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Nurturing Resilient Crops: Insights from the Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course


Manish Vishwakarma

CIMMYT hosted a transformative training program titled “Enhancing Wheat Disease Early Warning Systems, Germplasm Evaluation, Selection, and Tools for Improving Wheat Breeding Pipelines.” from October 1st to 13th, 2023, at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Njoro, Kenya. Among the many enlightening sessions, the Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course stood out as a pivotal experience for attendees, offering valuable insights into the intricate world of rust diseases in wheat and innovative approaches to combat them.

One of the cornerstones of the training was the emphasis on identifying resistance mechanisms within wheat varieties. Trainees from the different countries viz. Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Türkiye, Zimbabwe and India participated in the training. Attendees from BISA centres Dr. Manish K Vishwakarma, Dr. Pradeep Bhati, Narain Dhar and Dr. Sandeep Sharma (BHU), from India, gained a profound understanding of the genetic basis of resistance and learned practical tools for identifying and breeding resilient wheat varieties. This knowledge serves as a crucial foundation for effective rust disease management.

The practical field visits and hands-on sessions provided a unique opportunity to witness the real-world applications of screening techniques discussed during the training. These experiences not only reinforced theoretical knowledge but also deepened their appreciation for the complexities of rust disease management in actual agricultural settings.

Engaging with experts and peers in the field was invaluable. Discussions and knowledge-sharing sessions allowed for the exchange of perspectives and insights into innovative approaches and emerging trends in rust screening and crop disease management. This collaborative environment fostered a sense of community and shared commitment to advancing agricultural practices.

The training covered different subjects such as  pathogen surveillance, diagnostics, modeling, data management, early warning assessments, and open science publishing. However the standout aspect of the training was the comprehensive analysis and interpretation of scoring data. This component played a vital role in honing analytical skills, teaching attendees how to effectively interpret and utilize data for decision-making purposes. This newfound ability significantly enhances our contribution to the field of agricultural research and development.

Several lectures and sessions from distinguished experts left an indelible mark on the participants: Dr. Sridhar’s (CIMMYT-Kenya) sessions on Disease Pathways and the basics of Rust Disease races provided a solid foundation, simplifying complex concepts and aiding in the fundamental understanding of rust diseases.

Dr. Naeela (CIMMYT) insightful lecture on molecular mapping opened up new possibilities in utilizing molecular tools for mapping rust resistance genes, offering a transformative perspective on breeding resilient wheat varieties.

The innovative sessions by Dr. Dave (CIMMYT), Dr. Diana (John Innes Centre, UK) and Dr. Maricelis (Cornell university) on real-time diagnostics with MARPLE showcased groundbreaking solutions that could revolutionize timely management of wheat rust, sparking inspiration and motivation among participants.

Dr. Pawan’s (CIMMYT) session on diseases such as Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) enhanced understanding of the broader disease landscape affecting wheat crops, encouraging a more holistic approach to crop disease management.

Dr. Clay’s (Ohio State University, US) session on basic breeding up to the generation of wheat provided practical guidance, equipping participants with the necessary tools to actively contribute to the development of resilient wheat varieties.

The Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course not only broadened the knowledge base of participants but also instilled a sense of purpose and commitment to contributing to the sustainable management of rust diseases in wheat crops. The diverse sessions, coupled with practical experiences, networking opportunities, and expert insights, have empowered attendees to apply their newfound knowledge actively. The impact of this training resonates with the collective determination to advance agricultural research and enhance global food security through resilient crop production.