Egypt is historically recognized as a great agricultural country. Cereals (wheat, barley, and sorghum), legumes (faba bean, fenugreek, lupine, and chickpea), oil crops (safflower and sesame), flax, berseem clover and onion have been cultivated for thousands of years. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the exponential increase in population and escalating demand for food captured the attention of policy makers where efforts have been exerted to improve crop production and cropping systems.
Activities in the filed crops were initially included in the Plant Breeding Section (1903-1910), the Agriculture Department (1910-1958), the Crop Research Department (1958-1972) and later in the Field Crops Research Institute (FCRI), Agricultural Research Center (ARC) (1973 until the present). During 1980s, efforts were directed towards intensified research and extension activities and a gradual shift towards privatization, close co-operation with international agricultural communities, and a number of development agencies in particular USAID, which cosponsored two large projects, EMCIP and NARP. In the course of the Institute's history, more than five hundred cultivars of different field crops have been released and introduced into Egyptian agriculture. The major goals of the Institute were, and still are, to increase productivity of major field crops through developing high-yielding cultivars, produce basic seed of the improved cultivars, tackle major production constraints, provide suitable production recommendations, undertake extension activities allover the country, and strengthen co-operation with various national and international research centers and development agencies.
Today, FCRI includes 15 research departments covering the breeding and agronomy of cereals, legumes, forages, fibers, oil crops and onion. The Institute employs more than 1500 staff in research, administration, extension and training activities. The headquarters of FCRI are located in Giza , along with some field and laboratory facilities for interdisciplinary breeding and agronomy activities. Additional facilities are provided in more than 23 nationwide agricultural research stations. Field experiments and verification trials are conducted on farmers' fields across the country.
Breeders are responsible for running programs to maintain genetic stocks, develop high-yielding cultivars and/or hybrids that carry disease and insect resistance as well as tolerance to environmental stresses.
The agronomy groups in FCRI Departments in co-operation with other departments and institutes of ARC develop suitable production packages for newly developed cultivars and hybrids to lessen major constraints and achieve higher yields. Several research activities are designed to identify optimum practices, mainly planting dates, fertilizer requirements, population densities, water requirements and management, weed control and soil preparation under old and new land production systems. Emphasis is also given to develop improved production technologies for rainfed agriculture, mainly barley and some forage and leguminous crops. Efforts are also directed towards expanding the application of IPM Programs to reduce the use of harmful agrochemicals on farmers' fields.
The germplasm of various field crops and their relatives and land races are collected, stored, documented, used and exchanged for breeding purposes.
Testing and Evaluation Activities
The Institute's new hybrids/varieties as well as those provided by seed companies are regularly tested and evaluated on research stations and on farmers' fields for not less than two to three years before registration and release.
Seed Production Activity
This activity includes the continuous production of breeder and foundation seed of the elite cultivars for supplying the seed sector either private or governmental for large-scale seed production and distribution. In addition, FCRI also has four seed processing plants stationed in Sakha, Gemmeiza, Sids and Shandaweel. Seed testing is mainly carried out in a central laboratory for that purpose located in Giza . The majority of seed companies depend mainly on foundation seed produced by the FCRI departments.
Training and Extension Activities
FCRI in collaboration with the Central Administration for Extension develop technology transfer programs to introduce new cultivars and research-based extension recommendations to farmers. Efforts are made to train extension workers and to create effective means of communication with farmers. In-country and Out-country training are provided to research and technical staff of the Institute. Moreover, some training programs are designed for candidates from neighboring African and Asian countries.
FCRI is actively engaged in regional research and information exchange activities in co-operation with Nile Valley , Red Sea and North African countries.
The Institute has the support of Egypt 's Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR), international funding agencies, and international research organizations. Among the major donors and co-operative agencies is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which co-funded the Egyptian Major Cereals Improvement Project (EMCIP), 1979-1986, and the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), 1986-1994. The list also includes the European Economic Community (EEC), which funded the Nile Valley Regional Project (NVRP), 1989-1998, the Japan International Co-operative Association (JICA), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Centro Internacional de Majoramiento de Maiz Y Trigo (CIMMYT), the International Development Research Center (IDRC), International Board of Plant Genetics Research Institute (IBPGRI), the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
FCRI has been successful to develop several high-yielding and early-maturing cultivars with high levels of tolerance and/or resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. More than 300 cultivars and hybrids have been released during the last 15 years in addition to about 70 promising lines under registration.
In collaboration with Extension staff, the Institute has extended its services to farmers across the country and continuously updates the packages of agronomic practices to be suitable for newly released varieties.
Average production per unit area (productivity) of most crops has been substantially improved. Increases reached about 55% for cereals, 46% for legumes, 24% for oil crops, 20% for forage crops and 15% for flax.
Cropping intensity of the major field crops has been increased up to about 180% largely because of the introduction of early- maturing and short-stature lodging-resistant cultivars, as well as to intercropping and other means of crop intensification.
Newly released cultivars and modified agronomic packages have facilitated the introduction of a number of cereals, legumes, oil and forage crops to newly reclaimed desert and rainfed areas.
Co-operation with the international research centers has allowed successful introduction of new crops and germplasm to support ongoing breeding programs.