Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (far right) speaks alongside other former CIMMYT Global Wheat Program colleagues. Photo: Suzanne Lundin-Ross

Toluca Experiment Station Holds Field Day for CIMMYT Scientists and Staff

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Wheat

Jennifer Johnson

A field day was held on 4 September at CIMMYT’s Toluca experiment station to give CIMMYT scientists the opportunity to explain their program objectives and research activities to colleagues who may not have been familiar with their work. Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize recipient, and several retired CIMMYT employees who had worked with him also attended. Over 100 current and former staff members attended, with one group receiving presentations in English and the other in Spanish.

The day began with a welcome from Hans Braun, director of the Global Wheat Program (GWP), after which the visitors headed out to the fields where GWP’s David Bonnet and Masahiro Kishi presented the work they are doing with hybrids and wide crosses. The term “wide cross” refers to the practice of crossing modern plant varieties with wild plant relatives, in order to create new varieties with desired characteristics.

A presentation on durum and triticale was given by Karim Ammar, GWP wheat breeder, who explained the importance of the Toluca experiment station, where the last visual check of plants occurs before going to field trial. Carlos Guzman, a post-doctoral fellow at CIMMYT in GWP’s Wheat Quality Laboratory, presented on the different varieties of wheat, their properties and the resulting products. At the end of the presentation, samples of bread and cookies created using CIMMYT wheat were given to participants.

The activities of the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) project were presented by Sukhwinder Singh, wheat lead for SeeD, and Carolina Saint Pierre, genetic resources (wheat) phenotyping coordinator for SeeD. They explained their work on phenotyping, which involves screening seeds for different accessions, diseases and properties. Pavan Singh, wheat rust pathologist and molecular breeder in the GWP and head of pathology, discussed the various diseases that challenge wheat production today and their locations.

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (far right) speaks alongside other former CIMMYT Global Wheat Program colleagues. Photo: Suzanne Lundin-Ross

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (far right) speaks alongside other former CIMMYT Global Wheat Program colleagues. Photo: Suzanne Lundin-Ross

Ravi Singh, wheat breeder in GWP’s Bread Wheat Improvement and Rust, led the presentation on bread wheat, highlighting the fact that 95 percent of wheat farmers grow bread wheat on over 220 million hectares of the world’s farmland. Afterwards, Maria Tattaris, post-doctoral researcher, Mariano Cossani and Gemma Molero, associate scientists, presented on the Wheat Physiology Program and distributed the program’s most recent publications to the visitors.

Michael Mulvaney of the Global Conservation Agriculture (CA) Program (GCAP) presented on the three main principles of CA – minimal tillage, keeping soil covered with organic matter and rotation. He also discussed the economic and ecological benefits farmers can gain from adopting these practices. Lastly, staff members of the Maize Genetic Resources Center spoke on their activities and gave a manual pollination demonstration.

After the presentations, the visiting staff members returned to the Toluca station for a delicious lunch of carne asada and esquites provided by Toluca superintendent Fernando Delgado and his staff. Dr. Rajaram gave a speech during the luncheon, and invited the retired CIMMYT employees in attendance to stand with him as he spoke on CIMMYT’s past and his hopes for its future. “CIMMYT’s greatest strength is its human resources,” he said, and thanked them for their contributions to the Center.

A Tribute to Alejandro Ortega, Former CIMMYT Maize Scientist

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Uncategorized

Photo courtesy: Jorge Castro/PIEAES

Photo courtesy: Jorge Castro/PIEAES

Mike Listman

In communion with family members, Mexican and global partners and past colleagues, CIMMYT mourns the passing and celebrates the extraordinary life of Alejandro Ortega y Corona, former CIMMYT maize scientist who died in his native Mexico on 9 September at the age of 83. Ortega’s professional contributions include developing techniques to mass rear insects for use in insect-resistant maize breeding, as well as quality protein maize (QPM) improvement and screening techniques for heat and drought tolerance.

“Alex was an accomplished and dedicated entomologist and served as a mentor and an example of dedication to improving the lot of the poor, for many of us,” said Greg Edmeades, former leader of maize physiology at CIMMYT. “He believed we could make a difference in this world – and he did through his sheer hard work.”

