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USAID supports CIMMYT-led partnership for heat resilient maize in South Asia

October 31, 2012

usaid-logo_svgMEXICO CITY, MEXICO (25 October 2012) — CIMMYT announced today that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will support a partnership to develop heat resilient maize (corn) for South Asia. The project will fall under Feed the Future, the US Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and is a partnership led by CIMMYT, involving Purdue University, Pioneer Hi-Bred, and several private sector and national research partners in South Asia.

Demand for maize in South Asia is increasing significantly due to an array of factors, including changing diets and a rapidly growing poultry sector. Maize yields in the major maize-growing South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh) are still below 3 tons per hectare (FAOSTAT, 2011).

“Out of a total of approximately 6 million hectares of hybrid maize grown in South Asia, nearly a million hectares are highly vulnerable to high temperature stress especially during flowering,” said BM Prasanna, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program. “Nearly 80 percent of maize growing area in this region is rain-fed and highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, including drought and high temperatures. At the same time, spring maize has become an important option for intensifying and diversifying cropping systems in South Asia, especially in the upper and middle Indo-Gangetic plains, but the crop is prone to severe heat stress as well.”

CIMMYT, in partnership with the national programs, has been successful in developing drought, low nitrogen or waterlogging stress tolerant maize germplasm suitable for diverse agro-ecologies. However, very little work has been done so far on understanding the physiological and molecular mechanisms associated with heat stress tolerance in maize, and few heat stress tolerant maize cultivars have been developed or deployed. Maize varieties with resilience to key abiotic stresses, especially water deficit and high temperatures, will play an important role in adaptation of the South Asian maize farming communities, especially the smallholders, to the changing climate.

The CIMMYT-led project on “Heat stress resilient maize for South Asia through a public-private partnership” (abbreviated as “HTMA” for “Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia”) has been recently granted by USAID for five years (2012-2017) and US $3,786,080, with matching in-kind support by the public-private alliance. The project brings together public and private institutions based in South Asia with required expertise and complementary strengths. HTMA Project aims to build on the elite, abiotic stress tolerant maize germplasm base of CIMMYT; the technical expertise of key resource partners (CIMMYT, Purdue University and Pioneer Hi-Bred) for applying innovative technologies for accelerated development of climate resilient maize germplasm; the maize breeding and phenotyping locations and strengths of the NARS partners from four target countries in South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan); the seed production capacity, strong linkages to the farming communities, and the market reach of the private sector partners (Pioneer Hi-Bred, Vibha AgriTech, Ajeet Seeds and Kaveri Seeds), for developing and deploying heat stress resilient, high yielding maize hybrids with potential impact on the maize-dependent and climate change vulnerable regions in South Asia.

About the Feed the Future Initiative

The Feed the Future Initiative was established after renewed international commitments to global agriculture made at the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy. So far, Feed the Future has helped 1.8 million food producers to adopt improved technologies or management practices that can lead to more resilient crops, higher yields, and increased incomes. The initiative has also reached nearly 9 million children through nutrition programs, which can prevent and treat undernutrition and improve child survival.

Harnessing scientific innovation and technology in agriculture and nutrition is key to reaching Feed the Future’s core objectives of reducing global hunger, poverty and undernutrition. It is also critical to meeting the global challenges of producing more food with less land and water, improving nutrition, and helping farmers adapt to climate change. Investments under the Feed the Future Research Strategy range from longer-term research to address major global challenges to applied and adaptive research guided by host-country priorities for nearer-term impact.