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WPEP’s 2015 Annual Planning Meeting

WPEPs-Annual-Planning-Meeting-3WPEPs Annual Planning Meeting-3The Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program (WPEP), funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), held its annual wheat planning meeting organized by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and CIMMYT on 8-10 September 2015 in Islamabad.

WPEP aims to improve wheat productivity in Pakistan through rust surveillance, breeding, pre-breeding, seed multiplication, agronomy, and capacity building. The meeting highlighted the progress of research institutes across the country during 2014-15, the production challenges they face, and the way forward to improve wheat productivity.

Acknowledging the efforts of WPEP during the inaugural session, Sikander Hayat Khan Bosan, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, said that Pakistani farmers have been able to double their wheat yields during the past few years. The USDA, international experts, PARC, and CIMMYT have brought a new development paradigm to Pakistan’s agricultural sector in the form of the WPEP.

PARC Chairman Iftikhar Ahmad commended the efforts of researchers to successfully combat the wheat rust diseases. He also emphasized that policies should be more farmer-friendly so that farmers could make the most of their hard work.

Briefing participants on WPEP’s successes, David Marshall, USDA/ARS-Plant Science Research Unit, mentioned its research activities, inter-institutional collaboration, development of greenhouse and rust inoculation facilities, laboratories, and agricultural machinery. He added that the Karnal bunt (KB) problem in wheat is spreading in Pakistan and hindering seed exports. If, for several years, collaborating institutions take actions such as treating seed with fungicides, breeding KB resistant varieties, and providing KB-free seeds, this would greatly decrease the inoculum load and help control the disease.

David Williams, Agricultural Counselor, U.S. Embassy, acknowledged the efforts of CIMMYT, PARC, and all the national organizations involved in improving wheat productivity.

CIMMYT Country Representative Imtiaz Muhammad summarized WPEP’s achievements over the past five years and the support it has provided to improve wheat production. He updated the participants on the rust races that have been identified, including 4 stem rust, 28 yellow rust, and 14 leaf rust races. He assured them that CIMMYT will continue to work towards enhancing wheat production in Pakistan in close partnership with national and international partners.

Participants in WPEP’s 2015 annual planning meeting. Photo: PARC.

Farmer representatives from across Pakistan attended the meeting and described the challenges they face, mainly, purchasing quality seed at an affordable price and being able to market their agricultural products. Participants expressed their appreciation for the support of USDA, PARC, and CIMMYT in enhancing wheat production.