Wheat rust epidemic of 1946-47 in central India though devastated the crop, sowed the seeds of a planned wheat improvement programme in the region to combat the menace of rust pathogens, and that’s how a wheat breeding sub-station of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute was born at Indore during October, 1951. It was on the fields of the historical Institute of Plant Industry that this research center, now known as the IARI-Regional Station, was established with just two hectares of land and very modest resources. The station was started under the coordinated wheat Rust Control Scheme operating under the leadership of Dr. B.P. Pal at IARI, New Delhi with the mandate of evolving rust resistant wheat varieties that can be successfully grown under limited inputs.
Although, Chaudhari Amir Singh takes the credit of being the first Head of the Station, it was Shri Y. M. Upadhyaya who laid the technical foundation of the center. The torch was carried by the legendary wheat breeder Shri V. S. Mathur, when Shri Upadhyaya went to Sydney to work for his Ph.D. degree. Upon his return from Sydney, Dr. Upadhyaya took the flag from Shri Mathur who went back to IARI-New Delhi to develop superior varieties for northwest India, the bread bowl of the country. The station was headed by Dr. A.K. Singh during 1984-1994, and then by Dr. H.N. Pandey during 1997-March, 2009.
The station has developed 25 improved wheat varieties including 11 of durum and 14 of bread wheat for different cultivation conditions. Several of the recent varieties have gained wide popularity among the farmers. Basic studies are being conducted on rust resistance, heat and drought tolerance, and wheat quality traits. A number of diverse sources of resistance to stem and leaf rusts have been identified which are being utilized for crop improvement throughout the country. Protocols developed for evaluating rust resistance in durum and bread wheats have been providing guidelines for rust resistance breeding in the two wheat species. A number of durum wheat genotypes identified combining several desired quality traits are being utilized in wheat quality improvement. A number of morpho-physiologic traits have been identified for heat and drought tolerance in wheat. Despite availability of very limited farm land (only 6.0 ha) at the station, more than 20,000 quintals of breeder seed of improved IARI-wheat varieties has been produced in participatory mode. Minimum or zero tillage performed better or at par with the conventional tillage and hence can be adopted to reduce the cultivation cost and facilitate timely seeding of wheat crop thereby helping in the optimum utilization of the available irrigation water. More than 800 FLDs involving 17 latest IARI-wheat varieties were conducted in over 300 hectares area of 136 villages under 17 districts of Madhya Pradesh and three of Rajasthan. Average yield increase in these demonstrations has been 47%, compared to the old varieties and conventional cultivation practices. The station’s scientific teams have received the ICAR Team Research Award twice, first in 2002 and then in 2012, for “Outstanding Interdisciplinary Team Research in Agriculture and Allied Sciences”.