Drought tolerant maize provides extra 9 months of food for farming families

Farmer Joyce Mapeto shucks maize after harvesting her crop in in Pindukai village, Shamva district, Zimbabwe. Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT

A new study from scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows that drought tolerant (DT) maize varieties can provide farming families in Zimbabwe an extra 9 months of food at no additional cost. As climate change related weather events such as variable rainfall and drought continue to impact the southern African nation at an increasing rate, these varieties could provide a valuable safety net for farmers and consumers.

Second-generation haploid inducers: Now available

The second generation of tropically adapted haploid inducers developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are now available for use by interested breeders and institutions.

Haploid inducers are a specially developed maize genetic stock that are used to develop doubled haploid (DH) maize lines. DH maize lines are highly uniform, genetically pure and stable, making the maize breeding process more intuitive and efficient by simplifying logistics.

Zimbabwe enacts new strategy in fall armyworm fight

CIMMYT maize breeder Thokozile Ndhlela (left, and farmer Otilia Chirova of Mutoko district in Mashonaland East province, identifying the fall armyworm in Chirova’s field in February. Chirova eventually lost almost half of her entire maize crop. Photo: J. Siamachira/CIMMYT.

Smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe’s rural areas have grown maize for years both as a staple and as a resource to boost their economy.

However, Zimbabwean farmers rely predominately on rain-fed maize farming, making each planting season a gamble with nature as poor rainfall, pests and diseases constantly threaten this staple crop and farmer livelihoods.

As most smallholders tried to recover from the El Niño-induced drought in southern Africa, affecting 40 million people during the 2015-2016 farming season, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, nothing could have prepared them for the sudden invasion of the fall armyworm in September 2016 that caused irreversible damage on their maize crop.