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The Word on Wheat

June, 2005
Farmers talk: The human face of CIMMYT wheat

I’m helping to select for CIMMYT wheat on my farm, which has actual production conditions. This way I have the opportunity to see with my own eyes how varieties perform and then I can choose the good ones. This year there are 160 different wheat lines on my farm—I can see the good ones and so can other farmers.”

-Viktor Surayev, Kazakh farmer

“Our wheat looks better than our neighbor’s crops, probably due to the new wheat we planted.”

-Shodi Mirzobedov, Tajikistan

“A lot of people say good things, but CIMMYT says and does good things. They don’t just show and talk about the technologies. They do more than just demonstrate them in the field, they get down on the ground, get under the planters, and change and adjust the adapted planting units.”

-Darynov Auezkhaz, Kazakhstan Farmers Union

“Previously we had no linkages with agencies or persons to obtain knowledge or information. We used to grow only the old varieties—we sowed the same seed for ten years! Now we are looking to diversify and intensify farming to get more cash.”

-Anil Singh, farmer from Karhat Village, eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, who has launched a successful seed enterprise using CIMMYT-derived wheat varieties.

In participatory varietal selection in several villages of Nepal, the choice of both men and women farmers was the recently released, CIMMYT-derived variety BL-1473. Farmers like the one here liked its ability to stand up under a full head of grain, the large, white grains it produces, its abundant straw yield, and its rapid growth. As a result, Nepal’s public seed enterprise is hastening production of BL-1473 to make the seed available to farmers.

A new study reports on the extensive use and benefits of CIMMYT wheat.

The advantage is clear: the use of CIMMYT wheat creates enormous benefits for those who grow them. Even by conservative estimates, every US $1 invested in wheat research by CIMMYT generates at least US $50 for those involved in growing CIMMYT-related wheats. According to the publication, Impacts of International Wheat Breeding Research in the Developing World, 1988-2002, farmers sowed CIMMYT-improved varieties on 62 million hectares in 2002.

“This report reaffirms the major contributions of CIMMYT wheat around the world, including areas of smallholder, resource-poor farmers,” says John Dixon, director of CIMMYT’s Impacts Targeting and Assessment Program. Farmers in developing countries yield 14 million more tons of wheat per year because of international wheat breeding research. In addition, 80% of wheat grown in developing countries has CIMMYT wheat in its family tree.

Because this report documents the successful adoption of modern wheat lines, policy-makers will be able to assess progress and set priorities for future research investment. Its conclusions support those found in two earlier studies, and the coverage extends to include many countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, more than 75% of wheat marketed by private companies has CIMMYT ancestry. Widespread adoption of CIMMYT lines reflects the extensive use of partnerships and networks with other breeding programs to reach farmers with relevant varieties. This adoption and the subsequent higher on-farm yields generate enormous benefits for farmers, enhancing their food security and livelihoods (see box)—a central part of CIMMYT’s mission.

Check out our website to order this publication and click here to view a research summary of this report. (PDF)