No Scientific Basis for Criticism of Wheat as a Food Staple, Nutritionist Says

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Julie Mollins

A nutritionist who is outspoken about the negative consequences of gluten-free diets said in a recent interview that she wants to dispel myths generated by claims that the protein found in wheat is unhealthy.

Julie Miller Jones

Photo: Xochiquetzal Fonseca/CIMMYT

“Wheat has recently been under attack by people who’ve made claims about it that simply can’t be verified by science,” said Julie Miller Jones, professor emeritus of nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Gluten-free” has become a big money maker for the food industry. Sales have soared 63 percent since 2012, with almost 4,600 products introduced last year, according to the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative Highlights CIMMYT Heat Tolerant Maize Breeding

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Jennifer Johnson

Family stands in field

Photo: Allison Gillies/CIMMYT

The Feed the Future initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) featured CIMMYT’s Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia (HTMA) project in a recent newsletter, highlighting it as an exemplary public-private partnership. Launched in 2013, the project is developing heat-resilient hybrid maize for resource-poor smallholder farmers in South Asia whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

The damaging effects of climate change on agriculture have already been felt throughout much of South Asia, and climate model studies predict that this trend will not end anytime soon. According to a 2009 report from the Asian Development Bank, maize production capacity in South Asia could decrease by 17 percent by the year 2050 if current climate trends continue. Due to the temperature sensitivity of key crops such as maize, farmers in the region urgently need access to seed of varieties that can withstand temperature stress. As climate change-related weather extremes threaten agriculture in South Asia, research and development partners are seeking solutions.

Extension Bulletins Raise Awareness of Conservation Agriculture in Malawi

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Sign reads "Plot 3 CA + Maize + Legume Intercrop"

A sign indicates what conservation practices are being employed in a demonstration plot in Malawi. Photo : T. Samson/CIMMYT.

Jennifer Johnson

CIMMYT, Washington State University and Total Land Care (TLC) recently published a series of extension bulletins to spread awareness of the potential benefits of conservation agriculture (CA) techniques for farmers in Malawi.

The study, “Sustainable Intensification and Diversification on Maize-based Agroecosystems in Malawi,” took place over three years in the districts of Nkhotakota and Dowa, and was sponsored by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize through a Competitive Grants Initiative.

Prioritize Food Security, Not Conflict, Wheat Scientist Advises

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Julie Mollins

Heat and drought are a major cause of wheat yield losses worldwide, problems that scientists predict will worsen due to climate change.

As a wheat physiologist, Matthew Reynolds works to bolster crop yields and improve the capacity of wheat to survive stressful conditions, particularly in developing countries.

Wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds inspects wheat in field

Wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds

“Climate change puts farmer livelihoods at risk and can lead to vast food-crop losses in vulnerable environments,” said Reynolds, who was recently named a distinguished scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

DTMA Launches New Project to Improve Seed Scaling in Eastern Africa

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Jennifer Polley-Abramson

Born out of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Initiative and other CIMMYT-Africa maize projects, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Seed Scaling (DTMASS) project will improve the demand for and availability of high-quality, affordable, certified seed of drought-tolerant maize varieties for small-scale farmers across eastern and southern Africa.

“DTMASS aims to produce close to 12,000 tons of certified seed of drought-tolerant maize varieties by the end of its fifth year,” said Tsedeke Abate, DTMA project leader who will also lead DTMASS, speaking at the Uganda launch of the project in Kampala on 4 February. “This will benefit approximately 2.5 million people through the increased production and productivity of maize and the adoption of improved certified seed.”

Chief Minister of Bihar Assures Support to BISA

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Woman works in field

Of the 1 billion food insecure people in the world, more than 30 percent are in South Asia. By 2030 it will be one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change-related food shortages, with maize, rice and wheat prices predicted to double in the next 20 years. Photo: M. DeFreese/CIMMYT

Raj Kumar Jat

The Chief Minister of Bihar, India, Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi, affirmed his support for the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) and its efforts to ensure food security, in a meeting with Thomas A. Lumpkin, director general of CIMMYT, and with government, BISA and CIMMYT representatives on 3 February. As part of this, Manjhi agreed to support development of model villages in every district of Bihar, one of the fastest-growing and developing states in India.

