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Feb 17, 2010

CIMMYT's IMAS Project - Improved Maize for African Soils

CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center has announced that it will head up a new project in sub-Saharan Africa entitled the "Improved Maize for African Soils Project" (IMAS).

IMAS is a project that will be funded with public and private funds.  This included US$19.5 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. Other partners include DuPont, Pioneer Hi-Bred, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC)At a briefing for local journalists, a group of public and private agriculture organizations today announced an alliance that will improve food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa by creating and sharing new maize varieties that use fertilizer more efficiently and help smallholder farmers get higher yields, even where soils are poor and little commercial fertilizer is used.

IMAS' mission is to increase the corn yields of small, sub-Saharan farmers using fertilizer and improved maize seed.

According to Gary Atlin, CIMMYT maize breeder and leader of IMAS, “[t]he IMAS project will develop maize varieties that are better at capturing the small amount of fertilizer that African farmers can afford, and that use the nitrogen they take up more efficiently to produce grain.”

IMAS will use conventional hybrid breeding as well as gene-engineering to identify genetic markers that will increase yields and nitrogen efficiency.

"The new varieties developed will be made available royalty-free to seed companies that sell to the region's smallholder farmers, meaning that the seed will become available to farmers at the same cost as other types of improved maize seed."

According to Marc Albertsen, Pioneer research director, some of Pioneer's nitrogen efficiency genetic research will be made available to the project.  In his words, "IMAS is an excellent example of how innovative public-private partnerships can work to improve food availability, livelihoods, and lives in areas facing chronic food insecurity."

It is estimated that in four years, IMAS hyrid varieties will be available in Africa.  It may take seven to 10 years to make gene-engineered varieties available.
For more see:

"Public-Private Partnership to Improve Maize Harvests and Provide Options for African Smallholder Farmers," CIMMYT, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 Feb. 2010.

"DuPont Partners in Alliance to Improve Maize Harvests in Africa," Dupont News, Dupont, 18 February 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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