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Visiting CIMMYT-Kenya to improve competency in breeding insect-resistant maize

During 1-8 July 2012, scientists from Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania visited CIMMYT-Kenya to get hands-on experience in developing insect-resistant maize using conventional approaches. Among the visiting scientists were Patrick Paulo (Meru Agro Seed Company, Tanzania), Charles Makangala (Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Tanzania), Pedro Fato (National Institute of Agronomic Research (IIAM), Mozambique), Sheila Juma (IIAM-Chokwe), and Charles Singano and Kesbell Kaonga (both from the Ministry of Agriculture, Malawi).

The visit was organized and facilitated by the Insect Resistance Maize for Africa (IRMA Conventional III) project and focused on management of stem borer pests in maize production, breeding for resistance to stem borers and postharvest pests, and mass rearing of stem borer pests for use in a practical maize breeding program. Stephen Mugo, CIMMYT principal scientist/maize breeder and IRMA project coordinator, noted that the visit provided a forum to share experiences in mass rearing, breeding, and pest control among participating countries. “The visit was a great opportunity for the visiting scientists to learn about improving the quality of phenotyping data for insect resistance, and thus increase breeding gains,” said B.M. Prasanna, Global Maize Program director.

To understand how mass rearing facility is set up, equipped, and managed, the scientists visited a functional stem borer insectary at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)-Katumani, Machakos. They also visited IRMA field trials at KARI’s Kiboko and Embu research stations to observe stem borer trials and nurseries, as well as trials for storage pests and scoring of leaf damage by stem borers.

A visit to a postharvest pest resistance screening facility at Kiboko provided an opportunity to carry out a sample analysis for maize weevils and larger grain borers, scoring in the multiple choice trial on maize cob damage, and artificial infestation using the borer Chilo partellus. Tadele Tefera, CIMMYT scientist/ entomologist, facilitated the field and lab practices.

Paulo called the visit an “eyeopener” and a great learning opportunity for the visiting scientists. “I have improved my knowledge on breeding for insect resistance and improved my skills in scoring techniques and insect mass rearing,” added Makangala. Mugo called on the scientists to use their newly acquired knowledge, as well as technologies, to improve livelihoods of the people in their countries by reducing losses due to pests.