Breeding of high yielding, rusts resistance and Zn-enriched wheat varieties for different agro-ecological zones of Pakistan
Wheat plays a vital role in multifaceted farming system of Pakistan. Like other many other countries, Pakistan's sustainable wheat production is also continuously threatened by a number of biotic and abiotic stresses. Among the biotic stresses, three rust diseases of wheat have been the most devastating. Stem rust was effectively controlled with adoption of the semi-dwarf spring wheats of the Green Revolution. However, the threat of the evolution of Ug99 race of stem rust in East Africa and its migration to Iran cannot be neglected. The Chance of of Ug99 migrating from Iran into Pakistan, coupled with the presence of dangerous new races of stripe and leaf rusts invites enormous efforts for development of rust resistant varieties for sustainable production of the wheat in the country. In this regard the Wheat Program, NARC, Pakistan initiated an intensive breeding program with financial and technical support of USDA and CIMMYT. Diverse sources of resistance to the three rusts particularly to the stem rust race Ug99 were introduced from CIMMYT. Through the rigorous selection procedure, four rusts resistant wheat varieties (NARC 2011, Pakistan 2013, Zincol 2016 and Borlaug 2016) have been released. These varieties are also resistant to Ug99. The varieties i.e. NARC 2011, Borlaug 2016 and Zincol 2016 are performing well in irrigated areas whereas Pakistan 2013 is suitable for rainfed conditions. The variety Zincol 2016 has high Zn content (35 ppm) in grain as compared to national standard check variety (25 ppm). These varieties are not only higher yielding but also possess good grain quality and other desirable traits. A considerable quantity of seed of the varieties is already present in the national seed system and will reduce the risk of Ug99 threat.