A graduate in biology of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in 1953, Ortega obtained a M.Sc. (1954) and a Ph.D. (1960) in Economic Entomology from Ohio State University. Among the first Mexican students to complete graduate studies outside of Mexico with Rockefeller Foundation support, during 1952-57 Ortega served in the Office of Special Studies, the joint Rockefeller Foundation-Mexican Ministry of Agriculture program where Norman E. Borlaug pursued the research that led to the Green Revolution and the creation of CIMMYT. After working during 1961-66 as head of entomology at Mexico’s national agricultural research institute (now the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research, known as INIFAP), Ortega joined the CIMMYT Maize Program in 1967, where he focused on entomology, physiology, breeding and pathology. In 1988 he left CIMMYT and worked for two years as a volunteer and later as a salaried researcher in INIFAP in northwestern Mexico. He worked on a number of things at INIFAP, including the development of heat-tolerant maize (one resulting hybrid, H431, is still popular in the region). Most recently, Ortega served as national coordinator for the Global Maize Project, a large effort to collect and document Mexican maize landraces during 2008-2011.[1] Ortega is also author of a 1987 CIMMYT field manual on insect pests of maize that is still used by researchers worldwide.

In August 2013 Ortega was honored for his service and contributions to maize drought and heat research at a special ceremony at CIMMYT’s Norman E. Borlaug Experiment Station (CENEB) in Ciudad Obregón. He was revered by staff at all levels, according to Martha Wilcox, CIMMYT maize landrace coordinator who helped organize the CENEB event. “A former maize program secretary said Alex was the most polite scientist she ever worked for,” said Wilcox. “Tractor drivers and field workers at the station took up a collection to give him a special, carved-wood statue of a Yaqui Indian dancer, after the ceremony.”

“Alejandro will always be remembered for his exemplary work in maize improvement at CIMMYT and INIFAP,” said Pedro Brajcich Gallegos, INIFAP director general. “He achieved results of national and international recognition, but he leaves a legacy of modesty and care for others. May he rest in peace.”

The CIMMYT community sends profound condolences to Ortega’s wife Eliavel and his children Lidia, Lucía, Alejandro Ortega González, Glenda, Alejandro Ortega Beltrán and Alejandra.


[1] Ortega Corona, A., M. de J. Guerrero Herrera and R.E. Preciado Ortiz (eds.). 2013. Diversidad y Distribución del Maíz Nativo y sus Parientes Silvestres en México. Mexico, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias (INIFAP).

Photo courtesy of MAIZE.org

MAIZE CRP Calls for Grant Proposals

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Maize

MAIZE CRP has announced its third call for proposals as part of the Competitive Grants Initiative (CGI). The call is directed at researchers from outside CGIAR, allowing a greater variety of research partners worldwide to apply for funds to support research and capacity-building activities that will make a significant contribution to the MAIZE vision of success.

The full call for proposals is available on www.MAIZE.org and the deadline for applications is 17 October. Please share this news with your networks!

Photo courtesy of MAIZE.org

Photo courtesy of MAIZE.org

Last year, 17 institutions were offered grants, which can range between US$20,000-300,000; The total number of grants awarded to date is 37. For 2014, 11 specific research gaps have been identified within the MAIZE strategy of five Flagship Projects: sustainable intensification of farming systems; new tools and traits for breeding; stress-resilient and nutritious maize; stronger maize seed systems; and more inclusive and profitable maize futures.

Along with the Competitive Partner Grants initiative of the WHEAT CRP, these are the only model of such collaboration among the CRPs. By building a greater variety of partnerships, MAIZE hopes to capture a wider range of innovative ideas and skills, more capable to identify and respond to emerging challenges and maximize the potential for research to improve food systems and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Future updates and news of the Competitive Grants Initiative will be shared in the MAIZE newsletter. For any further questions, please contact MAIZE Program Administrator Claudia Velasco (c.velasco@cgiar.org).

