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.

Wheat physiology course

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CSISA trainingA select group of eight scientists from China and India traveled to Mexico for a two-week wheat course that ran from 23 November until 04 December. Led by Matthew Reynolds, CIMMYT wheat physiologist, the course focused on phenotyping for physiological trait-based breeding and gene discovery. The first week was held at El Batán and focused on the theoretical aspects of physiology in breeding. For the second week, participants traveled to Tlaltizapán to practice practical application. Procedures covered included biomass and root sampling; yield component estimation; mega-environment breeding; and the measurement of canopy temperature.

The course was funded by the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) and is a build-up for GCP Phase II, which involves the application and delivery of genetic diversity and trait information (gathered during Phase I). In Phase II, GCP will devote half of its resources to seven main priorities, one of which is to increase drought tolerance for wheat in China and India.

CIMMYT begins 2010 with Science Week

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CIMMYT scientists are set to meet on January 20-26 2010 for Science Week. The event is meant to bring IRS and selected national staff from Mexico and the regional offices together so that they can (1) share successes and critically review activities of CIMMYT’s research programs and units; (2) define concrete action steps to improve the quality of our work; (3) learn about changing processes and practices at CIMMYT; (4) discuss program-specific issues and 2010 work plans; and (5) discuss inter-program work and perspectives for 2010 and beyond.

The week promises to be an exciting one, with a change from the traditional presentation-style program to a variety of formats that will enable participants to discuss issues more freely. The program will start with a critical review of CIMMYT research, starting with overview presentations and then seeking answers to critical questions about CIMMYT’s four Programs and GRU/CRIL. This will be followed by small group discussions on science and publications, germplasm and platforms, partnerships activities, and fundraising and human resources, all with the aim of identifying ways to improve the quality of CIMMYT’s core business. Topics that are programmatic, inter-program, institutional, and CGIAR-wide in scope will be covered during the week. In consultation with scientists, a Task Force made up of Matthew Reynolds (GWP), Iván Ortiz-Monasterio (CAP), Cosmos Magorokosho (GMP and regional), Jon Hellin (SEP), Susanne Dreisigacker (GWP and biotech), José Crossa (GRU and CRIL), Petr Kosina (Co-coordinator) and Luz George (Coordinator) assisted DDG-RP Marianne Banziger in developing the program.

Scientists are requested to bring posters that were presented at scientific meetings in 2008 and 2009. There will be space to display the posters and to ‘talk science’ with colleagues.

The passing of one of CIMMYT's Distinguished Scientists

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HC-ElSalv-Sep09-crop2The CIMMYT community and friends across the globe mourn the loss of great maize breeder Hugo Salvador Córdova Orellana who died on 25 December 2009. Hugo spent 32 years with the center striving, and often times succeeding, to increase global food security.

In Hugo’s three decades with CIMMYT he drastically changed the world of maize in Central America. He contributed to the development and spread of improved maize varieties across millions of hectares; promoted and popularized quality protein maize (QPM); co-authored hundreds of papers; and was an inspiration to his students, staff, and the global agricultural community. In recognition of a great mind, persevering work ethic, and complete dedication to his calling, Hugo earned the title of CIMMYT Distinguished Scientist, a title held by only five other center members. Despite official retirement from CIMMYT in 2007, Hugo continued his work as a CIMMYT consultant until his death.

Hugo first arrived at CIMMYT in September of 1969 as a trainee in the Global Maize Program. He then spent several years with the National Agriculture School Santa Tecla in El Salvador, his native country, before returning to El Batán in 1975 as a maize post-doctorate. His work focused on maize breeding and agronomy for Central America and he played a major role in the development of the Regional Maize Program (PRM), a network of researchers from nine countries and CIMMYT that worked with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to develop and spread improved maize varieties and crop management practices. An estimate in the mid-1990s credits Córdova and PRM members for adding USD $70 million annually to the value of Central American grain production.

