Wheat experts call for global unity to avert future hunger crises

21 – 26 July 2019. Saskatoon, Canada. The first meeting of its kind, the 1st International Wheat Conference includes a balanced program encompassing six areas of wheat research: 1) Wheat Diversity, Evolution, and Genetic Resources; 2) Structural and Functional Genomics of Wheat and Wheat Relatives; 3) Wheat Improvement: Breeding, Physiology, and Enabling Technologies; 4) Wheat Production Systems: Environment, Sustainability, and Management; 5) Protecting Yield: Resistance to Biotic and Abiotic Stresses; and 6) Wheat Uses: Functionality, Nutrition, Safety and Human Health.

Some 900 delegates from 55 countries attended the first international Wheat Congres. The program consisted of joint plenary sessions and concurrent sessions, with over 100 invited speakers presenting. All plenary sessions were streamed live on the web and social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter).
Watch the opening ceremony and Monday plenary sessions here!

Keynote speaker: @37:30 

Timothy D. Searchinger, Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute

The six areas of wheat research featured in the program are: 
  1. Wheat Diversity, Evolution, and Genetic Resources
  2. Structural and Functional Genomics of Wheat and Wheat Relatives
  3. Wheat Improvement: Breeding, Physiology, and Enabling Technologies
  4. Wheat Production Systems: Environment, Sustainability, and Management
  5. Protecting Yield: Resistance to Biotic and Abiotic Stresses
  6. Wheat Uses: Functionality, Nutrition, Safety and Human Health

A top priority of the IWC is to promote participation from all wheat growing areas of the world. A portion of each registration fee will be used to sponsor scientists from developing nations by reimbursing them for registration and travel costs. Young scientists and students are encouraged to present their research as either an oral presentation or poster. Several student awards will be presented at the closing ceremony.

ICARDA scientists speaking and presenting research at the congress:

  • Miguel Sanchez Garcia, Associate Scientist – Facultative Winter Wheat Breeding, Morocco office
  • Amit Gautam, Consultant – Research Associate- Breeding programs (Wheat Barley Legumes), India office
  • Filippo Bassi, Senior Scientist – Durum Breeder, Morocco office
  • Michael Baum, BCI Program and Morocco Platform Director, Morocco office
  • Wuletaw Tadesse Degu, Principal Scientist – Spring Bread Wheat Breeder, Morocco office
  • Samira El-Hanafi, Senior Research Assistant – Spring Bread Wheat Breeding, Morocco office
  • Adil El-Baouchi, Senior Research Assistant – Cereal and Legume Quality Testing, Morocco office

CIMMYT scientists speaking and presenting research at the congress:

  • Martin Kropff, Director General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) “Harnessing the power of partnerships for global wheat research and food security” 
  • Matthew Reynolds, Crop Physiologist, CIMMYT  “The Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium (HeDWIC)”
  • Karim Ammar, Principal Scientist, CIMMYT “Diversification of durum wheat industrial end-uses through the genetic modification of its glutenin composition and grain texture”
  • Zhonghu He, Distinguished Scientist and CIMMYT Country Liaison Officer for China “Molecular marker development and application for improving qualities in bread wheat” 
  • Gemma Molero (see picture), Wheat Physiologist, CIMMYT “Evidence for the value of

    synthetic, landrace and introgression to improve adaptation to heat stress”

  • Francisco Pinto, Remote Sensing Specialist, CIMMYT “UAV-based high-throughput phenotyping for wheat breeding and physiological pre-breeding”
  • Alexey Morgounov, Leader of the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program and CIMMYT Country Representative for Turkey “Dynamics of spring wheat yields in North America and Eurasia 1981-2015: Effect of environments, climate change and germplasm adaptation”
  • Hans Braun, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat “Bridging the Yield Gap”  
  •  Carolina Saint Pierre, Genetic Resources Phenotyping Coordinator, CIMMYT “Global network of precision field-based wheat phenotyping platforms” 
Ronnie Coffman, right, plant breeder and vice chair
of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative based at Cornell,
and Maricelis Acevedo, plant pathologist and associate
director for science for the Delivering Genetic
Gain in Wheat project, examine wheat
varieties in Ethiopia for stem and yellow rust.

A patchwork of legal restrictions threatens humanity’s ability to feed a growing global population.

That jeopardizes decades of hard-won food security gains, according to Ronnie Coffman, international professor of plant breeding and director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS).

“It takes an international community of scientists and genetic resources to fight pathogens like stem rust that do not respect international boundaries,” he said. “Stringent regulations and country-specific control are stifling the germplasm exchanges critical to agriculture and horticulture.”

As one part of its efforts to reduce the world’s vulnerability to wheat diseases, the Cornell-led Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development – collects samples of plant pathogens such as stem rust and yellow rust from 40 countries and analyzes them in biosafety testing labs in Minnesota, Denmark, Canada, Turkey, Ethiopia, Kenya and India.



If a heat-wave like the one recorded these days was to occur 1 month earlier, at the end of May, when the Northern European wheats are in full bloom, it could cause up to 50 percent yield loses, a devastating blow to the European agriculture and food sectors that could cost billions of Euros.

CGIAR centers like ICARDA and CIMMYT have worked in close collaboration with European Universities and advanced research institutions for a long time to develop and adapt the most novel technologies for pre-breeding. It might also be advantageous for European private sector companies to start taking advantage of CGIAR stress-tolerant wheat varieties and develop a system similar to CAIGE used by Australian breeders. By taking advantage of similar environments in Morocco and Mediterranean environments in Europe, European breeders can select the promising germplasm of tomorrow and provide the continent’s agricultural sector with a practical defense against future heat-waves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us
If you are interested or have any questions, send us a message.
I am very interested
Send Message