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Strategies to combat Stripe Rust disease

Stripe rust is an extremely destructive disease of wheat. Attacking early in the growing season, plants are often stunted and weakened and crop losses can be severe – from 50 to 100% - due to damaged plants and shriveled grain. To make matters worse, changes in temperature and rainfall have encouraged the emergence of new races of rust capable of overcoming currently resistant wheat varieties. 


As disease risks spreading to new areas, wheat growing countries – especially low-income wheat growing countries – need to be aware of the risks and strengthen their preparedness to counter a potential epidemic.


In response to this threat, ICARDA is initiating a global dialogue among key stakeholders to discuss new perspectives, share country experiences, and develop potential solutions to stripe rust disease. Efforts include an international conference to be held in Turkey at the end of April – the 2nd International Wheat Rust Symposium – which will bring together the world’s leading stripe rust researchers to interact with decision makers from rust-affected countries and assess the current state of research and regional cooperation on rust surveillance.


As a platform to encourage sustained international collaboration on wheat stripe rust, the meeting will update participants on the latest research innovations: rust surveillance and disease monitoring, population dynamics, conventional and molecular approaches to breeding for durable stripe rust resistance, genetics of resistance to stripe rust, and seed delivery systems.


Debates at the conference will be captured on a new website which offers a package of practical solutions and strategies that can be scaled-up and applied worldwide. These include surveillance and information exchange between countries; planning awareness and preparedness to rapidly deliver appropriate seeds and fungicides; enhancing capacity and skills in ministries, extension services, and at the farm level to develop effective strategies for managing rust diseases; and crop research for continued, long-term efforts to develop new varieties that are resistant to emerging races of wheat rust. 


The online resource also calls for more funding to help affected countries deal with the threat that stripe rust poses to productivity and livelihoods. While significant investments have been made to control other types of rust – such as stem rust – funding for stripe rust remains relatively small and less coordinated.


To visit the website – Wheat Stripe Rust: Scientific Solutions for countries – go to:


The 2nd International Wheat Rust Symposium will be held in Izmir, Turkey, from April 28-May 1, 2014. To register for the conference visit:


Wheat Stripe Rust: Scientific Solutions for Countries: the website provides new perspectives, shares country experiences, and highlights potential solutions to stripe rust disease



Improved wheat production and productivity: a solution to Nigerian import dependence

The impressive performance of improved varieties of high-yielding, heat-tolerant wheat developed by ICARDA and introduced alongside a package of integrated options has convinced Nigerian decision makers that a viable solution to their country’s growing dependence on wheat imports is domestic production – a policy shift that will protect Nigerians from the vagaries of global commodity markets and strengthen national food security.


Nigeria currently imports four million tons of wheat, spending $4 billion on the commodity every year – a figure expected to reach $10 billion by 2030 when Nigerians are predicted to consume over 10 million metric tons of imported wheat to satisfy their growing demand for non-traditional foods like pasta, noodles, and bread.


This policy shift was announced by Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, during a field day at Kadawa, Kano State, which was hosted by the Lake Chad Research Institute, a Nigerian organization working alongside ICARDA to develop and disseminate improved seed to Nigerian farmers.


These efforts are part of a regional initiative, Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC), which is targeting the production of four major commodities - cassava, maize, rice, and wheat - across 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Funded by the African Development Bank, ICARDA is leading the Initiative’s wheat component.       


Since the Project was initiated, ICARDA and its partners have distributed around 58 tons (t) of improved seed to 1600 farmers. These have generated an average 5-6 tons/hectare (t/ha) – significantly higher than the 1-2 t/ha normally yielded by traditional varieties which are also highly susceptible to pests and therefore unable to satisfy Nigeria’s growing wheat demand.


Reflecting on the solid performance of the improved wheat, Dr. Adesina commented: “I told [the President] that if we found the right science and technology, and the right policies that would allow us to produce wheat economically and competitively, then I would go after it.”


SARD-SC is working through an ambitious national program – the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) - to raise Nigeria’s agricultural production. Over the coming five years the government plans to extend the amount of land devoted to wheat - from 70,000 to 300,000 ha. Predicted to generate around 1.5 million tons, this expansion will be enough to cut the cost of Nigeria’s import burden by 40-45%.


Getting there will not only depend on improved seed, however. While seed is the crucial ingredient in Nigeria’s wheat transformation, seed alone will not bring the required change. The SARD-SC initiative is therefore also recommending a package of policy interventions and the introduction of proven technologies and crop management practices.


These include raised bed irrigation and public-private partnerships to fund on-farm mechanization. Project leaders also speak of the need to ‘create a market’ for Nigerian wheat producers through incentives such as minimum price guarantees and adopting a value-chain approach that encourages Nigerian millers to buy domestic wheat.  


For more information on SARD-SC visit:


Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture, has placed the improved varieties at the center of a national wheat enhancement program



New online tool promotes appropriate policies for improved food security and nutrition in Iraq

In a country where nearly two million people are food insecure, a novel interactive online tool will provide Iraqi decision makers and other stakeholders with a ‘one-stop’ source of reliable and comprehensive geo-spatial information, assisting them in the development of appropriate policies that effectively target improved food security and household nutrition.


