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MasAgro-Maize partners attend maize germplasm development and evaluation course

October 27, 2014

From 22-26 September, MasAgro-Maize partners and representatives from national seed companies and the University of Guadalajara (UdG) attended a Maize Germplasm Development and Evaluation course. Attendees met with CIMMYT’s maize breeders, experts and scientists, as well as invited lecturers. The course was organized by the Global Maize Program and included an exhibit of maize germplasm developed for Mexico’s different agro-climatic conditions.

Florencio Recéndiz Hurtado, UdG academic coordinator, opened the course with a presentation on the importance of improved maize germplasm and the various methods involved in its development. CIMMYT’s maize breeders José Luis Torres, Thanda Dhliwayo and Félix San Vicente presented on parental line and hybrid development methods and evaluation techniques in the highlands, subtropical and tropical lowlands respectively.

CIMMYT distinguished scientist Surinder Vasal (co-winner of the 2000 World Food Prize for his work on quality protein maize) shared his extensive experience and made some recommendations on maize hybrid breeding and evaluation. During field tours of experimental stations at El Batán, Tlaltizapán and Agua Fría, attendees also saw first-hand the results from improved materials.

Vijay Chaikam, CIMMYT doubled haploid (DH) specialist, who coordinated the training course, explained the advantages of DH technology in maize breeding. During a tour of the Maize Nutrition Quality Laboratory, Natalia Palacios, head of the laboratory, explained the process to improve maize nutrition quality, as well as the different methods to evaluate nutritional quality. Carlos De León, maize pathologist from the Colegio de Posgraduados, focused on the most important maize diseases and the more susceptible materials. Physiologist Samuel Trachsel presented on physiological approaches to maize improvement, while maize molecular breeder Gordon Huestis and maize genomic selection breeder Xuecai Zhang highlighted the importance of molecular markers and genomic selection.

Speaking about the course, Arturo Silva Hinojosa, MasAgro leader of the Strategy to Increase Maize Yields, said: “The difference between countries with low or high maize yield, is that those with high yields use a considerable percentage of hybrids.” In the Mexican states where more hybrids are sown, farmers harvest 11 million tons (50 percent of the national production). Silva Hinojosa also said, “We have to increase crop yields by convincing farmers to convert from using open-pollinated varieties to hybrids, so that we make our seed industry more competitive and give farmers access to high-quality and certified seeds. We want the hybrids produced by MasAgro to meet these specifications during their production and commercialization.”

At the end of the course, Félix San Vicente invited participants to observe a moment of silence for Dr. Alejandro Ortega and Dr. Fidel Márquez, who made great contributions to maize breeding in México and passed away this year.

Participants thanked the organizers for the opportunity to learn about the themes included in the course and said they were keen to use their knowledge in the work place.