Developing resilient crop varieties

Training in wheat improvement in Qarshi, Uzbekistan

Yellow rust fungus, also called stripe rust, is an incredibly destructive crop disease in the CAC region that can substantially devastate the harvests of susceptible wheat crops. ICARDA and its partner organizations have worked to distribute resilient varieties of winter wheat, among other crops, to increase the productivity of the region’s agricultural systems.

Farmers in the CAC face challenges from multiple fronts: increasing effects of climate change to a region that already faces sporadic rainfall; depleted soil; low agricultural productivity; food insecurity; wheat disease variants that have adapted to higher temperatures; and a bottleneck in distribution that has stymied the dispersal of yellow rust resistant varieties.

Fighting yellow rust in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

With funding from the Russian Federation and CGIAR Research Programs 'WHEAT' and 'Dryland Systems,' ICARDA worked with local partners to accelerate the adoption of yellow rust-resistant winter wheat in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Planting resistant crops is significantly more cost-effective than the use of fungicides, which are prohibitively expensive for smallholders and can often have unforeseen ecological effects.

The national institutions promoting the work are the Kashkadarya Research Institute of Breeding and Seed Production of Grain and Leguminous Crops (KRIBSPGLC), the Uzbek Research Institute of Plant Industry in Uzbekistan, the Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Administration of Bobojon Gafurov district in Tajikistan.

Over 30 winter-wheat varieties originating from improved germplasm provided by the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (a Turkey-CIMMYT-ICARDA joint collaboration) have been released in the region. In recent years, adoption of yellow rust resistant varieties has significantly increased, with Uzbekistan in particular increasing its rust-resistant wheat production, reaching 40% cultivation of its total wheat area.

Stress tolerant varieties of cereals and legumes in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

In collaboration with farmers in the Aral Sea Action Site in Karakalpakstan and Khorezm provinces in Uzbekistan, and with financial support from the Russian Federation and 'WHEAT' and 'Dryland Systems,' ICARDA's teams evaluated 150 wheat genotypes at 2 and 4 cm seeding depths respectively. The seeding at 4 cm yielded higher harvests as the depth protected crops from frost damage.

Crops — including winter wheat, spring wheat, chickpea and mungbean — were also evaluated for tolerance to frost, heat, and salinity in CRP Dryland Systems action sites. Winter wheat-mungbean and winter wheat-potato crops were successfully implemented in the Aral Sea Region, as well as the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan and the Sugd province of Tajikistan. Over 100 farmers were impacted favorably by the cultivars and improved practices, increasing soil health, family nutrition and income production potential.