“Open Doors” at El Batán

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Visits to CIMMYT

To mark its 5th Annual “Open Doors” event, CIMMYT welcomed 344 students to El Batán on 23 September 2011. Representing 14 universities from as far away as Querétaro and Morelia, the students enjoyed a full day of activities, including an introduction to CIMMYT, a lecture on GIS, visits to wheat, maize, and conservation agriculture demonstration plots, and tours of the germplasm bank, international trials room, and biotechnology and cereals laboratories.

Carlos Alonso Hernández Castro, an agronomy student at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Xochimilco, described the visit as “enriching”. “I’ve learned how people work in teams which combine field and laboratory work,” he said. Some students were affected on a more personal level, such as Cristina Ortega González, a biotechnology student at Xicotepec Technological University of Juárez, Puebla. Before the visit, she says she knew nothing of CIMMYT’s work, but the event has inspired her in her studies and she now hopes to conduct an internship with CIMMYT. Coming from a farming family, and seeing the work done at CIMMYT, González said she’s “now more convinced that I’m on the right way to contribute my bit of effort to help my family and others, if possible, to improve their lives.”

The “Open Doors” events began in 2007 and have been coordinated by Petr Kosina and the training office each year. It was hoped that by holding one large event, rather than many smaller ones, the demand on individual departments would be reduced, and students would have the opportunity to gain a more all-round view of the activities at CIMMYT. For these future scientists, Kosina says that “seeing the work and impact of an institution like CIMMYT can help them or influence their career direction.” In fact, students who have previously visited during “Open Doors” have since returned as graduate students. Most of the presentations are given by national staff, which further enables the students to see how they, as Mexicans, can contribute to the work of CIMMYT.

This year’s “Open Doors” event was the largest yet, and was particularly poignant for Kosina, who is leaving CIMMYT, though remaining as a consultant. For this event, he was assisted by Norma Hernandez, Daniela Flores Castillo, and Laura Ruiz. Thanks also to all the staff who gave presentations and assisted with the day.

CA extension continues in Iran

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Conservation Agriculture

Following on from the workshop on “Conservation Agriculture and Its Impact on Water Productivity”, described in our earlier blog post, a series of field visits and workshops were conducted in Shiraz, Gorgan, Tehran, and Qazvin, during 17-25 September 2011. Ken Sayre, CIMMYT-Mexico, gave several presentations, attended by a total of over 900 extension agents, students, farmers, manufacturers, and researchers from national research institutions and universities. M. R. Jalal Kamali, CIMMYT-Iran, also participated in these events, which included extensive question and answer sessions.

The extension of conservation agriculture (CA) within Iran is considered a vital development; changing climates have led to drought, diminished water resources for irrigation, soil degradation, and decreased soil fertility. These factors adversely affect the efficient use of water and other inputs, and have increased the vulnerability of many cropping systems in Iran.

Sayre and Kamali also visited two factories of agricultural machinery and equipment in Karaj and Hamedan. It is hoped that there is potential to manufacture no-till and reduced-till seeders and related implements for the development and implementation of CA within Iran. Given Iran’s plans for large-scale development of CA technologies, Sayre and Kamali also made recommendations to the Iranian authorities for the future extension of CA in Iran.

CIMMYT Board of Trustees meets in Delhi

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in From the management

The CIMMYT Board of Trustees Meeting commenced on 02 October 2011 at the IARC in Delhi, India. Comprised of 15 members from 11 different countries, representing private seed companies, agricultural policy organizations, farmer associations, and agricultural research institutes, the Board of Trustees meets every six months to support and advise CIMMYT’s senior management in operational strategies and direction. Newly-elected Board Chair Sara Boettiger convened the meeting and commended the organization on its recent achievements and growth, stating that “there are amazing things going on at CIMMYT.”

Opening the meetings, both Boettiger and CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin highlighted recent food security issues: the droughts in the horn of Africa and southern USA, flooding in Pakistan, and the volatility of food prices. As the meetings progressed, the main topics discussed included the recent approval of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), fundraising developments, staff safety, and the upcoming construction plans to improve the infrastructure of CIMMYT headquarters.

Presentations also emphasized improvements in the past six months regarding staff, infrastructure, and growth. In particular, the success of the MasAgro initiative and the recent approval of BISA, which Lumpkin attributed to the professionalism and dedication of the national staff at the Delhi office, particularly Raj Gupta and Ajai Kumar.

Marianne Bänziger, Director General of Research and Partnerships, highlighted the need to manage the current levels of growth at CIMMYT, and the important role played by national staff in all CIMMYT offices. In terms of growth, Banziger noted that Asia is the region which has undergone the greatest expansion; while in Africa, Kenya was highlighted as the country undergoing the most growth in terms of CIMMYT international staff.

Also in attendance were new staff members Bruno Gerard (Head of the Conservation Agriculture Program), Tom Short (Head of Financial Services), and returning CIMMYT staff member Kevin Pixley (Head of Genetic Resources). The meeting provided an opportunity for introductions, and for these members to familiarize themselves with current information regarding CIMMYT’s structure, growth, and upcoming challenges.

During the meetings, Boettiger stated that “CIMMYT must remember who we are and who our real stakeholders are – the world’s poor struggling to feed their families.” She also reminded staff that whilst management and organizational responsibilities are vital for delivering impact, CIMMYT senior staff must also strive to remain focused on the purpose and the mission of CIMMYT – to feed people.

Empowering Maize Technicians in Angola

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Africa, Capacity Building, Maize

In 2010, several new maize varieties were released in Angola and taken up by emerging seed companies for multiplication and dissemination. To upgrade the skills and knowledge of the maize breeders, technicians, and seed services staff involved in the management of field trials and seed production, a Maize Technician Course was held in Huambo, Angola, during 26-29 September 2011. The training was attended by over 35 participants from emerging seed companies, national agricultural research systems, and NGOs. Lectures and practical sessions covered maize breeding, seed production, management of field trials, and components on variety testing and release. The results of pre- and post-course tests indicated that over 70% of participants significantly improved their knowledge and skills during the training.

Roberto Gomes, from the seed company Agropecuaria Kambondo LDA., said “This course is very useful. It will guide us in producing good quality seed and we hope it can be offered to all our staff in the company. We also wish that there can be exchange visits between CIMMYT and our company to see what CIMMYT is doing in Harare, and we hope we can now maintain the inbred lines and hybrids we have acquired from CIMMYT-Harare.”

Thanks go to Peter Setimela, Cosmos Magorokosho, and Tesfahun Girma (CIMMYT), Mpanzo Domingos, Director of Agricultural Research, Institute for Agronomic Investigation (IIA), and Dibanzilua Nginamau, Maize Coordinator for Angola (IIA), for organizing and coordinating the course.

A Kenyan celebration for BISA launch

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Africa, Asia, BISA

Colleagues from CIMMYT, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and national agricultural research systems gathered in Njoro, Kenya, on 05 October 2011, to celebrate the approval of BISA (Borlaug Institute for South Asia) by the Indian Government. The event was organized by Sridhar Bhavani, CIMMYT-Kenya. Ravi Singh, CIMMYT-Mexico, gave the opening address to more than 40 international scientists and thanked the Government of India for funding the institute. He described the significance of the new centre in relation to the growing challenges of food security, and expressed confidence that this centre will address the expectations of a second Green Revolution in South Asia and worldwide.

Eleven wheat breeders and pathologists from South Asia were already in Njoro with CIMMYT colleagues, attending a rust training course and selecting resistant wheat material. They felt that the scientific work embedded in BISA is already being linked to Kenya, and it is hoped that the institute will play an important role in maize and wheat improvement and training in Africa, in addition to furthering links between CIMMYT and South Asia.

DTMA Promotion and Dissemination Award 2010/11

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

The 2010/11 DTMA Promotion and Dissemination Award was presented to the Angolan National Coordinating Unit (NCU) by CIMMYT’s Cosmos Mogorokosho and Peter Setimela. Mpanzo Domingos, Director of the Angolan Institute for Agronomic Investigation accepted the award and thanked the Angolan Maize NCU for their efforts in releasing and promoting new drought tolerant maize varieties in Angola. He hopes the award will motivate scientists and seed companies in Angola to promote agriculture.

Iran’s ambitious plans for conservation agriculture

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Conservation Agriculture, Events

In its Fifth National Development Plan, the government of Iran pledged to place 3 million ha of land (2 million rainfed cropping systems; 1 million irrigated) under conservation agriculture (CA) techniques. The enthusiasm of Iranian scientists and institutions for these plans were demonstrated when 150 people from different centers attended the workshop “Conservation Agriculture and its Impact on Water Productivity,” at Karaj, Iran, during 12-13 September 2011.

