Andrew Noble (right), ICARDA, talks agriculture
with a group of farmers from the Nile Delta in Egypt
29 December 2016. Ground-breaking agricultural research and development work being conducted in Africa will help push sub-Saharan Africa towards food security, but may also have big benefits for Australian agriculture.
Deputy director general of research at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Andrew Noble said there had been some breakthroughs in wheat varieties with heat tolerance. Varieties have been developed that are able to withstand heat shock at critical periods of development.
“We have varieties that can withstand temperatures up to four degrees Celsius hotter than previous lines, which is a massive advantage when planting in areas subject to heat at critical times during crop development. It is a great thing for sub-Saharan Africa and will mean wheat will be able to be produced in non-traditional areas, such as in Sudan, where it will be able to be grown under irrigation.”
Other crops, such as sorghum and millet, had traditionally been grown in many areas, but said the preference was for wheat. The consumers want wheat products, there is $15 billion worth of wheat being sold to this part of Africa alone, so any improvements in production within the region would really help. The benefits of the research into heat tolerance would not just benefit Africa.
“Australian breeders are very interested in working with our material, with the high risk of spring heat stress in Australia it could have some real application there. Researchers have identified heat shock as one of the major annual causes of yield losses in Australia. The material used in the heat tolerant lines primarily came out of Middle Eastern wheat landraces (wild relatives). There are 154,000 lines of landraces in the ICARDA gene bank so we have plenty of material to work with.”