Iraq Spatial, launched in Baghdad on March 23, aggregates a full range of development data and is the first resource of its kind. Related to the more expansive Arab Spatial, a region-wide source of geo-spatial information, Iraq Spatial builds on this model to provide more specific national and sub-national level data to assist in the precise targeting of interventions.


Providing over 200 data indicators – including climate, biophysical, and socio-economic data –Iraq Spatial enables users to target policies and research where they are most needed, and map the estimated impacts of their interventions at precise locations. Furthermore, users can identify climate-related indicators and shocks by analyzing and extrapolating relevant data such as precipitation, temperature, and biomass variability.  


Developed through the USAID-funded Harmonized Support for Agriculture Development (HSAD), the Iraq Spatial is a collaborative effort between the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which developed the concept, and ICARDA, which compiled and applied the data. The tool adheres to an open access policy: end-users can browse and query, free of charge, a full range of databases, build interactive multilayer maps, and use customized analytical tools that allow them to compare, explore, and download these results.


Iraq Spatial follows an innovative food and nutrition security framework, which demonstrates the complex relationship between food security, macroeconomic stability, good governance, and strong sectoral performance across key sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, and trade and transportation. The tool indicates that good performance is likely to improve food security at the household level, while underperformance is likely to lead to a worsening of social outcome indicators such as poverty and malnutrition.


Iraq Spatial is updated and expanded on a regular basis and welcomes the submission of new information from partners and other stakeholders – thereby helping to continually improve the tool and further assist in the delivery of appropriate interventions and polices across Iraq.


Speaking just before the launch, Chandrashekhar Biradar, Head of ICARDA’s Geoinformatics Unit said: “Iraq Spatial provides a comprehensive and accessible set of visual analytics that help to target policies and research more effectively. It gives Iraq’s decision makers and research community the information they need to develop appropriate policy reforms and strategies that are capable of raising agricultural productivity and strengthening food security. With an option for end users to add relevant data, the tool will become even more comprehensive over time, helping to further assist the targeting of interventions.”


The Iraq Spatial can be accessed at


Iraq Spatial provides decision makers and other stakeholders with a 'one-stop' source of reliable and comprehensive geo-spatial information



Arabian Peninsula: Promoting technologies to enhance water productivity

Farmers on the Arabian Peninsula have to contend with extremely scarce water supplies and poor soils. Agricultural activities are limited to around 1% of land, so maximizing productivity per unit area is paramount. The efforts of ICARDA to deal with the region’s physical constraints, and enhance agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods through the transfer of promising technologies, continues to move ahead.   


Over recent years considerable progress has been made to promote the use of protected agriculture, and soilless production through the use of hydroponic solutions. These remain the best solutions for raising the region’s water productivity and sustaining agricultural production.


Building on this success and further developing ICARDA’s regional research agenda was the aim of a series of meetings held with researchers and government officials in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E). The meetings were an opportunity to review progress – in particular the development of protected agriculture and the promotion of indigenous, water-efficient forage – and plan ahead.


A meeting between H. E. Eng. Saif al-Shara, Assistant Under-secretary for Agricultural and Livestock Affairs, ICARDA’s Assistant Director General, Dr. Kamel Shideed, and ICARDA scientists based in Dubai raised the subject of modern technology and U.A.E’s plans to invest further in hydroponics.


For more information on ICARDA’s Arabian Peninsula Regional Program go to:


A meeting with H. E. Eng. Saif al-Shara, Assistant Under-secretary for Agricultural and Livestock Affairs, raised the subject of modern technology and U.A.E's plans to invest further in hydroponics



Food legumes: popularity of improved varieties continue to grow in India

Improved food legumes developed by ICARDA and its national partners continue to raise productivity and strengthen food and nutritional security in targeted communities throughout rural India. This was the main message to emerge from the recent annual review and planning meeting of a joint Morocco-India initiative targeting food legume production - the India-Morocco Food Legume Initiative (IMFLI).    


Held at ICRISAT Headquarters in Hyderabad, India, participants reviewed progress over the past year: efforts to demonstrate improved lentil, grasspea, and chickpea technologies to farmers; capacity development initiatives to raise farmer productivity; field days to demonstrate new technologies and best practice; and the development of farmer associations to improve seed multiplication and quality.


Over the past two years, the initiative has reached some 5300 farmers who have adopted the varieties for both human food and animal feed. Given that the varieties are disease resistant, generate a yield advantage of 67%, and provide farmers with a second option after their rice crop, they are proving to be highly popular.


To coincide with the meeting, researchers held a travelling workshop in West Bengal and Tripura states, providing an opportunity to interact with participating farmers and directly follow the progress of improved varieties introduced to farmer fields. The tour took in eight villages and meetings with state officials and national partners, including researchers and senior managers at the Bidhan Chandra Agriculture University in Kalyani.     


For more information on ICARDA’s research in South Asia visit:


Disease resistant, with yield advantages of 67%, improved food legumes developed by ICARDA and its partners are proving to be highly popular in India