PS Seminar Series - Progress in wheat yield at CIMMYT: past and future

Abstract:  This seminar begins with the three and a half fold increase in the farm yield of irrigated wheat from 1960 to 2019 in NW Mexico, the homebase of the CIMMYT wheat breeding program. This  includes a recently compiled measure of the associated  breeding progress in potential yield (PY), and the traits associated with this. Focus then shifts to the physiological and environmental determinants of PY in the wheat crop, concluding with attention to a long-standing but poorly investigated possible avenue for further potenial yield increase, namely duration of the “critical period”.

Biography:  Fischer grew up on a mixed farm in southern New South Wales. He completed degrees in Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne and a PhD in stomatal physiology at the UC Davis, USA. He was an early post-doc at RSBS (ANU) under Prof. Ralph Slatyer, then a crop agronomist and physiologist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, and at CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra. He later returned to CIMMYT as Wheat Program Director (1988–95), following which he was a program manager at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in Canberra, then an Honorary Research Fellow at CSIRO Ag and Food, before recently moving across the road and back to RSB, ANU. His research publications in plant and crop physiology and agronomy are widely cited, including a coauthored 2014 book on world food security and crop yield ( He has been on several International Crop Center Boards of Trustees as well as that of GRDC, and has travelled widely in the wheat regions of the world, especially Asia and Latin America. He received the Colin Donald and William Farrer medals, and Fellowships of the Australian Institute of Agriculture, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and the American Crop Science and Agronomy societies. In 2007 he was elected a Member of the Order of Australia.