ISLAMABAD- The U.S.-Pakistan Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP) today brought together wheat researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to celebrate progress in the global fight against wheat diseases. 

At the event, USDA Agricultural Counselor in Pakistan Clay Hamilton, CIMMYT country representative Mohammad Imtiaz, and Secretary of the Ministry of Food Security and Research Seerat Asghar presented eleven new wheat planters to WPEP partners. These planters, accompanied by other upgrades, will allow WPEP’s provincial partner institutions to accelerate research and produce higher yielding wheat varieties for Pakistan.

One of highest priorities of the WPEP program is to introduce disease resistant wheat varieties into Pakistan. The ‘UG99’ wheat rust disease poses the greatest threat to Pakistan’s wheat crop. While ‘UG99’ has not yet reached Pakistan, the development of resistant varieties and their availability to farmers is critical to ensuring that Pakistan’s wheat crop is safe.  Toward this end, WPEP has successfully introduced two new UG99-resistant wheat varieties: ‘NARC 2011’ and ‘Pak-13.’

A visiting USDA wheat scientist has been working with Pakistani and CIMMYT colleagues for the past five days. These wheat experts have evaluated new, high-yielding wheat varieties for resistance to disease and environmental adaptability. The best of these varieties will be passed on to farmers in Pakistan.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, USDA Agriculture Counselor in Pakistan Clay Hamilton said: “Today’s event is one more example in a longstanding series of successful scientific collaborations between the United States and Pakistan in agriculture.  This is a prime example of collaboration between governments and research institutes that are so critical.  In fact, this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Norman Borlaug beginning work in Pakistan to improve wheat productivity. 

Secretary Seerat Asghar shared Hamilton’s sentiments stating, “We have been the recipients of knowledge and equipment from the United States.  Keeping pace with wheat requirements is very important for us.  This is not a machine, it is a technology that has been transferred to us.”

The five-year WPEP project focuses on monitoring wheat diseases, developing and introducing disease resistant varieties, upgrading infrastructure, fostering scientific exchanges between Pakistan and the United States, and teaching farmers new agronomic techniques.