Soil salinity and frost remain two main abiotic stresses to winter wheat production in many parts of Central Asia. They affect yields and farmers' income. So much of international research effort in the region is focused on identifying and developing improved winter wheat varieties resistant to these factors. For a few years now, researchers from Turkmenistan's Grain Research Institute and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) have been jointly evaluating improved germplasm of winter wheat from ICARDA, the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) and other sources in Dasoguz region of Turkmenistan. This research effort started in 2010 as part of an ongoing project 'Utilization of wild relatives of wheat in developing salinity-tolerant winter wheat with improved quality for Central Asia', undertaken in Central Asia by ICARDA with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development/the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (BMZ/GIZ).
A set of 120 improved varieties and advanced breeding lines of winter wheat was evaluated in the 2010-2011 crop season on medium saline soil in the research field of the Dasoguz branch of the Grain Research Institute. A total of 12 superior lines were selected from the 120 experimental varieties. These 12 lines along with another 10 winter wheat varieties from other sources were again evaluated in 2011-2012 on medium saline soil. Based on the performance in 2011-2012, seven lines were selected and further evaluated in 2012-2013 on saline soil. In December 2012, winter wheat crop in Dasoguz region was severely affected by frost. Five of the seven lines suffered from frost to various degrees. However, two lines fully survived frost, which also showed better yield and agronomic performance compared with the local varieties during all three years of experimenting. And one of these two lines is being prepared for submission to the State Variety Testing Commission of Turkmenistan. The identification of these improved winter wheat lines, which are tolerant to medium-level soil salinity and frost, once again demonstrates how important international collaboration and support are in dealing with wheat production constraints affecting food security in the Central Asian region.