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Second Wheat Improvement and Pathology course focuses on South Asia

The second “Wheat Improvement and Pathology” course took place during 16-29 November 2011 in Nepal. Organized by Arun Joshi, CIMMYT Regional Wheat Breeder, in conjunction with the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), the course welcomed 22 early- and mid-career wheat breeders and pathologists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.

The importance of a multidisciplinary approach to wheat improvement was emphasized through lectures on modern breeding methods and approaches, genetic diversity, wheat pathology, experimental design and statistical analysis, hybrid wheat, biotechnology, bioinformatics, wheat quality, breeding for physiological traits, conservation agriculture, participatory variety selection (PVS), and data sources and knowledge management for wheat scientists.

Dinesh Pariyar, NARC Executive Director, opened the program and spoke of the emerging challenges for wheat breeding in South Asia and the potential to build capacity under the CSISA project by bringing together early-career field scientists from different nations. Ravi Singh, CIMMYT Wheat Breeder, then gave introductory sessions on “Breeding wheat for current and future needs of South Asia” and “Breeding for durable resistance to rust diseases of wheat”, elaborating on the wheat breeding tools and technologies that will enable the development of drought- and heat-tolerant wheat varieties whilst retaining quality and yield potential.

Participants also visited the NARC research station in Khumaltar, Lalitpur, the regional agricultural research station in Lumle, and PVS villages, to engage in discussions with the various stakeholders and undertake practical sessions in field experimentation and sowing. The participants were also shown the tools and techniques for creating artificial epiphytotic rusts and spot blotch.

The diverse range of participants were able to share their experiences and the highlights of their work. Four women scientists were included in the group, and Sabina, who travelled outside of Pakistan for the first time for this course, hopes that her visit “will show the way forward to other women scientists of Pakistan.” Joshi echoed this sentiment, saying: “Our endeavor is to work together in South Asian countries and to produce an environment capable of supporting the needs of talented future scientists and wheat researchers. Future generations of scientists need to keep pace with new science and this course provides them with the most recent knowledge, tools, and methodologies to meet the challenges of the future.”

Overall, the course improved the participants’ understanding on new tools and techniques for wheat breeding, pathology, and their related subjects. It also sparked interest in further collaborations between farmers, scientists and development agencies. Resource personnel for the course included CIMMYT’s Medha Devare, Andrew McDonald, and Bharat Adhikary; NARC’s B.N. Mahto, M.R. Bhatta, D.B. Thapa, and Sarala Sharma; P.K. Gupta, S.M.S. Tomar, Ratan Tiwari, V. Tiwari, C.P. Srivastava, Ramesh Chand, G.C. Mishra, and R.P. Singh from India; and KD Joshi (CARIAD, UK). Special thanks also to the staff of NARC for providing a great venue and logistical support, and to Surath Pradhan for administering the course.