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Training helps scientists boost role of wheat genetic resources in developing genetic gains

May 31, 2017
Participants attending the “Wheat Phenotyping Training Course” in Konya, Turkey.

Participants attending the “Wheat Phenotyping Training Course” in Konya, Turkey.

ANKARA, Turkey (CIMMYT) – Erratic weather patterns associated with climate change pose unique challenges for wheat breeders playing a key part in the fight to ensure global food security.

At the third “Wheat Phenotyping Training Course” in Konya, Turkey, 32 scientists took part in intensive hands-on activities designed to help them support national breeding programs. The aim was to learn how to apply practical phenotyping techniques to advance selection success using a cooperative multi-location testing network to increase genetic gains.

“This course was a unique opportunity for technology transfer and raising awareness about the contribution of wheat genetic resources to food, agriculture research and development in a changing environment by empowering young scientists with tools available for wheat phenotyping,” said Marta Lopes, a wheat physiologist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

The three-day course, led by CIMMYT’s winter wheat physiology department and co-organized by the Bahri Dagdas International Agricultural Research Institute (BDIARI), was funded by a European Union project titled  “Addressing the challenges of climate change for sustainable food security in Turkey, Iran and Morocco, through the creation and dissemination of an international database to promote the use of wheat genetic resources and increase genetic gains.”

Wheat phenotyping is a crucial tool for most researchers – from agronomists, to breeders, physiologists and pathologists – and most participants appreciated learning about new tools that can help facilitate their daily tasks, Lopes said.

Fatih Ozdemir, director of BDIARI, kicked off the course with an inspirational inaugural presentation, setting the tone and engaging participants.

The inaugural seminar was followed by practical and theoretical sessions led by Lopes on how to measure different wheat traits, including: image processing for ground cover (to increase water use efficiency); normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) remote sensing modelling by predicting staygreen (maximum biomass, onset of senescence and rate of senescence); biomass (to increase total photosynthesis); physiological maturity; morphological traits; yield and yield components.  Lopes also delivered several lectures on wheat phenotyping tools.

The course, which is held every two years, also included informative sessions on disease screening for soil borne diseases (SBDs), presented by Amer Dababat from CIMMYT, and rusts, presented by Kadir Akan from Turkey’s Ahi Evran University. Senay Boyraz Topaloglu, head of Turkey’s Seed Gene Bank, discussed biodiversity and the current status of genetic resources conservation in the gene bank.

“Phenotyping wheat genetic resources is key for the impact of the Turkish gene bank in agricultural development, research to promote biodiversity,” Topaloglu said.

Other classes included identifying wheat developmental stages and sensitivity to a range of stresses by Çelalettin Barutcular from Turkey’s Çukurova University and Emel Ozer from BDIARI.

Most participants reacted favorably to the training course, actively joining in question and answer sessions. However, all participants said that longer and more intensive courses are necessary to ensure that all possible challenges and difficulties are discussed and addressed.

The trainers acknowledged Ozdemir and Ozer for their generous hospitality.

Follow Marta Lopes on Twitter by clicking here.

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