Ethiopia's transforming wheat landscape: tracking variety use through DNA fingerprinting. uri icon

abstract

  • Ethiopia is the largest wheat producer in sub-Saharan Africa yet remains a net importer. Increasing domestic wheat production is a national priority. Improved varieties provide an important pathway to enhancing productivity and stability of production. Reliably tracking varietal use and dynamics is a challenge, and the value of conventional recall surveys is increasingly questioned. We report the first nationally representative, large-scale wheat DNA fingerprinting study undertaken in Ethiopia. Plot level comparison of DNA fingerprinting with farmer recall from nearly 4000 plots in the 2016/17 season indicates that only 28% of farmers correctly named wheat varieties grown. The DNA study reveals that new, rust resistant bread wheat varieties are now widely adopted. Germplasm originating from CGIAR centres has made a significant contribution. Corresponding productivity gains and economic benefits have been substantial, indicating high returns to investments in wheat improvement. The study provides an accurate assessment of wheat varietal status and sets a benchmark for national policy-makers and donors. In recent decades, the Ethiopian wheat landscape has transformed from local tetraploid varieties to widespread adoption of high yielding, rust resistant bread wheat. We demonstrate that DNA fingerprinting can be applied at scale and is likely to transform future crop varietal adoption studies.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020