Former CIMMYT wheat agronomist Ken Sayre received the first-ever Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize on 29 March 2010 in recognition of his work to promote resource-conserving practices with developing country farmers. He accepted the award in the category of “Distinguished Scientist” from the Agropolis Foundation in a special ceremony held at the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) meetings. For more information visit here or here.
CIMMYT-Asia held an awareness meeting on 19 March 2010 for a proposed hybrid maize research consortium. Nearly 50 participants from national, regional, and multinational seed companies attended, representing 37 seed companies. The goal of the meeting and the consortium is to form new private-public partnerships for enhanced utilization of maize germplasm.
The morning session included an introduction and outline of meeting objectives and research priorities by B. Vivek, senior maize breeder, and P.H. Zaidi, maize physiologist. Proposed project activities included 1) germplasm development for collaborator-identified target environments and priorities, with resulting germplasm to be made available to seed companies; 2) training, including implementation of software for data and pedigree management; and 3) a hybrid testing network for India and the Asian region.
The participants then visited the breeding nurseries and trials to see the variety of germplasm available through CIMMYT-Asia. In the afternoon, participants prioritized their target environments and traits and shared suggestions for how the consortium should operate. “The deliberations during today’s planning meeting for a maize consortium went well, and had a very encouraging tone,” said N.P. Sarma, director of Research & Development, Kaveri Seed Company. “We all appreciate your efforts in conceptualizing the consortium approach for an important crop like maize, and look forward for the next meeting.”
Consortium planners have set a tentative launch date of 28 May 2010.
A four-member team of scientists from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) visited India from 07-13 March 2010 as part of a CIMMYT-sponsored “Roving Seminar on Advances of Wheat Research.” The objectives of the traveling seminar were to share experiences and encourage greater interaction between NARC, CIMMYT, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The Nepal team traveled to three primary locations in India: Delhi, Karnal, and Ludhiana. At all three, discussion focused on major wheat issues in the South Asia region, but also included maize and other agricultural topics.
In Delhi, the group visited ICAR, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR). At ICAR, the director general S. Ayyappan and his team welcomed the seminar participants, along with CIMMYT scientists Arun Kumar Joshi and Raj Gupta. Germplasm exchange and capacity building were major topics of discussion, as well as India-Nepal-CIMMYT collaboration for improving wheat and maize research.
The team then visited IARI’s wheat fields and laboratories, and met with wheat scientists and K.V. Prabhu, head of the Division of Genetics at IARI. The next stop was at NBPGR’s germplasm bank with the bureau’s director, S.K. Sharma. This visit was of special significance as NARC is in the process of establishing its own genebank in Kathmandu, Nepal.
At Karnal, the second location, the NARC team visited the Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) and the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI). They spoke with DWR-Karnal project director S.S. Singh about increasing capacity building and germplasm exchange, and then later visited germplasm screening and breeding facilities for saline-alkali soils at CSSRI. The NARC scientists also visited MHYCO’s (Maharashtra Hybrid Corporation) wheat hybrid program at their station in Karnal.
The final stop was at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana. There the Nepal team met with Manjit Singh Kang (PAU vicechancellor), P.S. Minhas (director of research), S.S. Banga (head of Plant Breeding and Genetics), and various PAU wheat scientists.
Overall, the seminar improved the NARC team’s understanding of Indian wheat research and spurred interest in further regional collaboration. The NARC participants were Bhartendu Mishra (executive director), Niranjan Adhikari (director, Crops & Horticulture), Madan Raj Bhatta (senior wheat breeder), and Janmejai Tripathi (senior agronomy scientist). CIMMYT was represented by Arun Kumar Joshi, wheat breeder for South Asia.
Five CIMMYT scientists are co-authors of a new report published this week in Nature Genetics. In “Rare genetic variation at Zea mays crtRB1 increases ß-carotene in maize grain,” the research team describes a rare genetic variation in maize that leads to increased beta-carotene in maize grain, which is the main source of dietary vitamin A.
According to a SciDev.net article, “Poor people in many developing countries depend on cheap foods such as maize that do not provide enough vitamin A. In Zambia, more than half (53 per cent) of children do not get sufficient vitamin A, and the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 children worldwide are blinded each year by the deficiency, and half of them die of related causes within a year.”
