Breeding and Deploying Multiple Stress-Tolerant Maize Varieties in the Tropics


Prasanna BM

Director, Global Maize Program, CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) & OneCGIAR Plant Health Initiative Lead
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Volume 15(Special Issue), 2022   ;   Click here for Pdf



Maize is the key crop for food, feed, and nutritional security of millions of smallholder farmers and consumers in the de[1]veloping world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Asia, and Latin America. CIMMYT and partners have adopted innovative approaches over the last one decade to develop, evaluate, and deliver elite stress-resilient and nutritionally enriched maize varieties with relevant client-preferred traits, especially in the stress-prone tropics. Effective integration of modern breeding tools/strategies, including high-throughput and precision phenotyping, doubled haploid (DH) tech[1]nology, and genomics-assisted breeding, are integral part of these efforts leading to impressive genetic gains, while enhancing the pace, precision, and efficiency of breeding pipelines. Through extensive public-private partnerships, CGIAR-derived climate-resilient and multiple stress-tolerant improved maize varieties are being deployed in over 13 countries in SSA, four countries in South Asia, and several countries across Latin America. Certified seed production of CGIAR-derived improved stress-tolerant maize varieties was estimated to cover approximately 7.2 million hectares in SSA in 2022, reaching an estimated 7.2 million households, and benefitting ~44 million people. In the past five years, a total 20 high-yielding drought + heat stress-tolerant maize hybrids were released in South Asia, including four new hy[1]brids in 2022 – BWMRI-2 in Bangladesh; Rampur Hybrid-12 in Nepal; and IMH-222 and IMH-223 in India. In collabora[1]tion with seed company partners, certified seed production of climate-resilient maize hybrids scaled-up from a baseline of just 70 MT in 2018-19 to 1026 MT in 2021-22, and deployed in about 50,000 hectares in various stress-vulnerable targeted ecologies in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, reaching ~128,200 farm families. Experiences of CIM[1]MYT strongly indicate that besides strengthening the seed sector, adoption of progressive seed laws and regulations, are vital for improving smallholder farmers’ access to climate-resilient improved seed. Policy support and institutional innovations are also required for overcoming key bottlenecks affecting maize seed value chain.