CIMMYT Scientist Examines Socio-Economic Determinants of Yield Variability in Maize

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Conservation Agriculture

Jennifer Johnson

M.L. Jat, senior cropping system agronomist in the Global Conservation Agriculture Program at CIMMYT, in collaboration with Hirak Banerjee, Rupak Goswami, Somsubhra Chakraborty, Sudarshan Duttac, Kaushik Majumdar , T. Satyanarayana and Shamie Zingore, recently published a study examining the socio-economic determinants of yield gap in maize. The study, “Understanding biophysical and socio-economic determinants of maize (Zea mays L.) yield variability in eastern India” was published in the NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences and was made possible by a grant from the Maize CRP. The term “yield gap” refers to “the difference between actual yields and potential yield,” potential yield being “the maximum yield that can be achieved in a given agro-ecological zone.” The purpose of the study was to investigate the key factors limiting maize productivity in two districts in each of the Indian states of West Bengal, Malda and Bankura, in order to develop effective crop and nutrient management strategies to reduce yield gap in the region.

The study compared the maize yield and socio-economic situation of farmers in the region and found that factors such as the caste or ethnic origin of farmers, availability of family labor, land ownership, use of legumes in cropping sequence, irrigation constraints, type of seed used, optimal plant population, labor and capital investment and use of organic manure had strong correlations to the maize yields farmers were able to achieve. The authors of the study hope that this information can facilitate the development and introduction of appropriate typology-specific crop management practices, in accordance with the needs of farmers and the socio-economic factors affecting their productivity, which could help to increase maize yields and reduce the yield gap for the region’s farmers.

Click here to read the full article.

Overview of CGIAR Development Dialogues

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Uncategorized

cgiar development dialoguesOverview of CGIAR Development Dialogues

The inaugural CGIAR Development Dialogues will focus attention on the vital role of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, landscapes and food systems in achieving sustainable development. The one-day event will be held at the Faculty House of Columbia University in New York City on 25 September. A by-invitation-only audience of some 300 will attend. Thousands more will be included online through live webcasting and social media channels.


2014 marks an historic opportunity to communicate the importance of research on sustainable agriculture to stakeholders involved in the climate change and development policy processes. In Paris in December 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 21) will seek to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. In September of the same year, the UN hopes to forge a consensus and agreement on the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and accompanying targets, in what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has termed the post-2015 development framework and agenda. These two processes will help define the global development path of donors, civil society and policymakers in coming decades. Shaping, delivering and monitoring the targets set by these agreements will require not only new funding commitments but also the latest knowledge and innovations from the global research and academic community, in partnership with governments, civil society and the private sector.

Why CGIAR Development Dialogues?

The Dialogues present an opportunity to shape research and development for tomorrow’s food systems, landscapes and rural economy. The Dialogues are designed to influence policy and leverage the attention of world leaders, scientists, donors, media, civil society, the private sector, community groups and SDG negotiators on the vital role that agriculture, forestry, fisheries, landscapes and food systems play in sustainable development. The event offers an opportunity to forge a link between the experience of CGIAR, the Centers and CRPs and the implementation and achievement of the emerging SDGs. The event will take place in conjunction with the most important conversations on global development in recent years and will leverage the presence of key players at concurrent events.

Dialogue objectives:

  • Demonstrate the fundamental role of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, landscapes and food systems for achieving each of the emerging SDGs.
  • Highlight key areas of opportunities, including: improving livelihood opportunities for poor rural people; reducing risks in long-term food supply; improving nutrition; enhancing efficiency in food systems and renewable products’ value chains; investing in sustainable landscapes; conserving and wisely using biodiversity; and meeting the challenges of climate change.
  • Point to important gaps in knowledge and the need for public and private investments in research, outreach and capacity development.

Intended outcomes

  • Improved clarity for key decision makers on the importance of agriculture, forestry and fisheries landscapes and food systems in achieving the SDGs and climate agenda.
  • Raised profile for food systems and landscapes as cross-cutting issues.
  • Identification of research gaps to achieve the SDGs and targets under the climate agreement.
  • Commitments to investments in research and capacity development.
  • Strengthened partnerships with CGIAR.
  • Identification of key recommendations for further discussion and debate, to be delivered to the UNGA. 


