U.S.-Funded Project Devises Plan for Rabi Season to Enhance Pakistan’s Wheat Production

Islamabad, September 12, 2014

During the two-day annual Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP) wheat planning meeting held in Islamabad, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wheat researchers from across Pakistan, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) focused on reviewing the progress of the past wheat growing season and developing a plan for breeding, disease surveillance, seed production, and agronomy research for the upcoming rabi season.

“The WPEP project has produced exceptional results. 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 David Williams, the U.S. Embassy’s Agricultural Counselor. Williams noted that farmers in every province grow wheat, and this important crop accounts for 60 percent of the daily caloric intake of the average Pakistani. He further explained that the U.S. – Pakistan collaboration is vital to the global effort to combat UG 99 and other wheat diseases.

The U.S. Government-funded Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP) supports Pakistani and international scientists in the evaluation, development, and release new high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties. Other objectives include improving agronomic practices and upgrading Pakistan’s research capacity.

The meeting participants agreed that making UG 99 wheat fungal disease resistant varieties available to farmers is a critical step in maintaining high yields for Pakistan’s most important crop. U.S. and Pakistani scientists expressed satisfaction over the progress of WPEP thus far.

The combined efforts of U.S. and Pakistani scientists have resulted in the successful testing and release of two highly productive wheat varieties that are capable of surviving the destructive UG 99 wheat fungal disease. WPEP and Pakistani partners introduced and tested two new wheat varieties, NARC 2011 and PAK-13. These new varieties not only provide disease protection but also produce higher yields than existing varieties. UG 99 is already in neighboring countries and threatens to devastate Pakistan’s wheat crop if resistant varieties are not developed and deployed.

WPEP is a U.S. 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 Pakistan. The five-year collaborative research project brings together wheat research scientists from Pakistan’s Agricultural Research Council, CIMMYT, USDA, provincial wheat research institutions, and ICARDA.