The passing of one of CIMMYT's Distinguished Scientists

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Announcements, Maize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative partnerships boost livestock-maize systems in eastern Africa

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Maize

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

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

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

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

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

Socioeconomics Program (SEP) Strategy Meeting

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seed Warriors – film

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Audio-Video Media & IT

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

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

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

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

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


El Batán Christmas party and 2009 staff recognitions

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

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

Staff recognitions for years of service 2009:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Chair of CGIAR Consortium

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

Teosinte monitoring trip

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

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

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

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

New CIMMYT publication explores maize molecular diversity

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

A team of 18 scientists coordinated by CIMMYT recently published a paper that explores genetic diversity among 770 inbred maize lines. “Molecular characterization of global maize breeding germplasm based on genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)” was published in the December print issue of Theoretical Applied Genetics.

“This paper is a clear example of strong international cooperation and it shows the importance of the well established network led by CIMMYT,” said Sidney Parentoni, co-author and maize breeder from Embrapa Maize and Sorghum, Brazil.

The collaborating scientists from five countries used 1,034 SNP markers to discover general molecular similarities and differences among select maize lines. This is done by looking at areas on DNA that are known to vary among members of the same species; for a SNP this refers to the difference of a single nucleotide. The work resulted in millions of new data point across the 770 maize lines.

“The published research provides significant new information for maize genetic improvement including germplasm classification, heterotic grouping, and genetic differences between tropical and temperate, yellow and white, and fl int and dent maize germplasm,” said Yunbi Xu, project leader and CIMMYT maize molecular breeder, adding that the use of so many lines and markers makes the 23-page publication the largest study of its kind. Another major CIMMYT contributor was Yanli Lu, the paper’s first author (pictured above). Lu is a CIMMYT consultant who will receive her Ph.D. from Sichuan Agricultural University of China next year.

The paper and research were made possible by the use of SNP markers previously identified by non-CIMMYT related authors. This work, along with recent publications in the magazine Science documenting an improved sequence of the maize genome and the first haplotype map of maize, is an essential asset to help maize breeders use diverse germplasm and begin to implement genome-wide selection.

“The availability of genotypic information and the rapidly falling cost of genotyping are paving the way for genome-wide molecular breeding for maize at CIMMYT,” said Gary Atlin, associate director of the Global Maize Program.

Two additional papers that further examine the selected inbred maize lines are currently in the works: one on association mapping and the other on linkage mapping.

Student visit

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Agronomy, Visits to CIMMYT

CA-studentsNearly 20 Mexican students from the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de San Miguel el Grande in Oaxaca visited CIMMYTEl Batán on 01 December 2009. Hosted by the Global Conservation Agriculture (CA) Program, the students spent half a day at the center learning about CA practices, CIMMYT, and Norman Borlaug. The day included a tour of the germplasm bank and experimental fields. “Several of the students were from marginalized communities, and with training, they have the capacity to be CA promoters and technicians in these vital areas,” said Andrea Chocobar, a member of CIMMYT CA team. Also assisting in the event were Víctor Chávez Tovar, Caritina Durán, Ricardo Romero, and Humberto González.

Chinese visitors seek partnerships in conservation agriculture

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Agronomy, Capacity Building

ObregonA delegation of eight scientists from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and China Agricultural University (CAU), Beijing, arrived in Mexico on 28 November and traveled the following day to Ciudad Obregón. They spent three days touring the Yaqui Valley to learn about activities in CIMMYT’s northern Mexico conservation agriculture (CA) hub. On 01 December, they returned to El Batán to familiarize themselves with CA activities there, until their departure for China on 03 December. Their visit is associated with efforts to develop new collaborative activities between CIMMYT and relevant Chinese institutions to generate and promote locally-adapted CA cropping practices for major Chinese maize and wheat production systems.

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: Scott Mall. Reserved Right for Exclusive Use granted by the Mexican Copyright Office (valid in Mexico) no. 04-2013-091212312700-203. Responsible for updating this blog: Carissa Wodehouse, communications officer, Km. 45 Carretera México -Veracruz, El Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México. C. P. 56150, México. Weekly update. © CIMMYT 2014.

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