Commemorating 50 years from Dr Borlaug’s first visit
BGRI:Despite for four years of intensive wheat rust surveillance in Bhutan, no reports of it has been reported in the country.
The Borlaug’s global rust initiative (BGRI) has special interest in Bhutan mainly because it falls on the path of the wind direction where the wheat rust called Ug99 (stem rust) blows from Uganda towards the east.
Ug99 is the name of a stem rust, which arose from Uganda in 1998 and is predicted to be spreading rapidly. It has the potential to cause wheat production disaster affecting food security worldwide.
National plant protection centre’s (NPPC) program director Doe Doe said the Indo gigantic plains are immune to the rust spores, which are carried by the winds. “We also have varying ecological conditions within which we can see a species of shrubs called Barberry in our country,” he said. “Wheat and barberry can produce asexually, but barberry also allows sexual spores which means they can mate with the stem rust and produce different races of rust.”
The main danger, Doe Doe said is that the race would variate in mated rust and that is what the NPPC wants to study and see the cycle. “We have a conducive environment for rust multiplication and we could be receiving rust spores as we grow wheat throughout the year,” he said. “It is the main cash crop of some of our people and we have to keep importing from India but if we can’t control the wheat rust, it can spread down to India.”
BGRI held their fifth technical four-day workshop in New Delhi, India from August 19 where over 400 delegates from major wheat growing nations from all over the world attended the workshop.
The workshop discussed on building a global cereal rust monitoring system, keys to poverty reduction; food security and social welfare in developing nations; understanding the genetic landscape of stem rust; and perspectives on applied aspects of breeding for rust resistance among others.
Doe Doe said they are taking up this workshop to create an organic image and intensify cultivation, fight climate change by using water resources effectively and for food security. “People’s food habit and food basket are changing and if rice is not sufficient, we want to push wheat,” he said. “We can assess good varieties of wheat and right now our country produces three varieties called Bajoka 1, Bajoka 2 and Sonlika.”
Through BGRI, Doe Doe said they could train people and develop national capacity of researchers and surveillance officers with experts from BGRI providing technical expertise to the country.
“For example if we need help for wheat characterisation, we can either send our samples to the BGRI experts or they can come to Bhutan to study it,” Doe Doe said.
BGRI was launched in 2005 by late Dr Norman E Borlaug, the father of green revolution and a Nobel peace prize winner, who is also known as the man who saved a billion lives. With the BGRI technical workshop, India also commemorated Dr Borlaug’s legacy and 50 years from his first visit to India. Farmers remember him as a very kind, helpful and generous man who saved their lives by giving them seeds, which doubled their production.
BGRI’s chairperson and the daughter of Dr Borlaug, Jeannie Borlaug Laube said, “To advance his legacy and vision to alleviate hunger in the most sustainable and nutritious way, my father would urge us to harness all the tools of biotechnology that we have before us.”
The president of India inaugurated and commemorated the event on August 19 at the Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, India. The workshop concluded on August 22.