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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 2 (2006 Deadline)

WSU-NUST Wheat Rust

Close-ups of wheat affected by stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici) (photo courtesy of Dr. Muhammad Ashraf)

Secure Pakistan Wheat Production through Controlling Rusts 

Xianming Chen, Washington State University
Muhammad Ashraf, National University of Sciences and Technology
Pakistani Funding (HEC):  $241,884
US Funding:    $100,001
Project Dates on US Side: February 1, 2007 - January 31, 2011

Project Overview

Wheat is an essential food resource and grown all across Pakistan. With ever-increasing yield targets to meet national production goals, incorporation of stripe rust resistance into Pakistan’s leading cultivars is currently a high priority. Monoculture of the Inqilab 91 variety has caused stripe rust to become widespread, and cultivar susceptibility is posing serious problems. The need for new genes to counter the threat is crucial, and this project was aimed at identifying genes offering protection against rust virulences and transferring them into commercial cultivars using efficient molecular tools. Wheat rusts are a major threat to production in the United States as well, so the results of this project should benefit wheat producers in both countries.

This project aimed to adapt the system, approaches, and technologies established in the US partner’s laboratory in studying epidemiology of wheat stripe and stem and leaf rusts, identifying wheat germplasm resistance to these diseases, and developing molecular markers for efficient breeding of resistant wheat cultivars to control these diseases and thus secure wheat production in Pakistan. Another goal of this project was to support Dr. Ashraf's efforts to establish a genotyping lab at his university along the lines of a laboratory recently created in the US Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service unit at Washington State University, which will give Pakistani researchers new opportunities to use modern molecular techniques. Through the project, the partners involved exchanged wheat germplasm with rust resistance and other valuable traits, an exchange that should also be beneficial for wheat breeding programs in the United States. In addition to the primary partner institutions, the project also involved researchers from the National Wheat Research Station of Ayub Agriculture Research Institute in Faisalabad and used the research fields of the Wheat Research Institute, Pir Sabak; the Regional Agriculture Institute at Bahawalpur; and the Sakrand Wheat Research Station, Sindh.

Major Results

  • Characterized 46 wheat stripe rust samples collected from Pakistan and identified 27 virulence races from the pathogen population
  • Discovered that the Pakistan stripe rust population is the most diverse among the pathogen samples from 12 countries
  • Evaluated 320 Pakistani wheat germplasms for resistance to stripe rust under test field and greenhouse conditions, which led to the identification of wheat germplasms with race-specific all-stage resistance and/or high-temperature adult-plant (HTAP) resistance, results that are very useful for selecting resistant cultivars to grow and resistant genetic stocks for use in breeding programs to develop new rust-resistant strains
  • Trained three Pakistan scientists or PhD students in person at the USDA-ARS Wheat Genetics, Quality, Physiology, and Disease Research Unit and Washington State University, with training provided to another scientist via e-mail communication—all trainees have become leading scientists working on cereal rusts in Pakistan

Progress Report Summaries

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