It is believed that new strains of maize with increased beta-carotene could reduce vitamin A deficiency in people in developing countries. The CIMMYT staff involved with this publication include Jianbing Yan, Maria Zaharieva, Raman Babu, Natalia Palacios, and Marilyn L Warburton.
Bangladesh recently gave the go-ahead to release a new wheat variety with resistance to Ug99. Bari Gom 26—commonly known as Hashi, and previously called BAW 1064—has CIMMYT parental lines in its pedigree, fairly good resistance against variants of Ug99, and impressive agronomic performance.
“Bari Gom 26 yielded 10% higher than the most popular variety, Shatabdi, in three years of multilocation testing in Bangladesh,” said T.P. Tiwari, cropping systems agronomist, CIMMYT-Bangladesh, adding that it also performed better than other varieties during on-farm testing. Because of its notable performance under late-sown conditions, Bari Gom 26 is believed to have heat tolerance. It also performs exceedingly well under zero tillage, said Shirajul Islam, director of the Wheat Research Center (WRC).
In Bangladesh, under the guidance of WRC and CIMMYT, Bari Gom 26 is under demonstration and multiplication on 44 hectares of farmers’ fields. This will result in 120 tons of improved seed that will be available for next year, according to Tiwari and Arun K. Joshi, CIMMYT wheat breeder.
This step toward mitigating the threat of Ug99 was made possible in part by a USAID seed multiplication famine fund program in which six countries are currently multiplying wheat varieties resistant to Ug99. The WRC of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), and CIMMYT-Bangladesh are working together under this program to identify suitable Ug99 resistant varieties and for seed production and delivery. Wheat scientists involved in the development of Bari Gom 26 include Naresh Chandra Deb Barma, Moznur Rahman, Paritosh Kumar Malaker, Dinabandhu Pandit, and Abdul Hakim. Enamul Haque from CIMMYTBangladesh was involved in promotional activities for the variety.
Conservation agriculture (CA) continues to take root in Mexican fields, and CIMMYT’s CA team is helping it flourish by providing training and technological support to farmers. Examples of this are three CA events that took place in mid-March at El Batán and at Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico.
On 18 March, 27 technicians and farmers from Apan, Hidalgo, visited El Batán. Apan is a rainfed location where 90% of the land is sown with barley; the remaining 10% is sown with diverse crops (maize, beans, cowpea, potato, and oat). Andrea Chocobar and José Luis Salgado, from the Mexico-based CA program, and Francisco Magallanes, El Batán superintendent, hosted the group.
The visit originated from a request by Joaquín Pérez Aguirre, who is the general manager of a consultant agricultural services bureau and a farmer. Aguirre asked Dagoberto Flores, a member of the CA team, and Salgado to help train fellow farmers on CA practices. Aguirre has collaborated with Flores before, and both agreed that because a CA demonstration plot will soon be established in Apan, it is important to train local farmers, especially on how to calibrate seeders and fumigation equipment. The pending demonstration plot is part of the project “CA hub for small grain cereals in the highlands of Mexico,” which is a collaborative project with the Mexican Agriculture Ministry.
“Most of my colleagues had heard about CIMMYT, but it wasn’t very clear for them what CIMMYT was or did. Today, especially after the introduction by Andrea Chocobar, everybody is very impressed with what you do here,” said Aguirre, who led the group of visiting farmers. “I’ve worked 28 years in agriculture, and have seen programs start and conclude, and a lot of money invested, but in the end, not many outputs. I want to implement a different approach not just focused on keeping knowledge in your head, but on applying it in the field.”
After the field day, at least one farmer was convinced that he wants to apply CA to his field. “I want to learn more about the (CA) technology for the benefits it offers, such as less cost and more productivity,” said Felipe Vera Herrera, of Chimalpa, Hidago. “I’m going to tell my neighbors about the visit, but most of all, I will put into practice what I learned here today so they can see that CA is profitable.”
