2015 Annual Report

Message from the CRP MAIZE Director

B.M. Prasanna

2015 marked a year of exciting advances in scientific research and strengthened partnerships for the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE). Sixty-four improved maize varieties, based on CIMMYT/IITA germplasm, were released through MAIZE partners in 2015, including 44 in sub-Saharan Africa, 13 in Latin America, and 7 in Asia. In addition to high and stable yield potential, some of the special traits stacked in these varieties include drought tolerance, heat tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, enhanced protein quality, and resistance to diseases such as tar spot complex, turcicum leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and maize streak virus (MSV), as well as tolerance to the parasitic weed Striga.

Map of varieties commercialized by MAIZE partners in 2015, with special traits shown per variety. *Provitamin-A enriched varieties based on MAIZE germplasm were released under Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) in 2015.

The MAIZE team worldwide made tremendous progress in 2015 in various spheres, from the sustainable intensification of maize-based systems to the breeding, release and deployment of stress resilient and nutritious maize. National research organizations and seed companies took advantage of the maize lethal necrosis (MLN) Screening Facility at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)-Naivasha to have 10,790 germplasm entries screened for the disease under artificial inoculation, identifying several MLN-tolerant/resistant inbred lines and pre-commercial hybrids.

Great advances were made in the discovery, validation, and deployment of molecular markers for traits that are important for smallholder production. The maize doubled haploid (DH) facility at Kiboko, Kenya, developed nearly 60,000 DH lines from Africa-adapted genetic backgrounds. Nearly 33,000 DH lines were screened for resistance to MSV using a validated resistance haplotype.

In India and Nepal, Nutrient Expert®, developed through a MAIZE-funded partnership between CIMMYT and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), has become widely recognized as a major climate-smart decision support system for raising yield while optimizing nutrient use.

Our researchers work to ensure that this scientific innovation is translated into enhanced impact for the millions of smallholder farmers and consumers who are the heart of our work at MAIZE. Over 7 million hectares were planted with improved MAIZE-derived technologies or management practices in 2015 as a result of CRP research, directly reaching more than 18 million smallholder farm families worldwide.

The above highlights were only a few of the successes of MAIZE in 2015. The progress and impacts MAIZE has been making in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America would not be possible without the support of our donors and an array of public and private sector partners working in strong collaboration with the MAIZE team at the lead Centers CIMMYT and IITA. We extend our deepest thanks to all who are involved in the implementation of MAIZE for their commitment and hard work.

B.M. Prasanna,

Director, CGIAR Research Program MAIZE

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.

The CGIAR Research Program on MAIZE (MAIZE) is an international collaboration between more than 300 partners that seeks to mobilize global resources in maize research and development to achieve a greater strategic impact on maize-based farming systems in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

Led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as its main CGIAR partner, MAIZE focuses on increasing maize production for the 900 million poor consumers for whom maize is a staple food in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. MAIZE’s overarching goal is to double maize productivity and increase incomes and livelihood opportunities from sustainable maize-based farming systems.

Writers/Editors: Bianca Beks, Jennifer Johnson, Nathan Russell, Dave Watson

Contributors: Tsedeke Abate, Jens Andersson, Lone Badstue, Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, Yoseph Beyene, Jill Cairns, Bruno Gérard, Jeroen Groot, Sudha Krishnan Nair, Aleksandre Loladze, Terry Molnar, Mike Olsen, B.M. Prasanna, Felix San Vicente, Brenda Wawa, Martha Willcox, Mariana Wongtschowski, P.H. Zaidi

Photos: J.L. Araus/University of Barcelona, M. DeFreese, Jennifer Johnson, Andreas Krappweis, Peter Lowe, G. Mahuku, Florence Sipalla, P.H. Zaidi, IITA and CIMMYT archives

Infographics and maps: Gerardo Mejia, Sam Storr

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