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CIMMYT scientists win awards

Norman Borlaug opened the Crop Science Society of America annual meetings in New Orleans with an inspirational speech on 5 November 2007. Also at this meeting, the Crop Science Journal awarded CIMMYT scientists Jorge Franco, José Crossa, Marilyn Warburton, and Suketoshi Taba the Crop Science C8 Outstanding Paper Award.

Their paper is titled: “Sampling strategies for conserving maize diversity when forming core subsets using genetic markers.” Tens of thousands of seed samples, known as “accessions,” are stored in CIMMYT’s maize germplasm bank. By grouping similar accessions for a particular maize race and applying advanced statistics, scientists can assemble a useful subset that contains only one-fifth of the total accessions for that race. For example, there are over 1,500 accessions in the collections for the Tuxpeño maize race. Using the techniques described in the paper, researchers can identify 300 that provide breeders close to 100% of the allelic diversity in the Tuxpeño collection. “CIMMYT leads the world in expertise and scientific rigor in the use of statistics to get a representative subset of seeds from a collection, based on data including molecular markers,” says CIMMYT molecular geneticist Warburton. Working with a smaller number of accessions facilitates breeding, testing, and germplasm bank use, according to Crossa, Head of Biometrics and Statistics at CIMMYT. “Our research aims to get the most diverse core subset possible. It can also be applied to all other crops” he says.

The CSA also recognized the ongoing contributions of Ravi Singh to develop rust resistant wheat. Singh, a CIMMYT distinguished scientist, was awarded the prestigious International Service in Crop Science Award. Wheat germplasm deriving from his work is part of the pedigrees of 170 cultivars sown on an estimated 26 million hectares or more in developing countries. Singh has developed some of the highest-yielding and widely-adapted CIMMYT-spring wheat germplasm that also features high levels of durable resistance to both leaf and yellow rusts.