HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) has recognised five members of Nepal Agricultural Research Council with the first annual BGRI Gene Stewardship Award.
The scientists are Madan Bhatta, Sarala Sharma, Dhruba B Thapa, Nutan Gautam and Deepak Bhandari.
The BGRI Gene Stewardship Award recognises a researcher or team of researchers serving a national breeding programme or other national institutions.
Award recipients demonstrate excellence in the development, multiplication and/or release of rust resistant wheat varieties through appropriate means that encourage diversity and complexity of resistance, promote durability of materials and help implement BGRI’s goal of responsible gene deployment and stewardship.
“The BGRI encourages the use of durable, long-lasting Ug99 resistant varieties,” Sarah Evanega, associate director of Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project, and adjunct professor of plant breeding at Cornell University said.
“Despite limited resources, the Nepali team has deployed such varieties. In addition to durable resistance, they also offer higher yields than existing varieties.This is the kind of wheat farmers want to grow,” she added.
In the fast-moving battle against the Ug99 stem rust fungus, wheat varieties that rely only on one line of defence can be quickly overcome by the rapidly evolving Ug99 pathogen.
Since Ug99 was discovered in Uganda in 1999, eight different mutations have been identified and each one of these new races is able to overcome different combinations of resistance genes. It takes much longer for breeders to develop and test new varieties than it does for Ug99 to mutate. So, to achieve any long-lasting defence, breeders are encouraged to release new varieties that do not rely on a single major gene for resistance. Combinations of multiple major and/or multiple minor resistance genes can slow down Ug99’s predations. The Nepal research team has released three such varieties: Vijay meaning “victory”, Francolin 1, and Danphe 1.
These varieties also offer resistance to other rust diseases, including leaf and stripe rust. Nepal is now fully prepared to face the possible arrival of stem rust Jg99 because the resistant varieties are already in the farmers’ fields.
Madan Bhatta of the Nepal team said, “The Nepali wheat team feels honoured to receive the prestigious BGRI Gene Stewardship Award 2012. “This award has great significance as it is in the name of Noble Laureate Dr Norman Borlaug, who fought against world hunger. Dr Borlaug’s example inspires us to fight against deadly wheat rusts.