The following day, Friday 19 March, CA team members Bram Govaerts and Jesús Mendoza met with 10 representatives of the Farmer Association of West River Sinaloa (AARSP) for breakfast in Guasave, Sinaloa. This was followed by a CA course for 15 leading farmers and technicians from AARSP and the seed company subsidiary ASGROW. The course took place at the Experiment Station Miguel Leysón Pérez, and was part of the “CA hub for the irrigated zone of the Pacific,” and in collaboration with ASGROW.
The most recent CA event took place on Monday 22 March. A group of nearly 50 agronomic engineering students from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) in Mexico City visited El Batán. They were accompanied by professors Mariela Fuentes and Manuel Tarín Ramírez. The visit included an explanation of CIMMYT and CA, and a visit to the long-term CA trial at lot D-5. In the field, Chocobar and Mariela Fuentes explained plot management and answered questions from students. The students also saw a demonstration of a multi-use-multi-purpose machine and of a manual seeder, and toured the germplasm bank.
“A visit like this broadens our perspectives because we can see that there are new technologies that could be used in Mexico,” said Aarón Torres López, one of the visiting students. “I decided to study agronomic engineering because I would like to make a difference in my country. I hope my fellow agronomy students also want to change things in the crop fields.” These three events and other activities focused on the development and dissemination of CA in Mexico are part of a global program and strategy to foster the adoption and use of more productive and sustainable practices for crop management. Additionally, the CA team would like to thank Scott Ferguson for arranging free child care at CENDI for famers who brought their children with them to the field training event at El Batán.
CIUDAD OBREGÓN, SONORA, MEXICO, 25 MARCH 2010 –The lovely weather and colorful setting of Norman E. Borlaug’s beloved Mexico graced the morning on what would have been his 96th birthday. Several hundred former friends, colleagues, and Mexican farmers and dignitaries gathered at the experiment station he loved and where he did his most important work to unveil an impressive monument in his honor and to hold a ceremony to rename the Ciudad Obregón station in his memory.
At the center of the superbly organized celebration in honor of Borlaug, who died in September 2009, was his daughter, Jeannie Borlaug Laube. She unveiled an impressive monument including a large, bronze statue of Borlaug looking out toward the Yaqui Valley and, in accord with her father’s wishes, deposited his ashes in the monument, thanking guests for their life-long support of his work. “As you know, my father always loved Mexico and felt at home here,” she said.
In addition to Borlaug Laube, the presidium of speakers included Pedro Brajcich, director of Mexico’s National Institute of Forestry, Livestock, and Agricultural Research (INIFAP); Francisco Javier Mayorga Castañeda, the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture; Guillermo Padrés Elías, the Governor of the state of Sonora; Antonio Gándara, president of the southern branch of the Sonora farmers association Patronato; and CIMMYT director general Thomas A. Lumpkin. Part of the ceremony was the public announcement of the change in name of the experiment station from “Centro de Investigación Regional del Noroeste” (CIRNO) to “Campo Experimental Norman E. Borlaug” (CENEB).
Lumpkin conveyed CIMMYT’s gratitude to Mayorga Castañeda for the special “Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Research Fund” of USD 1 million from the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Food (SAGARPA), launched in October 2009 to support applied agricultural research and technology transfer projects. He thanked the Sonora Governor for the state’s support for research on Ug99, among other areas of center work. He also had special words of appreciation for Patronato, calling the 65-year collaboration with Sonora farmers “…the center’s oldest research partnership.”
“Our collaboration with Mexican scientists, public officials, and producers half a century ago resulted in agricultural technologies that transformed farming worldwide,” Lumpkin said. “Given the extreme challenges to food security and natural resource management that humanity faces today, a new productivity transformation is needed. We hope that Mexico is returning to the leading role it played in the 1960s, when it made valuable contributions to fighting the hunger that affected millions on our planet.”
CIMMYT held a successful maize field day on 14 March 2010 at the CIMMYT maize demonstration block at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) campus, Hyderabad, India. About 110 maize breeders from the public and private sector attended.
Maize physiologist P.H. Zaidi opened the event with an overview of ongoing research activities in the maize program at CIMMYT’s Asia Program at Hyderabad, and also discussed the different types of available early and advanced generation inbred maize lines. Breeders then toured the CIMMYT maize nurseries, which were open for selection.