“Ever-increasing energy prices, declining natural resources and variable climates have left farmers with diminishing returns,” Lumpkin said. “Bihar farmers need technologies that increase their profits under changing climates and economies.”

Crop Model Gives Scientists a Window on Future Farming in the Eastern Gangetic Plains

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Alison Laing and Ashraf Ali

Vice Chancellor of Bihar Agricultural University, Dr. M.L. Choudhary, speaks to workshop attendees.

The Vice Chancellor of Bihar Agricultural University, Dr. M.L. Choudhary, opens the APSIM Exposure Workshop. L-R: Ms. Alison Laing (CSIRO), Dr. Don Gaydon
(CSIRO), Mr. Ashraf Ali (CIMMYT-Bangladesh), Dr. Ravi Gopal Singh (BAU) and Dr. Choudhary. Photos: Alison Laing (CSIRO) and Ashraf Ali (CIMMYT).

In work to help farmers in South Asia tackle changing climates and markets through resilient and productive cropping systems, scientists are now using a leading and longstanding model, the Agricultural Production System Simulator (APSIM).

To foster better use of soil and water through conservation agriculture and other resource- conserving practices, the Sustainable and Resilient Farming System Intensification in the Eastern Gangetic Plains (SRFSI) project held an APSIM workshop for nine researchers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal at Bihar Agricultural University (BAU), Bihar, India during 27-29 January. The workshop was inaugurated by the Honourable Vice Chancellor, Dr. M.L. Choudhary, accompanied by Research Director Dr. Ravi Gopal Singh.

Spreading Innovation: New Partnerships Drive Change in Odisha

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Anuradha Dhar

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has collaborated with Digital Green (DG), the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Government of Odisha, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology (OUAT) for a pilot project integrating information and communication technology (ICT)-based video-led dissemination models in 20 villages of Puri district in Odisha, India.

Farmers gather around a projected video

Farmers watch a video on disease control at a community video screening in Puri district, Odisha. Photo credit: Ashok Rai/CIMMYT

How the pilot works: DG trains and builds the skills of state agents to shoot and create videos with farmers on improved farming practices and then holds screenings for small groups of farmers using small-sized, low-cost, battery-run pico projectors. CSISA provides its technical inputs in video topic selection, content planning and story boarding. During the video screening, state agents keep track of the questions asked and have follow-up meetings with the farmers to check on the adoption of farming practices.

Myanmar and CIMMYT Assess Needs and Joint Maize and Wheat Research

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Etienne Duveiller and Dan Jeffers

Wheat breeder in wheat field

Aye Aye Win, Senior Researcher at Zaloke Research Farm in Mongwa, was the last CIMMYT GWP trainee from Myanmar in Mexico (2002) and is currently the only wheat breeder in the country. Photos: Fabiola Meza/CIMMYT

Given growing demand for maize and wheat in Myanmar and the increasing challenges to produce both crops, officials of the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s (MOAI) Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) and CIMMYT representatives met at DAR headquarters at Yezin during 24-27 January, to strengthen collaboration, with a focus on increasing farm productivity and training a new generation of Myanmar scientists.

Maize area, output and demand are growing with increased use of the grain in poultry and livestock feeds. Nine-tenths of the 450,000-hectare (ha) national maize area is rain-fed and grown with few inputs. It suffers from erratic precipitation among other things. Nearly one-third is sown to hybrid seed imported from Thailand. Small- and medium-scale local seed producers need stimulation and support.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) edits and publishes an internet periodical in blog format entitled “CIMMYT.” The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center is domiciled at Km. 45 Carretera México-Veracruz, Col, el Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México, México, C.P. 56237; phone + 52 (55) 5804-2004; www.cimmyt.org. Responsible Editor: Genevieve Renard. Reserved Right for Exclusive Use granted by the Mexican Copyright Office (valid in Mexico) no. 04-2013-091212312700-203. Responsible for updating this blog: Carissa Wodehouse, communications officer, Km. 45 Carretera México -Veracruz, El Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México. C. P. 56150, México. Weekly update. © CIMMYT 2014.

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