The danger posed by the Ug99 strain of the disease stem rust to global wheat production is well recognized, and Bangladesh is no exception. Wheat is one of the major cereals in Bangladesh, ranking second after rice with a cultivated area of 0.38 m ha and average yield of 2.6 t/ha. In a major step in countering the disease threat, a new wheat variety, named Francolin, was released on 06 March 2012. Also known as BARI Gom 27 (previously BAW 1120), Francolin, first introduced to Bangladesh in 2008 from CIMMYT-Mexico, possesses good resistance to all variants of Ug99 along with an impressive agronomic performance. It yielded approximately 10% more than the most popular variety Shatabdi in three years of multi-location testing in Bangladesh.
Its performance in on-farm testing was also significantly superior to all check varieties. “Francolin is popular among the participating farmers because of its high grain yield potential and good agronomic traits,” said T.P. Tiwari, cropping systems agronomist at CIMMYT-Bangladesh, adding that it also performed better than other varieties during on-farm testing.
Francolin is already under demonstration in farmers’ fields through participatory variety selection (PVS), the multi-location testing (MLT) program of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), and a participatory seed multiplication program. These activities are being jointly implemented by BARI’s Wheat Research Centre (WRC) and CIMMYT, and are also well integrated into the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) validation and demonstration programs in Bangladesh. According to CIMMYT scientists T.P. Tiwari and Arun K. Joshi, seed multiplication of this variety is in progress on 55 ha in 23 different locations in Bangladesh during the current crop cycle. This is expected to produce around 150 tons of seed that will be available for the next planting season, meeting the needs of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), the government agencies responsible for large-scale seed production and distribution. Francolin is also being disseminated through informal channels (farmer-to-farmer).
This step toward mitigating the threat of Ug99 was made possible in part by a USAID seed-multiplication famine fund program. The WRC and CIMMYT-Bangladesh are working together under this program to identify suitable Ug99-resistant varieties, and carry out seed production and delivery. Israel Hossain, Abu Zaman Sarker (WRC), T.P. Tiwari, M. Gathala, and T. Krupnik (CIMMYT) also report that Francolin is performing exceedingly well under conservation agriculture (CA) practices such as strip- and zero-tillage.
The WRC and CIMMYT are developing linkages between seed producers and traders to facilitate marketing. Additionally, information regarding the benefits of growing Ug99-resistant varieties is disseminated through media outlets such as newspapers, radio, and television. The first Ug99-resistant wheat variety to be released in Bangladesh was BARI Gom 26 (previously known as BAW, and popularly called Hashi), in 2010. The two new varieties are expected to cover just over 5% of the total wheat area in 2012/13.
Wheat scientists involved in the development of Francolin include Naresh C.D. Barma, Paritosh Kumar Malaker, Dinabandhu Pandit, Md. Abdul Hakim, and Jalal Uddin, among others. Agronomists and soil scientists from BARI and CIMMYT-Bangladesh were also involved in its validation and promotional activities.