Building upon past successes for a continued impact on production and food security through breeding high yielding climate change resilient durum wheat varieties

Mohamed Salah Gharbi

National Institute of Agriculture Research, Tunisia

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Meeting food security challenges is a high priority in many developing countries. North African countries are among those with the highest per capita wheat consumption in the world and chronic grain deficits. Climate change scenarios predict decrease of rainfall and increase of temperature with negative impact on crop production and hence food security. Along with adoption of modern technologies, breeding higher yielding and more climate change resilient wheat varieties is widely seen as a tool that can sustain past yield gains and food production increases. Durum wheat production in Tunisia greatly benefited from the green revolution ingredients. Continued breeding lead to replacement of the early semi dwarf varieties with higher yielding, better disease resistant and more drought tolerant ones that have positively impacted yield at farmer and national level. Monitoring gains from increased yield potential and resistance to the most damaging foliar diseases, mainly septoria leaf blotch, leaf rust and stripe rust, showed that grain yield of recently released varieties is up to four times that of the tall late maturing landraces grown before the 1970's and up to 2.5 times that of varieties of the early years of the green revolution. Chlorophyll content, green leaf duration, deeper root development from diverse donors including wild wheat relatives and grain yield are being integrated in the breeding program for the selection of more drought and heat stress tolerant durum cultivars