CIMMYT and the WHEAT and MAIZE CRPs were asked to develop one of the eight panels that will take place at the Development Dialogues. Other Centers and CRPs (IRRI, ILRI, ICRISAT, the Roots, Tubers and Bananas CRP) were also invited to help develop the panel. The topic that we are developing for the event is “Global food security for 9.6 billion people in 2050: What does agricultural research (including breeding for major crops) have to do with it?”

Panel summary

After identifying key by-2050 food security and rural development challenges related to major crop farming systems, the panelists will discuss how crop production and agricultural productivity can address those challenges and translate them into agricultural research priorities. Panelists will outline the role of publicly funded international agricultural research and that of the private sector research and development in addressing those priorities. Finally, the panelists will discuss where the funding should, or could come from.

Among the key points that will be made during the panel discussion:

  • Crop productivity increases (breeding and agronomy) currently do not keep pace with demand. This will lead to further food price increases.
  • Food price increases will delay efforts to reduce poverty, perpetuate malnutrition and be an incentive for further deforestation.
  • Demand for food will increase fastest in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Most production increases will need to come from the developing world where climate change impacts will also be the greatest.
  • Today’s investment in international agricultural research will determine technologies and know-how available to farmers in coming decades.

Panelists/Key Areas of Discussion

Raj Kumar, the president and editor-in-chief of Devex, will serve as the panel’s moderator. Dave Watson, manager of the MAIZE CRP, will lead the panel. Other panelists include: Timothy D. Searchinger, research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and senior fellow at the World Resources Institute; Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union commissioner of Agriculture & Rural Development; and Natalie Rosenbloom, vice president of Sustainability & Signature Partnerships at Monsanto Corporation. Ashok Gulati, chair/professor of agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations was also scheduled to be a panelist, but was just asked to serve on an Indian national commission that will be meeting at the same time. A substitute panelist may be added in the near-term.

Dr. Bruce Campbell interacts with women farmers connected to M(obile)solution.

CCAFS Management Team Visits India: Assessing and Widening Climate Smart Villages

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Asia

ML Jat, Tripti Agarwal, Surabhi Mittal

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) management team lead by Bruce Campbell, Director, CCAFS, visited CIMMYT-CCAFS action sites in India during 23-28 August. The primary objectives of this visit were to see the conceptual framework of Climate Smart Villages (CSVs) in action, the innovative partnerships and policy-level influence for developing and scaling-up climate-smart agriculture in India to replicate the CSVs in other regions of the world. During the visit, an interface was organized for the current and future collaborative work in India between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and CCAFS. Informed about CCAFS’ progress, the team headed for CSVs managed by CIMMYT in Karnal, Haryana on 25-26 August.

There are 27 CSVs; to initiate knowledge sharing, the team traveled to Anjanthali, Beernarayana and Taraori as well as other research sites. The team was welcomed with garlands to honor their work facilitating farmers’ actions to address climate change and enhance productivity. Interactive discussions with the team, scientists, farmers and partners occurred throughout the trip. A brief was presented on CSVs in Haryana and the climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAPs) being undertaken, both technological and mechanical. Farmers illustrated the laser levelers, turbo seeders and precision nutrient management. Moreover, they emphasized the importance of information and communications technologies (ICTs), which enable them to receive advance rainfall predictions.

Dr. Bruce Campbell interacts with women farmers connected to M(obile)solution.

Dr. Bruce Campbell interacts with women farmers connected to M(obile)solution.

In a stakeholder consultation involving CSV committee members, farmer cooperatives, national system partners and others, farmers described their experiences and benefits gained by adopting climate-smart technologies and practices. They also emphasized how farmer-to-farmer networking is helping in scaling-out this information. In a message from the State Department of Agriculture, Dr. Suresh Gehlawat, additional director, Haryana, validated the statement made by farmers based on his constant interaction with farmers and scientists to up-scale the activities and strengthen linkages. Dr. DK Sharma, director of the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CCSRI) at Karnal, explained CCSRI’s work in collaboration with the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture in India (NICRA) and CCFAS. CSSRI is developing salinity-tolerant varieties of basmati that can adapt to water reclamation. He also praised the CSV concept, and proposed that the techniques used by CSSRI can be linked with CSVs for better results.

