Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat

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The Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat is a project led by Cornell University to create a variety of wheat resistant to Ug99 wheat stem rust. It is funded by the Gates Foundation.

It is: "a collaborative effort begun in April 2008, which now includes 22 research institutions around the world and led by Cornell University, seeks to mitigate that threat through coordinated activities that will replace susceptible varieties with durably resistant varieties, created by accelerated multilateral plant breeding and delivered through optimized developing country seed sectors."[1]

About the Project

From the project website:

"In early 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a three-year grant, "Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat" (DRRW), to a consortium of institutions led by Cornell University. Phase II is a five-year continuation of DRRW Phase I, where year 1 of Phase II is coincident with year 3 of Phase I.
"A significant addition to the Phase II proposal is Objective 21: Improved testing, multiplication, and adoption of replacement varieties. The majority of outputs of Phase I have contributed to the rapid development of locally adapted and acceptable replacement varieties resistant to prevailing stem rust races in the targeted countries threatened by Ug99. The Project's goals, however, will be realized only when farmers are planting seed of durably resistant and agronomically improved varieties. Although the belief that "good varieties sell themselves" may be true, variety turnover in most developing countries is very slow, and the preponderance of a single variety over a long period of time is common in large wheat growing areas. Both of these features suggest that the systems that link the outputs of breeding programs with resource poor farmers are not inherently configured for the kind of response that is required to replace current susceptible varieties in a short period of time when under the threat of an epiphytotic. Objective 21 identifies the components of a "seed system," and proposes coordination of multilateral interventions to improve the delivery of resistant varieties to resource poor farmers.
"Another significant feature of the Phase II is an integrated Gender Strategy embedded in the Activities of the Objectives. We acknowledge in Phase II the need to address gender equity at both the level of professional development of women wheat scientists, as well as a moral imperative to ensure food security at the household level in developing countries.
"We also recognize the need for a comprehensive review and appraisal of gene deployment strategies that improve the durability of deployed resistance genes or gene combinations. This is reflected in the greater emphasis on minor gene adult plant resistance (APR) and combinations of major genes where APR is not yet attainable. The "type" of resistance, and the number of genes in a given cultivar is one consideration in gene deployment to improve durability. Mixtures (blends), coordinated deployment of varieties or genes to avoid uniformity and disrupt the pathosystem, and an array of other approaches are in need of consideration. Promoting international discourse and requisite research on questions relevant to rational gene deployment strategies remains part of our portfolio and will be the subject of an upcoming DRRW Gap Analysis.
"In addition, we have established project-wide metrics that will aid us in monitoring the delivery of outputs and measure their impact."[2]

Management Team

The project's management team includes:[3]

  • Principal Investigator: W. Ronnie Coffman
  • Associate Director: Gordon Cisar
  • Associate Director: Sarah Davidson
  • IT Coordinator: Stefan Einarson
  • Associate Director for Communications: Linda McCandless
  • Business Administrator: Tammy Thomas
  • Finance Administrator: Angie Smith


Collaborating on the project are:[4]


The program began with a $26,830,848 grant from the Gates Foundation in 2008 to fund "Phase I."[5][6] This was followed up with a $25,000,000 grant to Cornell in February 2011 to fund Phase II.[7] However, according to a 2011 press release, the initiative was to receive $67 million from the Gates Foundation.[8]

Collaborating institutions also received grants from the Gates Foundation to work on wheat rust, although the grants are likely for unrelated projects:

  • University of California-Davis, November 2009: $346,263 "to enhance wheat resistance to multiple rust diseases."
  • University of Sydney, November 2009: $431,253 "to support increasing skills in cereal rust pathology and genetics in the developing world."

Altogether, these grants do not equal $67 million.

Contact Information

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat, Accessed March 23, 2012.
  2. About, Accessed March 23, 2012.
  3. People, Accessed March 23, 2012.
  4. Collaborators, Accessed March 23, 2012.
  5. About, Accessed March 23, 2012.
  6. Grant OPP49767, Accessed March 12, 2012.
  7. Grant OPPGD1389, Accessed March 12, 2012.
  8. Cornell Scientists Get Genetics Funding to Design Rust-Resistant Wheat, June 30, 2011, Accessed March 23, 2012.

External Resources

External Articles