Organized in conjunction with the Seed & Plant Improvement Institute (SPII) and the Agricultural Engineering Research Institute (AERI), the event was coordinated by M.R. Jalal Kamali of CIMMYT-Iran, with assistance from Ken Sayre, CIMMYT-Mexico, and M.L. Jat, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist, CIMMYT-India. Fifteen papers and reports were presented by CIMMYT and Iranian scientists, with further presentations by J. Porhemmat, Deputy Minister for Research and Head of the Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension Organization; M. Aghaee, SPII Director General; and S.A. Shahpari, AERI Director General. The Iranian institutions expressed their commitment to developing and extending appropriate CA-based crop management technologies to farmers in both rainfed and irrigated systems, and Iranian engineering and crop management scientists demonstrated their ample interest and technical competence to develop and deliver requisite technologies. It was postulated that Iran can obtain its goal for CA-based crop management technologies in the specified time period, with the necessary resources and policies and if, in particular, the government prioritizes resources for research and development and for capacity building.

Following the workshop, on 14 September M.L. Jat gave the presentation “CA-scope for soil quality improvement and nutrient management perspectives” at the Soil and Water Research Institute (SWRI). Intended to aid SWRI in planning and developing their research in this area, the presentation was attended by H. Besharati, SWRI Director General; Z. Khademi, SWRI Deputy Director General; and over 30 SWRI scientists.

The 3rd CSISA Wheat Breeding Review highlights successes and looks for further improvements

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, collaborative projects, Events, Wheat

During 6-10 September 2011, 40 scientists from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan convened in Kathmandu for the 3rd Wheat Breeding Review Meeting of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) objective 4 program. Participants included representatives of the Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (Pakistan), the Wheat Research Centre of Bangladesh (Dinajpur) and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (Ghazipur), India’s Directorate of Wheat Research (Karnal), Punjab Agricultural University (Ludhiana), Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi), the University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwar), the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (Indore), Uttarbanga Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (Coochbehar, West Bengal), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Renewable Natural Resources (RNR), Research and Development Centre (RDC), Bajo, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Bhutan), CIMMYT, and the Centre for Advanced Research in International Agriculture Development (Bangor University, UK).

Within a wider framework of discussing issues concerning wheat improvement, the meeting also reviewed the progress of the 2010-11 cycle, and established work plans for the coming 2011-12 crop cycle. After an opening address by Arun Joshi, CIMMYT Wheat Breeder for South Asia, seven review sessions were conducted, chaired by colleagues from the National Agricultural Research Systems: Indu Sharma, Niranjan Prasad Adhikari, Makhdoom Hussain, Md. Sirazul Islam, and B.N. Mahto. Three sessions were used to present review reports from the ten research centers, and a further session discussed conducts of trials, straw samples, weather data, segregating material in Kenya, and submission of data booklets and reports. Another session discussed strengthening existing links with CSISA Hubs and other stakeholders, and explored the possibilities of providing quality seeds of newly released improved varieties to farmers as quickly as possible. Discussion on the inclusion of conservation agriculture and participatory variety selection was also encouraged. The final two sessions were devoted to outlining a work plan.

Joshi also highlighted nine major achievements by the centers, during the 2010-11 cycle. Breeding for climate change was more focused; germplasm exchange with CIMMYT increased; the majority of advanced lines in CIMMYT trials carried resistance to Ug99 and other rusts; more Ug99-resistant and agronomically superior lines were released in south Asia; shuttling of segregating generations between south Asia and Kenya increased; there was a greater use of physiological tools for heat and drought tolerance in the regional breeding programs; significant genotypic variations were achieved for straw traits in CIMMYT trials; stronger links were formed between breeders, seed producers and farmers; and capacity building was promoted in the region. Dinesh Pariyar, NARC Executive Director, expressed his best wishes for the meeting, saying that “the strong networking between CIMMYT and wheat scientists of the region is paving the way for sustained food security in south Asia.”

The review enabled CSISA wheat breeders and pathologists to increase their understanding of the current challenges being faced, and the opportunities for further improvements. It also provided the ideal opportunity for creating further collaborations between wheat researchers and other stakeholders in the region.

MasAgro: Facing the future, reaffirming farmer focus

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events, From the management, MasAgro, México

One key reason why small-scale maize farmers—particularly those in Mexico—hold on to their native varieties is their strong fear of failed crops in difficult years, according to Bram Govaerts, head of the MasAgro component “Take it to the farmer.” “Agriculture is a system of risk, so we need to do whatever we can to help farmers reduce this risk and get stable yields,” Govaerts said.

This and farmers’ attachment to varieties with preferred taste and grain qualities were discussed during a 13 September 2011 presentation for CIMMYT staff at El Batán on the “Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture” (MasAgro) project. Launched in April 2011, funded by the Mexican government, and based on an initiative of Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Food (SAGARPA) together with CIMMYT, the project supports Mexican farmers working in partnership with several organizations to increase maize and wheat productivity, obtain higher returns on harvests, and ensure the preceding does not contribute to climate change. Over its 10-year lifespan, MasAgro aims to raise annual maize production by 5-9 million tons in rainfed areas and increase wheat harvests by 350,000 tons each year.

