Hybrid Wheat: Potential Key to Food Security in Pakistan – JEAS Blog

JEAS-Blog (January 2023)

Hybrid Wheat: Potential Key to Food Security and
Food Self-Sufficiency in Pakistan
Iftikhar Ali*, Sadam Hussain
Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan

Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), the second most produced grain crop after maize, has the maximum share in the global trade of crops. China, India, and Russia share about 41% of the total global wheat production, while the USA is the fourth-largest wheat-producing country in the world (Fig. 1; Rastogi, 2020). However, the European Union’s accumulative wheat production exceeds that of any country other than China. A record production of 779.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of wheat is projected in 2022–2023.

Fig. 1. Country-wise share of Global wheat production (Rastogi, 2020, Data Source: FAO)


Fig. 2. Annual wheat yields from 1961 to 2019 for the world and the Yaqui Valley of northwest Mexico (Fischer, 2022)

It is anticipated that last year’s (2021-22) production issues will not affect wheat production in Russia, Canada, or the United States. A record 88.0 Mt production is expected from Russia. Enough rains in wheat production areas of Canada might compensate for the drought losses during the cropping year 2021-22. Similarly, northern and northwest parts of the USA have also recovered from a severe drought last year. Argentina and Australia, on the other hand, are anticipated to produce less than their record-breaking levels in 2021/22 due to drought and heatwave. The yield potential for the European Union has decreased by 6.2 Mt from 2021/22 as a result of a severe heat wave. Globally, an additional 198 Mt of wheat will be required by 2050 to accomplish the future demands of increasing population, which can be achieved by boosting the average yield in developing countries (Sharma et al., 2015).

Russia and Ukraine are major players in global wheat production as well as export. The current Russian war on Ukraine may result in severe wheat crises in both countries and around the world, especially in countries with wheat as a staple food. Russia and Ukraine – both of which are vital Agricultural providers in the global food chain. With the Russian war on Ukraine, most nations are starting to feel the heat of the conflicts in the shape of product deficiencies and surging costs.

Fig. 3. Russian war on Ukraine and implications for oil and food prices (Photo Credit, The Times, UK)

On the other hand, global climate change is a serious challenge to global food security, and production of wheat and other crops would be drastically reduced under rising temperatures and extreme events throughout the world (Tripathi et al., 2016; Rehmani, 2023; Ali, 2018). Crops are adversely affected by rising temperatures in a variety of ways, including poor stand establishment, reduced photosynthesis, leaf senescence, pollen sterility, and reduced grain-filling periods (Rehmani et al., 2021; Ugarte et al., 2007).

Fig. 4. Map of Pakistan with rising temperature across the country (Source: Ali, 2018)

In tropical, subtropical, dry, and semi-arid parts of the world, high temperatures have an impact on the production of the wheat crop. While the Mediterranean region’s reproductive stage is very susceptible to temperature, the high temperature in the tropical region is an unavoidable restraint for wheat during the germination and early growth phases (Iqbal et al., 2017). With the current production techniques and varieties, a high temperature of 3–4 ℃ above the ideal temperature at grain filling can reduce wheat yield in Asia by 10–50% (Hussain et al., 2018).

Current Scenario of Wheat in Pakistan

Wheat is cultivated on over 9 million hectares in Pakistan and is a key component of national food security. It contributes 7.8% to agriculture value addition and 1.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP). If target of annual wheat production is not achieved, it can cause an awkward situation in the country and political unrest by increasing the import bill and price of wheat flour. Last year, wheat area decreased to 8.976 million hectares (2.1%) against the previous year and total wheat production declined to 26.394 Mt (3.9%) compared to previous year (2020-21). Wheat productivity decreased as a result of the reduced planted area, insufficient irrigation water, dry conditions at the time of planting, decreased fertilizer input, and the March/April heat wave (Government of Pakistan, 2021-22).

Pakistan is one of the world’s top wheat consumers, with an annual consumption of 124.4 kg per capita. Annually, Pakistan needs around 27 Mt wheat production to feed its population of 22 M. Self-sufficiency in wheat production is always a core objective of every political government in the country but with increasing population and stagnant wheat yield, it is very difficult to achieve annual wheat demand through local production. Wheat is cultivated throughout Pakistan but most of the share is from Punjab (77%), followed by Sindh (15%) while KP and Balochistan contribute 5% and 3.5%, respectively (Fig. 5). The devastating floods in August 2022 significantly affected the sowing operation of wheat in Sindh and thus Pakistan will be mainly dependent on wheat produced in Punjab. 

