Biotech Updates

New Public-Private Collaboration Aims to Develop High Yielding Maize for Africa

February 19, 2010

A new alliance that aims to improve food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa has been formed. Known as Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS), the collaboration will create and share 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. It will be led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and will involve Pioneer Hi-Bred, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

According to a press release, the organizations will use cutting-edge biotechnology tools such as molecular markers and transgenic approaches to develop maize varieties that yield more over currently available varieties, with the same amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied or when grown on poorer soils. The 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.

The collaboration has received USD 19.5 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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