CIMMYT hosts the world’s largest network for collaborative wheat breeding. The International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN) brings together hundreds of breeders and agricultural scientists working in over 100 countries to evaluate CIMMYT’s diverse wheat accessions. CIMMYT selects the best lines from across breeding pipelines to distribute through IWIN. This voluntary network tests about 1,000 new wheat lines every year at over 300 sites. In 2021-2022, participants included public research (45%), the private sector (30%) and universities (24%).
As part of IWIN, local researchers test hundreds of wheat lines in many different environments, to determine how the plants will respond to various pests, diseases and other stresses. As a first step, collaborators request wheat materials at the following link: https://www.cimmyt.org/resources/seed-request.
Next, CIMMYT sends the researchers wheat seeds as part of a “nursery” (actually, a cardboard box full of healthy seed.) The seed is checked by CIMMYT and by country authorities, and it is chemically treated, to avoid spreading pests or diseases. Each line of wheat is packed in a separate, carefully labelled envelope. In 2022, over 2,000 of these seed collections were sent to more than 300 collaborators in 71 countries.
The collaborators collect data about the performance of each wheat line, using a standardized protocol. CIMMYT uses advanced technologies to analyze the data efficiently, and then make it available online, as a public good. You can see the results at the following links:
Testing wheat in Bolivia. ©Carolina Saint Pierre / CIMMYT.
These data also allow breeders at CIMMYT to determine which traits will be demanded for future wheat varieties.
After testing the wheat lines from the nursery, collaborators can choose to release some of them as varieties in their own country. Or breeders can cross the new lines with elite local varieties, as the parents of future releases.
IWIN is linked to other initiatives, like the precision, field-based wheat phenotyping network. “Phenotyping” refers to the evaluation of plant traits, including those influenced by the genes, environment, management, and their complex interactions. Wheat varieties of known genetic traits can be tested in many places in the same year, using standardized, good agricultural practices, to see how the genes will be expressed in different environments. “In this way the germplasm can be more efficiently screened and results achieved much faster,” says Carolina Saint Pierre, Partner Network coordinator. She adds, “The goal of the phenotyping network is to more precisely evaluate certain key traits, such as disease resistance, or yield in hot and dry environments. We choose locations that are disease hotspots or because they are analogues for future climate.”
Breeders in the phenotyping networks collect and share data to coordinate their work, as they evaluate responses to wheat performance from India to Uruguay, to accelerate the release of high-yielding wheat varieties which are disease-resistant and tolerant of heat and drought. The phenotyping networks also complement research activities under way for diseases, heat, drought and yield in Kenya, Ethiopia, Turkey, Mexico and other countries.
Sharing CIMMYT’s germplasm collections allows the material to be tested in a wide range of geographies. Each nursery, with its 50 to 228 entries of wheat, helps plant breeders to develop the wheat varieties that will make their nations more food secure, while helping farmers to adapt to climate change. CIMMYT freely shares valuable genetic resources as global public goods. Collaborating breeders reciprocate with data, which CIMMYT transforms into public information. The data also helps CIMMYT’s research to remain demand-driven, so that superior wheat varieties are released to farmers in a timely fashion.
Carolina Saint Pierre
Partner Network coordinator
The goal of the phenotyping network is to more precisely evaluate certain key traits, such as disease resistance, or yield in hot and dry environments. We choose locations that are disease hotspots or because they are analogues for future climate.
Breeders evaluating seeds for more effective wheat resistance. ©CIMMYT.
CIMMYT’s plant breeders evaluating wheat lines in Metepec, State of Mexico, Mexico. ©CIMMYT.
IWIN brings together hundreds of breeders and agricultural scientists working in over 100 countries to evaluate CIMMYT’s diverse wheat accessions.
In 2022, over 2,000 of these seed collections were sent to more than 300 collaborators in 71 countries.