Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is the second major crop of Bangladesh after rice and one of the major three staple crops of the world, e.g., rice, wheat and maize. According to FAOSTAT, in 2019, wheat was cultivated in about 21.6 million ha of lands with a gross production of nearly 76.6 million tons. In a recent report it is indicated that the consumption of wheat in Bangladesh is increasing rapidly day by day. From the year 1961 to 2013 the wheat consumption was reported to increase by 102% from 8.62 to 17.47 kg per capita. Domestic wheat production can meet only 20% of the local demand thus Bangladesh greatly relies on import. Moreover, due to urbanization the cultivated area is decreasing and as a result the wheat production in this country is more or less at a static condition. Therefore, development of improved wheat varieties with high yield potential along with stress tolerance capacity against disease, saline, and heat are most desired for sub-continent region like Bangladesh. These development will allow to cultivate wheat in south Bengal where saline and heat prone lands that are usually non-cultivatable.
However, in Bangladesh, wheat flour is used to prepare paratha, ruti, bread, biscuits, cakes and all other types of bakery and confectionary items. Another problem of Bangladeshi existing varieties are with low gluten content as a result quality bakery and confectionary industries still greatly relies on imported wheat with high gluten percent. Addressing all these issues ACI Ltd., a pioneer of agricultural development in the private sector of Bangladesh, has been working in developing improved wheat varieties following advanced breeding techniques through its state-of-the-art laboratory known as Advanced Seed Research and Biotech Centre (ASRBC). ASRBC has already developed 2 advanced wheat lines following advanced molecular breeding approaches as Gluta 1 and Gluta 2. Salient feature of these lines is high gluten content with 32.4 % and 28.9 % respectively. These lines also have high yield potential (5.0 Mt/ha) that might be contribute to meet the local demand which in long-run will decrease the dependency on importing high gluten enrich wheat. ASRBC research also consider in dissecting genetic basis of different important agronomic characteristics like strong thick leaves, high vein density, stress tolerance, higher biomass in shorter period of time, mechanical strength and so on. Upon identifying desired gene/s improved wheat lines are being developed following gene pyramiding such gene/s of interest through marker assisted breeding.
Improved lines of ASRBC are under extensive evaluation with the support of Professor Dr. Md. Hasanuzzaman, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University (HSTU). Promising lines are expected to be released as wheat varieties through national variety registration system.
Dr. ASM Nahiyan*
*Principal Scientist, ASRBC