US-funded WPEP, Pakistani scientists defending Pak wheat from dreaded UG 99 disease

wheat-diseaseISLAMABAD, Sept 19 : The United States government-funded Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP) was working with Pakistani and international scientists to introduce, evaluate, and release new high-yielding, disease resistant wheat varieties. This work is following the successful testing and release of a highly productive variety that survives even the most destructive wheat disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s WPEP’s highest priority is to introduce disease resistant wheat varieties to Pakistan. WPEP and Pakistani partners introduced and tested NARC 2011, a variety resistant to the feared UG 99 wheat disease.

NARC 2011 not only provides disease protection but also produces higher yields than existing varieties. UG 99 is already in neighboring Iran and threatens to devastate Pakistan’s wheat crop if they are left unprotected.

At the two-day WPEP Annual Wheat Planning Meeting held in Islamabad, wheat researchers from across Pakistan, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) focused on reviewing the progress of the past wheat growing season and on developing a plan for breeding, disease surveillance, and agronomy research in coming years.

The meeting participants agreed that making UG 99 resistant varieties available to farmers is a critical step in ensuring protection of wheat, Pakistan’s most important crop, a press release issued by the US Embassy here on Thursday said.

American and Pakistani agriculture scientists expressed satisfaction over progress made by the Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP), a USDA program.

WPEP links USDA, Pakistani, and international scientists to develop, introduce, and test disease-resistant wheat varieties as well as improve agronomic practices and upgrade research capacity in the country.

“The WPEP project has produced exceptional results, including the introduction of NARC 2011, and I look forward to great progress in the future. Wheat is an important crop in both Pakistan and the United States and our two countries are continuing a 50-year tradition of collaboration in agriculture,” said Clay Hamilton, Agricultural Counselor.

Clay Hamilton noted that wheat accounts for approximately 60 percent of the daily caloric intake of the average Pakistani and that joint efforts to combat this disease are vital to Pakistan’s economy and food security.

WPEP is a United States Department of Agriculture program that develops, introduces, and tests disease-resistant wheat varieties.

The project also focuses on improving agronomic practices, developing disease surveillance systems, updating infrastructure, and building research capacity in the Pakistan.

The five-year collaborative research project brings together wheat research scientists from PARC, CIMMYT, USDA, provincial wheat research institutions, and ICARDA. Courtesy APP

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