Wheat, Pray, Love – How USDA/USAID Wheat Productivity Enhancement Program Reinvigorated Pakistan’s Wheat Sector
Event Date: Dec 15, 2020
Time: 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM (GMT -4)
Location: United States
Online: Online Event
A flagship program for both the United States and Pakistan, the Wheat Productivity Enhancement Project (WPEP) is a partnership with USDA-FAS, USDA-ARS, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), and 11 Pakistani scientific organizations from wheat producing regions, including Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan. USDA designed WPEP to embed its activities into the farming culture and to garner support from the Government of Pakistan.
With more than nine million hectares of wheat, Pakistan is on the front lines in the race between wheat farmers and wheat rusts. Wheat is Pakistan's dietary staple with wheat flour contributing 72 percent of Pakistan's daily caloric intake with per capita wheat consumption of around 124 kilograms (kg) per year, one of the highest in the world. (Source FAS)
Discovered in Uganda in 1999, Ug99 wheat stem rust is a crop disease that can cause almost complete crop failures. It rapidly spread to other African countries as well as to Iran and other nearby countries. Wheat rust moves by the wind and on clothes or in plant matter, so can jump continents through humans, posing a threat to US wheat production.
WPEP pursued six goals leading to the identification, adoption, and best agronomic management of new, high-yielding, and disease-resistant wheat varieties. In 2011, only 15% of the Pakistani wheat germplasm was resistant to Ug99 stem rust. By 2017, an estimated 49% was rust resistant (Source: CIMMYT Pakistan). The program has contributed to increased wheat production from 24 million to over 26 million tons during the last six years. Finally, WPEP has released 50 high yielding disease resistant varieties (Source USDA ARS) which have contributed to at least a 35% yield in farmer fields.
In designing, WPEP Dr. Marshall and his team built on the Green Revolution success of Dr. Norman Borlaug and overcame obstacles including flooding, equipment failures, and desert locusts. Pakistani’s refer to WPEP as a “second green revolution” because WPEP started a country-wide process for germplasm assessment and distribution and marshalled these resources to modernize the country’s wheat breeding systems.
Dr. David Marshall is the Research Leader and Location Coordinator with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service began working on Ug-99 wheat stem rust in Kenya and Ethiopia in 2009. As a result of his fine work in Africa, USDA, the... more U.S. Agency for International Development, and others tapped Dr. Marshall to begin WPEP. Dr. Marshall and his team have overcome many challenges, including crop losses, equipment damage from flooding, travel restrictions, and COVID-19 in order to deliver one of the most successful joint U.S.-Pakistani projects. Dr. Marshall worked very hard to bring together and develop a community of like-minded farmers and scientists who have changed the landscape and history of Pakistan. For his work, Dr. Marshall is a finalist for the World Food Prize, and is set to receive the 2021 Nishan-e-Imtiaz award for outstanding service to Pakistan. Dr. Marshall also received the USDA Abraham Lincoln Award in 2016. less
Eric Brownstein, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, is the CPEP program manager. Based out of Washington, DC, Eric works on agricultural development and regulatory alignment projects across Pakistan, Ukraine, Georgia,... more and Afghanistan. less