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Wheat Disease Early Warning Advisory System (DEWAS)

The Wheat Disease Early Warning Advisory System (Wheat DEWAS) project is bringing new analytic and knowledge systems capacity to one of the world’s largest and most advanced crop pathogen surveillance systems. With Wheat DEWAS, researchers are building an open and scalable system capable of preventing disease outbreaks from novel pathogen strains that threaten wheat productivity in food vulnerable areas of East Africa and South Asia.

The system builds from capabilities developed previously by multi-institutional research teams funded through long-term investments in rust pathogen surveillance, modelling, and diagnostics. Once fully operationalized, the project aims to provide near-real-time, model-based risk forecasts for governments. The result: accurate, timely and actionable advice for farmers to respond proactively to migrating wheat diseases.

The Challenge

Farmers growing wheat face pathogen pressures from a range of sources. Two of the most damaging are the fungal diseases known as rust and blast. Rust is a chronic issue for farmers in all parts of the world. A study in 2015 estimated that the three rust diseases — stem, stripe and leaf — destroyed more than 15 million tons of wheat at a cost of nearly $3 billion worldwide. Wheat blast is an increasing threat to wheat production and has been detected in both Bangladesh and Zambia. Each of these diseases can destroy entire harvests without warning, wiping out critical income and food security for resource-poor farmers in vulnerable areas.

The Response

Weather forecasts and early-warning alerts are modern technologies that people rely on for actionable information in the case of severe weather. Now imagine a system that lets farmers know in advance when dangerous conditions will threaten their crop in the field. Wheat DEWAS aims to do just that through a scalable, integrated, and sustainable global surveillance and monitoring system for wheat.

Wheat DEWAS brings together research expertise from 23 research and academic organizations from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Europe, the United States and Mexico.

Together, the researchers are focused on six interlinked work packages: 

Work package Lead Objectives
Data Management Aarhus University; Global Rust Reference Center
  • Maintain, strengthen and expand the functionality of the existing Wheat Rust Toolbox data management system
  • Create new modules within the Toolbox to include wheat blast and relevant wheat host information
  • Consolidate and integrate datasets from all the participating wheat rust diagnostic labs
  • Develop an API for the two-way exchange of data between the Toolbox and the Delphi data stack
  • Develop an API for direct access to quality-controlled surveillance data as inputs for forecast models
  • Ensure fair access to data
Epidemiological Models Cambridge University
  • Maintain operational deployment and extend geographical range
  • Productionalize code for long-term sustainability
  • Multiple input sources (expert, crowd, media)
  • Continue model validation
  • Ensure flexibility for management scenario testing
  • Extend framework for wheat blast
Surveillance (host + pathogen) CIMMYT
  • Undertake near-real-time, standardized surveys and sampling in the target regions
  • Expand the coverage and frequency of field surveillance
  • Implement fully electronic field surveillance that permits near real-time data gathering
  • Target surveillance and diagnostic sampling to validate model predictions
  • Map vulnerability of the host landscape
Diagnostics John Innes Centre
  • Strengthen existing diagnostic network in target regions & track changes & movement
  • Develop & integrate new diagnostic methodology for wheat rusts & blast
  • Align national diagnostic results to provide a regional & global context
  • Enhance national capacity for wheat rust & blast diagnostics
Information Dissemination and Visualization Tools PlantVillage; Penn State
  • Create a suite of information layers and visualization products that are automatically derived from the quality-controlled data management system and delivered to end users in a timely manner
  • Deliver near real time for national partners to develop reliable and actionable advisory and alert information to extension workers, farmers and policy makers
National Partner Capacity Building Cornell University
  • Strengthening National partner capacity on pathogen surveillance, diagnostics, modeling, data management, early warning assessment, and open science publishing


Wheat DEWAS partners 

Academic organizations: Aarhus University / Global Rust Reference Center; Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University; Cornell University / School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology Section; Hazara University; Penn State University / PlantVillage; University of Cambridge; University of Minnesota

 Research organizations: Bangladesh Wheat and Maize Research Institute (BWMRI); CIMMYT; Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Bangladesh; Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Institute (ATI); Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR); ICARDA; John Innes Centre (JIC); Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO); National Plant Protection Centre (NPPC), Bhutan; Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC); Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC); UK Met Office; Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI); The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) / GetGenome; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI)