Policy recommendations to improve the seed sector in eastern and southern Africa

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Africa, Events, improved seed

During 26-27 October 2011, seed policy experts met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a workshop on “Maize seed sector development in eastern and southern Africa”, to chart the way forward for the regions’ seed systems. The workshop was organized by CIMMYT as part of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project, and brought together permanent secretaries of agriculture ministries, members of parliament, seed companies, seed traders associations, heads of research organizations, scientists, and seed regulators from eight of the project countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).

The experts reviewed the results of the 2010/2011 CIMMYT seed sector survey, and assessed the progress made since the last regional policy workshop in 2008, and the survey of 2007/2008. Among the noteworthy achievements was the regional harmonization of seed laws as well as an increasing evidence base to inform policy. Lively discussions focused on five themes: variety development and release; seed production; seed marketing, distribution and storage; farmer adoption and seed use; and seed laws and private sector participation.

To increase effectiveness and productivity of the seed sector, the experts made several policy recommendations:

  • International and regional seed laws should be domesticated and harmonized, and embedded within existing legislation.
  • To reduce trade in fake seed, competition commissions should be set up and anti-trust laws enacted, including Kenya’s Anti-counterfeit Act, and holograms should be used for seed packaging.
  • Smart subsidies with a clear exit strategy, in conjunction with services such as extension education and good agronomy, would be effective in increasing farmers’ access to new drought tolerant maize varieties.
  • Seed availability could be increased through irrigated seed production on more land, and credited finance guarantees through national governments.
  • The liberalization of seed production, certification, and trade would improve the efficiency of seed sectors and ensure that farmers have access to the best varieties for improved farm incomes and food security.

Summing up the outcomes from the workshop, Hon. John Mututho, Kenyan Member of Parliament and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee said: “The experts at this meeting have accurately coined the policy issues dealing with seed production, marketing and trade. These policy recommendations should be adopted by the [Kenyan] Executive and Parliament as the basis for developing the Kenyan Seed Act, to be passed in 2012.”

CIMMYT participates in the 2011 APAARI Expert Consultation Meeting

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Biotechnology, Events

Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT’s Director General, recently participated as an expert at a consultation meeting on “Agricultural Biotechnology, Biosafety, and Biosecurity”, at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) in Taichung, Taiwan. It was the first time CIMMYT has participated at these meetings and demonstrates the increased activity by CIMMYT in the region.

CIMMYT has regional offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nepal, and Pakistan, and Lumpkin used the meeting to highlight CIMMYT’s achievements in Asia and the recent launch of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BSIA) on 5 October 2011. CIMMYT’s participation in the meeting coincided with the release of recent reports updating estimates on population growth; some anticipate stabilization at 9 billion, whilst others estimate increases to 15 billion. In terms of predictions for Asia, India is set to overtake China in terms of population by 2030, as according to censuses, the population of India increased by 181 million in the past decade alone.

The meeting was organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI). Raj Paroda, APAARI’s Executive Secretary, opened the first session, stating: “Biological pests and diseases do not respect political or geographical boundaries. For this reason, it is critical that we all come together and discuss the issues, invite farmers, understand the concerns of all stakeholders.” Diseases such as Ug99 can have a devastating effect on crops worldwide, so regional cooperation in the topic of agriculture is vital in addressing global food security.

Paroda also emphasized the importance of involving farmers in meetings which discuss scientific applications to agriculture. He urged the international community to include farmers and farmers’ groups in international conferences for agriculture, asserting that: “Agricultural development should be based not only on facts, but also what you have been told about”.

The next APAARI Expert Consultation Meeting will be in 2012, focusing on transboundary diseases.

Colombian plains project hosts a maize harvest workshop

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Capacity Building, Events, Maize, South America

On 19 August 2011, a workshop was hosted by CIMMYT-Colombia for maize producers, association representatives, and educators and students from various local universities, among others, on the advances of a project to increase maize production in Colombia through the development of improved germplasm adapted to the production systems in the Orinoquía region (East Plains). The Orinoquía is an area of plains, covered by pasture and interspersed with rivers and forests; all the rivers terminate in the Orinoco river. The project is coordinated by CIMMYT-Colombia, with support from the Colombian Agricultural Research Cooperation (CORPOICA), Colombian Growers Federation of Cereals and Legumes (FENALCE), International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia. The workshop took place at the CORPOICA Research Center in Villavicencio, Del Meta District.

