EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) — A new annual report highlights the contributions of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and its global network of partners to improving 2014 farm outputs and gaining respite for resource-poor consumers from the threat of food price hikes.
“After alarm bells sounded due to rising food prices in early 2014, the world and particularly poor consumers, who spend much of their income simply to eat, were relieved by a sharp downturn in global food prices over the rest of the year, partly from strong maize and wheat harvests in regions where CIMMYT and its partners work,” said Martin Kropff, CIMMYT director general, upon announcing the publication of “Turning research into impact. CIMMYT annual report 2014.”
As an example of the impacts of CIMMYT’s outputs – more productive and resilient maize and wheat varieties and environmentally-friendly farming practices – the annual report describes a 2014 study by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) of the Chinese Academy of Science, which documents CIMMYT breeding contributions to the pedigrees of more than a quarter of China wheat varieties, enhancing their performance for critical traits and providing additional grain valued at $3.4 billion to China’s wheat output over three decades.
The report also details how former CIMMYT wheat scientist Sanjaya Rajaram, who helped to develop many of the breeding lines used in China, was honored with the 2014 World Food Prize for leading work that resulted in 480 improved wheat varieties sown on more than 58 million hectares in 51 countries.
The award announcement came during the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security in Mexico, an event that brought together over 700 policymakers and representatives of donor agencies and agricultural research-for-development organizations, displaying the depth and breadth of CIMMYT partnerships and those of the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat.
Making maize climate-ready
In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region whose chief staple crop is maize but where unreliable rainfall chronically threatens food security and livelihoods, seed companies produced 52 million tons of drought tolerant maize varieties – enough to sow 2 million hectares – derived from CIMMYT breeding research. These results are being replicated in Asia for drought and heat tolerance and supported by DNA markers and modern phenotyping approaches.
In Mexico, the global center of origin for maize, smallholder farmers are earning premium prices for grain of their native varieties from sales to exclusive Mexican and U.S. restaurants, as one outcome of longstanding center initiatives with national partners to save endangered maize landraces and boost farmers’ profits.
This work is tied to the operations of the CIMMYT germplasm bank, an unparalleled seed library whose staff conserve, study, and share more than 27,000 unique seed collections of maize and 130,000 of wheat, in a continual search for diversity to make higher-yielding, more resilient crop varieties.
Turning science into impact for food security and livelihoods
“Looking to the future for maize and wheat – which together with rice provide more than half the world’s plant-derived food energy – projections hold that farmers will need to grow at least 60 percent more grain to feed a planet of 9 billion-plus people by 2050,” said Kropff. “And they must do so using the same or less land, confronting more extreme and erratic rainfall and temperatures, and with more efficient use of increasingly scarce inputs like water and fertilizer.
“To the millions of maize and wheat farmers who wish to raise their productivity and their families’ food security and livelihoods, our message is simple: CIMMYT is working tirelessly with national research and extension systems, non-government organizations, private companies and many other actors to generate and make available the technology you need.
“To our many partners and funders, without whom none of our work or successes would be possible,” Kropff continued, “we would like to extend our sincere gratitude and ask for your continued support.”