Annual Report 2016

Message from the WHEAT Director

WHEAT: At the front line of wheat agri-food systems

Reports of high global wheat grain stocks abounded in 2016, partly due to the long-term impacts of research programs such as WHEAT. In general, public and private agricultural research for development can claim significant credit for there being 200 million fewer undernourished people than in 1990, even as world population has risen dramatically.

Wheat grain stocks, though, are not freely or equitably available and grain markets are remarkably fragile. Extreme weather and perverse trade dynamics have destabilized wheat markets three times since 2000, causing great harm to the poor who spend large amounts of their income on food. Wheat consuming countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend as much as $12 billion each year on imports to satisfy the region’s growing demand for the crop and China alone holds more than half of the world’s wheat grain stocks.

At the same time, with rising temperatures, more intense cropping, global travel and grain trade, wheat farmers worldwide are facing the emergence and spread of new or modified strains of deadly crop diseases. One example is wheat blast, a little understood fungal disease first identified in Brazil in 1985 and constrained to South America for decades. In 2016, blast appeared suddenly and blighted wheat crops in southwestern Bangladesh. From there it threatens to spread quickly throughout South Asia’s vast wheat lands.

WHEAT partners are at the front line, applying science to maintain a continuous flow of high-yielding, disease resistant, climate resilient wheat lines to national breeding programs.

The challenge for WHEAT is no less than to raise the crop's productivity and production and to keep wheat affordable for today's 2.5 billion resource-poor consumers in 89 countries, as well as satisfying rising demand as world population surpasses 9 billion around mid-century.

Following a successful initial period of 2011-16, WHEAT has received CGIAR and donor approval for an additional phase. We are grateful for this endorsement and funding, as for your continued comments and support.

Hans-Joachim Braun

Director, CGIAR Research Program on Wheat

Advice for India’s farmers: Put aside the plow, save straw to fight pollution.

Researchers and policymakers are promoting zero tillage for wheat to stop rice residue burning in northern India and help prevent smog in New Delhi, as well as to cut farmers’ costs and conserve soil and water resources.

Understanding wheat-based livelihoods: GENNOVATE

A key challenge in agriculture is to foster women’s access to new technologies and technical support, as well as to opportunities to contribute their ideas and experience in their households and communities. To begin to address these issues, in 2013 a small team of CGIAR gender specialists proposed an unprecedented study on gender norms, agency and innovation.

Scientists harness genetics to develop more “solar” and structurally-productive wheat

Partners in the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) found evidence that increased photosynthesis, through biomass, and improved plant architecture can help make wheat more productive. IWYP wants to raise the crop’s genetic yield potential by up to 50 percent over the next 20 years.

Strong partnerships and a quick response to a drought-caused seed shortage in Ethiopia

Dry conditions are common in Ethiopia, but the 2015-2016 El Niño – the strongest on record – led to the worst drought in over a decade. Bad rains across Ethiopia left more than 1.35 million people in need of emergency seed supplies to continue farming.

Protecting wheat genetic diversity across the globe

Outside Mexico City, at the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), a vast “seed library” holds the world’s most important collection of maize and wheat seeds.

Long-term regional research collaboration pays: Central Asian farmers adopt improved varieties

As of 2016 the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) has contributed to the development and release of 72 wheat varieties sown on more than 2.5 million hectares in Central and West Asia. Wheat is a major crop in the region.

Food insecurity remains widespread, despite major social and economic advances since the early 1990s.

Financial Highlights

WHEAT greatly appreciates the contributions of all Window 1 and Window 2 funding partners for their support during Phase 1 through the CGIAR Fund. Without these donors 2012-2017 would not have been possible.

Flagship project 1 - Maximizing value for money, and social inclusivity thru prioritizing WHEAT R4D investments.

Flagship project 2 - Novel diversity and tools to adapt to climate change and resource constraints.

Flagship project 3 - Global partnerships to accelerate genetic gains in farmers’ fields.

Flagship project 4 - Sustainable intensification of wheat-based cropping systems.

Flagship project 5 - Human and institutional capacities for seed systems and scaling-out; a new generation of wheat scientists.

WHEAT is a CGIAR Research Program launched in 2012 and led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Coupling advanced science with field-level research and extension in lower- and middle-income countries, WHEAT works to raise wheat productivity, production and affordable availability for 2.5 billion resource-poor consumers who depend on the crop as a staple food. Partners include the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the British Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and a community of more than 200 public and private organizations worldwide, among them national governments, companies, international centers, regional and local agencies and farmers. Funding for WHEAT comes from CGIAR and generous donors including national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.

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