As part of the workshop, attendants visited the field and observed the results of trials of maize with tolerance to acidic soils. For this component of the project, 1,000 acidity-tolerant hybrids are being tested in four locations of the Colombian high plains (C.I. La Libertad in Villavicencio; Menegua in Puerto López; and Taluma and Carimagua in Puerto Gaitán) in the Meta District. They are also being evaluated for yield potentialand other important agronomic traits which help to increase production and profitability. Workshop participants observed that the yields of the best hybrids evaluated in C.I. La Libertad exceeded 7 tons per hectare, and it is hoped that yields in Carimagua will reach almost 10 tons per hectare. Based on harvest data, from the 1,000 hybrids a 10% subset of those with the best performance will be selected for evaluation in an increased number of locations from 2012. The goal is to make the best five hybrids available to Orinoquía farmers within 3-4 years. This would make an important contribution to a region where there are enough resources to widen the agricultural frontier and duplicate the current area sown (5 million hectares).

The same project also trialed maize lines known to be susceptible or tolerant to acidic soils. At aluminum saturation levels of 60%, the susceptible lines died during the seedling stage, long before the flowering stage. These results are particularly relevant given that the percentage of aluminum saturation in a native savannah from the Orinoquía is over 90% and only a few plant species survive.

Biotechnology applied to plant genetic breeding

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Biotechnology, Events, Maize, South America, Training

A course on biotechnology applications to plant genetic breeding was held during 26-30 September 2011, at La Molina Agricultural University, Lima, Peru. Over 100 scientists from Peru’s National Institute of Agricultural Innovation and Peruvian universities attended the course, which focused on modern concepts and procedures of biotechnology as applied to plant breeding.

The instructors covered many topics. Myriam Cristina Duque, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), gave a presentation on biometrics applied to plant breeding, with an emphasis on experimental designs for non-balanced trials. Gary Atlin, CIMMYT, then focused in on heritability, mixed models theory and its application to plant breeding, as well as current uses of sequencing and genomics. Association mapping and analysis of plant genomes using molecular markers and QTL mapping was the subject of a presentation by Marilyn Warburton, USDA, and Luis Augusto Becerra, CIAT, also discussed molecular markers, as well as demonstrating the use of MapMaker and conducting a session on plant gene-based mapping. Luis Nopo, Arkansas State University, spoke about transgenic plant transformation and Raúl Blas, La Molina Agricultural University, conducted a practical session on extracting DNA from plants.

Unanimous positive feedback was received from the participants, who suggested that similar courses be held in other locations in order to better disseminate knowledge on current technologies. Resources for the course came from Peru, whose partnership with CIMMYT dates back 10 years, with the objective of developing profitable and environmentally-friendly maize technologies.

CIMMYT looks to further partnerships with Peru

Following the course on biotechnology for plant genetic breeding in Peru, Gary Atlin (Associate Director, CIMMYT Global Maize Program) and Luis Narro (Coordinator, CIMMYT-Columbia) met with Juan Rheineck Piccardo, Peru’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture on 27 September 2011, to discuss possible further partnerships between CIMMYT and the Peruvian government.

It is hoped that further collaborations would increase maize production in Peru, which currently produces just 40% of its national grain demand. Piccardo expressed interest in the proposals, suggesting that a project should be implemented at the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA) to select water-efficient maize genotypes. Atlin and Narro then visited the INIA site at Paiján, in the north coastal zone of Peru, to assess it’s characteristics. The area has no rainfall, allowing researchers to control the amount of water the plants receive during development, and the water table is more than 8 meters below ground-level, therefore avoiding interference between underground water and irrigation systems. Dialogues will continue once the selection trial has been established.

CIMMYT features in the International Forum on Food Security and Price Volatility

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events, MasAgro, Socio-economics

The World Food Day was established in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to raise awareness of the global food problem and strengthen solidarity against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To commemorate World Food Day 2011, an international forum on “Food Security and Price Volatility: Scope, Perspectives, and Recommendations” took place during 17-18 October at the Sevilla Palace Hotel, Mexico City. The event was convened by FAO’s representatives in Mexico, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the Latin American Economic Commission (CEPAL), and the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

Over two days, participants from national and international policy and research organizations, public and private sector, and scholars and representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the United States, exchanged experiences on the causes and effects of food price volatility, an issue which has an important impact on food security. They also explored options for public policy to reduce volatility, and identified elements to prepare a shared or coordinated agenda among countries and international organizations. Presentations ranged from the FAO outlining the establishment of a more efficient way to track fluctuating food prices, to details on the Brazilian government’s support of production at a family farm level.

Jonathan Hellin, Value Chain and Poverty Specialist for CIMMYT’s Socio-economics program (SEP), gave a presentation highlighting the importance of research and extension provision in meeting the challenges of increasing agricultural production and enhancing farmers’ access to markets. With the forum’s focus on policy issues, Hellin cited MasAgro, a coordinated initiative between CIMMYT and SAGARPA, as an example of integrated efforts between the public and private sectors to sustainably boost crop productivity. There are already visible, positive results from this project, such as increased interactions between scientists and small-scale farmers, and the benefits of MasAgro will be measurable in terms of Mexico’s wheat and maize production, added Hellin.

SAGARPA Undersecretary Mariano Ruiz-Funes reiterated the potential of MasAgro. “It starts from the plot, fosters commerce through contract farming, and adds value to products —with support of the Postharvest Management Program— allowing the development of a local market,” he said. Ruiz-Funes added that MasAgro is the most important program of recent years because it provides support directly to small farmers to promote higher crop yields, particularly in rainfed regions.

Innovation Research Program Award for the CIMMYT-CAAS program

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Achievements & Awards, Asia

Congratulations to the joint program of CIMMYT and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), which was recently awarded the Innovation Research Program Award from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, in recognition of it’s outstanding contributions to wheat quality research and it’s impacts in China.

The CIMMYT-CAAS program was established in 1997 and has achieved significant progress in establishing quality testing protocols for traditional Chinese products, molecular marker development and application, QTL mapping for resistance to yellow rust and powdery mildew, documenting yield progress, variety development and extension, and HR development through collaborations with Chinese institutes and those overseas, including Murdoch University, University of Sydney, and USDA-ARS. The team is led by Zhonghu He, CIMMYT Principal Scientist and Country Representative, and includes seven CIMMYT-trained senior scientists, 15 graduate students, and ten support staff. Highly regarded both in China and internationally, the project also received CGIAR’s regional award in 2007, and a First Class Award in Science and Technology Progress from the Chinese State Council.

Saudi Ambassador visits CIMMYT

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Visits to CIMMYT, Wheat

CIMMYT welcomed H.E. Hussein M. Alassiri, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Mexico, to the El Batán headquarters on 20 October 2011. During his visit, the Ambassador was greeted by Director General Thomas Lumpkin, who highlighted the global challenges facing food security as well as describing CIMMYT’s programs which have been particularly successful in arid to semi-arid regions; Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA), Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), and Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). In addition to describing the history and mission of CIMMYT, Lumpkin also presented the Borlaug Institute for South Asia as CIMMYT’s newest initiative to tackle growing food insecurity.

The visit proceeded with a tour of the seed bank and a presentation by Iván Ortiz-Monasterio on developments in nitrogen use efficiency technologies, followed by Roberto Javier Peña who provided the Ambassador with a background of CIMMYT’s work on wheat quality. Hans-Joachim Braun was also present to give an overview of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 19th in the world’s wheat importers, currently importing nearly 2 million metric tons of wheat, primarily from Germany, Canada, and the USA. Average estimated annual consumption of wheat by Saudi inhabitants is currently 110 kg per person. Although self-sufficient in wheat throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia announced in 2008 that domestic wheat production will cease in 2016, in order to conserve the country’s dwindling water resources. Over the next five years, wheat production will reduce at a rate of 12.5% annually.

The Ambassador’s visit to CIMMYT focused on areas of mutual interest including advances in research and development of wheat productivity, water use efficiency, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Initiative which supports investment in low-income countries with a high potential to increase agricultural productivity. CIMMYT will be working with the Ambassador to send samples of seed collected in the Arabian Peninsula to Saudi researchers for further testing.

Making the most of plant genetic resources

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Events, Genetic resources

A regional conference on “Diversity, characterization, and utilization of plant genetic resources (PGR) for enhanced resilience to climate change” was conducted in Baku, Azerbaijan, during 3-4 October 2011, under the aegis of the FAO project to enhance PGR utilization in Azerbaijan, with technical support and assistance from CIMMYT-Turkey. The event attracted over 100 participants from Asia and Eastern Europe, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Although frequently well-characterized and preserved, PGR is often under-utilized. The conference demonstrated opportunities and means of utilizing these resources using modern conventional and biotechnological tools; a high priority for the research community given the rich genetic resources of crops in the region. It was also proposed that a PGR utilization network be established, and lead institutions and countries were assigned to start pre-breeding activities for priority crops and traits. A draft for the Azerbaijan strategy of PGR conservation, characterization, and use, was also discussed and prepared. Thanks to the Azerbaijan Genetic Resources Institute for organizing the conference, with support from FAO, CIMMYT, ICARDA, and Bioversity International.