Colombia4In 1992 he joined the Tropical Lowland Maize Subprogram. An expert breeder with a tireless work ethic, Hugo helped develop over 70 inbred maize lines, which have been released in over 15 countries. It is estimated that at least 4 million hectares throughout the developing world are sown with maize varieties that at some point passed through Hugo’s hands.

Hugo became the coordinator of the Global Quality Protein Maize (QPM) Program in 1997. He helped develop several high-yielding QPM varieties and it is largely thanks to his efforts that 0.5 million hectares in Central American are sown with QPM, a type of enhanced maize that increases consumers’ protein intake and can help decrease malnutrition. 

The passion Hugo had for his work was evident to all who knew him and was further highlighted by over 50 recognitions and awards. Many the awards were bestowed by Latin American governments who saw first-hand the benefits Hugo’s work had in their respective countries. Hugo leaves behind a wealth of knowledge: he co-authored hundreds of publications, mentored more than 60 graduate and undergraduate students, and coordinated or lectured in numerous training courses.

Condolences are offered to Hugo’s wife, América, and his children, Lucy and Hugo. Though Hugo is no longer with us, the seeds he planted, both in the ground and in our memories, will grow on.

Innovative partnerships boost livestock-maize systems in eastern Africa

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In recent times, in eastern Africa, arable land has become more scarce and livestock production has gained more ground, making maize more important than ever—both as a source of food and feed—in highly intensified crop-livestock farming systems. In an innovative partnership, CIMMYT, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners from universities, research centers, and ministries of agriculture in Ethiopia, Tanzania , Kenya, and Germany have worked together to develop and evaluate dual-purpose maize cultivars to meet the increasing need for livestock fodder in a project funded by BMZ from 2005 to 2009. The partnership—new to all those involved—brought together socio-economists, animal scientists, maize breeders, and spatial analysts.

Recently, CIMMYT and ILRI organized an end-of-project workshop themed “Improving the Value of Maize Stover as Livestock Feed” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for stakeholders to review results of the project and agree on future directions. Maize stover is the leftover leaves, stalks, husks, and cobs after a harvest.

“Livestock is important in Ethiopia—contributing 40% to our gross domestic product (GDP). Available grazing land has decreased while the area under maize has increased. Therefore, stovers have become an important source of fodder,” said Adefris Teklewold, crop research process director at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), who opened the workshop. “However, maize stover has low nutritive value and this project has the potential of increasing its value as livestock feed.”

Researchers found that that farmers value grain yield much more than stover fodder value, and would adopt an improved variety only if it gave reasonable yields. Nevertheless, farmers do recognize differences among varieties in the fodder value of stover, particularly in traits such as ‘stay-green,’ softness of stalks, and palatability. After grain yield and food related attributes, stover biomass is an important characteristic upon which farmers base their selection of varieties.

The project successfully explored the potential to improve maize stover for livestock fodder and identified traits that could be used by breeding programs to do so. These traits would serve as additional ‘value added’ release criteria rather than requirements for release to facilitate optimization of whole plant utilization. To adopt and implement these findings will require more widespread awareness among actors in the food-feed value chain, including government extension workers, private seed companies, and farmers so that breeding for improved stover quality can be integrated in national maize breeding programs. Workshop participants also recognized competition for other uses of stover, such as fuel and fencing, as well as its importance in soil conservation. As Teklewold advised, “Reducing soil degradation and erosion from the hillsides and sloping fields on which much of Ethiopian agriculture is practiced is an urgent need. Reduced tillage and residue conservation are crucial to this task.” Participants were left with the challenge of how to reconcile the competing demands for crop residues in maize-livestock systems.

