Posts Tagged ‘drought tolerance’

Shifting to a demand-led maize improvement agenda

In annual meeting, STMA project partners build on the successes of research in combatting drought, heat, pests and disease. 

By  Jennifer Johnson

STMA meeting participants pose for a group photo at a field day visit to Zamseed seed company, Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: Jerome Bossuet

Partners of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project held their annual meeting May 7–9, 2019, in Lusaka, Zambia, to review the achievements of the past year and to discuss the priorities going forward. Launched in 2016, the STMA project aims to develop multiple stress-tolerant maize varieties for diverse agro-ecologies in sub-Saharan Africa, increase genetic gains for key traits preferred by the smallholders, and make these improved seeds available at scale in the target countries in partnership with local public and private seed sector partners.

News from the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa project

Over 200 million households in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) depend on maize for food security and their well-being, yet maize yields in this region are very low compared to other parts of the world. Maize farmers face drought and other climate stresses, emerging pests and diseases, low soil fertility. The slow adoption of new stress tolerant varieties means farmers are unable to reach their yield potential.

The Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to develop in a cost-effective way multiple stress tolerant varieties, and through partnerships with local public and private seed sector, make these improved seeds available at scale in SSA.

New Manual: Management of drought stress in field phenotyping

by Carolyn Cowan

Since 1900, more than 2 billion people have been affected by drought worldwide, according to the FAO. Drought affects crops by limiting the amount of water available for optimal growth and development, thereby lowering productivity. It is one of the major abiotic stresses responsible for variability in crop yield, driving significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

A new technical manual, “Management of drought stress in field phenotyping,” provides a quantitative approach to drought stress phenotyping in crops that will help to ensure drought screening trials yield accurate and precise data for use by breeding programs. Phenotyping is a procedure vital to the success of crop breeding programs that involves physical assessment of plants for desired traits.

Uncovering the genetic basis of adaptation to drought stress: Jie Xu

Jie Xu received the 2018 MAIZE-Asia Youth Innovators Award from the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) for her work on drought stress in maize root systems. Her work seeks to understand the genetic basis of plant adaptation to drought with a view to applying the findings to breeding drought-tolerant maize. Originally from Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, China, she is an Associate Professor at Sichuan Agricultural University. In a recent interview, she discussed the challenges and opportunities facing maize in Asia, as well as the importance of involving young women in agriculture and maize-based systems.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in maize-based systems?

Jie Xu is an
Associate Professor at Sichuan Agricultural University

I was born in the western rural area of China, where maize is widely cultivated, being one of our favorite crops. When I was a student in Sichuan Agricultural University, I joined the maize research institute for my bachelor’s degree in 2006 and began my maize drought tolerance research under the guidance of my mentor, Prof. Tingzhao Rong. Drought tolerance is a very complex trait – it takes us years to screen the typical tolerant/sensitive inbred lines and construct the suitable research populations.By studying the maize inbred lines, which exhibit different levels of drought tolerance, we explore their genome and transcriptome variations to understand the genetic basis of plant adaptation to drought. This knowledge can then be applied to breeding drought-tolerant maize. However, the more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know and just how complex the drought-tolerance trait is.