Fig. 5. Regional distribution of wheat production in Pakistan (Source: Foreign Agricultural Services, USDA)

Historically, Pakistan has been in good financial relations with both Russia and Ukraine. In 2020, reduced wheat production and unchecked wheat export caused intense wheat deficiencies in Pakistan. This compelled the government to permit private companies to import wheat to stabilize costs and ensure sufficient stocks to meet national food requirements. Between July and November 2020, Ukraine was the largest wheat supplier (1.2 Mt wheat) to Pakistan. During the same period, Russia provided 0.92 Mt of wheat to Pakistan. Wheat imports from the two nations surpassed 2.1 Mt over 2020-2021. Meanwhile, wheat demand in the country for 2022 and 2023 has been estimated to be 28.2 Mt and 29.2 Mt, respectively. Recently, rapidly increasing price of wheat flour is an indication of wheat crisis in Pakistan.

Prospects of Hybrid Wheat in Pakistan

Pakistan is becoming a food-insecure state due to a widening gap in the supply and demand of food crops, mainly as a result of stagnant wheat yield, extreme weather events, and rapidly increasing population. Instead of focusing on increasing wheat production, Pakistan is increasingly relying on wheat imports. Our local verities do not fulfill the need of people and area under the wheat cultivation is also being reduced. The only potential way to safeguard food security is to boost up the national average yield. Wheat yield increases have lagged behind those of other significant grain crops like maize and rice since the Green Revolution. Hybrid intervention has revolutionized the production of rice, maize and sorghum crops through enhanced yield and yield stability.

Both self-pollinated and cross-pollinated crops benefit from the enhanced yield and higher grain quality of hybrid types. Exception for hybrid rice in China, hybrid varieties of self-pollinated crops (particularly cereals) have rarely performed well. Despite past failures, new wheat hybrids with desired characteristics have been developed and commercialized in various European nations in recent years (Gupta et al., 2019). Wheat scientists in Pakistan are also working very hard on developing local wheat hybrids in collaboration with their Chinese and Australian counterparts.

Several private companies are also interested in wheat hybrid business in the country. Hybrid wheat cultivars can produce higher biomass and yield under water deficit conditions of semi-arid areas of Pakistan. Moreover, the hybrid can perform better than the local wheat cultivars under late-sown conditions as well (Anjum et al., 2021).

There are following national universities working on hybrid wheat research and development in Pakistan:

  • University of Agriculture, Faisalabad in collaboration with Australia and ICI, Pakistan
  • Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture, Pakistan in collaboration with Australia
  • University of Agriculture, Peshawar in collaboration with China

Global Success Stories of Hybrid Wheat

Hybrid wheat efforts began in the 1950s using cytoplasmic male sterility (CMH) in Japan. Since the first hybrid wheat efforts in Japan, several companies such as Cargill, Dekalb/HybriTech, Agripro, and Rohm-Haas have initiated work on hybrid wheat in the 1980s and 1990s. Saaten-Union Recherche, A French company, is the pioneer in the development of commercially successful Hybrid Wheat varieties for the United Kingdom and European countries. Recently, Asur Plant Breeding (a specialized research and production unit of Saaten-Union) is marketing hybrid wheat varieties developed by chemical hybridizing agents in some parts of Europe (Easterly et al., 2020). The area under wheat hybrids has been steadily growing over the past 20 years, making up around 0.2% of the total global wheat land.

Hybrid wheat success during the coming years is likely to occur in Europe countries, especially in France and Germany, the United Kingdom, and the USA under competitive research programs with ambitious goals. To further strengthen the research on the hybrid wheat program and create effective hybrid wheat seed production systems, private plant breeders from France, Germany, Poland, and Austria have also formed a new European alliance called HYBALLIANCE. Followings are some news of hybrid wheat around the world hinting at its fruitful outcomes in the near future:

  • Positive outcomes from the Portuguese and German winter hybrid wheat variety Hystar.
  • Turkey has conducted successful hybrid wheat trials.
  • Possible introduction of hybrid wheat to Ukraine, as evidenced by ASUR PLANT BREEDING’s recent interest.
  • CIMMYT and Syngenta launched a new hybrid wheat research partnership in 2011 by using Australian wheat hybrids created and sold throughout the 1990s to develop and test more than 5000 CHA-based hybrid combinations in Mexico and India.
  • The UK’s CROPCO initiative for creating hybrid wheat is another story of Hybrid wheat success.
  • Wheat breeders from Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the United States are working together to create hybrid wheat varieties in the public sector. The project intends to integrate the use of CHA, breeding, phenotyping, genomic selection, QTL mapping, and heterotic pool formation to produce a knowledge base and germplasm resources for the successful introduction of the hybrid wheat business in the USA.
  • In China, work on creating hybrid wheat cultivars began in the late 1980s, and CMS and CHA systems were used to create a number of experimental hybrids with notable heterosis. To date, more than 50 wheat hybrids with yield increases of 10 to 20 percent have been developed out of which 7 hybrids have also been certified under the national yield program. In China, hybrid wheat cultivars were cultivated on 66.7 thousand ha for demonstration purposes between 2009 and 2012, with an average yield gain of 15.7% across 11 provinces.
  • In 2011, the “Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences” (BAAFS) and “China Seed” launched the Beijing Engineering Research Centre for Hybrid Wheat, which moved forward to establish partnerships with Pakistan, Uruguay, and the Netherlands. In 2012, Pakistan successfully tested two hybrid types (Beijing Wheat nos. 6 and 7), created by the BAAFS, with the hope of potentially boosting local wheat output by 50%. Recently, Pakistan seems to be collaborating to produce drought-tolerant hybrid wheat.


