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Planning for the Hybrid Maize Research Consortium

A new consortium for hybrid maize research is scheduled to launch during the summer of 2010. In anticipation, CIMMYT-Asia organized a pre-launch meeting on the campus of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India. Over 40 participants from 27 national, regional, and multinational seed companies attended the meeting on 28 May 2010.

The meeting was structured to initiate partnerships between CIMMYT and private seed companies for the advancement of training, development, and testing for inbred and hybrid maize, which will be a key part of the Hybrid Maize Research Consortium (HMRC). This meeting was a follow-up to a previous awareness meeting held in March.

The day started with a welcome from senior CIMMYT maize breeder B.S. Vivek who explained the objectives of the meeting and introduced the HMRC concept, including three proposed consortium sub-projects: development and distribution of inbred lines, training of personnel, and evaluation of maize hybrids. He was followed by B.M. Prasanna, CIMMYT Global Maize Program (GMP) director, who presented on the GMP and explained the maize mega program. Discussions continued with a presentation on ICRISAT’s experience with private partnerships given by C.L.L Gowda, global theme leader of crop improvement at ICRISAT, and a presentation on pearl millet hybrid parents given by ICRISAT principal scientist K.N. Rai.

The afternoon was also action packed. CIMMYT maize physiologist P.H. Zaidi started off with a presentation on target traits and environments proposed for the HMRC. Participants were then asked to share their own priorities on target traits and to evaluate environments. Vivek concluded the day with an explanation of the proposed structure and organization of the HMRC, including its membership levels and benefits. He said that public sector non-commercial institutions will continue to be able to access germplasm without any restrictions. Also, a draft of a memorandum of agreement for HMRC was distributed, and 25 companies submitted HMRC membership pledges. Participants said they appreciated CIMMYT’s work in initiating the HMRC and that they hope it will serve as a platform for strengthening their maize breeding programs.