Another Green Revolution needed for wheat, says report

Updated 09 Feb 2020

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Faisalabad: Farmers in collect wheat stalks. According to CIMMYT, as much as 30pc reduction in South Asia’s wheat yields has been forecasted by climate change experts if farmers continue to use current varieties and practices.—APP file photo
Faisalabad: Farmers in collect wheat stalks. According to CIMMYT, as much as 30pc reduction in South Asia’s wheat yields has been forecasted by climate change experts if farmers continue to use current varieties and practices.—APP file photo

ISLAMABAD: A second ‘Green Revolution’ is needed to increase global wheat production by sixty per cent by 2050 when the world population is predicted to be 9.3 billion, global wheat research organisation, ‘Wheat Initiative’ said in a report.

To meet this growing demand, annual yield increases must rise from the current stagnating level of 1.1 per cent to 1.6pc, and for this international research efforts are needed to increase wheat production and sustainability, while ensuring the production of high quality and safe products despite high food prices, climate change and natural resource depletion, the report emphasised.

In the last twenty years, considering its importance for global food security, wheat has become an ‘orphan crop’ in terms of research as global investments in maize research were more than four times greater than in wheat research.

To change this situation, the public and private sectors must address the great challenges facing wheat through substantially increased and coordinated investment in research. As part of the global response to the major food security challenges over the next forty years, international coordination of wheat research is needed to avoid duplication of efforts, increase economic efficiency, and add value to the existing national or international public and private initiatives, the report says.

Created in 2011 following endorsement from the G20 Agriculture Ministries, the ‘Wheat Initiative’ provides a framework to establish strategic research and organisation priorities for wheat research at the international level in both developed and developing countries.

According to the CGIAR Research Programme on wheat at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), as much as 30pc reduction in South Asia’s wheat yields has been forecasted by climate change experts if farmers continue to use current varieties and practices.

The wheat varietal replacement in Pakistan in 1997 was in the 6 to 8 years category but slowed down to 8 to 10 years in 2014. A recent stochastic frontier substantiates the decreased technical efficiency of wheat production in Punjab, from slow varietal replacement, according to a CIMMYT report. It takes five to six years for leaf rust resistance to break down in wheat in northern Pakistan, it says.

Wheat yield models indicate that a one centigrade temperature increase reduces yield potential of wheat by 10pc in some parts of the world and that the wheat producers in South Asia and North Africa will be hit hardest by climate change.

The report says all nations urgently need to increase the rate of wheat genetic progress for yield, nutrient and water use efficiency, and adaptation to biotic and abiotic stress, while ensuring the production of high quality and safe products.

Meeting the growing demand for affordable wheat also requires a new strategic research emphasis, on crop, soil, and water conserving practices that will significantly increase the sustainability of production and accelerate yield gains.

Improvements in water and nutrient-use efficiency are imperative to confront the major trends of declining resources for agriculture, the increasing prices of fossil fuel, and the deleterious environmental effects caused by poor fertiliser use practices, which include greenhouse emissions and zone damage.

The report says while continued improvements in wheat genetics will increase wheat yield potential, better deployment of varieties and improved management will help close the yield gaps and improve end-use quality in many wheat growing areas.

Cropping systems for sustainable wheat production, including diversified rotations, will be used in more developed and less developed regions, which will contribute to the control of pathogens, weeds, and the reduction of inputs.

According to the report, an international system will be established to contain the threat of wheat diseases and pests using several approaches such as the identification of new resistance genes in genetic resources, the wide use of durable resistance genes in breeding programmes, the international monitoring of pests and diseases, and the appropriate deployment of resistance genes.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020