Socioeconomics Program (SEP) Strategy Meeting

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The newly established Socioeconomics Program (SEP) held a strategy development meeting in Addis Ababa 14-17 December 2009. The social scientists of CIMMYT from the different regions convened for the first full meeting since 2005 to discuss the future directions of the program. The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm on Program revitalization. This included taking stock of achievements, reviewing existing and emerging challenges, and identifying new opportunities for growth and development of the research program. This provided the foundation for rethinking and determining strategic directions, within the goal and mission of CIMMYT, to identify and define research thrusts. Specific objectives of the meeting included:

• Assessing the global and regional challenges for maize and wheat systems and identifying key research issues.

• Defining priority research themes by region and identify goals, outputs and outcomes.

• Identify potential research projects under each of the strategic priority themes and develop the log-frame.

• Beginning to develop a strategy document, later to be reviewed internally and externally.

The meeting also identified major selling points or flagships of the SEP. The strategy will be reviewed both internally within CIMMYT and externally by donors and other stakeholders. Participants were Pedro Aquino; Hugo De Groote; Olaf Erenstein; V?esh Krishna, Roberto La Rovere, Mulugett a Mekuria, Girma Tesfahun, Jon Hellin, Bekele Shiferaw, and Kai Sonder.

Seed Warriors – film

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CIMMYT’s deputy director general for reserarch and partnerships, Marianne Ba¨nziger, will be featured in the new documentary film Seed Warriors: http://seedwarriors.org

In the remote Norwegian town of Longyearbyen, just 1000 kilometres from the North Pole, politicians from around the world came to celebrate the opening of the world’s first global seed bank. After years of difficult negotiations and searching for the right spot, this was deemed to be the safest place on earth. Eventually, 4.5 million seed samples will be stored in this »Doomsday Vault« and ensure the continued existence of biodiversity.

But is the dream of global food security achievable? By 2050 temperatures worldwide are expected to rise by at least 2 degrees. This will result in a 30 per cent drop in production of food crops. By this time global food demand will have doubled. How will we feed the world?

In SEED WARRIORS we hear from the scientists behind this ambitious project and examine the reality of the fight against hunger.

In Kenya, where drought is a recurring problem, we meet Zachary Muthamia, the director of the National Seed Bank, who is using the limited resources available to him to preserve his country’s existing biodiversity and send copies of Kenya’s unique plant heritage to Norway before his energy eating generators die for good. And we meet Marianne Ba¨nziger, one of the world’s leading experts on maize. She’s using the same biodiversity to develop non-genetically modified seeds that yield 20 to 30 percent more than existing seeds and thrive in conditions of drought.
But time is running out.


El Batán Christmas party and 2009 staff recognitions

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El Batán hosted its annual Christmas and holiday party on 11 December 2009 at Ex Hacienda La Resurrección, a nearby celebration hall. The event started off with an address from CIMMYT DG Tom Lumpkin, followed by staff recognition for commendable lengths of service and outstanding performance. Everyone was treated to a delicious meal, which provided fuel for the dance floor, and as colleagues boogied to live music they congratulated each other on another year of hard work and success.

Staff recognitions for years of service 2009:

10 years
El Batán
Cecilia Alonzo Bustamante; Miguel Á. Balcazar Martínez; Francisco A. Corona Sánchez; Dagoberto Flores Velázquez; José Luis López Flores; Hugo López Galicia; Claudia V. López Guevara; Sergio Miranda Gutiérrez; Carlos Muñoz Zavala; Raúl Rodríguez Hernández; Roberto Rojas Camacho; Ciro Sánchez Rodríguez; Hermilo Trujano Garrido; Noemí Valencia Torres; Alberto Vergara Alva; José Vidal Guadarrama
Hugo De Groote; Joseph S. Kasango; Mailu Muthoka
Nani Byanjankar
Morris Masukume

15 years
Enamul Haque
El Batán
Antonia Alvarez García; Pedro R. Aquino Mercado; José R.Arellano Blanco; Eloisa Carrillo Moreno; Armando Flores Monsalvo; Mónica Preciado Flores; Miguel Rivas Rodríguez; Marcos J. Rosano Caballero; José Luis Sánchez Herrera; María Lucía Segura Corona; Janin Trinidad Carrola
Luis Alberto Narro
Óscar Bañuelos Tavarez