Dr. Ishwar Singh, of CCS Haryana Agricultural University, applauded CIMMYT’s efforts to establish a capacity development platform for Ph.D. research students, who are conducting their research and also gaining practical knowledge and exposure. Campbell addressed the gathering, stating that the farming community plays a significant role in adapting to climate change and creating overall impact. He stated that–next to farmers–the most important part of the network is partnership with policymakers, and only then is the role of scientists accomplished.

John Recha, of the International Livestock Research Institute in Africa, was impressed with the efforts made by CSVs, and stated his intention to take information about the CSV model to his country; he hoped that farmers there can also reap the benefits of technological adoption and working in a collaborative model. Exchanging comments on climate change adaptation and its benefits, stakeholders expressed mutual satisfaction regarding commitments made for a sustainable future.

Work done on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission measurements under ICAR-CCAFS collaboration was explained by Dr. PC Sharma, Dr. HS Jat and Dr. Tek Sapkota, who described the CSSRI-CSISA platform. Dr. RC Upadhyay and Dr. AK Srivastava, director, National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal discussed studies carried out on livestock, such as methane measurement, adaptation screening and other climate change facilities under the NICRA project, as a further scope of expansion under CCAFS. Next, a tree planting activity was conducted, symbolizing a greener future.

In a session organized by NDRI, Campbell made a presentation on challenges and opportunities in climate change, agriculture and food security. Adding to this, Dr. Philip Thornton, flagship 4 leader, CCAFS-ILRI, presented “Is the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report telling us anything new about livestock, climate change and food security?” In the open discussion, participants congratulated the team and asked about future action plans. Later, NDRI and the team formed a common platform to work in collaboration on a larger scale to address common issues.

To review the work on ICTs, the team visited Anjanthali to interact with women who are connected to M(obile)solution-CCAFS. Dr. Surabhi Mittal, a CIMMYT agricultural economist, Mr. Kamaljeet and Kisan Sanchar explained how messages are being delivered and how their efficient usage is ensured through proper monitoring software. Over 50 women participants presented their views in an interactive session, where they emphasized how access to information about climate-smart agriculture, weather information and conservation agriculture has enhanced their participation in household decision-making. Deissy Martínez Baron of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) interacted with women farmers and expressed the support the management team has for efforts made by farmers. Dr. M.L. Jat, CIMMYT-CCAFS South Asia coordinator, along with his colleagues and team, walked through the village of Taraori to witness the participatory strategic research on CSAPs and GHG measurements being taken. Dr. P.K. Aggarwal, regional program leader, South Asia International Water Management Institute (IWMI), monitored the visit and gave vital input.

After completing their visit, several members of the team sent complimentary emails. Campbell, in an email to the CCAFS contact point at CIMMYT, stated: “Just completed a great trip to India and some of the field sites. Especially had a great time with the CIMMYT team of ML, Surabhi, Tek and Jeetendra, amongst many others including the large numbers of students, partners and farmers. The work they are all doing is very impressive [in Karnal]. Very collaborative as well.” John Recha, participatory action research specialist, East Africa, said in an email, “I gained a lot of information from your team that I will implement in East Africa” and also noted that the communication materials will be used as resources, including the CSV profile, local language farm budget maintainence booklet and brochures developed by CIMMYT-IWMI. Leocadio Sebastian, regional program leader for CCAFS-Southeast Asia said in an email to Dr. P.K. Joshi, International Food Policy Research Institute, “I was also delighted to interact with you, Pramod and ML. I think we have lots to learn from your team in South Asia and I hope that bringing the Southeast Asia (SEA) team will help us jumpstart our work in SEA.  The challenge to learn fast is with us and the South Asia team has set a very good model.” Also Andrew Jarvis, theme leader flagship 1 of CCAFs, wrote in an email to Dr. Jat, “I was seriously impressed with what I saw, and must say that you are doing a real dynamo job with the climate smart villages. It only reinforced the importance of you leading our FP1 projects in South Asia.”

