islamabad - Wheat, Pakistan’s most important crop, is in the spotlight at the National Agriculture Research Centre, which is hosting a two-day ‘Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program Meeting’ this week.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Dr David Marshall gave opening remarks at the inaugural session. Marshall, from USDA’s Plant Science Unit, is the WPEP Research Leader, said a US embassy statement.

Wheat accounts for 60 per cent of the daily caloric intake of the average Pakistani, and it’s grown on over 9 million hectares of land throughout the country.

WPEP’s goal is to protect and enhance wheat productivity, with particular attention to wheat rusts, which have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses during the past 50 years.

Because a wheat-rust epidemic would threaten Pakistan’s food security, USDA is supporting efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s wheat-rust surveillance efforts, enhance collaboration with international researchers, and improving breeding methods and testing, said the statement.

USDA is supporting Pakistani institutions to increase the availability of new varieties and to work toward a safe and secure food system in Pakistan, it said.

WPEP is an international collaboration with a consortium of the Pakistani government and university research facilities, USDA, the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas, the statement added.