Improving food security in Nepal

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Asia, Events, Training

Food security cannot be achieved until food grains or seeds reach consumers or farmers. This issue was addressed during a training course on post-harvest management of wheat seeds, which was held at the National Wheat Research Program (NWRP), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) in Bhairahwa during 4-6 July 2011, in collaboration with CIMMYT.

Participants included scientists and technical officers from various NARC research stations and resource personnel from NWRP, seed companies and other institutions – all of whom are actively involved in collaborative wheat seed production programs at their research stations. The course aimed to enhance the knowledge and skills of collaborators participating in wheat seed production and postharvest management in Nepal, especially those engaged in dissemination of newly developed Ug99 resistant varieties.

Arun Joshi, Regional Wheat Breeder, CIMMYT South Asia, launched the course by congratulating the organizers on behalf of CIMMYT for organizing a training program on this important aspect. This sentiment was reiterated by the chair of the inaugural session, National Wheat Coordinator Janmejai Tripathi, who emphasized the fact that seed supply and distribution play a major role in food security in Nepal, where 80% of the population are engaged in agriculture.

Theory and practical sessions addressed the most current issues concerning aspects of post-harvest management. Participants learnt how to achieve safe harvest and storage of seed including proper cleaning-grading, bagging, labelling and testing for minimum seed standards; they were also taken to four public and private sector seed storage and processing plants in Bhairahwa to practice seed sampling and testing. The fundamentals of an efficient marketing strategy for complete use of the seed produced by farmers were also an important part of this program.

Participants responded positively to the course, saying that it improved their ability to achieve safe storage of wheat seeds without sacrificing its minimum seed standards. They were also able to update their knowledge on the most current NARS-CIMMYT wheat seed production programs and seed laws in Nepal.

Practicing conservation agriculture in South Asia

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Agronomy, Asia, Capacity Building, Conservation Agriculture, Events, Training

The diversity and progress of conservation agriculture (CA) was emphasized during a regional training course at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, India during 28 June–11 July 2011. Organized in partnership with the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and PAU, the course attracted male and female participants from varying regions, age groups and agricultural backgrounds, and was the second in a series of regional CA courses. In addition to experts from PAU, CGIAR and private sector partners, the key mentors in the training course were Ken Sayre, CA Consultant, CIMMYT, Patrick Wall, Director of the Global Conservation Agriculture Program, CIMMYT, ML Jat, Sr. Cropping Systems Agronomist, CIMMYT, HS Sidhu, CSISA hub coordinator, Punjab, and Mahesh Gathala, Cropping Systems Agronomist, CIMMYT. ML Jat also coordinated the course.

Training was mostly field-oriented, with participants practicing key CA principles in the field. The diverse makeup of the group also meant that some participants were less experienced in CA, therefore encouraging regional cross-learning, increasing capacity and helping to promote CA.

In the closing ceremony, Raj Gupta, South Asia Coordinator, CIMMYT, and Patrick Wall highlighted the benefits of the strong and longterm partnership between PAU and CIMMYT, for both organizations and for the Punjab. It is hoped that collaborations between PAU, CIMMYT, and other national organizations will facilitate in developing CA in the region and assist farmers to improve the quality of their natural resources and livelihoods.

Chief guest of the closing ceremony, BS Dhillon, Vice Chancellor of PAU, further stressed that CA is the best way to address the emerging challenges of South Asian farmers, particularly in view of the issues associated with a second generation of the Green Revolution. PAU is becoming a CA hub in the region and Dhillon added that more agricultural universities should include CA in their graduate and postgraduate curriculums, as PAU is beginning to do. Dhillon, who is also helping to lay the groundwork for the Borlaug Institute of South Asia, reiterated that there is still a long way to go, but that “for accelerating the pace of adoption of CA in the region, capacity building on CA is an immediate action and hence this course is a timely and important step.”