The well-organized and appropriately precise visit enabled the stakeholders to demonstrate their commitment and future goals toward climate smart agriculture. The cross-world exchange of experiences and mutual learning strengthened the building blocks for scaling-up and scaling-out a concept for a better and more sustainable future of agriculture.

Recent Publications by CIMMYT Staff

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Publication

Are there systematic gender differences in the adoption of sustainable agricultural intensification practices? Evidence from Kenya. 2014. Ndiritua, S.W.; Kassie, M.; Shiferaw, B. Food Policy 49(1):117-127.

Efficacy of quality protein maize in meeting energy and essential amino acid requirements in broiler chicken production. 2014. Panda, A.K.; Zaidi, P.H.; Rama Rao, S.V.; Raju, M.V.L.N. Journal of Applied Animal Research 42(2):133-139.

Parental genome contribution in maize DH lines derived from six backcross populations using genotyping by sequencing. 2014. Ogugo,
V.; Semagn, K.; Beyene, Y.; Runo, S.; Olsen, M.; Warburton, M.L.
Euphytica. Online first.

Physiological factors underpinning grain yield improvements of synthetic-derived wheat in southwestern China. 2014. Yonglu Tang; Rosewarne, G.M.; Chaosu Li; Xiaoli Wu; Wuyun Yang; Chun Wu. Crop Science. Online first.

Understanding biophysical and socio-economic determinants of maize (Zea mays L.) yield variability in eastern India. 2014. Banerjee, H.; Goswami, R.; Chakraborty, S.; Dutta, S.; Majumdar, K.; Satyanarayana, T.; Jat, M.L.; Zingore, S. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life sSciences. Online first. 

Photo: Fatemeh Farshad

Dr. Norman Borlaug Centennial Celebrated in Iran

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Uncategorized

Babak Nakhoda

The Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), in collaboration with the Iranian Society of Crop and Plant Breeding Sciences, celebrated the 100th anniversary year of the birth of Dr. Norman Borlaug in a Centennial Ceremony on 26 August in Karaj, Iran. Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work to improve food security.

Attendees included the president of the World Food Prize, the Iranian minister of agriculture and his deputies, the director general of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, policy-makers, university professors and students, researchers and scientists, as well as representatives of international delegations and non-governmental organizations.

Photo: Fatemeh Farshad

Photo: Fatemeh Farshad

The presence of so many international delegations and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, and his wife made the ceremony in Iran significant. The ceremony brought together men and women from different nations, of different skin colors, religions, cultures, ideologies and political opinions in one place, for the single objective to honor the legacy of Dr. Borlaug and to renew the fight against hunger and poverty. During his welcoming speech ABRII Director General Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie called this “the magic of Dr. Borlaug.”

Mahmoud Hojjati, the Minister of Agriculture of the Islamic Republic of Iran, spoke on Dr. Borlaug’s legacy and the most important challenges to Iranian agriculture. Jeanie Borlaug Laube, Dr. Borlaug’s daughter, sent a message that was read to the audience. A message sent by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the father of the Green Revolution of India, was read by Dr. Babak Nakhoda, the coordinator of the centennial program. The Borlaug Centennial Ceremony was scheduled to coincide with the 1st International and 13th Iranian Crop Science Congress. Dr. Dariush Mazaheri, convener of the Crop Science Congress, and Dr. Mohammad Reza Saeidabadi, secretary-general of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO also spoke at the event.

CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin, Hans Braun, director of the Global Wheat Program and Bruno Gerard, director of the Global Conservation Agriculture Program visited Iran earlier this year to discuss opportunities for further collaboration between the Center and the country’s agriculture sector. Representatives of the three CGIAR Centers – the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and International Rice Research Institute did attend, as well as representatives of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

The Borlaug Centennial Ceremony in Iran brought together people from around the globe to celebrate Borlaug’s worldwide legacy.

wheat gluten free

New Scientist Examines the Gluten-Free Trend

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Wheat

Katie Lutz

It is estimated that nearly one in three people in the United States are living a “gluten-free” lifestyle (New Scientist, July 2014). This diet trend has been supported and encouraged by celebrities, athletes and influential people around the world. In the past five years there has been an epidemic of self-diagnosed gluten intolerance. Many are claiming gluten is a toxic addictive that causes bloating, various mental disorders, stomach pains, headaches and lethargy.

