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MasAgro widens research platforms and innovation networks in Mexico

Women-farmers-MasAgroIn 2014, the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) program expanded its rural development and innovation networks to 10 Mexican regions through 50 research platforms and 233 demonstration modules of MasAgro technologies and sustainable agronomic practices.

The project developed by the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture (SAGARPA) and CIMMYT provides a framework that can be replicated to take advantage of research and innovation achievements and which secures returns on investments.

In 2014, SAGARPA invested nearly US $40 million in its partnership with CIMMYT to offer better opportunities to Mexican farmers. Six thousand Mexican farmers participated in over 170 training events across the country. MasAgro also offered more than 40 workshops on the adoption of different technologies and conservation agriculture practices to more than 1,300 farmers actively engaged in the program.

These workshops are adapted to the capacity building needs detected through hubs and cover subjects that include adoption of improved maize, wheat and barley varieties, fertilization diagnosis tools, precision machinery, access to new markets and postharvest technologies.

MasAgro also develops basic maize seed and pre-commercial hybrids. So far the program has delivered more than 15 tons of basic seed to Mexican seed companies. Once multiplied and marketed, this seed will be enough to sow two million hectares.

Bram Govaerts, MasAgro leader, explained that in 2014 the initiative established 21 postharvest trials across Chiapas, the State of Mexico, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Oaxaca and Tlaxcala. These trials were designed to offer local solutions to farmers, including accessible options to store harvested grain and to prevent losses that in some cases can exceed 30 percent of their annual harvest.

He added that MasAgro adapts machinery to the needs of the communities where the program operates and operates and develops multiuse-multicrop implements to reduce production and storage costs for farmers. Last year four “smart” machinery protoypes were developed.

“MasAgro works with farmers who have one or two hectares of land, where they can im-prove their efficiency by using manual seeder-fertilizers, but also with farmers who own larger plots who need precision technology to estimate optimal nitrogen fertilizer doses,” Govaerts explained.

In addition, MasAgro successfully developed 44 integral fertility research protocols to improve soil quality in different production zones, in line with the United Nations Organiza-tion for Food and Agriculture (FAO) Year of Soil for 2015.

The program uses remote sensors to estimate exact doses of nitrogen fertilizer for maize and wheat on some 8,000 hectares throughout Mexico.

The arm that strengthens MasAgro is its conservation agriculture agronomy technicians certified by CIMMYT. Finally, by late 2014, MasAgro-Móvil information service had more than 2,700 users who receive weather and agronomic recommendations from technical experts.