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Identification of sources of resistance to wheat blast and their deployment in wheat varieties adapted to Bangladesh

In February of 2016, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) scientists notified the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) that wheat blast (WB) - a deadly disease never before seen in Asia - had infected and seriously damaged (20-100% crop losses) wheat fields on 15,000 hectares in south and south-western Bangladesh. On 27 March, the GoB formally reported the incident, raising the alarm among the national, regional and global wheat communities over the potential spread of WB throughout South Asia's 12 million hectare rice-wheat farming zone and beyond. Molecular analyses subsequently confirmed the causal pathogen for WB in Bangladesh as Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum (MoT) (Malaker et al. 2016).
Bangladesh research and extension entities promptly coordinated with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in an emergency task force led by Prof. Dr. B. Meah of Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) that gave immediate recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). A WB regional consultation workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, in July 2016 drew 60 researchers, extension workers, senior administrators, policy makers and funders from Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay and the USA. Participants discussed WB epidemiology, pathogen biology, damage and control, sources and genetics of resistance and resistance breeding, and drafted an action plan to mitigate its spread and damage. Together with concerned national agriculture research systems (NARS) and advanced research institutes (ARI), CIMMYT has launched a large, integrated multidisciplinary program with the following objectives:
- Awareness, surveillance, forecasting, and wheat blast epidemiology.
- Pathogen biology, alternative hosts and cross infection.
- Establishment of a wheat blast phenotyping platform.
- Genetics and breeding for wheat blast resistance.
- Integrated wheat blast management and seed systems.
- Human resource and capacity development to manage wheat blast.
Several large projects The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) projects, funded by USAID; the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (CRP WHEAT); and the Durable Genetic Gains in Wheat (DGGW) project. and partners in various countries are addressing components of this program. Because superior germplasm - along with integrated disease management, best-bet agronomic strategies, and with a better understanding of pathogen biology, ecology and epidemiology - is clearly needed to provide an effective, economical, and environmentally safe control, the present project seeks ACIAR support to identify and characterize sources of WB resistance, develop MoT-resistant wheat cultivars and deploy them in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh MoA has identified this as a priority for combatting WB and has expressed interest in leveraging CIMMYT's proven capacity and global partnerships to marshal and focus the research and breeding resources required to accomplish this in the shortest time possible.
The project will also benefit wheat breeders/pathologist and farmers in Bangladesh and beyond by identifying new WB resistance genes, generating information on host-pathogen interactions, developing resistant wheat lines adapted to Bangladesh, and making them available to breeding programs, seed producers and farmers. Germplasm developed in this project although targeted for Bangladesh can be suitable to other South Asian countries especially for areas vulnerable to WB as they tend to have similar environmental conditions. Resistant germplasm, genes and markers, and genetic information will be shared with all South Asian NARS and others.