Participants visit CIMMYT maize trials during the traveling seminar. Photo: M. Waheed Anwar/CIMMYT-Pakistan
Pakistan’s maize sector is heavily dependent on imported hybrid seed, which accounts for 85-90% of the annual seed supply. Such huge imports not only cost the country about US$ 50 million every year, but also mean that Pakistani maize farmers have to pay US$ 6-8 per kg for hybrid seed, depending on the variety and the availability of seed on the market. Availability and affordability of quality seed of widely adapted maize varieties are the key to unlocking the production and productivity potential of maize, Pakistan’s third most important cereal crop.
To address this issue, which is a priority of the government of Pakistan, CIMMYT is conducting maize intervention activities under the Agricultural Innovation Program for Pakistan (AIP), a USAID-funded project. Under the AIP program, CIMMYT has introduced more than 700 diverse maize lines from its regional breeding hubs in Colombia, Mexico and Zimbabwe, and has evaluated them under Pakistan’s diverse ecologies since early 2014.
The germplasm consists of hybrids and open-pollinated varieties with enhanced nutrient content (quality protein maize and varieties enriched with pro-vitamin A) and wide adaptation that have consistently performed well over the past three seasons.
Discussion on CIMMYT maize germplasm at a private seed company research station. Photo: M. Waheed Anwar/CIMMYT-Pakistan
Based on the performance of the materials, CIMMYT, in partnership with Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), organized a traveling seminar to give stakeholders the chance to evaluate the performance of CIMMYT maize germplasm in Punjab Province. The evaluation focused mainly on spring maize and took place on 15-17 June 2015. Experts from 12 public and private institutions (including seed companies, agricultural universities and public research institutions) evaluated the performance of the materials at different sites across the province.
The event also gave stakeholders the opportunity to share their trial management and field data recording experience. Participants thanked CIMMYT and PARC for creating such a unique platform where stakeholders showcased their activities and discussed and shared information on how CIMMYT materials perform across the different sites. According to AbduRahman Beshir, CIMMYT-Pakistan maize improvement and seed systems specialist, “When we first introduced the range of CIMMYT maize hybrids and OPVs in early 2014, we were not sure how they would perform, particularly in harsh environments where the temperature often exceeds 40 0C.” He added that after such an aggressive intervention, CIMMYT is now at the product allocation phase based on partners’ selection and requests. Today it is clear that CIMMYT has much to offer its Pakistani partners not only in their efforts to produce hybrid seed locally and achieve self-sufficiency, but also to enhance local maize breeding programs through enriched gene pools.