Writing for impact in Kenya

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Africa, Events, Training

On 10-16 July in Nakuru, Kenya, students gathered for “Writing Week”, a workshop focused on improving the composition of participants’ scientific papers for publication. Presentations were given by CIMMYT’s Dr. Hugo De Groote and Dr. Stephen Mugo, and Dr. Kiarie Njoroge from the Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection at the University of Nairobi. The workshop enabled sixteen students and advanced researchers to work collectively on improving their papers, which covered a range of agricultural topics.

This course was the second such workshop organized as part of the Insect Resistance Maize for Africa (IRMA) project, a collaborative initiative of CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), which was launched in 1999. A grant from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture funded the workshop.

Although the 16 participants are all associated with IRMA, they came from a range of institutions: CIMMYT, KART, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya), University of Nairobi, Makerere University (Uganda), and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.

The aim of Writing Week was to provide students with the time and mentorship in order to complete the writing of their papers in preparation for publication. The workshop was designed in part to fill the gaps often left by university training courses in regard to developing writing skills. Coursework regularly focuses on writing for academic audiences, with the principles of readability being neglected. In the short-term, Writing Week aimed to impart the skills necessary to produce papers of a standard equal to that of the research conducted. The long-term goal is that students will use this knowledge to improve their academic record and increase their opportunities for PhD or postdoctoral research. Following the first Writing Week in September 2010, 13 of the participants’ papers were published.

CIMMYT-organized training, such as the Writing Week workshop, not only allows participants to gain new skills, but also to interact with other researchers in their field. “Writing Week is a very good environment to focus on improving the writing of our work, to share our results with the rest of the scientific community, and to obtain honest feedback on our work” says participant Zachary Gitonga.

De Groote also hopes that the Writing Week has a more lasting effect: “the larger goal is always to have the results of their research have an impact beyond the scientific community. To that end, we focus on preparing researchers to publish papers in journals with an impact factor.” Gitonga, who completed an MSc in Applied Economics to Agriculture, and now works with De Groote on performing impact assessments of CIMMYT’s Effective Grain Storage Project, intends for his own research to have a direct effect on the livelihoods of farmers. “Although we are writing our publications generally speaking for the scientific community, my hope is that the findings of the research will influence policy-makers and transfer to a larger audience,” says Gitonga.

All the students who participated in the workshop are passionate not only about research, but how it can benefit the farmers it focuses on. Writing Week recognizes that it is not only valuable to train emerging professionals and researchers from a scientific perspective, but also to enable them to connect with their audiences. “If you help people with science and not with writing and publishing, then you stop before the goal is reached” said De Groote.

MasAgro now core to sustainable agricultural development policy in Puebla, Mexico

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Agronomy, collaborative projects, Conservation Agriculture, Events

Increasing the production of maize and wheat, counteracting the threat of food crises, and addressing the challenges of climate change for agriculture in Mexico: these are the objectives of MasAgro (the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture), a collaborative initiative led by SAGARPA (the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food) and CIMMYT, and officially launched in April this year.

On Tuesday 05 July 2011, Puebla became the first Mexican state to join MasAgro, upon signing an agreement with CIMMYT for joint coordination of the project. The partnership will promote modern agronomic techniques, such as conservation agriculture, and encourage the use of improved seed adapted to high-potential agro-ecological areas.

The signing ceremony was held in the “Edificio de Protocolos” building in the city of Puebla. Rafael Moreno Valle, the State Governor, said that MasAgro Puebla will have a significant impact on the livelihoods of small farmers in the state, with Puebla’s state-level efforts reinforcing those of SAGARPA at the federal level to boost the impact of the program. Moreno Valle said the principal objective of the agreement was for the farmers of Puebla to develop their production capacities and ensure the sustainability of the rural environment, but he was also confident that Puebla would contribute to meeting the global challenge of doubling food production.

For his part, Francisco Mayorga Castañeda, Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, spoke of MasAgro as “the most important agricultural policy of recent years in Mexico.”

Representing CIMMYT at the event were Scott Ferguson, deputy director general for support services, and Bram Govaerts, leader of the Take it to the Farmer component of the MasAgro program. Explaining how MasAgro works in practice, Govaerts mentioned that, to date, CIMMYT has coordinated more than 40 training events in agricultural techniques, attended by more than 3,500 farmers who grow rainfed maize and small grain cereals in the lowland and highland valley regions of Mexico.