Opening the meeting, CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin stressed the significance of MasAgro both for CIMMYT and Mexico, praised the excellent support from the Mexican government and SAGARPA, and referred to a recent statement by Mexican President Felipe Calderón that called MasAgro the most important public policy for agriculture of the current administration. Karen García, Executive Director of MasAgro, believes the project poses a unique challenge to CIMMYT and reflects the Center’s adaptability. “This is a large initiative that directly responds to key policy directions of the government of Mexico, CIMMYT’s host country,” she said.

Speakers at the event included Marianne Bänziger (Deputy Director General for Research and Partnerships), Scott Ferguson (Deputy Director General, Support Services), and Marc Rojas (leader of the MasAgro component International Maize Improvement Consortium). “MasAgro is the biggest project CIMMYT has ever had, but we also have other projects,” said Bänziger, “we are one family and we work together.” Govaerts said the integration of the project with other Mexican initiatives was strong and getting stronger.

The name “Take it to the Farmer” comes from Dr. Norman Borlaug’s suggestion regarding a new technology he was shown the day before he died. Work under this component brings together public and private organizations to increase maize and wheat productivity, obtain higher returns on yields, and strengthen local small- and medium-sized agribusinesses. The “International Maize Improvement Consortium” is helping local small- and intermediate-scale seed producers to make diverse maize varieties and hybrids available to Mexican farmers at affordable prices. At the event Gemma Molero (Postdoctoral Fellow, Wheat Physiology Program) presented the “Wheat Yield Consortium”, which constitutes Mexico’s contribution to an international consortium of public and private sector researchers in more than 30 countries who have come together to increase wheat’s yield potential by 50% over the next 20 years through improvements in photosynthetic efficiency and plant architecture. As part of the MasAgro component “Discovering the Genetic Diversity of Seed,”, presented by Peter Wenzl (Head, CRIL), scientists are applying cutting-edge technologies to study and classify the diversity in CIMMYT’s genetic resource collections and make the information widely available to breeders in Mexico and abroad.

Partners in southern Africa projects discuss maize seed regulations

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

Partners from various projects for farmers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) met in Gaborone, Botswana, during 10-12 August 2011 to review progress and discuss future directions. Interactions involved members of the New Maize Seed Initiative for Southern Africa (NSIMA), the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) and the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) projects, as well as representatives from SADC, CIMMYT, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and local seed producers.

Edison Wotho, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana, praised Botswana’s participation in NSIMA, whose products for that country’s farmers include a new drought tolerant maize hybrid (CZH0623) and three OPVs (ZM309, ZM401 and ZM523). “The projects come at the right time,” said Wotho. “The region is experiencing frequent droughts and food shortages.”

Simon Mwale, SADC headquarters, Gaborone, highlighted the progress of his organization, CIMMYT, and other partners to harmonize the seed regulations and ease restrictions on the release and cross-border movement of seed in the region. He said a SADC Seed Centre would be established in Lusaka, Zambia, to help implement harmonized seed regulations (a MoU is expected to be signed soon by SADC countries). George Bigirwa, Senior Program Officer, AGRA and Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS), described how to establish a successful seed business in Africa. Presenting outcomes of a recently conducted review of NSIMA in preparation for a phase III, SDC consultant David Karite mentioned that 7 new OPVs and 13 hybrids had been registered in SADC during 2008-10.

During a visit to Botswana’s Seed Multiplication Unit, participants discovered that the Unit produces about 3,000 tons yearly of Kgalagadi Early Pearly, the only registered OPV sold at a subsidized price by the government. It is looking forward to multiplying seed of drought tolerant maize varieties from the various projects. As part of NSIMA, breeder’s seed is also being multiplied to scale up seed production for the new varieties.

At a cocktail party sponsored by Seed Co-Botswana, Mulugetta Mekuria, CIMMYT Regional Liaison Officer for Southern Africa, gave an overview of the center’s activities in the region and commitments in support of the SADC objectives to enhance food security. He said CIMMYT was very pleased to partner with the new Center for the Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (Southern Africa-CCARDESA). Mekuria and CIMMYT Maize Breeder Peter Setimela also visited the Botswana Department of Agricultural Research to introduce the “Sustainable Intensification of Maize- Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa program” (SIMLESA), following up on a 2010 visit by the President of Botswana to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to involve Botswanan scientists in the project.

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

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