U.S. Supports Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program

Islamabad, September 11, 2015– The U.S.-Pakistan Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program (WPEP) held its annual meeting in Islamabad this week. Through the partnership, the United States, utilizing expertise from the USDA and with funding provided jointly by USAID, is supporting efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s wheat rust surveillance efforts, enhance collaboration with international researchers, and improve breeding methods and testing in collaboration with the Pakistani government. Wheat rusts, which have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses during the past 50 years in Pakistan, are a critical issue for farmers worldwide.

The dynamic program is an international collaboration with a consortium of Pakistani government and university research facilities, USDA, International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), and the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas (ICARDA). The primary goal of the program is to protect and enhance the productivity of wheat in Pakistan, with particular attention to wheat rusts, which are difficult and expensive to treat with pesticides. The only real way to deal with the disease, according to experts with the USDA, is through the development of new, disease resistant strains of wheat.

“Long term, durable, genetic resistance to wheat rusts requires in-depth and on-going research focused on the pathogens involved, the varieties being developed, and management of the best production practices,” said Dr. David Marshall, the Research Leader at the USDA ARS Plant Science Research Unit. “A unique pool of wheat genetic resources has been developed by this project. These genetic resources can be used by Pakistani, and U.S. wheat breeders, to improve disease resistance as well as grain yield and flour quality.”

Agriculture is Pakistan’s second largest sector, accounting for more than 21 percent of the nation’s GDP. It remains the largest employer in the country, with 46 percent of the labor force working in farming. The USDA is continuing its long history of support for Pakistani scientists and farmers to enhance agricultural productivity in Pakistan, support economic objectives and meet food security needs. Wheat accounts for 60% of the daily caloric intake of the average Pakistani, and is grown on over 9 million hectares of land throughout Pakistan.

For more information about the program: