Frequent germplasm exchange between the Americas, Africa and Asia made maize the crop it is today. At one point in 2005, Brazilian elite breeding material was crossed with local Thai varieties, creating a breeding line that spread throughout Asia and even returned to predominate in southern USA.
For Walter Trevisan, Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) Steering Committee Chair, the transnational history of maize breeding offers several important lessons for maize breeders today.
Maize is rapidly emerging as a key crop in Asian food systems. 70 percent of the maize harvest in Asia feeds the prodigious growth of the livestock sector, showing that maize is central to growing prosperity and changing lifestyles in the continent.
To accelerate the breeding cycle and continually develop the improved wheat varieties needed to meet global needs, novel approaches are needed to extend conventional selection methods, said Dr. Jesse Poland, an assistant professor at Kansas State University and director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics, in his presentation on “Genomic Selection and Precision Phenotyping” at the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security.
However, each new technology can only be effective in combination with others, meaning that the disciplines of genetics, physiology, engineering and bioinformatics must come together in order to advance on the fundamental concepts of breeding established by Dr. Norman Borlaug more than 50 years ago.
Efforts to improve the productivity and production of maize in DR Congo have received a boost as trials across the various agroecological zones in that country show promising results.
Dr Silvestro Meseka, IITA Maize Breeder who is back from the field, reports that the results are the product of a collaborative research project on the introduction of improved maize hybrids and varieties that was initiated by IITA in early February 2013 under the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE. First, two senior technicians were invited and trained after which hybrid and variety trials of different maturity groups for evaluation at Mvuazi (Bas Congo), Kipopo (Katanga), and Ngandajika (Kasai- Oriental) were deployed.
According to him, the main purpose of this research was to evaluate and identify high-yielding, adaptable maize hybrids and varieties for release to farmers that will contribute to food security as well as increase income of maize-growing smallholders in DR Congo.