2010 Science Week: Food today, food tomorrow

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events, Visits to CIMMYT

DSC_0135CIMMYT-El Batán bustled with activity as nearly 130 scientists stationed in 19 different countries gathered for Science Week 2010. During 20-26 January, participating staff analyzed CIMMYT as an institution, identified program specific issues, and created action plans to improve the efficiency and imapct of the center’s work.DSC_0146

 This year’s event featured forward-looking, cross-program discussions and the free exchange of ideas and information, allowing staff to learn more about other areas within CIMMYT. Much emphasis was placed on improving and increasing multi-disciplinary projects, including expanded roles for the Global Conservation Agriculture Program (CAP) and the Socioeconomics Program (SEP).DSC_0174

“I know my own program—the Global Maize Program—very well. But at Science Week you get a lot of perspectives on why and what CIMMYT is doing with wheat, conservation agriculture, and socioeconomics,” said Yoseph Beyene, a maize breeder based in Kenya. “The interaction between groups and the potential for collaboration is very interesting.”DSC_0191

Many staff members remarked on the positive and progressive vibe of the event. “This is the best Science Week in my nine years attending,” said Guillermo Ortíz-Ferrara, Nepal-based cereal breeder. The sentiment was endorsed by socioeconomist Mulugetta Mekuria, who is based in Zimbabwe: “The new scientists are revitalizing CIMMYT, making us more dynamic, and the director general is actively involved, giving a face to management.”blog1

The week began with a general overview of each program, followed by a day of break-out sessions that focused on issues like science and publications, germplasm and platforms, and partnerships activities and impacts. On Friday, leaders delivered presentations on the CGIAR reform process, intellectual property rights, fundraising, the library, and CIMMYT’s website. Over the weekend, nearly 100 persons traveled to the Tlaltizapán Research Station to view droughtblog2 trials, wheat trials, and to gain a better understanding of CIMMYT’s Mexico-based research stations. The final two days focused on program specific discussions, with an emphasis on program collaboration.

“The cross-program interaction this week was very rich,” said Marianne Bänziger, deputy director general for Research and Partnerships. “It is all of us together that will make a difference.” Director of CAP, Pat Wall, blog3agreed by saying that the cross-program discussions were the highlight of the event.

One of the main goals of the week was to find ways to improve CIMMYT’s science. However, DG Tom Lumpkin reinforced that though quality science is vital for the center, it is a means to an end. “We are not just here to study; we are here to deliver impact,” he said. blog5“Our mission is to serve the poor and the hungry.”

To continue to meet this mission, Lumpkin laid out three initiatives to prepare CIMMYT for the world of 2050. They include a consortium to raise wheat yield potential; the new Seeds of Discovery project; and the proposed Borlaug Institute for South Asia.

“The problems are out there,” Bänziger said. “But so are the solutions.”

Ceremony and pine for Hugo Córdova

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In memory of revered maize breeder and CIMMYT distinguished scientist Hugo Córdova, who died 25 December 2009, CIMMYT staff and management joined with América Córdova, Hugo’s wife, and friends of the family in a simple, solemn ceremony on Wednesday 20 January 2010 to plant a Pino Michoacana Martínez in the pine grove near the main building at El Batán. The planting followed the opening presentations for 2010 Science Week, which included a tribute by Tom Lumpkin on the center’s behalf to Córdova and Norman Borlaug. tree3“These two hunger fighters are part of the CIMMYT ‘panteon’—people whom we should all remember and emulate,” said Lumpkin. In the planting ceremony, Marianne Bänziger briefly mentioned Hugo’s achievements and the way he constantly challenged colleagues and partners to do their best in pursuit of CIMMYT’s mission. América thanked all present for their support and kind words. “It’s a great comfort for me in this difficult moment to hear CIMMYT directors’ recognition of the value of Hugo’s work and the esteem and affection colleagues had for him,” she said. Bänziger announced that similar commemorative trees would be planted in honor of Hugo at the Agua Fría and Tlaltizapán experiment stations.

New GWP associate director

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Achievements & Awards, Announcements, Wheat

Etienne DuveillerEtienne Duveiller is the new associate director of the Global Wheat Program (GWP) as of 01 January 2010. His previous position was GWP principal scientist and head of wheat pathology, to which he will continue to devote 25% of his time. Duveiller has spent more than 25 years in international agriculture, most of which have been with CIMMYT, and specializes in disease resistance, epidemiology, and integrated crop management. He understands national programs and regional offices, as he has been based in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. Congratulations, Etienne!

