Targeting tar spot complex disease in Latin America
A fungal maize disease known as tar spot complex (TSC) is decimating yields across southern Mexico and Central and South America, threatening local food security and livelihoods. In a rapid response to this emerging disease threat, MAIZE researchers have rolled out an integrated control strategy that relies on resistant varieties – the most economical and environmentally friendly option for the region´s smallholder maize farmers.
Moving high-tech to the field in developing countries
The world’s growing population and changing climate pose a difficult challenge to agriculture—how can farmers and breeders increase yields while conserving resources and limiting negative impacts on the environment? MAIZE scientists and partners are working to tackle this complex issue by bringing cutting-edge technology into farmers’ fields and national research centers across the globe, to develop accurate data and recommendations on resource use in agriculture.
Impact through innovation
The process of innovation in agriculture does not occur in a vacuum, but rather in a diverse community of actors and environments that affect its final form and outcome. MAIZE supports 168 Innovation Platforms (IPs) and other multi-stakeholder interaction mechanisms across Africa, South Asia and Latin America, fostering interaction and joint work among the maize agrifood system actors, with the aim to facilitate positive change.
Breeder-ready markers for key traits and genomics-assisted maize breeding
Molecular markers, used in molecular biology and biotechnology to identify a particular sequence of DNA in a pool of unknown DNA, are now basic tools for any modern crop breeding program. Together with doubled haploid technology (which cuts by half the time required for variety development), they bring about a paradigm shift in maize improvement. MAIZE scientists made tremendous progress this year in terms of discovery, validation, and deployment of molecular markers for traits that are important for smallholder production.
Beating the heat in South Asia
In the face of temperature increases caused by climate change, South Asia´s vast and growing maize sector urgently needs heat-tolerant maize varieties. To help guide this work, MAIZE researchers used climate data obtained from the CMIP5 database (a database providing a framework for coordinated climate change experiments) to identify current and future hotspots in the region.
Crowning the success of drought-tolerant maize breeding
The Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project has contributed to a stronger food system in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, through more than 200 improved maize varieties to help farmers cope with climate change and low-fertility soils. DTMA varieties include hybrids that yield, on average, 15 percent more than widely grown commercial hybrids, giving farmers much higher yield regardless of climatic constraints – in good years or in bad years. DTMA has benefited from, and drawn on, rich partnerships with private and public institutions.
Getting the upper hand on aflatoxin
Aflatoxins, invisible, tasteless poisons produced by Aspergillus flavus, a mold commonly found infecting crops such as maize and groundnuts, both in the field and in storage, pose a major threat to public health and grain trade in Africa. While acute exposure to aflatoxins can kill, prolonged exposure leads to impeded growth, liver disease, immune suppression and cancer, with women, children and the poor most vulnerable. Aflatoxins also impact international trade, with African economies losing $450 million every year from barred exports. In a major effort to counter aflatoxins, capacity to produce the Aflasafe™ family of effective biocontrol products was expanded to meet increasing demand.
Fighting the spread of maize lethal necrosis together with our partners
Maize lethal necrosis (MLN) continued causing serious damage to maize production in Kenya, where the disease was first reported in 2011. According to the US Department of Agriculture, losses amounted to 10 percent in 2014/2015, with a value exceeding $50 million. The presence of the disease was also confirmed in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. In response, MAIZE and its partners have put in place a comprehensive solution that benefits the millions of consumers and smallholders already affected, while also shielding those in the path of disease spread.
Highlighting MAIZE gender research
In 2015, MAIZE continued strategic and integrated gender research in a number of areas. The CRP supported the comparative study on Gender Matters in Small-scale Mechanization as well as a four- country (Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) comparative gender analysis of hermetic grain storage technologies in eastern and southern Africa. In these same regions, an interdisciplinary team of MAIZE researchers collaborated in the review of gender and conservation agriculture.