly, some breeding lines have been identified and released under different names in different countries: line OK 82282//BOW/NKT has been released in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan; line YMH/TOB//MCD/3/LIRA (Kinaci 97) has been released in Turkey, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. This is an indication of a broad adaptation of some lines developed in Turkey.

Figure 1. Location of IWWIP breeding sites inTurkey.

Figure 1. Location of IWWIP breeding sites inTurkey.

Figure 2. Location of the International Nurseries testing sites.

Figure 2. Location of the International Nurseries testing sites.

Table 1. Distribution of IWWIP breeding activities and screening for different traits in locations in Turkey and Syria.

Location of breeding activities and screening for different traits for IWWIP in Turkey and Syria


Crosses Seg. Pop-s Yield Trials Yield Potential Drought Tolerance Cold Tolerance Yellow Rust Leaf Rust Quality
Adana +
Adapazari + +
Aleppo + + + + + + +
Ankara + + + + +
Diyarbakir + +
Edime + + +
Erzurum + + +
Eskisehir + + + + +
Izmir + +
Konya + + + +
Samsun +
S.Urfa +

Selected publications

Mosaad M., A. Morgounov, H. Gomez, M. Jarrah and S. Rajaram. (2008). Variation in agronomic, rust reaction and grain quality characteristics in a collection of winter and facultative wheat varieties. Cereals Research Communications, 36(3), 441-.450.

Morgounov A., A. Bagci, M. Keser, D. Bedoshvili, B. Dzhumakhanov, B. Akin,H.-J. Braun. 2008. International winter wheat improvement program: history, activities and results. In: Materials of International Scientific Conference: Genetic Resources of Cultural Plants and Their Use in Agriculture, Tbilisi, Georgia, June, 2008. pp. 71-74.

Morgounov A., B. Akin. 2008. Breeding approaches to develop winter wheat varieties resistant to Stem Rust Ug99. In: Book of Abstracts, 1st International Transcaucasian Conference on Plant Pathology, September 24-25, Tbilisi, Georgia, p. 21.

Morgounov A., A. Bagci, M. Keser, B. Akin, H.-J. Braun 2008. International cooperation in winter wheat breeding: system of germplasm exchange and results of international testing of Ukrainian varieties. Proceedings of the Conference, Ukrainian Institute of Plant Industry, pp.45-50.

(CIM Turkey – Alex Morgounov and Hans Braun)