Renaming the Obregón experiment station

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Announcements, Wheat

In honor of Norman Borlaug and his importance to the farmers of Sonora State, Mexico, and to the entire developing world, the Mexican National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock Research (INIFAP) has decided to change the name of the Yaqui Valley Experiment Station in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, to “The Norman E. Borlaug Experiment Station,” effective as of 25 March 2010, Norm’s birthday. The new name will also be used henceforth in CIMMYT publications, official documents, and other communications.

Researchers explore new data analysis tools

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Capacity Building, Data & bioinformatics

DSC02421Fifteen researchers gathered at the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) in Gazipur, Bangladesh, earlier this month to learn more about data processing. The course, “Statistical analysis of field experimental data using CROPSTAT,” ran from 11- 13 January 2010 as part of the project “Sustainable intensification of rice-maize systems in Bangladesh,” which is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

CROPSTAT is a data analysis program that uses balanced and unbalanced designs for single and multi-site analysis. None of the participants had used CROPSTAT before, though several had some background knowledge on other statistical software. CIMMYT-IRRI senior scientist and project leader Jagadish Timsina coordinated the course; Shahjan Kabir from BRRI, and Shalimuddin from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), provided handson training. The project is jointly implemented by CIMMYT and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with national partners: BARI, BRRI, the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), the Rangpur-Dinajpur Rural Services (RDRS), and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). The 15 researchers who attended the training were from the four project sites (Comilla, Gazipur, Rajshahi, and Rangpur) of BARI, BRRI, BARD, and RDRS.

DSC02416After course completion, participants expressed interest in using CROPSTAT 7.2 to analyze ACIAR project data, and suggested a second, more advanced CROPSTAT course. One of the objectives of this ACIAR-funded, 5-year project (2008-13) is to provide training for researchers, farmers, and extension workers from governmental and nongovernmental organizations. The CROPSTAT training is one example of researcher-geared training.

Wheat: Our daily bread

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Capacity Building, Events, Wheat

blog2El Batán hosted two wheat events in December 2009 to support a collaborative research agreement between the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) and CIMMYT, which was signed in October 2009. Both events were coordinated by Roberto J. Peña, head of wheat grain quality, Global Wheat Program, and Petr Kosina, manager, Knowledge Sharing and Capacity Building.  The first event, a workshop titled “Main stakeholders in the wheat production, marketing, and processing chain,” took place on 03-04 December and attracted nearly 40 experts from the three wheat sectors (production, marketing, and processing). The goals of the workshop were to 1) identify common problems  faced by farmers, industrialists, and end users; 2) set priorities for the three sectors; and 3) make commitments to solve the identified problems.  

Overall, they agreed that there is poor communication among the different sectors of the wheat chain and that the CIMMYT-hosted workshop was a step toward fixing this problem. Other major issues discussed included: biotic stresses, diseases, and rusts; the availability of appropriate varieties; adequate technology packages for high yield and quality; management practices; training for scientists and for farmers; and the need for better communication between farmers-producers-industry. Eduardo Villaseñor Mir, coordinator of  Small Grain Cereals from Mexico’s National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock Research (INIFAP), said it was positive that the workshop brought multiple sectors together. “In the past, the presence of the industry has been sporadic and poorly attended. Fortunately, in this forum representatives of the main Mexican industries were present,” he said. “For the first time we were able to know what the industry really thinks of needs. A conclusion from the forum was that the wheat produced locally is perfectly useful for diverse industrial processes.”  

This was one of the first times that farmers and industrialists have discussed as equals issues related to wheat. At the end of the workshop, all agreed that coordinated and responsible teamwork is the best way to achieve a successful wheat chain. Discussion outcomes will be   published in a proceedings, accompanied by audiovisual resources, and made available to participants, SAGARPA, and other institutions and agencies.  

blog1The following week, from 07-10 December 2009, 17 wheat breeders and agronomists discussed wheat quality   in a course organized by Peña that covered the genetic, chemical, and biochemical bases of wheat quality, along with laboratory demonstrations of the   necessary tools and approaches to select for quality in a breeding program. The course also highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary and coordinated breeding work for high yields, disease resistance, and good quality.


VIDEO: Listen to opening comments here

Behind the science

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Maize

david ndungu4Who is CIMMYT? Our center would not be the successful institution it is today without the dedication, expertise, and remarkable perseverance of our diverse staff. This year, the Informa will feature members of the global CIMMYT community in a special section titled: “Behind the science.” Email suggestions or profiles to c.castro@cgiar.org or l.yates@cgiar.org.

Meet David Ndung’u, a visiting scientist at CIMMYT who is currently working as a plant breeder with the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project.

“I have always lived on a farm, in the highlands of central Kenya, surrounded by tea plantations. My interest in plant breeding is rooted from this, which formed my earliest experiences. I wanted to learn more about what makes plants tick.”

And learn he did. After an undergraduate study of botany and zoology, Ndung’u joined CIMMYT in 1992, initially as a research assistant. His remarkable diligence did not go unrewarded—CIMMYT awarded him a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Agronomy at University of Nairobi. This was followed by a Ph.D. scholarship— financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF) through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)—for a doctorate in Plant Breeding, at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

It would be several years, but eventually Ndung’u returned to CIMMYT. Now he can often be found out in the field collecting data from experimental plots, setting up experiments, and managing experimental trials. Ndung’u also analyses DTMA data and writes scientific papers.

An optimist by nature, and a jovial one to boot, Ndung’u sees a bright future in seed systems and believes this is the next frontier in food security

Sasakawa and partners impacts

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Maize, Wheat

Sasakawa and plartnersA website designed to track the effectiveness of efforts to improve farmers’ livelihoods in Ethiopia and Uganda is available to the public and the CIMMYT community at http://sg2000ia.cimmyt.org/. The site provides information that is used to monitor knowledge from and assess impacts of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA)— particularly the Sasakawa-Global 2000 Program—and partners on their capacity building efforts and dissemination of technologies for improved cropping practices in Africa. 

This impact-assessing project has been in place since 2006 and focuses on maize and wheat production; conservation agriculture; tillage technology; and post-harvest, agroprocessing, and improved marketing technologies for other relevant crops in local farming systems. The corresponding website, developed by Roberto La Rovere and launched in 2008, has information on the project’s background, approach, and key contributors. It also contains peer-reviewed journal paper, socioeconomic reports, datasets, interactive Google Earth maps, and other collection and management tools.

Wheat genebank safety duplications shipments

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Genetic resources, Wheat

DSC_0282One of the wheat germplasm bank’s activities is to send duplicates of its accessions to other banks for safekeeping to avoid losing its seed collections in case of man-made or natural disasters.

CIMMYT currently has duplicates of its germplasm collection in three locations: the USDA’s National Plant Genetic Resources Preservation Center in Fort Collins, Colorado,


DSC_0320USA; the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), a CGIAR center located in Syria; and the recently constructed Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in Norway.

The last seed shipment this year, containing 76,756 accessions, was sent on 08 December to Fort Collins. In February, 20,769 accessions from the wheat collection were sent to Svalbard, and there are currently 196 boxes containing 76,311 accessions ready to be shipped to ICARDA in January 2010.

There’s no doubt 2009 was a very busy year for the people who work in the wheat germplasm bank; besides their daily operations, they also helped prepare the duplicate shipments. The supervisors in this area recognize the efforts made by each of its team members.


DSC_0283They are also grateful to staff in the seed distribution unit of International Nurseries and the Seed Health Laboratory for their help with the documentation and logistics of the shipments.

A new book, Molecular Plant Breeding, now in print

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The road from basic genomics research to achieving impacts in routine plant breeding programs has been long, bumpy, and scattered with wrong turns and unexpected blockades. A new publication by CIMMYT molecular breeder/senior scientist Yunbi Xu provides a roadmap for how biotechnology can make plant breeding more efficient and lead to overall crop improvement.

Molecular Plant Breeding, published by CABI, is over 700 pages long and contains an integration of approaches and an overview of various plant improvement methods, such as molecular markers, gene mapping, and quantitative genetics. Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, visionary plant breeder and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Green Revolution, and Dr Ronald L. Phillips, Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Genomics, University of Minnesota, each contributed a foreword for the book. Also included in the book is a memoriam for Dr. Borlaug contributed by Thomas A. Lumpkin, CIMMYT Director General; Marianne Bänziger, Deputy Director General for Research and Partnerships; and Hans-Joachim Braun, Director of the Global Wheat Program.

Yunbi extends a heartfelt thanks to the many people who assisted him in this eight-year endeavor, including the eight CIMMYT co-workers who provided review expertise.

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.

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Copyright © 2014