In the Fertile Crescent — what is now Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey — farmers have been breeding wheat for more than 8,000 years. The work of countless generations of farmers resulted in traditional wheat varieties, or landraces, with unique traits suited for local conditions and for baking nutritious foods.
When agriculture became more intensified, most farmers switched to modern, higher-yielding varieties. But some landraces still survive, carefully cultivated by farmers in remote communities.
Realizing the value and potential of this genetic diversity, a team of CIMMYT scientists and wheat breeders embarked on a treasure hunt for these ‘lost’ varieties, with support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
In partnership with the Bahri Dagdas International Agricultural Research Institute in Turkey and the Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan, the CIMMYT team collected 162 landraces in Turkey and 25 in Afghanistan. They planted the seeds in research fields and selected the best performing varieties, with input from local farmers. Researchers found that some Afghan landraces were resistant to prevalent rusts and could yield up to 90% as much as modern commercial varieties.
Now CIMMYT is completing the cycle, returning the best landrace seeds to the original farming communities and providing training on sustainable cultivation. By conserving this valuable diversity in farmers’ fields — and using it in breeders’ greenhouses — future generations of wheat farmers and consumers can benefit from more resilient wheat production, not to mention delicious bread.
This work is funded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Benefit Sharing Fund, and carried out in partnership with Bahri Dagdas International Agricultural Research Institute, Turkey, and the Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan.
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On September 24, 2013, the newly formed United Nations (UN) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held its ﬁrst meeting. At the Rio+20 Conference, Member States also agreed to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were to build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were established in 2000 and expired in 2015.
Of the 17 individual goals, 10 relate directly to CGIAR activities and to CIMMYT’s mandate. The SDGs have set the pathway for the next 15 years of agricultural, social, and economic development. Likewise, CGIAR has transformed its approach to ensure that its work aligns with the ambitious goals.
CIMMYT, through its research for development activities, is working toward a world free of poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. CIMMYT and CGIAR efforts help bring the world closer to reaching the goals, such as the empowerment of women, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the improvement of health and nutrition for the world’s poorest people.
CIMMYT’s work contributes to the following SDGs:
CIMMYT — the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center — is the global leader in publicly-funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR System and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat and the Excellence in Breeding Platform. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.
For more information, visit www.cimmyt.org.