Italian scientist brings non-GMO “pasta power” climate adaptation solution to West Africa
Heat tolerant non-GMO durum wheat discovery can help eradicate poverty
A breakthrough in wheat-breeding has resulted in the ability to grow durum wheat in the extreme heat of famine-affected Senegal, Mauritania and Mali, potentially boosting the income for 1 million farming families, and therefore winning the 2017 Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security.
The genome fingerprinting research project led by Dr. Filippo Bassi of International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and Professor Rodomiro Ortiz (SLU, Alnarp), and funded by the Swedish Research Council, used non-GMO molecular breeding techniques to develop a set of durum wheat varieties that can withstand the constant 90-100 degree Fahrenheit heat along the savannah of the Senegal River basin.
In this region, farmers grow rice for 8 months of the year but the land remains unproductive for the other 4 months. The new durum varieties have therefore been developed to grow super-fast so that farmers can grow the wheat between rice seasons, which could produce 600,000 tons of new food, equivalent to 175 servings of pasta per person per year in the region, and could generate $210 million in additional income for the farmers. As the wheat has 5 times more protein than rice, as well as vitamins and minerals, it will also help to improve diets.
The discovery also has wide adaptation potential for other areas hit by increasing temperatures. This ground-breaking research was therefore voted by a panel of expert judges as the winner of the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security—an international prize launched by the global agri-business in partnership with the Agropolis Fondation, a foundation that supports research in agriculture and sustainable development.