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Exchange of knowledge at Mexican-based maize molecular breeding course

Over 20 participants from 15 national agricultural research programs convened at CIMMYT-El Batán during 05-16 April 2010 for a maize molecular breeding course. The training presented an overview of recent molecular approaches for maize improvement and how such approaches can be incorporated into current national breeding programs, especially for tropical and subtropical regions. Molecular breeding uses DNA marker technology to aid the efficient and effective incorporation of valuable traits into improved crop cultivars.

“The discussions during the course ranged from basic statistics and quantitative genetics to advanced topics such as association mapping and genome-wide selection,” said Raman Babu, maize molecular breeder and course organizer. These topics were covered by over 20 CIMMYT scientists who shared their expertise throughout the course, which included a day at Agua Fría.

In addition to lectures, participants had the opportunity to test various software programs in hands-on practical sessions. “This training exposed us to the latest technologies, and it will help us use them in our regular research programs back home,” said Senthil Natesan, associate professor of biotechnology at Tamilnadu Agricultural University, India. “The statistical analysis tools such as Fieldbook will be very helpful.” Natesan, who had never been to Mexico before, also added that in addition to the scientific content of the course, that he also enjoyed the weekend travel activities and was impressed by the Mexican culture and people.

Sidney Parentoni from Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, said the course was a good opportunity for face-to-face interactions with CIMMYT staff and fellow agriculturalists, a sentiment expressed by most participants. Countries represented included India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Iran, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and France.

The course closure was attended by Director General Tom Lumpkin, who distributed certifications and program CDs, along with Marianne Bänziger, deputy director of research and partnerships; Boddupalli Prasanna, GMP director; and Wilfred Mwangi, GMP associate director. They urged the participants to organize regional and local training programs to maximize the reach and impact of the course.

“The importance of such training programs by CIMMYT cannot be over-emphasized,” Prasanna said. “I have been an attendee of such training programs myself, way back in 1995, and it helped me build my career as well as a national research program.”

Though course ended on Friday, 16 April, ashy skies over Europe caused the cancellation of several flights, stranding many of the participants in Mexico. Special thanks to everyone for their patience and assistance in rearranging flights and accommodations.