ACIAR, 2022. Accelerating genetic gain in wheat through hybrid breeding in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Pakistan. https://www.aciar.gov.au/project/crop-2020-167.

Ali, G. 2018. Climate change and associated spatial heterogeneity of Pakistan: Empirical evidence using multidisciplinary approach. Sci. Total Environ. 634: 95-108.

Anjum, M.M., Arif, M., Riaz, M., Akhtar, K., Zhang, S.Q., Zhao, C.P., 2021. Performance of Hybrid Wheat Cultivars Facing Deficit Irrigation under Semi-Arid Climate in Pakistan. Agronomy.  11: 1976.

Easterly, A.C., Garst, N., Belamkar, V., Ibrahim, A.M.H., Rudd, J.C., Sarazin, J.B., Baenziger, P.S., 2020. Evaluation of hybrid wheat yield in Nebraska. Crop Sci. 60: 1210–1222.

Fischer, R. A.T. 2022. History of Wheat Breeding: A Personal View. In: M. P. Reynolds and H.-J. Braun eds. Wheat Improvement: Food Security in a Changing Climate. pp. 17-30. Springer International Publishing, Cham.

Government of Pakistan, 2021-22. Economic survey of Pakistan.

Gupta, P.K., Balyan, H.S., Gahlaut, V., Saripalli, G., Pal, B., Basnet, B.R., Joshi, A.K., 2019. Hybrid wheat: past, present and future. Theor. Appl. Genet. 132: 2463–2483.

Hasanuzzaman, M., Nahar, K., Alam, M. M., Roychowdhury, R., Fujita, M., 2013. Physiological, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms of heat stress tolerance in plants. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 14(5): 9643–9684.

Iqbal, M., Raja, N. I., Yasmeen, F., Hussain, M., Ejaz, M., Shah, M. A., 2017. Impacts of Heat Stress on Wheat: A Critical Review. Adv. Crop Sci. and Tech. 5(1).

Rastogi, K., 2020. Which Countries Produce the Most Wheat? https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/visualizing-global-wheat-production-by-country/

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Rehmani, M. I. A., C. Ding, G. Li, S. T. Ata-Ul-Karim, A. Hadifa, M. A. Bashir, M. Hashem, S. Alamri, F. Al-Zubair and Y. Ding. 2021. Vulnerability of rice production to temperature extremes during rice reproductive stage in Yangtze River Valley, China. Journal of King Saud University – Science 33, 101599.

Sharma, I., Tyagi, B.S., Singh, G., Venkatesh, K., Gupta, O.P., 2015. Enhancing wheat production – A global perspective. Indian J. Agric. Sci. 85: 3–13.

Tripathi, A., Tripathi, D.K., Chauhan, D.K., Kumar, N., Singh, G.S., 2016. Paradigms of climate change impacts on some major food sources of the world: A review on current knowledge and future prospects. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 216: 356–373.

Ugarte, C., Calderini, D.F., Slafer, G.A., 2007. Grain weight and grain number responsiveness to pre-anthesis temperature in wheat, barley and triticale. Field Crops Res. 100, 240–248.

Zulifiqar, S., 2022. Major Crops in Pakistan. https://www.economy.pk/major-crops-in-pakistan/. .

Cite this Blog as:

Ali, I. and S. Hussain. 2023. Hybrid Wheat: Potential Key to Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency in Pakistan. JEAS-Blog (January 2023), Agropublishers, Multan, Pakistan

Copyright © Ali and Hussain, 2023.  This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original author and source are appropriately cited and credited.

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4 Replies to “Hybrid Wheat: Potential Key to Food Security in Pakistan – JEAS Blog

    1. The development process is more costly and difficult, and companies saw lower potential for returns.
      Recently, scientists are working on open pollination techniques and chemical male sterility which may reduce the cost of hybrid wheat production. Hope to see hybrid wheat in our fields sooon!

  1. Very informative article for wheat growers, researchers and other relevant stakeholders
    Continuity should prevail with smart articles like this
    A great effort of publisher

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