Sain Dass, director of the Indian Maize Program, was one of the participants, along with 21 maize scientists from the All India Coordinated Maize Program. Dass was happy with the variety of germplasm, which included several new lines in the medium and late maturity groups, as well as a new series of quality protein maize lines and drought and water-logging tolerant lines.
Dass, accompanied by Raj Gupta, CIMMYT South Asia coordinator, Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT cropping systems agronomist at CIMMYT-Nepal, B.S. Vivek, and Zaidi, visited the on-going trials for drought stress and were impressed with the drought management, which resulted in excellent genotypic variability for drought tolerance during the flowering stage.
“The best part of coming to Hyderabad is seeing the excellent drought tolerant materials,” McDonald said, agreeing with the others that the field day displayed an excellent selection of drought tolerant materials in yellow grain color, and that they should immediately be evaluated in water-stressed target environments.
The variety of available germplasm and its maintenance, purity, and phenotypic expression impressed many participants. “We have selected several vigorous and highly productive lines that are very much suitable for developing single-cross hybrids,” said J.P. Shahi, of the maize program at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India.
In addition to the public sector, a large number of private sector breeders also attended the field day. These included large multinationals like Pioneer, Syngenta, BIOSEED, Dupont, Bayer Crop Sciences, and Advanta, as well as nearly 40 small- and medium-scale seed companies.
Congratulations to the CIMMYT team in Hyderabad: Zaidi, Vivek, V. Vengadessan, M.T. Vinayan, Jewel Jameeta Noor, Pooja Devi, S. Nagachandra Rao, and S. Murali Mohan.
During 01-05 March 2010, several board members of the new Consortium of the CGIAR Centers traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, for their inaugural board meeting. Those in attendance included Carlos Perez del Castillo, Lynn Haight, Ganesan Balachander, Tom Arnold, and Mohamad Ait Kadi. After the main meeting on 01 March, members had the chance to visit and interact with several CGIAR partners and programs and to see first-hand how they are collaborating for positive change in Africa and other developing areas.
On 02 March, Carlos Perez del Castillo, chair of the Consortium Board of the CGIAR, thanked the Kenyan government for its interest in hosting the Consortium. The board is planning to relocate to a new home base, and Nairobi is one of five cities in consideration (the others being Addis Ababa, Montpellier, New Delhi, and Rome). That night also included a cocktail hosted by the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), during which del Castillo met with Mwangi Thuita and Romano Kiome, Kenya’s permanent secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Agriculture, respectively.
For the next three days, members traveled to various CGIAR facilities. On 03 March, del Castillo and Haight toured the ICRAF and then met with representatives from ICRAF and hosted institutions. Meanwhile, Balachander and Arnold toured the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Biotechnology Center in Nairobi. Then, on 05 March, del Castillo and Balachander visited KARI’s Kiboko center. There they saw some of CIMMYT and KARI’s collaborative maize research on drought, insect resistance, and low soil fertility. The team also visited the tropical legume trial sites that are jointly run by KARI and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
“What has impressed me most is the spirit of partnership that I have experienced – partnerships with farmers, national agricultural research systems, financial institutions, and CGIAR centers,” del Castillo said. “The new CGIAR will be about collective action, innovation, synergies, and impacts on the ground to tackle the problems of food insecurity, poverty, and climate change.”
At Kiboko, the consortium team interacted with the director of KARI, Ephraim Mukisira, and several CIMMYT members. Joint work on conventional and transgenic maize trials were highlighted during the visit. Other important conversations included private-public partnerships, impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, intellectual property, climate change, and information and seed dissemination.
“The facility development and research activities at this Kiboko center have been possible because of KARI’s partnerships and collaboration with the CGIAR, especially CIMMYT,” Mukisira said. “We have also benefited by jointly generating many maize varieties and developing our scientists’ capacity through CIMMYT’s training programs.”
Special thanks to our CIMMYT team members for making the visit a success: Wilfred Mwangi, Stephen Mugo, Yoseph Beyene, Dan Makumbi, Tadele Tefera, and Anne Wangalachi.