You are here

Improved crop varieties – to strengthen food security

Improved climate-resilient crops are the key to future global food security

In most developing countries, the majority of small-scale farmers use traditional crop varieties, which give low yields and may be vulnerable to drought, heat, diseases and other stresses. Modern improved varieties offer much higher yields, better quality and more stable production. 

ICARDA and its partners have developed improved varieties of a range of crops – wheat, barley, lentil, faba bean, chickpea, grasspea, field pea and forage crops. The new varieties are suitable for rainfed agriculture in areas where rainfall is low and erratic.

They offer higher and more stable yields and higher tolerance/resistance to diseases, insect pests, drought, heat, cold, parasitic weeds and other stress factors. Some varieties also offer large improvements in bread-making quality, nutritional value, and other traits.

More than 880 new varieties have been released for cultivation – and generate benefits worth $850 million every year. Technology ‘packages’ have been developed – crop management, irrigation, pest control – to maximize yields from the new varieties.

Selected impacts and initiatives

  • Barley variety Yundamai No. 2 gave the highest yield (10.8 t/ha) ever recorded in China.
  • New lentil varieties widely grown in Bangladesh and Nepal combine high levels of protein and micronutrients such as zinc and iron.
  • In Sudan and Nigeria new high-yielding, heat-tolerant wheat varieties have generated up to 6 t/ha, making the crop viable in areas where its cultivation was earlier ruled out by high temperatures.
  • In Turkey, chickpea variety Gokce is grown on 60% of the country’s chickpea area and yields 300 kg/ha more than other varieties.
  • Since 2012 ICARDA’s cereal and legume improvement program has developed and released 30 improved varieties in Ethiopia. ‘Singitan,’ for instance, an improved variety of malt barley, is higher-yielding than local varieties and resistant to Shoot Fly, a major pest which can cause crop losses of up to 100 percent during shorter rainy seasons.