CIMMYT and Turkey celebrate a fruitful collaboration that has helped farmers throughout Central and West Asia grow more wheat.
On 11 November CIMMYT and the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs marked 25 years of formal partnership that has produced wheat grown on over half a million hectares in Central and West Asia each year. Turkey—wheat’s center of origin—hosts the joint Turkey-CIMMYT-ICARDA International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP), a successful effort that over the last 18 years has been directly responsible for 35 new wheat varieties released to farmers.
The potential for productive collaboration became apparent in 1965 when a farmer from southern Turkey planted a high-yielding variety from Mexico that yielded 5 tons per hectare—several times more than the then current Turkish varieties. Wheat varieties from Mexico and new agronomic practices allowed Turkey to double its wheat production in a decade. Thus began the Turkish Green Revolution, mirroring the success of the Green Revolution in India and Pakistan.
The IWWIP works with more than 150 breeding programs on six continents to provide national agricultural research programs worldwide with high yielding, disease resistant winter wheat varieties. Turkish scientists have led groundbreaking research on zinc deficiency in soils—a key constraint for wheat in West Asia—and, in collaboration with CIMMYT, have developed varieties that perform well in zinc-poor soils and also contain enhanced levels of this important micronutrient in the grain. Turkey is also a focal point for collaborative research to assess damage from soil borne pathogens and pests on wheat and develop resistant varieties.
CIMMYT and Turkey have worked together since the 1960s to strengthen the nation’s agricultural research capacity, and more than 200 Turkish researchers have attended CIMMYT courses or workshops in Mexico to gain skill and expertise in wheat improvement. Many of these scientists make up Turkey’s core of senior wheat researchers and administrators. Scientists from Morocco, Syria, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan have attended training courses in Turkey on conservation agriculture. In 2005, Turkey joined the CGIAR, solidifying its commitment to capacity building and research.
“CIMMYT is looking forward to many more years of collaboration,” said CIMMYT Director General Masa Iwanaga at an event marking the anniversary. “Built on the strength, contribution, and commitment of Turkey, this joint program is a leader collaborative research for farmers in developing countries.”