Linking breeding, plant genetic resources, and biotechnology in Kazakhstan

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

During 6-14 June 2011, a group of 24 national specialists from different institutions and regions traversed 1,400 kilometers of southeast, south, and southwest Kazakhstan in a travelling seminar organized by CIMMYT on breeding, plant genetic resources (PGR), and biotechnology. The aim was to evaluate the status of those research pursuits in the region, as well as prospects for their development, and to promote innovative technologies. The group visited farms and the region’s leading agricultural research organizations: the Institute of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, the Kazakh Advanced Research Institute for Farming and Crop Production, the Krasnovodopad Agricultural Experimental Station, the Southwest Agricultural Research Center for Livestock and Crop Production, and the Kazakh Advanced Research Institute for Rice Production.

Seminar participants agreed that one of the most important tasks today is to increase crop yields by developing new varieties, mobilizing plant genetic resources, and using advanced biotechnologies—work now hindered by the weak link between biotechnology, breeding, and use of plant genetic resources in the country. Kazakhstan has stronger biotechnology capacity and more extensive plant collections than other Central Asian countries, but studies in those areas are conducted in parallel, without close interaction between breeders and biotechnologists. In most cases, biotechnology and molecular biology methods and developments stay locked away in the lab, with rare use by breeders and only rudimentary application to study, characterize, or use plant genetic resources for breeding.

Use of modern biological methods could significantly speed breeding, raise crop yields, and improve agronomic and economically-valuable traits. With Kazakhstan agriculture being categorized as ”risk farming,” biotechnology could help in breeding high-yielding, stress tolerant crop varieties.

ATMA project 2nd Phase launched

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Agronomy, Announcements, Asia, collaborative projects, Maize

By P.H. Zaidi

The project launch for Phase Two of Abiotic Stress Tolerant Maize for Asia (ATMA) was held at the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of Hohenheim (UH) in Stuttgart, Germany during 30 May-01 June 2011. Phase One of the project, also known by its unabridged name, “Abiotic stress tolerant maize for increasing income and food security among the poor in South and Southeast Asia,” began in 2008 and is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

 The meeting was attended by scientists from collaborating institutions including India’s Directorate of Maize Research (DMR), Vietnam’s National Maize Research Institute (NMRI), the Institute of Plant Breeding at the University of Philippines, the University of Hohemheim (UH), and CIMMYT.

To begin the launch, UH’s Albrecht E. Melchinger welcomed all the participants with a recap of the over 20 years of collaborative research partnership between his institution and CIMMYT. M. Kruse, UH Dean of Studies, then gave an overview of the research activities at the Institute and its current collaborations with CGIAR institutions.

In the opening session, the participants discussed “Target environment and country perspectives,” with special reference to drought and water-logging prone maize growing areas in South and Southeast Asia. This was followed by country profiles during which a representative from each participating country gave an overview of their nation’s progress. tour of the facilities; including farm, seed storage, bio-gas plant, and farm machinery. Participants then visited the UH research station to see ongoing field activities focused on utilizing doubled haploid (DH) technology to advance maize. Participants were excited to learn about DH technique and see UH’s breeding facilities first hand. The meeting proved a wonderful success as the participants revisited the accomplishments of Phase One and solidified plans to make Phase two equally successful. Thanks to everyone who participated! Phase Two was kicked-off with an air of excitement as the meeting recapped the many success of Phase One, such as the development of new germplasm tolerant to drought and water-logging stress, the improvement of crop management strategies specifically tailored to abiotic stress-prone environments, QTL-mapping achievements, and socio-economic progress.

CIMMYT Senior Maize Physiologist P.H. Zaidi then switched the focus to the future of ATMA by discussing the objectives, project activities, outputs and intended project milestones of Phase Two.

The group discussed important components to Phase Two such as the project work-plan, the creation of an ATMA webpage, and the project budget and governance.

