A new variety in the market must have significant value to the farmer, such as higher tolerance to stresses, or added nutritional value. Photo: K. Kaimenyi/CIMMYT
For over 50 years, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), lead center of the CGIAR Research program on Maize (MAIZE), has led the research and development of quality, improved maize seed, designed to help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change while improving livelihoods.
Every new variety released is driven by farmer needs and preferences, with desirable traits such as pest and disease resistance, drought and heat tolerance as well as water and nutrient use efficiency. With improved maize seed, farmers not only benefit from increased stress tolerance, they also enjoy higher yields, increased nutritional value and improved income from grain sales.
“With consistently impressive harvests thanks to DT maize varieties, I’m always assured that my family will have enough food, and I can earn a decent income from selling some grain,” said Piri, a smallholder farmer in Petauke District, Zambia. Photo: CIMMYT/Rodney Lunduka.
Drought-related challenges in Africa call for proactive interventions rather than reactive ones. Every so often a drought hits, jolting the development community into action, and leading to the delivery of food aid to millions of people facing starvation — beneficial efforts in the short term, but futile for achieving lasting change.
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.
CIMMYT maize seed system specialist James Gethi inspects a maize field in Nzega, Tanzania. Photo: Kelah Kaimenyi/CIMMYT.
Maize is not only a staple in diets across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – it is a cash crop that supports millions of farmer households. Maize is grown on over 33 million hectares in just 13 of 48 SSA countries – accounting for 72% of all maize produced in the region. This crop, without a doubt, is king.
However, rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns threaten maize production across the continent. Total crop loss occurs if there’s little or no rainfall at the flowering stage, when maize is most vulnerable. And when temperatures increase, soil moisture is quickly depleted and farmers have to resort to prolonged irrigation, a costly undertaking for smallholders.
Drought-tolerant (DT) maize varieties produce better yields both in good and bad seasons compared to most commercial varieties available in the region. Since 2006, CIMMYT has developed 200 drought-tolerant varieties and hybrids, many of which also possess desirable traits such as resistance to major diseases.