Developing maize-breeding methods and cultivars to meet the challenge of climate change (Aug 16)
Abstract: Sustainable maize production will be possible only with the development of the next generation of maize products carrying genetic diversity. This chapter addresses ideas to develop not only unique cultivars but also breeding methodologies to better assist breeders managing genetically complex traits in an efficient and sustainable way.
Intercropping in sustainable maize cultivation (Jul 16)
Abstract: As the level of productivity in sub-Saharan cropping increases, driven by technology adoption, the question whether intercropping should still be promoted over sole cropping is not clear. In this chapter, we review the existing evidence on systems productivity, resource capture and use efficiency, between intercrops and sole crops for maize–legume-dominated cropping systems. Findings indicate that system productivity in intercropping systems is more resource-use efficient and productive particularly in low-yielding environments and production systems, that is, under dryer and inadequate crop nutrition. As the level of resource availability increases, the differences between intercropping and sole cropping are reduced, though still intercropping presents advantages over sole cropping in some of the analysed cases.
Advances in mycotoxin-resistant maize varieties (Feb 16)
Abstract: Depending on the growing environment, maize grains can be infected by one or more ear rot fungi, which may decrease grain yield and quality. Many of them also produce secondary metabolites, known as mycotoxins, which can have serious detrimental effects on humans and animals that consume the infected grain. There are several potential remedial actions that can be taken to prevent the accumulation of mycotoxins in maize grain. In this case study, Aspergillus flavus resistant maize breeding lines were created. It is concluded that of all mycotoxin prevention or mitigation strategies, the use of host plant resistance and the release of stably resistant varieties is the easiest to transfer to the farmer’s fields and is the most economical control measure for all markets.
Getting improved varieties to farmers (December 2012)
A key issue in developing any improved variety is effective dissemination to farmers. Building on the work of the DTMA (Drought-tolerant Maize for Africa) Initiative, CIMMYT is currently developing the Drought-tolerant Maize for Africa Scaling Project (DTMASS) (http://dtma.cimmyt.org/). This will work with local seed companies and other partners in a number of African countries to produce and deliver certified seed to smallholders.
The importance of supporting the seed sector as a key component in the value chain is reflected in the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the National Seed Association of India (NSAB) and the Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (SEAN), announced by CSISA (Cereals System Initiative for South Asia)
(http://csisa.org/). This will help pool resources in R&D, training, seed processing and storage.
Such initiatives reflect the work of projects such as IMAS (Improved Maize for African Soils) which has announced more support for local seed companies in improving operations such seed cleaning, grading and packaging as well as securing adaption by farmers through activities such as demonstration plots, field days, promotional packs, radio and other advertising
Visit the IMAS project website here
Conservation agriculture and maize (December 2012)
Such guidance complements the work of organisations such the IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) which, in a recent strategy review, emphasised the importance of enhancing maize-legume cropping systems (http://www.iita.org/home). It also mirrors the focus of projects such as SIMLESA (Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa) which is now embarking on its second phase, with a focus on sustainable intensification through practices such as zero/minimum tillage, rotations and intercropping (http://simlesa.cimmyt.org/).
Sustainable intensification was also a theme of a recent workshop at the University of Zimbabwe organised by the FACASI (Farm Mechanization and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification) Research Project (http://facasi.act-africa.org/). This covered training in the use and maintenance of two-wheeled tractors designed to alleviate bottlenecks caused by labour-intensive steps in cultivation. This mirrors developments in mini-tillers and other small-scale and more affordable agricultural machinery reported by CSISA (http://csisa.org/).
Dealing with maize lethal necrosis (MLN) (December 2012)
An initial screening of CIMMYT’s gene bank has resulted in five hybrids with some resistance to MLN, including the recently-released hybrid variety Wei 101, jointly developed by CIMMYT, KALRO (Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (http://www.cimmyt.org/en/). The longer-term plan is to develop varieties with full resistance to MLN.
A key challenge is phytosanitary measures to prevent spread of MLN. CIMMYT and the Zimbabwean government have announced the setting up of a quarantine facility for the safe import of maize breeding materials, the first of its kind in southern Africa (http://www.cimmyt.org/en/). This builds on earlier developments such as the setting up of dedicated MLN screening facility in Kenya in 2013.
CIMMYT has also recently produced an eight-page brochure on diagnosis, MLN-free seed production and dissemination, covering such issues as sampling and detection (http://maize.org/). This builds on the first international conference on MLN diagnostics and management in Africa, held in Kenya in May.