Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW)

Project Overview

The Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project built on the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project funded from 2008 to 2016 by the Gates Foundation over two grant phases. DRRW was managed by Cornell University with 24 sub-grantees and an approximate investment of $8M annually, of which $3M annually was provided by UK aid from the British people through the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

At the start of the DRRW project, an estimated 80% of the world’s cultivated wheat was susceptible to epidemic yield losses from a highly virulent stem rust fungus called Ug99, spreading out of East Africa. This threat galvanized a collaborative global response coordinated by the BGRI at Cornell University to protect wheat production. The DRRW and its successor, the DGGW, were especially focused on smallholder farmers in East Africa and South Asia where dependence on wheat is high, food insecurity is critical, and the risk of rust is greatest.

The Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) project, a four-year grant from 2016 to 2020, focused on strengthening the pipeline for delivering new varieties of wheat with disease resistance for all rusts (stem, stripe and leaf), septoria and spot blotch and improved heat tolerance, and increasing wheat yields for smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and South Asia. The DGGW supported increased rates of genetic gain for wheat by investing in modernized breeding programs at CIMMYT and national programs in East Africa and South Asia, incorporating guidance from a review of the CIMMYT wheat program utilizing a Breeding Program Diagnostic Tool (BPDT) provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To maintain and increase the annual rates of genetic gains, the DGGW engaged in more targeted crossings, rapid cycling of segregating populations through two-generations-per-year field selection for spring bread and durum wheat, single seed descent method for winter/facultative wheat, application of molecular markers, and new approaches in conjunction with testing of larger number of progenies for yield performance, and precise characterization at phenotyping platforms for key traits.

The approach was broken into nine objectives: (1) Advocacy, (2) Surveillance, (3) Breeding Pipeline, (4) Genomic Selection (GS) & High Throughput Phenotyping (HTP), (5) Phenotyping Platforms, (6) Seed Multiplication, (7) Data Management, (8) Talent Pipeline, and (9) Project Management. Gender awareness and long-term sustainability were strong focal points across all objectives.

Funded by

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Project Impact


Total funding (USD)


Duration of project (2016-2020)
Associate Director for Science

Maricelis Acevedo, Cornell University

External Project Advisory Committee

Bill Angus, Angus Wheat, UK

Usha Barwale Zehr, Mahyco, India

Richard Michelmore, UC-Davis, USA

Robert Park, University of Sydney, Australia

Annual Reports

2017 DGGW Annual Report (PDF)