The world's most widely grown crop, wheat, could become "a super nitrogen-efficient crop" if plant researchers succeed in cross-breeding a trait called biological nitrification inhibition into the staple grain, says the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Wheat plants use about 30 percent of nitrogen fertilizer applied to fields at present, but if the trait can be introduced into the plants they will become more efficient users and suppress loss of nitrogen from the soil.
The second-largest seed company in the world, DuPont Pioneer, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or CIMMYT, said they reached an agreement to jointly develop improved crops using the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas for smallholder farmers around the world. The agreement, announced at CIMMYT’s 50th anniversary conference in Mexico City, brings the new technology into the public breeding organization for the first time.
At the 50th-anniversary meeting of the main body that launched the Green Revolution, a range of researchers and policymakers made clear that the focus of their efforts is no longer just raising crop yields to “feed the world,” as their mantra had been for decades. Production is now just a starting point for a range of food issues faced by developing countries.
Plant breeding company KWS, of Germany, has pledged $10,000 in a crowdfunding initiative to help maintain the world's largest corn and wheat germplasm bank, says the international research center that owns the bank. The "Save a Seed" drive was launched at the 50th anniversary celebration for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico.
Credited with saving hundreds of millions of people from hunger, international ag research organizations will need to change their focus, funding base and partnerships to survive in coming years, says economist Derek Byerlee in a paper prepared for the 50th anniversary of one of the groups.
The fungal diseases called wheat rust "have the capacity to turn a healthy-looking crop, only weeks away from harvest, into nothing more than a tangle of yellow leaves or black stems and shriveled grains at harvest," says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
David Hodson, senior scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), sat down with FERN editor-in-chief Sam Fromartz in Washington to discuss the re-emergence of rust disease, a virulent fungal pathogen that attacks wheat plants and causes devastating crop losses, especially in poorer countries.
A meta study of two key food producing regions in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa concluded that conservation agriculture has minimal impact on carbon sequestration, meaning it won't have much impact on mitigating climate change.
The rector of Wageningen University in the Netherlands will become director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) on June 1. Martin Kropff will succeed Thomas Lumpkin, who has been CIMMYT chief since 2008.
Wheat growers in Kenya are battling a variant of the Ug99 rust fungus, which chokes nutrients in the wheat stem and prevents wheat kernels from forming properly.
Wheat scientists will borrow genes from wild ancestors of the staple grain to give it stamina to withstand the stresses of climate change, says the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known by its Spanish abbreviation CIMMYT.