The 3rd annual Farmer Field Day events held by the CIMMYT maize germplasm bank in December 2016 have proved that highland maize varieties from CIMMYT’s collection can perform well in farmers’ fields, even without inputs such as irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides. This was the first time the maize bank field days were held outside of a CIMMYT experimental station.
When the maize germplasm bank began using CIMMYT’s experimental station in Toluca, Mexico in 2014 to regenerate highland maize varieties from the bank’s Andean and Central American highland collections, they noticed that local farmers did not have access to improved maize varieties adapted to high altitudes. “We came here and realized that local producers were planting unimproved native varieties and weren’t always achieving good yields, which made me wonder: ‘What ever happened to the improved varieties that were developed specifically for highland regions?’” said Denise Costich, head of CIMMYT’s maize germplasm bank. “What if we could take our highland materials from the germplasm bank and use them to help local farmers?”
The bank organized its first annual farmer field day at the CIMMYT Toluca experimental station with the State of Mexico’s Agricultural Research and Extension Agency (ICAMEX) in November 2014 to introduce local farmers to high altitude varieties held in the CIMMYT collection.
“My father has always farmed his own maize landrace varieties, but some years were so bad he barely harvested anything. Since I work at CIMMYT, I decided to ask the genebank for a maize variety that would work better for my father,” said Carmen Corona, a database administrator in the Seed Health Laboratory at CIMMYT and daughter of farmer Lucas Corona who lent his land for a demonstration. “The varieties performed very well and look to be excellent options for farmers in this region.”
Local farmers agreed. “Our traditional maize varieties are not performing as well as they used to here, perhaps because of climate change. Many people here have stopped planting maize because the yields have been so low,” said Juan Reyes Elizalde, a local farmer from Santa Catarina del Monte. “But now that I’ve seen the success of the CIMMYT varieties planted here I would be very interested in planting them, especially the popcorn varieties.”