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Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars (MBBIScholars) Program was established on March 25, 2009, on Dr. Norman Borlaug’s 95th birthday. Monsanto initially funded the MBBIScholars program for $10 MM ($2 MM per year for 5 years) and extended the program with a second grant for $3 MM ($1 MM per year for 3 years). As of February 2015 (6 Years of funding) the program has supported 70 students. The 70 MBBIScholars were selected from 359 applications. MBBIScholars are from 25 countries with India having 20 scholars. MBBIScholars from other countries are – Argentina 3, Bangladesh 2, Brazil 2, China 4, Columbia 4, Ecuador 1, Egypt 1, England 1, Ethiopia 4, Kenya 2, Korea 2, Iran 3, Italy 1, Mali 1, Nepal 2, Pakistan 1, Philippines 1, Syria 2, Tajikistan 1, Thailand 1, Tunisia 1, USA 4, and Uruguay 2. Forty scholars studied wheat breeding and 30 studied rice breeding. Twenty seven scholars were young ladies. Applications for the 7th round were due on or before February 1, 2015. A unique feature of the MBBIScholars Program is the requirement that scholars must complete part of their PhD program in both developed and developing/transition countries. Scholars have worked with developed country scientists as follows – Australia 4, Canada 3, USA 43, and Western Europe 20. The program pays for the MBBIScholars to participate in a 3 day Leadership course prior to attending the World Food Prize during their first 2 years. It has been a good experience to see MBBIScholars gain self-confidence after attending the Leadership Course and World Food Prize, and as they study and conduct research in developed and developing/transition countries. They also gain many lifelong contacts in the plant breeding community. Based on the current funding agreement with Monsanto, the final round of MBBIScholars will be selected from applications due February 1, 2016. In view of the great success of this model of training international plant breeders, it would be highly desirable for donors to support and extend this PhD training program to include additional crops of interest in developed and developing countries.
The Global Rust Reference Centre (GRRC, www.wheatrust.org) was established in 2008 upon the request of CIMMYT and (ICARDA) and extended in 2011 by the support of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. GRRC serve as a global hub for investigating wheat rust fungi and can receive alive samples from all countries year round. The activities of GRRC comprise pathotyping of wheat yellow rust and wheat stem rust, as well as training of students and scientists, data handling and storage (databases) and reporting. The current research activities have a focus on evolutionary population biology, as well as basic genetic and genomic studies in yellow rust. The “Wheat Rust Toolbox” and the team behind has become part of the GRRC and all data generated by GRRC will be stored in this system. Data management, research activities and dissemination will be coordinated and integrated with partner information platforms at CIMMYT, ICARDA, Cornell University and other global partners. The quarantine greenhouse space has in recent years been enlarged by more than 50% allowing GRRC to take in more rust samples and students. The GRRC activities expanded significantly in 2011 and 2013 via grants from the Danish Strategic Research Council and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. One of these initiatives, RUSTFIGHT, has a focus on understanding “aggressiveness” and involves a number of Danish and international partners, including ICARDA and CIMMYT, INRA and the John Innes Centre (UK), and private Danish plant breeding Industry.
The first system describing physiologic specialization in the cereal rust fungi was that by Stakman and Levine (1922) for the wheat stem rust pathogen. Thirty seven biologic forms or “races” were identified using 12 differential wheat lines. Since then, additional variability in physiologic specialization was found and several systems evolved to describe this variation using numbers, letters, or combinations of both. This led to difficulties in comparing races, most often because of differences in the system that is used and the differential lines employed. A system that describes virulence succinctly and allows easilymade comparisons between races is highly desirable. Additionally, differential lines should be monogenic or near-isogenic so that virulence is classified on a genetic basis. Wherever near-isogenic stocks are used, it is vital that the recurrent parent is included. The systems that appear to be best suited to describing virulence with the above parameters are the letter-code and octal nomenclature. Of these, the letter-code system is the most commonly used based on a survey of research scientists working on stem rust. Thus, the letter-code system that uses 20 differential host lines is proposed to describe the nomenclature of Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici on a worldwide basis. In addition, the source seedstock line for each differential gene is provided.