The Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project will build from the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project funded in 2008 by the Gates Foundation over two grant phases. DRRW was managed by Cornell University with 24 sub-grantees and an approximate investment of $8M annually, of which $3M annually was provided by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
At the start of the DRRW project, an estimated 90% of the world’s cultivated wheat was susceptible to massive yield losses from a highly virulent stem rust fungus called Ug99, spreading out of East Africa. This threat galvanized a collaborative and coordinated global response to protect wheat production and was especially focused on smallholder farmers in East Africa and South Asia where dependence on wheat is high, food insecurity is critical, and the risk of rust is greatest.
A four-year grant from 2016-2019, the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project proposes to strengthen the pipeline for delivering new varieties of wheat with disease resistance for all rusts (stem, stripe and leaf), septoria and spot blotch and improved heat tolerance, and to increase wheat yields for smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and South Asia. Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat will support increased rates of genetic gain for wheat by investing in modernized breeding programs at CIMMYT and national programs in East Africa and South Asia, incorporating guidance from a review of the CIMMYT wheat program utilizing a Breeding Program Diagnostic Tool (BPDT) provided by BMGF.
To maintain and eventually increase the annual rates of genetic gains, Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat will engage in more targeted crossings, rapid cycling of segregating populations through two-generations-per-year field selection for spring bread and durum wheat, single seed descent method for winter/facultative wheat, application of molecular markers, and new approaches in conjunction with testing of larger number of progenies for yield performance, and precise characterization at phenotyping platforms for key traits.
The approach is broken into nine objectives: (1) Advocacy, (2) Surveillance, (3) Breeding Pipeline, (4) Genomic Selection (GS) & High Throughput Phenotyping (HTP), (5) Phenotyping Platforms, (6) Seed, (7) Data Management, (8) Talent Pipeline, and (9) Project Management. Ethiopia, gender awareness, and long-term sustainability are focal points across all objectives.