Despite being the fourth most important crop in Afghanistan (covering about 6.5% of the total cereal area of the country and accounting for about 6.8% of the total cereal production), maize has not been given enough attention by the national research system. As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) has identified maize as one of the country’s priority crops and has set up a department focusing on maize, barley, and rice under the Directorate of Cereal Development. To further support maize research in the country, the first national maize research workshop was organized in April 2012 to assess the situation and identify future goals. This workshop was followed up by training on maize research methodologies (germplasm characterization, agronomic standards) during 28-29 August 2012 at Badam Bagh research station of the Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA).
The training was attended by 45 participants from Japan International Cooperation Agency, International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Food and Agriculture Organization, Afghan National Seed Organization, Joint Development Associates, Volunteers Economic Growth Alliance, and MAIL departments (ARIA, Plant Protection & Quarantine Department, Directorate of Cereal Development, and Directorate of Extension). The training was inaugurated by Hukum Khan Habibi, Director General of Extension and Research, MAIL, who thanked CIMMYT for the timely action on workshop recommendations and encouraged researchers to expedite development of region-specific agronomic practices for use by extension workers. Rajiv Sharma, CLO, CIMMYT-Afghanistan, informed the group that a trial on maize hybrids has been introduced for 2012, and requested production of sufficient quantities of maize breeder seed to meet market needs.
The training was conducted by Saeed Khavari Khorasani, maize breeder at the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute, Mashaad, Iran. The trainees expressed satisfaction with the sessions and were eager to get to the field to translate into action what they learnt during the program.