BERLIN, GERMANY — The Wheat Initiative’s Expert Working Group on Global Wheat Germplasm Conservation (Germplasm-EWG) announced on July 1 the appointment of four co-chairpersons – Dr. Benjamin Kilian, Dr. Shivali Sharma, Dr. Peter Civáň and Professor Hakan Özkan.

They will be assuming leadership from Dr. Ahmed Amri, ICARDA-Morocco, and Dr. Thomas Payne, CIMMYT-Mexico, who served in the position for the last seven years.

“We are grateful to Ahmed and Tom for their great support and lifelong work to improve wheat conservation and use,” Kilian said.

The Germplasm-EWG facilitates communication between germplasm collection holders and users, identifies current challenges, provides support for developing and implementing solutions and offers direction to the wheat plant genetic resources community around the globe.

The new co-chairs said they share a vision to bring together the entire wheat plant genetic resources community and act as a discussion platform and information hub. In this central role, they plan to link international and national gene banks, breeders, farmers, researchers, and all others who have an interest in the conservation and use of plant genetic resources for wheat improvement.

As one of the first steps, they aim to update the existing Global Wheat Conservation Strategy, including its use dimensions using modern tools and technologies. The expert working group also will carry out global assessments, seek out and consolidate technical advice, and offer recommendations for the conservation and use of wheat genetic resources (including that of wild relatives), to provide an updated and holistic conservation strategy to the community.

The Wheat Initiative is coordinating international wheat research and was established by the G20 Agriculture Ministers in 2011. It was founded to assure future food security, which is at risk due to climate change and a rapidly growing world population. There are currently 11 Expert Working Groups in the Wheat Initiative focusing on global wheat research.