Wheat is a traditional crop cultivated by about five million households on 1.6 million hectares in Ethiopia. Despite the country’s huge potential, the average wheat productivity of 2.5 tonnes per hectare is lower than the global average of 3 tonnes per hectare. Stem rust and yellow rust diseases caused by Pucccinia spp. are the major biotic constraints for wheat production in the country and recent recurrent outbreaks have debilitated many wheat varieties in major production areas in Ethiopia.
Projects to accelerate seed multiplication of rust resistant varieties funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others contributed to the replacement of the widely grown susceptible varieties Kubsa and Galama. However, in 2013–2014, a new Pgt race, identified as TKTTF, unrelated to the highly virulent Ug99 rust disease, which is also present in Ethiopia, caused 100 percent yield losses on bread wheat variety Digalu in some regions.
The Ethiopia Wheat Rust Scaling seed and surveillance project aims to develop, demonstrate and scale up high-yielding wheat varieties with adult plant resistance to prevailing rust pathogens with the following objectives: enhancement of rust surveillance; early warning and phenotyping; fast-track variety testing and pre-release seed multiplication to assure availability of rust resistant improved wheat varieties for distribution in targeted districts; accelerating seed multiplication of durable rust resistant wheat varieties through the formal and informal seed systems; demonstration and scaling up of improved wheat varieties and improving linkages between small scale durum wheat producers and agro-industries with the aim of creating market access to smallholder durum wheat producers.
The project includes conducting wheat rust surveys, training and field days. Farmer cooperative unions are being organized in clusters and women and youth groups will participate in informal seed production. The number of private seed enterprises and women farmers participating in the accelerated informal seed multiplication program will be increased as the project progresses in consultation with stakeholders.
CIMMYT worked with the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project to import of 5 tons of stem rust resistant bread wheat variety “Kingbird” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cereal Disease Laboratory, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University in phenotyping and genotyping of commercial cultivars and elite materials from the national wheat research program, respectively.
- Enhancement of rust surveillance, early warning and phenotyping.
- Fast-track variety testing and pre-release seed multiplication to assure availability of rust resistant improved wheat varieties for distribution in targeted districts.
- Accelerating seed multiplication of durable rust resistant wheat varieties through the formal and informal seed systems.
- Demonstration and scaling up of improved wheat varieties.
- Improving linkages between small scale durum wheat producers and agro-industries with the aim of creating market access to smallholder durum wheat producers in 10 districts.