Mitigating the twin problems of malnutrition and wheat blast by one wheat variety, ‘BARI Gom 33’, in Bangladesh

Akbar Hossain, Khondoker Abdul Mottaleb, Md. Farhad, Naresh Chandra Deb Barma


For the first time in history outside of Latin America, deadly wheat blast caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype triticum (MoT) emerged in the 2015–2016 wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) season of Bangladesh. Bangladesh, a country in South Asia, has a population of nearly 160 million, of which 24.3% are classified as poor. Consequently, malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency are highly prevalent, particularly among school going children and lactating women. Bangladesh Wheat and Maize Research Institute (BWMRI), with the technical support of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, has developed and released a new wheat ‘BARI Gom 33’. The new wheat is a zinc-enriched (Zn) biofortified wheat, resistant to the deadly wheat blast disease. ‘BARI Gom 33’ provides 5–8% more yield than the check varieties in Bangladesh. Rapid dissemination of it in Bangladesh, therefore, can not only combat wheat blast but also mitigate the problem of Zn deficiency and ensure income for resource-poor wheat farmers. Importantly, a large portion of the current wheat area in India and Pakistan is vulnerable to wheat blast, due to the similarities of the agro-climatic conditions of Bangladesh. As wheat blast is mainly a seed-borne disease, a rapid scaling out of the new wheat in Bangladesh can reduce the probability of MoT intrusion in India and Pakistan, and thereby generate positive externalities to the food security of more than 1 billion people in South Asia. This study explains the development process of ‘BARI Gom 33’; the status of malnutrition in Bangladesh, and the possible economic gain from a rapid scaling out of ‘BARI Gom 33’ in Bangladesh. A few policies are recommended based on the discussions.


biofortified wheat; zinc deficiency; wheat blast; Bangladesh; South Asia

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