The Wheat Initiative Helps Advance Research at First International Wheat Conference

This week marks the First International Wheat Congress (IWC), which is taking place in Saskatoon from July 21-26, 2019.

Though 600 participants were originally anticipated, more than 920 attendants from around the globe arrived in Canada for the IWC; the very first conference of its kind. The Wheat Initiative is proud to be a co-host of the international event at TCU Place, a world-class facility that is located in the center of Saskatoon’s vibrant downtown center.

A top priority of the IWC is to promote inclusive participation from all wheat growing areas of the world. A portion of each registration fee and a special contribution from the City of Saskatoon has been used to sponsor passionate scientists from developing nations. As a result 15 researchers were selected as IWC Awardees. Their research spans optimal root system architecture of wheat crops to optimization of wheat management practices, and influence grain yield in wheat breeding to the impact of climate change on wheat production.

During the Wheat Initiative’s Wheat Breeding Methods and Strategies Expert Working Group’s meeting, there was a discussion regarding the importance of exchanging materials and information with the wheat community. The Wheat Initiative believes our strength lies in working as a community that shares data, materials and germplasm to ultimately increase food security and support sustainable development. Participants agreed on the need to actively counteract political developments that risk hindering the free scientific exchange. This is becoming a major issue that must be addressed by global leaders, national and international organizations, and researchers.

Ronnie Coffman (International Professor of Plant Breeding and Director of International Programs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, USA) gave a presentation at the Congress and concluded with a call to arms for the community to make sure their government’s understand the importance of sharing genetic resources. “As scientists, we need to petition the ITPGRFA (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) to relax regulations on sharing plant genetic resources” and “ratify the germplasm sharing instrument”.

Frank Ordon, President of the Julius Kühn Institute and Chair of the Wheat Initiative’s Research Committee, made the following statement: “The Wheat Initiative was established under the auspices of the G20 Group of Countries specifically to enhance international collaboration and sharing. This objective recognized the enormous achievements that have been made by the wheat research community over the past few decades.  It is critically important that we take all practical measures to support materials exchange. Without this, our ability as scientists to deliver the needed productivity increases will be exceedingly difficult.” 

The Wheat Initiative hopes the International Wheat Conference will become one of the world’s premiere events for experts, organizations, scholars, industry partners, and political leaders to support the great need for collaborative wheat research.

This press release was written by Whitney Buchanan, the Wheat Initiative’s Communications Manager, and Peter Langridge, Chair of the Scientific Board. Please note that the official press release document will be added to this page as soon as possible.

Wheat Initiative