20 years
El Batán
Ma. Concepción Castro A.; Ma. Delgadillo Delgadillo; Pablo González Juárez; Fernando Juárez González; María Elena Lemus Ramírez; Carlos Gabriel López Flores; Ignacio M. Ramírez F.; Moisés Ramírez López; Matthew Reynolds; Marcial Rivas Rodríguez; Martín Rodríguez Alvarado
Alfred Imbai
Ciudad Obregón
José Borja Celio; Jorge Manuel Montoya Moroyoqui; Mario Germán Rodríguez Romero; Juan José Sánchez Villa
Eva Barreto Elvira
Martin Shoko; Freddy Sikirivawu

25 years
Agua Fría
Raymundo López Valdez
El Batán
María Emilia Arredondo; Fernández Cano; José Luis Crossa; Eleuterio Dorantes Sánchez; Roberto Javier Peña; Sergio Sánchez Díaz; José Luis Torres Flores
Ciudad Obregón
Erasmo Renova López

30 years
El Batán
Laurencio L. Arteaga Portuguez; Juan Franco Martínez; Ma. Luisa E. Rodríguez del A.
Demetrio Soto Tellez
Luis Manuel Banderas Torres; Leopoldo Salazar Franco

35 years
El Batán
Samuel García Durán; M. Luisa Gómez Bustamante
Ciudad Obregón
José Juan Ramírez López
Pedro Chepetla Candanosa

40 years
Agua Fría
Félix Domínguez Gutiérrez; Juan Espinoza Aparicio; Pedro López Conde
El Batán
José D. de Teodoro García; Vicente Morales Acosta
Ciudad Obregón
Alfonso García Villafuerte
Ramón Gil Montoya

Recognition to the best employee:
P. H. Zaidi, CIMMYT-India

Recognition to the best work team:
Rodrigo Rascón, Manuelde Jesús Ruiz Cano, and Cristobal Rascón Angulo, Conservation Agriculture Program, CIMMYT Ciudad Obregón experiment station, Sonora, México

New Chair of CGIAR Consortium

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Chair-CperezAt its Annual Business Meeting in Washington, DC, on 07-08 December 2009, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) announced the selection of Uruguayan Carlos Pérez del Castillo as Chair of the new Consortium of CGIAR centers. Pérez del Castillo has served as special advisor on International Trade Negotiations to the President of Uruguay and permanent representative of Uruguay to the United Nations. He has also worked for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and carried out various consultancy and advising assignments with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Latin American Association for Integration (ALADI). In 1990 he was awarded “The Dr. Raul Prebisch Award in Economics” by the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Economists, and he is a permanent member of the Harvard University Trade Group. CIMMYT Board Chair Julio Berdegué chaired the Search and Selection Committ ee for the appointment.

Teosinte monitoring trip

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

diploperennisAA CIMMYT team donned their expedition gear in November 2009 and set off to collect samples of teosinte, a wild relative of maize that is disappearing. The team obtained a special permit from the Mexican Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to monitor and gather annual teosinte samples from known locations in the Balsa river regions of Guerrero and Michoacán and the central plateau regions of Jalisco and Guanajuato.

The 12-person team divided into three groups and visited nearly 50 sites total. Victor Chavez and Marcial Rivas of the maize germplasm bank each led a team of five; Suketoshi Taba, head of the maize germplasm bank, and David Ellis of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) made up the third group. The groups primarily explored areas had been identified by Jesus Sanchez of the University of Guadalajara as teosinte sites. In addition, members asked local farmers for assistance locating the plants, resulting in the discovery of several new annual teosinte locations.

During their exploration, scientists stumbled upon what they believe to be the perennial teosinte Zea diploperennis near Uruapan, Michoacán. Samples were taken for further analysis. As of now, the only known natural population of this plant is in the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

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: Scott Mall. 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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