The third day was devoted to field visits, in which participants visited Dow Seeds, also in Stuttgart. The visit included a presentation on Dow’s global maize program and a tour of the facilities; including farm, seed storage, bio-gas plant, and farm machinery. Participants then visited the UH research station to see ongoing field activities focused on utilizing doubled haploid (DH) technology to advance maize. Participants were excited to learn about DH technique and see UH’s breeding facilities first hand.

The meeting proved a wonderful success as the participants revisited the accomplishments of Phase One and solidified plans to make Phase two equally successful. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Improved maize varieties for Oaxaca

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Agronomy, collaborative projects, Events, improved seed, Maize

Following on from the story “Improved seed reaches the Pacific” in issue 1750 of the Informa, we would like to recognize the hard work of all those involved in the project “Modernization of maize production in Oaxaca with adapted maize cultivars to increase yields”. The project aims to help farmers in the coastal, Papaloapan and Mixtecas regions of Oaxaca to access and produce improved maize cultivars through a participatory maize breeding (PMB) initiative, and to ensure the in situ conservation of maize diversity. The project was initiated in 2009 and is a collaboration between CIMMYT and the research extension services of the Autonomous University of Chapingo’s South Regional Center (CRUS-UACh) in Oaxaca. It is led by Suketoshi Taba in CIMMYT and Humberto Castro in CRUS-UACh, with the participation of Víctor Chávez of CIMMYT and Eliud Oliva and Iván Vásquez of CRUSUACh, and other staff of both institutions.

Drawing on a diverse gene pool, pre-breeding work at CIMMYT’s maize germplasm bank produced breeder seed of improved open pollinated varieties (OPVs) and inter-variety hybrids (IVHs). Project partners at CRUS-UACh produced declared seed (an intermediate category in the national seed system with less purity than certified seed) of these cultivars and delivered them to farmers, along with promising cultivars from other Mexican institutions and landraces collected from the communities. In addition to evaluation at CIMMYT, many trials, demonstration plots, and seed increase nurseries have been planted in farmers’ fields in different maize-producing regions in Oaxaca. The best-performing cultivars have been increased to make seed available to farmers and to the germplasm banks for conservation and enhancement. Unlike landraces, the improved varieties have genetic traits that allow mechanization and adoption of modern maize production practices, and high yield potentials similar to commercial hybrids.

The PMB approach has captured the attention of many farmers, students, extension workers, and government personnel who have participated in the project. It has proved its worth as an alternative approach to providing useful exotic germplasm to small-scale farmers in Oaxaca, linking them with public maize research and breeding without generating intellectual property rights claims. It can help in the evolution and conservation of local cultivars through crossing with new germplasm by farmer breeders as well as participating researchers. Farmers’ systems of seed exchange within social networks can operate for the adapted cultivars produced through PMB just as they do for other varieties. As a mark of the project’s rapid success, in the last two years 74 tons of seed have been produced and delivered to farmers for grain, forage, and elote (green ear) production.

SIMLESA strengthens project monitoring and evaluation capacity

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Africa, Capacity Building, Events, Maize

SIMLESA strengthens project monitoring and evaluation capacity. A Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya, during 13-17 June 2011 as part of the Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Central Africa (SIMLESA) project. It was facilitated by a team from the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and led by Enock Warinda.

The workshop inspired the development of key M&E frameworks and provided participants with information and tools for better result management. The five-day workshop employed a practical, interactive approach using case studies and analyses of real-life situations. Twentyeight participants were drawn from the SIMLESA country teams of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, plus representatives from CIMMYT.

SIMLESA program leader Mulugetta Mekuria opened the workshop, emphasizing the Program Steering Committee’s recommendation of a standardized M&E protocol. The workshop enhanced participants’ skills to develop the requisite framework, track project progress, and develop effective data-quality-management and performance-monitoring plans. By the end of the workshop, participants had developed action plans for M&E activities in their respective countries.

