ISLAMABAD: A top wheat scientist from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Dr. Yue Jin, is in Islamabad this week to review the U.S.-Pakistan Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program (WPEP).
WPEP is an international collaboration with Pakistani government and university research facilities, USDA, the 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. The study of wheat rusts, especially Ug99, is crucial in Pakistan since wheat is the most important crop in Pakistan. 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.
“Wheat rusts cause significant losses to farmers in both the U.S. and Pakistan, so it is important that Dr. Yue Jin, a USDA wheat disease expert, collaborates with wheat disease experts in Pakistan” says Dr. Kay Simmons, Deputy Administrator, USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS). “Dr. Jin’s visit to Pakistan will be a valuable exchange of wheat rust characterization and crop protection strategies,” he observed.
Wheat rusts have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses during the past 50 years in Pakistan, and large scale epidemics continue to threaten the food security of the country. Therefore, USDA is supporting Pakistani institutions to strengthen wheat rust surveillance efforts, improve breeding methods and testing, and increase the availability of new varieties. The project is also addressing agronomic management practices to encourage the application of best practices forPakistan.
Dr. Javed Mirza, Principal Scientific Officer at the Crop Disease Research Laboratory in Murree, said “the collaboration with USDA has been very valuable in accelerating the pace of rust research. Developing seeds that resist wheat rust will help to raise wheat yields and improve the incomes of farmers.”