Utilizing plant genetic resources to identify useful traits

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

The work of plant breeders has enabled the production of high-yielding crops; some are resistant to certain diseases or adapted to particular environments, but new diseases emerge and climates change. The work of plant breeders is therefore constantly evolving, and alleles to tackle production challenges need to be identified. This was the issue addressed in a seminar by Michael Mackay, currently a Senior Scientist at Bioversity and formerly Curator of the Australian Winter Cereals Collection, on 14 October 2011, entitled “More effective utilization of plant genetic resources for plant breeding”.

There is a huge amount of variability in wheat collections, and they may contain traits which are useful for plant breeding, but Mackay pointed out that identifying the accessions which have these traits is somewhat akin to “searching for a needle in a haystack.” However, it may be possible to use “environmental sieves” to identify these accessions, said Mackay.

This would be one way of using genetic resources more effectively. According to Mackay: “Recent studies show that distribution of trait variation is not random; there are relationships between traits and environments; statistics and modern techniques provide effective means to target ‘best bet’ accessions; and online tools to facilitate this type of modeling are required to reduce the ‘diagnosis’ time.” The Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) project is currently working on using climatic data in geographic information systems to investigate trait-by-environment relationships to identify useful accessions currently held within ex-situ genebanks worldwide.

With so much data, a smart system is needed to bring the information together and to build a dynamic interface between data providers and users. It is possible that the Genesys portal, “Gateway to genetic resources”, could be used as a kind of hub, enabling more of a service approach for the use of plant genetic resources, said Mackay.

MasAgro fosters collaboration to optimize and reduce the cost of processing maize for making tortillas in Mexico

Posted by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Capacity Building, Events, Maize, MasAgro, México

CIMMYT scientists and researchers from the Valley of Mexico Experiment Station (CEVAMEX, Spanish acronym) of Mexico’s National Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (INIFAP), who are working with the International Maize Yield Consortium (IMIC), a component of the MasAgro initiative, organized the first workshop on “Methodologies for evaluating maize tortilla-making quality” during 10-11 October 2011 at CIMMYT headquarters, El Batán.

Forty representatives of the tortilla dough, tortilla flour, and snack-making industries, as well as those from Mexican universities and research institutes, met to discuss the grain quality characteristics needed to process maize for making tortillas. Workshop participants reviewed the various parameters and methodologies available to evaluate the health and quality of maize grain used to process tortilla flour, tortilla dough, and snacks.

IMIC leader Marc Rojas reported that several work teams were formed to plan complementary activities allowing MasAgro to strengthen cooperation among producers, seed companies, breeders, the processing industry, and consumers. With this objective in mind, the participants carried out a detailed analysis of the grain quality characteristics currently needed by the processing industry, in order to identify possible process-optimizing and cost-reducing actions.

Natalia Palacios, Head of CIMMYT’s Maize Nutritional Quality Laboratory, explained that the work teams agreed that seed companies, farmers, and breeders need to have access to more information about the industry’s grain quality requirements in order to reach the above mentioned objective.

Industry representatives expressed their interest in knowing more about the location, yield, and quality of the grain harvested in different regions of the country. They also decided to identify new production areas and improve grain supply channels, and even suggested promoting the revision of Mexican quality standards. At the end of the event, Alberto Morales, Cargill Operations Manager, concluded that “we need to standardize analytical, purchasing, receiving, and sales techniques, so that we all speak the same language.”

According to Mexico’s Agricultural, Food, and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP, Spanish acronym), of the 23.3 million tons of maize grain produced in Mexico in 2010, 10 million were processed for making tortillas, and 3.5 million were for the producers’ own consumption, while the tortilla flour-processing and dough-making industries processed 3.7 and 3.4 million tons, respectively. The snackmaking industry used a little over 500,000 tons of maize.

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: Katelyn Roett, Km. 45 Carretera México -Veracruz, El Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México. C. P. 56150, México. Weekly update. © CIMMYT 2014.

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