How pasta wheat helps Ethiopian farmers escape poverty

Since 2009, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) have partnered for the identification and development of new durum wheat varieties capable of withstanding the harsh environmental conditions of Ethiopia. The field research Center of Debre Zeit, located some 40 Km outside Addis Ababa, is at the forefront of identification of suitable varieties of Durum wheat. Each year, this Center screens thousands of potential varieties for their response to the relentless stem rust pathogen.

Among the first set of elite durum wheat breeding lines that arrived in 2009, three entries appeared to be the most promising. Two of them were released in 2012 under the names Mangudo (MRF1/STJ2/3/1718/BT24//KARIM) and Mukiye (STJ3//BCR/LKS4/3/TER3), and the third was released in 2015. The first was identified as most suitable for high-rainfall areas, such as the highlands of Bale, while the second showed high performances under drier conditions, which was ideal for low altitude areas. Farmers immediately appreciated these new varieties as they provided substantially higher yields than the previous ones. However, as the stem rust pathogen changed, Mukiye slowly became more and more susceptible, until it finally crashed in 2016 and it was removed from the multiplication efforts.

Read the article by Wasihun Legesse, Yetsedaw Aynewa, Addisu Asfaw, Seid Ahmed and Filippo M Bassi