The two CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) known as MAIZE and WHEAT and led by CIMMYT are international collaborations involving hundreds of partners worldwide. The MAIZE CRP focuses on increasing production for 900 million poor consumers in Africa, South Asia and Latin America with the overarching goals of doubling maize productivity and increasing incomes and livelihood opportunities from sustainable, maize-based farming systems. WHEAT couples advanced science with field-level research and extension in lower- and middle-income countries, working with public and private organizations to raise the productivity, production and affordable availability of wheat agri-food systems for 2.5 billion resource-poor consumers in 89 countries. Following a successful initial period (2011-2016), both CRPs received CGIAR and donor approval for an additional phase.

WHEAT: One-stop source of productivity, resilience, and farm-level technologies

A total of 48 bread wheat, 10 durum wheat and one winter wheat varieties released by WHEAT partners in 18 developing countries in 2016 were either CIMMYT or ICARDA breeding lines or direct crosses with such lines. In 2016, CIMMYT alone distributed 14.5 tons of seed of experimental wheat lines in 306 shipments to 284 partners in 83 countries. Years of biofortification research and breeding bore fruit in the form of three high-yielding, zinc-enhanced varieties released by partners for use by farmers in South Asia. As part of an emergency response funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, CIMMYT rapidly procured emergency supplies of maize and wheat seed for free distribution to more than 226,000 households in 67 counties of Ethiopia, benefitting more than 1.3 million people whose seed was lost from the drought. A study showed that the Turkey-CIMMYT-ICARDA International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) had contributed to the development and release of 61 varieties sown on some 1.8 million hectares, as of 2016.

GENNOVATE, a cross-CRP initiative focused on gender equality, completed data collection and coded data for 137 case studies on 7,000 rural men and women in 26 countries. Among the preliminary findings for wheat farming systems is that, although women of all ages still lack equal access to education or training, many men in various countries are now seeing the advantages of involving women in farm decisions.

Thanks to the joint efforts of national scientists, farmers, government, cooperation with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank and other international organizations, the wheat area under zero tillage in Kazakhstan increased from virtually none in 2000 to 2.3 million hectares in 2016, providing an additional 0.72 million tons of grain in drought years and contributing to the annual sequestration of about 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide.

MAIZE: High yields, stress tolerance and climate-smart practices

MAIZE made strong progress on both of its research strategies: stress-resilient and nutritious maize and sustainable intensification of maize-based systems. At least 5.6 million hectares were under improved MAIZE-derived technologies or management practices, directly reaching more than 11.4 million smallholder farmers. In total, 111 improved maize varieties, based on germplasm from CIMMYT or the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), were released through MAIZE partners in 2016, including 76 in sub-Saharan Africa, 27 in Latin America and 8 in Asia. In addition to high and stable yield potential, special traits stacked in these varieties include drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, tar spot complex resistance, enhanced protein quality, and resistance to tar spot complex, ear rot, mycotoxin production, and Turcicum leaf blight.

Across South Asia, MAIZE scientists under the Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia project licensed 20 new hybrids to public and private partners and 12 new seed companies, including 5 each from Pakistan and Bangladesh and 2 from Nepal, signed research collaboration agreements to join the project.

MAIZE scientists are promoting climate-smart technologies such as conservation agriculture and drought-tolerant maize varieties to adapt to the negative effects of climate variability and to increase smallholder farmers’ productivity. Malawi maize farmers were able to harvest more in 2016 while spending 35 to 45 fewer days of labor through conservation agriculture farming practices such as direct seeding, in place of conventional ridging and traditional weed control strategies.

MAIZE and WHEAT are grateful to the generous CGIAR Window 2 donors that support their work, including Australia, China, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the United States Agency for International Development, as well as all Window 1 donors: Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, France, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and World Bank. Principal research partners for MAIZE and WHEAT are the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. For more information, visit or

Text: Bianca Beks, G. Michael Listman

Contributors: Hans Braun, Victor Kommerell, B.M. Prasanna, Dave Watson

Photos: Peter Lowe

Graphics: Gerardo Mejía

Editors: Bianca Beks, G. Michael Listman, Julie Mollins, Geneviève Renard

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