New video: Crop biodiversity for healthy, nutritious livelihoods

Maize and wheat provide food for most of humanity. Erratic weather, poor soil health, and resource shortages keep millions of maize and wheat farmers in developing countries from growing enough to feed their households and communities or to harvest a surplus to sell. This threatens their survival and even national stability. Yet our staple foods are stronger than we know.

CIMMYT scientists and partners are conserving and using the powerful traits found within the thousands of maize and wheat seed collections to strengthen crops to produce healthy food and better livelihoods.

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3rd KDSmart app workshop

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) extends a cordial invitation to participate in the training workshop on the use of the KDSmart app. This will be held in Texcoco, State of Mexico, on December 20, 2017 (from 9:00 – 17:00 hrs).

The objective of this workshop is to train participants in the use of KDSmart, which is an Android app that captures data, but with digital format to record phenotypic data in the field, greenhouse or laboratory environment using a tablet or smartphone. KDSmart uses Excel files that are easily imported and exported to your computer. Among other useful features, KDSmart allows the user to specify ranges of values for the features of interest, which reduces errors during data collection, and integrates with barcode readers (where hardware allows) to semi-automate the collection of phenotypic values.

This workshop is intended for breeders, researchers/professors, technicians and / or students from the public and private sectors, or who participate in all those activities that include the collection of phenotypic data from any environment, with high accuracy and error reduction characteristics. .

It is necessary to bring your own cell phone or tablet (5 to 7″) with Android® version 4.0.3 and laptop to download and explore data collected during the practical class. It is also necessary to have the Excel app on the cell phone. KDSmart can be downloaded from the Google Store or at the following link id = com.diversityarrays.kdsmart & amp; hl = en

Optionally, participants can bring their own experimental variables.

Study reveals diversity “blueprint” to help maize crops adapt to changing climates

Scientists have unlocked evolutionary secrets of landraces through an unprecedented study of allelic diversity, revealing more about the genetic basis of flowering time and how maize adapts to variable environments, according to new research published in Nature Genetics journal. The discovery opens up opportunities to explore and use landrace diversity in new ways to help breeders adapt crops to climate change and other emerging challenges to crop production.

Farmers worldwide have been ingeniously adapting landrace maize varieties to their local environments for thousands of years. In this landmark study, over 4,000 landraces from across the Americas were analyzed and their DNA characterized, using recent advances in genomics.

Cutting-edge tools promote conservation, use of biodiversity

The CIMMYT maize germplasm bank holds 28,000 samples of unique maize genetic diversity that could hold the key to develop new varieties farmers need. Photo: Xochiquetzal Fonseca/CIMMYT.

The CIMMYT maize germplasm bank holds 28,000 samples of unique maize genetic diversity that could hold the key to develop new varieties farmers need. Photo: Xochiquetzal Fonseca/CIMMYT.

Biodiversity is the building block of health for all species and ecosystems, and the foundation of our food system. A lack of genetic diversity within any given species can increase their susceptibility to stress factors such as diseases, pests, heat or drought as they do not have the genetic variation to respond. In the worst circumstances, this can lead to devastating consequences that include crop failures and extinction of species and plant varieties. Conserving, and utilizing, biodiversity is crucial to ensure the food security, health and livelihoods of future generations.

The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity will be held in Cancun, Mexico from December 5 to 17, 2016. Established in 1993 due to global concerns over threats to biodiversity and species extinctions, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international legally-binding treaty with three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

New online learning platform offers capacity development for all

Trainees work with KDSmart phenotyping technology, one of the subjects taught in the new SeeD distance learning modules. Photo: G. Salinas/CIMMYT.

Trainees work with KDSmart phenotyping technology, one of the subjects taught in the new SeeD distance learning modules. Photo: G. Salinas/CIMMYT.

An online learning platform created in partnership with the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) initiative will revolutionize the project’s capacity development efforts, allowing SeeD to reach more users than ever before.

Distance learning modules consisting of practical and theory modules about how to enhance the use of genetic diversity in wheat and maize, will allow anyone in the world to benefit from SeeD’s collection of knowledge and tools regardless of location or income. These new distance learning modules are free and will be available online to the public in the future.

SeeD works to unlock and utilize novel genetic diversity held in genebanks to accelerate the development of improved maize and wheat varieties.  The initiative has generated massive amounts of invaluable information on the genetic diversity of maize and wheat, as well as cutting edge software tools to aid in its use and visualization.

“This information and tools have been made publicly available so that breeders and researchers around the world can develop improved crop varieties,” said Gilberto Salinas, head of capacity development at the SeeD initiative. “However, if people don’t know how to effectively utilize these datasets and software, the information is useless,” he said.

Public initiatives key to harnessing genetic diversity for food security, says genetic resources expert

Maize collections held at the CIMMYT genebank in Mexico.

Maize collections held at the CIMMYT genebank in Mexico.

Public initiatives to facilitate the use of genetic resources must be promoted to demonstrate the value they add to agriculture for development and food security research, says Kevin Pixley, director of the Genetic Resources Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

Pixley heads the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) initiative at CIMMYT through which scientists are working to unlock novel, or new, genetic diversity held in germplasm banks – often popularly known as gene banks – to accelerate the development of maize and wheat varieties that grow better under environmental pressures like erratic weather and water scarcity, as well as provide increased nutritional value. CIMMYT scientists do this by identifying crop varieties that display valuable traits like drought and heat-stress tolerance that allow them to flourish despite these stresses.

Genetic bridges to the future

As severe weather and evolving crop diseases threaten farmers’ livelihoods and global food security, scientists are using novel DNA tools and informatics to unearth high-value traits from vast maize and wheat seed collections, for use in breeding climate-resilient varieties to feed the future.

genetic diversity graphic

Ancient Maize Varieties Provide Modern Solution to Tar Spot Complex

By Jennifer Johnson, Terry Molnar and Martha Willcox

Felix Corzo Jimenez , a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico, examines one of his many maize plants infected with tar spot complex.

Felix Corzo Jimenez , a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico, examines one of his many maize plants infected with tar spot complex.

In southern Mexico and Central America a fungal maize disease known as tar spot complex (TSC) is decimating yields, threatening local food security and livelihoods. In El Portillo, Chiapas, Mexico, local farmer Felix Corzo Jimenez surveys his maize field sadly… “It’s been a terrible year. We’ll be lucky if we harvest even 50 percent of our usual yields.” He fingers a dried up maize leaf covered in tiny black dots, and pulls the husk off of an ear to show the shriveled kernels, poorly filled-in. “Tar spot is ruining our crops.”

Named for the telltale black spots that cover infected plants, TSC causes leaves to die prematurely, weakening the plant and preventing the ears from developing fully, cutting yields by up to 50 percent or more in extreme cases. Caused by a combination of 3 fungal infections, the disease occurs most often in cool and humid areas across southern Mexico, Central America and into South America. The disease is beginning to spread, possibly due to climate change, evolving pathogens and susceptible maize varieties, and was reported in important maize producing regions of central Mexico and the northern United States for the first time last fall. To develop the TSC resistant maize varieties that farmers need, the Seeds of Discovery (SeeD) initiative is working to “mine” the CIMMYT genebank for native maize varieties that may hold genes for resistance against the disease.