Seed multiplication program strengthens protection against disease

Through the HSAD initiative, ICARDA has initiated collaborations with Iraq’s national wheat program to multiply the seed of six varieties registered by the Ministry of Agriculture: HSAD, Azmar, Maaroof, Alaa, Shaho, and Hamada.

This scientific partnership, which also includes the Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Borlaug Global Rust Initiatives (BGRI), aims to use genetic improvement to combat wheat diseases, particularly stripe rust and stem rust, in Iraq. This complements other ICARDA work promoting resistant wheat varieties right across Central Asia, where stripe rust outbreaks have been recorded since 1999.

The new wheat varieties are an important step towards food security in Iraq. Wheat is a staple crop in the country so the HSAD initiative has placed considerable emphasis on developing strains that are tolerant to both biotic and abiotic stresses, including drought, salinity, and stripe rust disease. The initiative has also driven efforts to improve extension services, making sure that the seed multiplied from these improved varieties is placed directly in the hands of Iraqi farmers.

By growing the new varieties resistant to stripe rust, farmers will help make Iraqi agriculture more resilient in the face of climate change. This is due to the fact that rising temperatures, and the increased variability and intensity of rainfall associated with climate change, contribute to the spread and severity of rust diseases. In 2009/10, for example, an aggressive new strain of stripe rust caused significant yield losses in Iraq. The work of HSAD in developing and distributing seed from improved wheat varieties aims to address this problem head on.