Prioritizing barley production – a strategic crop for the dry areas
Barley provides the food, feed and fodder that is essential to the health and prosperity of smallholder farming families in marginal environments of the developing world. It is a strategic crop within the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals and a priority at ICARDA whose barley program continues to flourish at the Marchouch research station in Morocco.
Progress and the Center’s contributions to ‘Dryland Cereals’ were the subjects of a recent ‘interaction meeting’ held in Rabat, Morocco, between ICARDA scientists and partners from six focal countries: Ethiopia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Turkey.
The meeting provided an opportunity to highlight the achievements of recent research and identify needs for the coming season. Results were presented within the context of on-going transformations in barley research and a renewed sense of purpose across the dry areas: an increased use of certified seed, more germplasm exchange, and new programs of regional importance geared towards uptake in neighboring countries.
Scientists also identified challenges that needed to be addressed: small projects with limited one-year funding cycles continued to present difficulties for medium to long-term planning; there continues to be a lack of clear policies related to seed systems – including those related to certification processes and the popularization of new cultivars; the adoption of high yielding barley varieties by farmers remains low in many areas; and the environmental context continues to pose a threat – drought, extreme periods of heat and cold, and new races of pathogens are all common in areas of implementation.
Moving ahead, ICARDA research activities and contributions to ‘Dryland Cereals’ will include baseline surveys to gain a greater insight into the germplasm collections of partner countries; increasing seed multiplication and distribution to farmers; promoting the exchange of germplasm at the sub-regional level; and investing more in the development and marketing of barley products.