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Improved crop varieties to boost food security

Scaling-up: These varieties were bred for dryland farming systems in developing countries. For optimal performance, varieties can be targeted to specific farming systems, depending  on locally prevalent stresses.

Wheat, barley, legumes, and forage crops

In most developing countries, the majority of small-scale farmers use traditional crop varieties, which give low yields and may be vulnerable to drought, heat, diseases and other stresses. Modern improved varieties offer much higher yields, better quality and more stable production. 

ICARDA and its partners have developed improved varieties of a range of crops – wheat, barley, lentil, faba bean, chickpea, grasspea, field pea and forage crops. The new varieties are suitable for rainfed agriculture in areas where rainfall is low and erratic.

They offer higher and more stable yields and higher tolerance/resistance to diseases, insect pests, drought, heat, cold, parasitic weeds and other stress factors. Some varieties also offer large improvements in bread-making quality, nutritional value, and other traits.

More than 880 new varieties have been released for cultivation – and generate benefits worth $ 850 million every year. Technology ‘packages’ have been developed – crop management, irrigation, pest control – to maximize yields from the new varieties.

  • Barley variety Yundamai No. 2 gave the highest yield (10.8 t/ha) ever recorded in China.
  • New lentil varieties, widey grown in Bangladesh and Nepal,  combine high protein levels with, unusually, contents of micronutrients such as zinc and iron.
  • In Ethiopia, new legume varieties increased production by nearly two-thirds, and yields by 30-37%, between 2001 and 2008. Between 2005 and 2008, legume exports grew by more than 600%.
  • Farmers’ net returns have risen dramatically: by 43% for wheat in Egypt; by 73% for chickpea in Sudan; and by 17%, 17% and 52% for lentil, chickpea and faba bean, respectively, in Ethiopia.
  • In Sudan, new high-yielding, heat-tolerant wheat varieties have made the crop viable on huge areas, where its cultivation was earlier ruled out by high temperatures.
  • In Turkey, chickpea variety Gokce is grown on 60% of the country’s chickpea area and yields 300 kg/ha more than other varieties.