By Matthew O’Leary
Listen to a podcast of CIMMYT maize breeder Biswanath Das discussing the importance of adapting maize breeding and seed systems to climate change here.
Investment in accelerating the adaptation of maize breeding and seed systems to climate change is needed a new report finds. Photo: Peter Lowe/ CIMMYT
Breeding and seed systems must be adapted to survive projected climate change if major loss of maize yields is to be avoided, a new report shows.
Tools that forecast the response of crops to different weather and climate conditions, coupled with crop yield modeling have enabled agricultural scientists to predict and formulate plans for potential future climate change.
By Yassir Islam
Guest blogger from HarvestPlus
Only 20 years ago, the idea that maize could reduce vitamin A deficiency (VAD) would have been summarily dismissed. Agricultural scientists were focused on increasing yields and developing more robust varieties that could withstand the constant assault of new pests and diseases. The idea of making maize and other staple food crops more nutritious by breeding in vitamins and minerals, a process called biofortification, was a novel concept. However, with the launch of HarvestPlus in 2003, a collaborative research partnership was launched to bring together scientists across disciplines in an effort to reduce hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies. One of the fruits of this partnership were the world’s first “orange” maize varieties rich in vitamin A. This ‘orange’ vitamin A maize has been conventionally bred to provide higher levels of provitamin A carotenoids, a naturally occurring plant pigment also found in many orange foods such as mangoes, carrots and pumpkins, that the body then converts into vitamin A.
In South Asia, 90 percent of smallholder farmers using fertilizer do not achieve optimum crop yields due to a lack of access to soil testing services. In response to this information gap, the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) South Asia Program developed the Nutrient Expert® decision support tools in partnership with MAIZE CRP to provide location-specific fertilizer recommendations for farmers growing maize and wheat.
In February 2014, the tool received the award for Best Innovation at the Bihar Innovation Forum II, which recognizes innovations to improve rural livelihoods in India. Nutrient Expert® is the product of close collaboration with key partners such as national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), seed and fertilizer industries, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ and women’s self-help clubs in India.