Tackling complexity in winter wheat

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Agronomy, Capacity Building, Events, Wheat

Winter wheat constitutes a staple food in the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region, where it is grown on around 18 million hectares in wide-ranging cropping systems. It can be found in climates that span cold, dry environments; temperate areas with heavy rainfall; and irrigated, highyielding lands constrained by different biotic and abiotic stresses. These varied landscapes contribute significantly to the grain’s diversity and complexity.

To address the constraints upon and future outlook of this multifaceted crop, wheat researchers convened at the 1st Regional Winter Wheat Symposium on 25-27 June 2011 in Tabriz, Iran. The event drew more than 100 participants from 12 countries in the CWANA region. Held at the El Guli Hotel, the symposium hosted 24 research presentations on winter wheat breeding, agronomy, pathology, genetics, and production.

Activities also included a one-day field visit to farmers’ fields and the Maragheh Research Station, operated by the Dryland Agricultural Research Institute (DARI), in Hashtrood, Iran. The excursion illuminated the production constraints on winter wheat and opportunities for research and development.

The presentations and discussions produced a wealth of dialogue among attendees. By the symposium’s conclusion, participants had developed and agreed upon recommendations to further address national and international issues relating to winter wheat production and research.

The symposium was sponsored and supported by the Dryland Agricultural Research Institute (DARI), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), CIMMYT, the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute (SPII), the Jihad Agriculture Organization of East Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture, and the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO).

CIMMYT to lead global MAIZE alliance as CGIAR enters fifth decade

Written by ccastro on . Posted in Agronomy, Announcements, CGIAR, Maize

A new era began this week with the launch of the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE, a US$170 million global alliance to expand and accelerate research into maize, on 06 July 2011. The announcement was made during a celebration of the CGIAR’s 40th birthday, held at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, marking a new direction for the CGIAR and demonstrating that after four remarkable decades it remains vigorous and committed to addressing emerging challenges.

“This program aims to double the productivity of maize farms, while also making those farms more resilient to climate change and reducing the amount of land used for growing the crop,” said Carlos Perez del Castillo, CGIAR Consortium Board Chair. “As a result, farmers’ incomes are expected to rise and their livelihood opportunities to increase, contributing to rural poverty reduction in developing countries.” Maize is the preferred staple food source for more than 900 million people, including one third of the world’s malnourished children. The program’s first target group is smallholder farmers, among the most vulnerable people in developing countries, particularly those who live in stress-prone environments and have poor market access. Forty million smallholder farm family members are expected to see direct benefits by 2020 and 175 million by 2030.

The program will be implemented by CIMMYT and the International Institute of Tropic Agriculture (IITA), together with over 350 public and private partners worldwide. CIMMYT studies show that the demand for maize in the developing world is expected to double between now and 2050. Meanwhile, agriculture is under pressure from population growth, climate change, and natural resource degradation. Future expansion of maize area will come at the cost of crop diversity, forests, and erodible hill slopes. Fertilizer, water, and labor costs are also rising.

The challenge for MAIZE therefore is to find sustainable ways to grow significantly more maize on less land than ever before. The program is based on nine strategic initiatives, reflecting priorities for maize research. These are: • Socioeconomics and policies for maize futures
• Sustainable intensification and income opportunities for the poor
• Smallholder precision agriculture
• Stress tolerant maize for the poorest
• Towards doubling maize productivity
• Integrated postharvest management • Nutritious maize [bio-fortified varieties]
• Seeds of discovery [mobilizing maize genetic diversity] • New tools and methods for NARS and SMEs

All the strategic initiatives also include capacity building to empower a new generation of women and men scientists. The program is expected to provide enough maize to meet the annual food demands of an additional 135 million consumers by 2020 and 600 million by 2030.

“This is a highly ambitious project to address world hunger,” said Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT Director General. “It will take an enormous amount of work and cooperation between public and private sector institutions to meet the goals. The global challenges facing mankind are immediate and chronic; the time to act is now. Millions of lives depend on our ability to develop sustainable solutions to feed more people with fewer resources than ever before.”

For more information, see the proposal document at: maize-and-wheat-cgiar-programs

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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