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Strengthening wheat resistance to insect pests


Insect pests are one of the most limiting constraints to crop production, inflicting losses of billions of dollars worldwide every year.

Insect pests are one of the most limiting constraints to crop production, inflicting losses of billions of dollars worldwide every year. Faced with this problem, farmers often reach for the chemical option – yet this is problematic as pesticides are expensive and pose significant risks to human health and the environment. A more sustainable and cost-effective measure is Host Plant Resistance (HPR).

Recognizing the importance of genetic resistance for the control of insect pests, ICARDA recently hosted a meeting to review advancements in HPR research. Hosted with the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA), Morocco, the Moroccan Association of Plant Protection (AMPP), and the International Plant Resistance to Insects Working Group, the workshop brought together 165 participants from some 36 countries.

The 21st Biennial International Plant Resistance to Insects Workshop in Marrakech, Morocco, on April 14-16, 2014 reviewed progress and recent advances in the area of host plant resistance to insect pests, and strengthened international collaboration among HPR researchers. The workshop covered: Screening methodologies for resistance to insect pests and sources of resistance; breeding for resistance to insect pests through conventional and molecular strategies; and mechanisms of resistance to insect pests.

In recognition of its research targeting Hessian Fly in Morocco since the early 1980s, a team of researchers, including ICARDA scientists, were given a HPR Award of Merit from the International Working Group on Resistance to Insects. Over previous decades the team has worked hard in Morocco to successfully develop two bread wheat varieties and six durum wheat varieties that are resistant to Hessian Fly – a pest which causes yield losses of up to 36% in susceptible bread wheat varieties and 32% in durum wheat, amounting to losses of 200 million USD every year in Morocco alone.   

The resistant varieties have now been released in Morocco, incorporated into national integrated pest management strategies, and promoted to farmers via farmer field days. The initiative is a collaborative effort between ICARDA, INRA, and the USAID-funded Mid America International Agricultural Consortium (MIAC). 

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