• Sunday, May 09, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:52 pm

New zinc-fortified wheat, also grown in Bangladesh, set for global expansion

  • Published at 01:08 pm April 15th, 2021
2021-03-24T160940Z_855023011_RC2SHM9OD4VZ_RTRMADP_3_FRANCE-WHEAT-CHINA
FILE PHOTO: A French farmer displays two ears of wheat as he harvests his field in Rumilly, northern France, July 13, 2020 Reuters

Zinc deficiency is one of the main causes of malnutrition globally and estimated to afflict more than 2 billion people

Scientists at a leading global grains research institute have expressed optimism about new wheat varieties, which they have grown with the head of seed company partners in several countries, including Bangladesh.

They also expect to sharply ramp up new wheat varieties enriched with zinc that can boost the essential mineral for millions of poor people with deficient diets, the institute’s head told Reuters.

Martin Kropff, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), said he expects the newly-developed high-zinc wheat to make up at least 80% of varieties distributed worldwide over the next ten years, up from about 9% currently.

Apart from Bangladesh, the improved varieties of so-called biofortified wheat are being rolled out with the help of seed company partners in countries including India, Pakistan, Mexico and Bolivia.

The Mexico-based institute’s research focuses on boosting yields, and livelihoods, of the world’s poorest farmers while also addressing specific challenges posed by climate change, including higher temperatures, less rainfall and constantly mutating plant diseases.

Kropff said Asian giant China may also begin adopting the fortified wheat varieties this year.

Over the next decade, he said he expects nearly all newly deployed wheat varieties to be nutritionally improved, noting that the high-zinc varieties were developed by traditional breeding techniques instead of research based on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“This is something that is really starting in a big way this year,” said Kropff, who also pointed to CIMMYT-developed zinc-enhanced corn that was introduced in Colombia over the past two years.

“I’m super proud of this,” he added, touting the seeds ability to dent malnutrition via one of the world’s grains staples.

The dramatic expansion of the new wheat varieties, which has not been previously reported, holds the promise of improving diets that lack essential minerals like zinc and iron, used to fight off viruses and move oxygen throughout the body.

Zinc deficiency, in particular, is one of the main causes of malnutrition globally and estimated to afflict more than 2 billion people.

CIMMYT scientists, with a research budget last year of $120 million, have developed about 70% of wheat varieties currently planted globally as well as about half of the world’s corn, or maize, varieties.

The vast majority of CIMMYT’s research is non-GMO.

The institute was founded by 1970 Nobel peace prize winner Norman Borlaug and runs research projects in some 50 countries. It has attracted funding from the US and British governments, among others, as well as billionaires like Bill Gates and Carlos Slim.


Also Read - Climate-smart wheat initiative rekindles hope


'First of its kind' corn

Kropff also cited three recently-developed CIMMYT corn varieties that are resistant to Fall Armyworm (FAW), an insect that has caused major damage to crops in both Africa and Asia, that were bred in Kenya with the help of CIMMYT’s maize seed bank in Mexico, the world’s largest.

“Like people, (the worms) like maize as well, but they eat the leaves and also the grains and it’s really terrible,” said Kropff.

The new varieties will be distributed over the next few months for performance trials in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to CIMMYT officials.

Kropff, a 64-year-old Dutch scientist, said the FAW-resistant corn varieties are the first of their kind and have already been picked for trials in east African nations ahead of similar trails expected in southern Africa later in the year.

He said CIMMYT, which in a typical year develops and deploys some 35 improved wheat varieties globally, fills a space that the biggest profit-maximizing seed companies like Germany’s Bayer AG or US-based Corteva Inc tend to avoid.

“We specifically breed varieties for those environments where the private sector cannot make much money,” he said, explaining that the poorest farmers must also regularly adopt new varieties that can thrive in a world where pests and disease are constantly evolving too.

“The small-holder farmers rely on us.”

51
Facebook 51
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail