Fourth International Master Class: Soil-Borne Pathogens of Wheat

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Wheat

The Fourth International Soil-Borne Pathogens of Wheat Master Class was hosted at ANADOLU Research Institute in Eskisehir in Turkey from 20 June to 03 July 2010, coordinated by CIMMYT nematologist Julie Nicol. Previous courses in the series were held in Turkey in 2003, China in 2005, and Tunisia in 2008. There were 25 participants, from West Asia (Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq), North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria), Australia, and the USA. Teaching staff included the leading scientists Timothy Paulitz (from the USA), Ian Riley, and Stephen Neate (both from Australia), as well as local Turkish experts and CIMMYT and ICARDA scientists. The course involved a series of lectures combined with field and laboratory practicals focusing on the most important soil-borne pathogens (SBPs) of wheat, particularly those affecting rainfed wheat production systems.

SBPs are microscopic root-rotting fungi and cereal nematodes that live in the soil and attack the root and crowns of wheat plants. Above-ground symptoms are difficult to diagnose, and are easily confused with other ailments such as nutrient deficiencies. They are particularly problematic in rainfed systems where post-anthesis drought stress is common. The most important pathogens in such systems are cereal cyst nematode (Heterodera spp.), the root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus thornei and P. neglectus), and the crown and root rotting fungi, including Bipolaris sorokinana and several species of Fusarium. Since many of these cropping systems are dominated by cereal monocultures, the key means of control is host genetic resistance. However, where possible integrated pest management options, such as rotation with non-hosts, should be employed.

Many of the participants are already actively working on SBPs and the course offered them the opportunity to gain further knowledge, share experiences, and establish strong collaborative networks for future research. Special thanks are due to the key donors, including The Crawford Fund Australia, GRDC Australia, USAID, ACIAR, Syngenta, TAGEM, CIMMYT, ICARDA, and The Kirkhouse Trust. For further information: Julie Nicol (

The culture of maize and survival of landraces

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Maize

In addition to being a major staple food, maize is important in many indigenous Mexican cultures. Staff at CIMMYT-El Bátan had the opportunity to learn about the relationship between maize and native culture during a fascinating on-campus presentation on 02 July 2010. Anthropologists Carmen Morales of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, and Catalina Rodíguez-Lazcano of the National Museum of Anthropology and History jointly presented “Knowledge and festivals around native corn,” which was translated from Spanish into English so everyone could attend.

The seminar drew on the presenters’ studies of three very distinct indigenous groups—the Chen, Mayan descendents who live in the state of Campeche; the Purépecha, who live in Michoacán State; and the inhabitants of Milpa Alta, an entity within the borders of Mexico City. The two experts outlined traditions and festivals based around maize, complemented by color photographs from each location illustrating local settings and customs, grain storage methods, variety types, end-use products, and indigenous nomenclature for the maize plant and its parts. As is common in south-central and southeastern Mexico, farm settings are diverse and challenging, and most producers are subsistence smallholders who grow maize more for tradition and home use than for income.

Among the points highlighted were the close connections between native maize races and local foods and traditions, and the importance of culture in the preservation of those races. In Purépecha villages, the crop cycle coincides closely with the calendar of Catholic religious ceremonies: seed is brought to the church to be blessed before sowing, and on one religious feast day after harvest, seed is thrown to the sky beseeching God to rain bounty back down upon the community. The value of kernel color for the Purépecha was depicted through beautiful and informative photographs of brightly-colored maize cobs from the region.

There were several surprises as well. In northern Campeche, the influence of Menonite immigrants has led many maize farmers to grow commercial hybrids with agrochemicals, bringing them yields as high as seven tons per hectare. It was interesting to learn that part-time farmers in Milpa Alta, a semi-rural, high-altitude zone of the swelling metropolis (18 million inhabitants!) of Mexico City, still conserve the Aztec language Nahuatl and grow native maize races.

The seminar concluded with a question and answer session, and Director General Tom Lumpkin expressed hope of further collaboration between CIMMYT and Mexico City’s Anthropology Museum.

Excellence recognized

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

The Chinese Academy of Engineering honored Zhonghu He, principal scientist of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program and China country representative, for his work with wheat quality improvement and promotion of China-CIMMYT collaboration. Zhonghu received the Guanghua Award in a ceremony on 09 June 2010 in Beijing. Established in 1996, this award recognizes Chinese scientists who have made signification contributions in applied science and management. To date, only eight scientists with agriculture or forestry backgrounds have received the Guanghua Award.

Webpage training at El Batán

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Audio-Video Media & IT

On 28 June 2010, 15 participants from various CIMMYT units and departments attended a one-day workshop given by the CIMMYT web team. Held at El Batán, the event covered the basic uses of Joomla—a content management system for websites and Intranets. Content management systems are designed primarily for interactive use, potentially by a large number of contributors.

With the new CIMMYT website, interior pages will be maintained by unit-selected managers and administrators with support from Corporate Communications. Additionally, the Intranet is now integrated within the new CIMMYT website and will be accessible to those with CIMMYT credentials.

The workshop was designed to equip these persons with the knowledge and tools to manage their unit’s information. Exercises covered uploading or updating information, inserting images and documents, creating links, and editing existing information. Participants also learned how to keep the website running smoothly by only uploading “clean” text and images of appropriate size.

Several participants said that the knowledge gained will allow them to manage web information in the future. A few requested additional training on menu and table management. To address these and other issues, more training sessions will be scheduled, including events for web section administrators outside of El Batán. The web team offered their ongoing assistance.

Advanced course on conservation agriculture: Laying the groundwork for sustainable and productive cropping systems

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Agronomy, Capacity Building

Nine trainees joined CIMMYT-Mexico for a five week advanced course on conservation agriculture (CA). From 24 May to 25 June 2010, CIMMYT experts mentored the participants, who assisted in field activities at El Batán, Toluca, and surrounding farmers’ fields. Strong emphasis was placed on hands-on activities and interdisciplinary and problemsolving approaches.

The nine participants represented Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Iran, and Pakistan and each designed a CA dissemination plan for implementation in their respective home countries upon return. “CIMMYT has the unique position to be able to bring together and train such a diverse group of participants, overcoming borders and politics,” said course organizer Bram Govaerts during the course’s closing ceremony. “But you are the ones who have to take this knowledge, use it, share it, and make it better so it can have real impact.”

The participants entered the course with varying degrees of CA knowledge. Amanuel Gebru, irrigated crop officer in Ethiopia, began the course with no CA background, though he had seen the CA work done by CIMMYT in collaboration with local NARS in a nearby area of Ethiopia. “I come from a part of Ethiopia where CA is not yet known or practiced,” he said, adding that CA could greatly benefit his home country, which is drought-prone. “When I go home, I will present what I have learned here, and I will do it in farmers’ fields so we can help disseminate (CA).”

Others, such as Mohammad Reza Mehrvar, a cereal agronomist from Iran, had some background knowledge of CA principles, but did not know how to apply them. After the course, he said he now feels confident in his ability to establish experimental plots, apply CA technologies, and share CA knowledge. One of the keys to the success of CIMMYT’s world-renowned training programs is the network it has established, maintains, and thrives upon. As Scott Ferguson, deputy director general for support services, joked while addressing the participants, “The secret is out of the bag: we get just as much out of training as you all do. It is a two-way street.” Also at the course closing, Petr Kosina, manager of knowledge, information and training at CIMMYT, alluded to the multidimensional, life-long relationship trainees have with CIMMYT, “I’m not going to say goodbye, but rather say we will see you soon again, either here or in your own country.”

Best of luck to the graduates of the CA course “Laying the groundwork for sustainable and productive cropping systems,” and many thanks to all CIMMYT staff who helped make this program a success.

Celebrating diversity through sports

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events

1United for sports: this was the theme of Sports Day held at CIMMYT’s El Batán campus on 18 June 2010. Teams from the Mexican CIMMYT stations (Agua Fría, Obregón, Tlatizapán, Toluca, El Batán) congregated for a day of team competition in volleyball, soccer, and basketball. Individuals also competed in a 5 km walking race, a mini-marathon, cycling, and swimming. A tennis tournament was also held, with the double sets displaying CIMMYT’s multicultural nature at its best.

Away from the mainstream sports, there were recreational games: wrap the mummy, egg and spoon race, pop-the-balloon, sack race, egg-tossing, a dizzy race, and an interesting twist on the three-legged race using a four-man team. The competitors in these games formed international teams and united in silly fun. Aerobics and zumba (a type of dance) performances were held in the gymnasium, cheered on by an animated audience.

3Even cleaning up was fun! Environmentally aware two-member teams competed to see who could fill up a sack with plastic bottles in the shortest amount of time. The winning team was awarded, and everyone else was a winner for contributing to the impromptu clean-up campaign.

 After all that activity, everyone was hungry and enjoyed a provided lunch, which was accompanied by an award ceremony for the winners of the day’s events. Dancing followed dining. There were various performances, including salsa and Los Chinelos, a traditional dance from the state of Morelos, Mexico. Then it was time for everyone else to take to the dance floor, where they grooved to the beats of the band Adrián y sus teclados (Adrian and His Keyboard), which featured CIMMYT’s very own Ricardo De La Rosa (head of audiovisuals) on the bass. And at the end of the day, there was more dancing, accompanied by a live Cuban band, at El Rincón.


Youth in Ohio learn about agriculture and Borlaug’s mission

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events

Norman Borlaug may be gone, but his teachings and spirit live on. On May 21 2010, Ohio State University (OSU), USA, dedicated its “Scarlet and Gray Ag Day” to the late CIMMYT agronomist and hero. “Scarlet and Gray Ag Day” (named after the university’s colors) is designed to educate local fourth and fifth graders about agriculture and its importance to society. It is one of the university’s largest outreach events.

This year, over 600 students descended upon OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences campus for hands-on activities designed to teach them about wheat production, the Irish potato famine, plant diseases, and many other agriculture-related topics.

Julie Borlaug, the granddaughter of Norman Borlaug, was a guest of honor and spoke to the children during lunch. “It’s been fabulous to see fourth and fifth graders who are so far removed from agriculture experience it and enjoy learning about it,” she said. “My grandfather felt it was important to invest in today’s youth, who will be tomorrow’s leaders. I know that my grandfather would be proud of this amazing program.”

First-rate feedback on Mega-Program proposals

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Announcements, From the management, Maize, Wheat

With the words “congratulations for the good work of your teams,” on 18 June 2010 the Consortium Board returned its feedback on the MAIZE and WHEAT Mega-Program proposals recently-submitted by CIMMYT, in conjunction with IITA and ICARDA. Consisting of comments from three external reviewers and the Board itself, the critiques praise the proposals but lay out suggestions for improvement that include clarifying impact pathways and interactions and boundaries with other CGIAR initiatives; elaborating on partnership strategies; further analyzing gender issues; finalizing management approaches; and defining how the Mega-Programs will be monitored and evaluated.

1One reviewer of the MAIZE proposal said: “The strategic vision presented in the proposal’s 10 Strategic Initiatives (SIs) is admirably comprehensive…. the conceptual structure of the presentation under each SI is excellent, and represents a model that could be followed in other Mega-Programs.” In the opinion of another: “The outcomes of the proposed work are clearly described and highly relevant…. the SIs concerning breeding and genetic diversity are highlights in excellent science.” The Board characterized WHEAT as an ambitious Mega-Program: “Its major strength is the relevance and…complementarity of the SIs. Together, they appear to work on achieving a common goal of boosting farm level wheat production while building resilience into the system.”

The MAIZE and WHEAT draft proposals were built on diverse partner feed-back, as expressed in direct day-to-day interactions and communications. For further refinement, the proposals went out for comment to more than 700 representatives in over 350 institutions, including national agricultural research programs, universities, advanced research institutes, non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, private companies, and farmer associations. To date, CIMMYT has received several dozen offering support or suggestions for improvement. Center staff have also taken advantage of individual visits and meetings like the International Wheat Conference held in St. Petersburg, Russia, during 01-04 June 2010, or the establishment of the Asia Hybrid Maize Consortium, to seek partners’ engagement and feedback.

CIMMYT is revising the proposals and will return the new versions to the Consortium Board in July 2010. Budgets, arrangements, and many operational details are under development, and in many cases implementation will be defined with partners when work gets underway.

Easily organize and share research papers references

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Audio-Video Media & IT, Data & bioinformatics

Reference management software is a common way for researchers to organize scientific articles and access citation information. Programs like Reference Manager and EndNote (both from Thompson Reuters) help users to organize references, while newer programs like Mendeley embrace IT and social networking as well.

Mendeley is first and foremost a reference management package and includes both a desktop application (Mendely Desktop) and a Web Interface (Mendeley Web). Mendeley Desktop indexes and organizes all of your PDF documents and research papers into a personal digital bibliography. It also gathers document details from your PDFs, allowing you to effortlessly search, organize, and cite them. It also looks up DOIs (digital object identifiers) and other related document details automatically. The drag and drop functionality makes populating the library quick and easy.

Additionally, the Web Importer allows you to quickly and easily import papers from resources such as Google Scholar, websites of journal publishers, and many others at the click of a button. Mendeley Web takes the experience a step further by allowing you to use shared and public collections to share information, resources, and experiences with fellow researchers. Members of your team will have easy access to each others’ papers.

CIMMYT’s collection of scientific papers references is available here. CIMMYT library can also provide this collection in a format compatible with other reference management systems. The Mendeley desktop application is free, as are basic features of the Mendeley Web. For larger collections, it is necessary to purchase space.

8th International Wheat Conference and BGRI meeting, St. Petersburg, Russia

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events, Wheat

1Some 600 scientists from 77 wheat-producing nations gathered in the historic city of St. Petersburg for the 8th International Wheat Conference (IWC), 01-04 June 2010. The IWC is held every five years, the last conference taking place in La Plata, Argentina, in 2005. Opening sessions included a presentation by Hans-Joachim Braun, director, Global Wheat Program. The famous Vavilov Institute—one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of germplasm—was also the focus of the introductory papers. CIMMYT was very well-represented, with presentations in different sessions by Tom Lumpkin, Susan Dreisigacker, Matthew Reynolds, Ivan Ortiz-Monasterio, Tom Payne, and retired CIMMYT wheat agronomist Ken Sayre, as well as poster presentations from many other global wheat program staff. “Every major wheat-producing country was represented and there was a strong private sector presence,” says Braun. “This really showed that wheat is back on the research agenda.”

Scientists join to combat new threat to world wheat crop.
2Just prior to the IWC, leading wheat experts from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas gathered for two days in St. Petersburg to address the threat of four new mutations of Ug99 wheat stem rust which are virulent against two important stem rust-resistance genes—SR24 and SR36—used widely in the world’s wheat breeding programs. “Most wheat varieties of the world are vulnerable to the original form of Ug99,” says CIMMYT distinguished scientist Ravi Singh. “We will now have to make sure that every new wheat variety we release has resistance to both Ug99 and the new races.” Participants included specialists from CIMMYT, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), which organized the event.

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; 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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