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Wheat: our daily bread

El Bat√°n hosted two wheat events in December 2009 to support a¬†collaborative research agreement between the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) and CIMMYT, which was signed in October 2009. Both events were coordinated by Roberto J. Pe√Īa, head of wheat grain quality,¬†Global Wheat Program, and Petr Kosina, manager, Knowledge Sharing and¬†Capacity Building.¬†¬†The first event, a workshop titled ‚ÄúMain stakeholders in the wheat production,¬†marketing, and processing chain,‚ÄĚ took place on 03-04 December and attracted nearly 40 experts from the three wheat sectors (production, marketing, and¬†processing). The goals of the workshop were to 1) identify common problems¬†¬†faced by farmers, industrialists, and end users; 2) set priorities for the three¬†sectors; and 3) make commitments to solve the identified problems.

Overall, they agreed that there is poor communication among the different sectors of the wheat chain and that the CIMMYT-hosted workshop was a step toward fixing this problem. Other major issues discussed included: biotic¬†stresses, diseases, and rusts; the availability of appropriate varieties; adequate technology packages for high yield and quality; management practices;¬†training for scientists and for farmers; and the need for better communication between farmers-producers-industry. Eduardo Villase√Īor Mir, coordinator of¬†¬†Small Grain Cereals from Mexico‚Äôs National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock Research (INIFAP), said it was positive that the workshop¬†brought multiple sectors together. ‚ÄúIn¬†the past, the presence of the industry¬†has been sporadic and poorly attended.¬†Fortunately, in this forum representatives¬†of the main Mexican industries were present,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúFor the first time we¬†were able to know what the industry¬†really thinks of needs. A conclusion from¬†the forum was that the wheat produced¬†locally is perfectly useful for diverse industrial processes.‚ÄĚ

This was one of the first times that farmers and industrialists have discussed as equals issues related to wheat. At the end of the workshop, all agreed that coordinated and responsible teamwork is the best way to achieve a successful wheat chain. Discussion outcomes will be   published in a proceedings, accompanied by audiovisual resources, and made available to participants, SAGARPA, and other institutions and agencies.

The following week, from 07-10 December 2009, 17 wheat breeders and¬†agronomists discussed wheat quality¬†¬† in a course organized by Pe√Īa that¬†covered the genetic, chemical, and¬†biochemical bases of wheat quality, along¬†with laboratory demonstrations of the¬†¬† necessary tools and approaches to select for quality in a breeding program. The¬†course also highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary and coordinated¬†breeding work for high yields, disease resistance, and good quality.