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Crop Improvement

Advances in crop science to produce improved and higher-performing crops and livestock hold exciting prospects for making dryland food production systems more efficient and more resistant to pressure from drought, extremes of cold and heat, unpredictable rainfall and new pests and diseases. For optimal performance, varieties can be targeted to specific farming systems, depending on local conditions and stresses.

More than 900 improved cereal and legume varieties have been released by national programs in partnership with ICARDA, and adopted by farmers worldwide, generating annual benefits worth some 850 million USD.

 Releases of plant genetic materials from ICARDA’s gene banks, which host wild relatives of barley, wheat, and legumes, has led to the development of crops with higher yields and greater resistance to a range of biotic stresses. ICARDA varieties also offer large improvements in bread-making quality, nutritional value, and other traits.

Scientists are producing some convincing results:

  • Dryland researchers have developed synthetic wheat varieties that can produce 2.5 tonnes per ha with just 220 mm of water
  • In Sudan, an irrigated heat-tolerant variety is enabling farmers to grow wheat in an area where temperatures were too high and the season too short for growing traditional varieties
  • In Bangladesh, new lentil varieties combine high protein levels with micronutrients such as zinc and iron
  • A drought-tolerant variety of chick pea introduced in Turkey had such strong resistance that it was able to withstand the searing temperatures and rainfall scarcity of the 2007 drought.