Gluten intolerance can be the result of a multitude of disorders, including coeliac disease. According to Coeliac.org , “Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine.” Cutting out gluten means cutting out one of the primary food groups. Many gluten-free foods sold in stores are short on fiber and have higher sugar content, often making these products less healthy for non-gluten-intolerant consumers.
wheat gluten freeOnly about one percent of the United States population suffers from coeliac disease, so why is one-third of the population going gluten-free and swearing off wheat even after the health risks? Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) may be the cause. Many are claiming NCGS as a result of having no immune reaction to gluten but still experiencing bloating and stomach pain that went away after adopting a gluten-free diet.  Small studies have been conducted, and it appeared that NCGS is legitimate. Peter Gibson of the Alfred Hospital and Monash in Melbourne, Australia, was one of the first to study the effects of gluten with randomized tests. Even after his first test came back positive, showing that the participants who ate gluten were experiencing abdominal pains and lethargy, Gibson was not convinced (New Scientist, 2014.)

“The trouble is that wheat has more than just gluten in it,” said Gibson (New Scientist, 2014). What Gibson discovered was gluten in wheat was not causing the illnesses. Results pointed to the fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) found in wheat, which are also present in many fruits, vegetables and dairy products (The Guardian, 2014).

CIMMYT is running an online campaign to dispel myths about wheat, as well as raise awareness about the importance of wheat in the world. For more information visit the Wheat Matters website, and join in on the #WheatMatters conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


CSISA: Making a Difference in South Asia

Written by cwodehouse on . Posted in Asia

Anu Dhar, Cynthia Mathys, Jennifer Johnson

Staff members of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) are developing and implementing projects aimed at improving agricultural production and standards of living for farmers in South Asia, with excellent results. At their “Seed Summit for Enhancing the Seed Supply Chain in Eastern India” meeting in Patna, Bihar on 14-15 May they worked to design solutions to improve the delivery of high-yielding seed varieties in eastern India, a region that has traditionally suffered from lack of access to these varieties and low seed replacement rates. The meeting, which included over 60 seed experts from the government, research and private sectors, focused on topics such as better-targeted subsidies on seeds, improved storage infrastructure and stronger extension systems to increase accessibility and adoption of improved seed varieties.

The roundtable “Sustainable Intensification in South Asia’s Cereal Systems: Investment Strategies for Productivity Growth, Resource Conservation, and Climate Risk Management” was held on 19 May in New Delhi. It brought together 20 firms and entrepreneurs to build collaborative action plans and joint investment strategies under CSISA to identify new product tie-ins, joint ventures, technical collaborations and shared marketing channels in order to bring high-tech farming ideas to India’s risk-prone ecologies.

CSISA IndiaIn India, CSISA seeks to increase crop yields through the provision of more accurate, location-specific fertilizer recommendations to maize and rice farmers with the “Crop Manager” decision-making tool. The web-based and mobile Android application uses information provided by farmers including field location, planting method, seed variety, typical yields and method of harvesting to create a personalized fertilizer application recommendation at critical crop growth stages to increase yield and profit.

CSISA-Nepal has initiated a series of participatory research trials in farmers’ fields, in order to promote maize triple cropping, the practice of planting maize during the spring period after winter crop harvesting, when fields would usually be fallow. The practice, while proven to be highly remunerative, is not widely popular. The trials seek to determine optimum management practices for maize in order to encourage triple cropping and to generate additional income for farmers.

Greater gender equality in agriculture is also an important goal of CSISA, supported through the creation of Kisan Sakhi, a support group to empower women farmers in Bihar, India by “disseminating new climate-resilient and sustainable farming technologies and practices that will reduce women’s drudgery and bridge the gender gap in agriculture.” A CSISA-Bangladesh project has already had a positive impact on the lives of rural women, providing new farming and pond management techniques that have helped them to greatly increase the productivity of their fish ponds and gain new respect within their families and communities.

To learn more about recent CSISA accomplishments please see the August newsletter here.

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