Syngenta and CIMMYT Partner to Help Farmers Combat Crop Losses

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Marco Ferroni – Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in 2009 developed a two-year public-private partnership between Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to rapidly identify and map genetic markers for use in wheat resistance breeding against Ug99 stem rust, a fungal disease which can cause devastating crop losses.

The project, funded by the Foundation, will combine Syngenta’s plant genetic profiling expertise with the strengths of CIMMYT’s extensive field research to develop a genetic map of wheat stem rust resistance. This will culminate in the development of wheat varieties that can better resist the disease. The results from this project will contribute directly to the global efforts to combat stem rust, which are coordinated by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative coordinated by Cornell University. The marker data arising from the research will be published.

This important collaboration brings together complementary skills and addresses a pressing need of farmers in many developing countries.  Ug99 stem rust, which first emerged in Uganda in 1999, is caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis.  It is currently spreading across Africa, Asia and the Middle East with potential to spread further, posing a serious risk to wheat, the world’s third most important food crop.

Along with rice, wheat is a major food crop and is crucial for global food security – it provides 500 kilocalories of food energy per capita per day in China and India, and can provide up to 50 percent of daily calorie uptake in Central and West Asia or North African countries. Wheat yields need to rise 1.6 percent each year to reach required global production levels by 2020, yet investments in wheat technology have lagged far behind those for other cereals.

The scientific objectives of this project are:

1) To identify, characterize and map Durable Plant Resistance Quantitative Trait Loci conferring tolerance to stem rust resistance in wheat.

2) To identify molecular markers flanking the chromosomal regions containing these durable genes to be subsequently used in marker assisted trait selection.

3) To characterise the Sr2 gene complex and understand how this complex of gene(s) interacts with other important genes in wheat.

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