International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

BSF Project - First Cycle

On Farm Conservation and Mining of Local Durum and Bread Wheat Landraces of Morocco for Biotic Stresses and Incorporating UG99 resistance
The farmers and scientists who scour the fields of Morocco collecting local varieties of durum and bread wheat as part of the Treaty Benefit-sharing Project are doing more than conserving their genetic diversity. They are contributing to the global effort against one of the most dangerous plant pests to emerge in the last century – a fungus that attacks wheat. Known as UG99 because it was first detected in Uganda in 1999, its spores have spread through Africa and the Middle East and continue their move east toward Asia. Ninety percent of the world’s wheat has no resistance to UG99 which means plant breeders need genetic materials to build resistance into commercial varieties that are in the spores’ paths. Morocco is the centre of origin of many of the world’s food crops, among them wheat (Triticum spp.). Over the centuries, many of its local wheat varieties have developed genetic traits that have given them natural resistance to a host of stresses, such as droughts, pests and diseases – including UG99. The project, which is seeking to pinpoint the types of resistance found in local varieties of durum and bread wheat, has undertaken a major re-evaluation of samples already held in the national genebank and combined that with new collecting missions to gather even more varieties from farmers’ fields and broaden the genetic base of wheat. However, for a host of reasons such as habitat degradation and farmers’ abandoning their local varieties for improved varieties, the farmers and scientists who teamed up for the field collection found such a scarcity of local varieties growing in the field, they expressed fear that Moroccan wheat diversity is on the verge of extinction. Not only does this bode badly for the critical genetic traits that may be lost, it is especially detrimental to farmers in marginal areas who rely on their local varieties’ adaptive attributes for ensuring harvests.
Bread wheat (T. aiestivum), Wheat
Window 2 - Immediate action projects
Region: Near East
Implementing institution: National Agricultural Research Institute of Morocco

Share this page