The 13th Asian Maize Conference and expert Consultation on “Maize for Food, Feed, Nutrition and Environmental Security” organized jointly by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research (ICAR-IIMR), Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), kicked off at The Radisson Blu Hotel today with more than 275 participants from several maize-growing countries in Asia, besides experts from outside the continent participating in the three day event. The delegates come from a broad range of stakeholders, including researchers, policy makers, seed companies, service providers, innovative farmers, and representatives of several development organizations and funding agencies.
While addressing the audience at the inaugural ceremony, Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary DARE and Director General ICAR dwelled on the continuously enhanced maize productivity in India since the times of great food insecurity in the 1950’s and motivated scientists to improve using new technologies, such as marker assisted selection for quality. He urged the scientists to work towards increasing the maize productivity to 5 tons per hectare in the kharif season. Citing example of Pakistan and China, Dr Mohapatra dwelled on the need for public private partnership system in India for developing hybrids to improve maize productivity. He lauded the efforts of CIMMYT, The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, in capacity building and helping international researchers meet national food security and resource conservation goals. Talking in the context of PM Modi’s disruptive innovations, Dr Mohapatra exhorted the private sector to come forward for investment in agricultural research. “We have,” he said.
Dr B.M. Prasanna, the Director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Global Maize Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE), highlighted the diverse range of relevant topics to be covered in the conference, from breeding for climate resilience in maize based systems and climate-smart agriculture to socioeconomics for greater impact besides need for scale appropriate mechanization and the importance of public private partnerships. “Gender and social inclusion is an important issue not only for Asia, but for the entire world. Women play a very important role in our farming systems, but women’s access to improved inputs such as seed is very low. All communities, regardless of caste or creed, need access to these inputs,” he said. Dr Prasanna expressed his concern at the growing incidence of the ‘fall armyworm’, an invasive insect pest that has spread through 44 countries in Africa and was recently reported in India for the first time. “Working together to control this pest needs to be our prime importance,” he shared.
Martin Kropff, CIMMYT Director General, shared that Maize in Asia has high productivity and high demand, with maize productivity in the region growing by 5.2% annually as compared to a global average of 3.5% but the demand will double by the year 2050. “Therefore, we need to produce two times more maize in Asia, using two times less input, and it needs to be two times more nutritious,” stressed Dr Kropff. He said that since climate change will continue being a challenge, continued funding for maize research is crucial.
In his welcome remarks Dr N.S. Bains, Director Research, Punjab Agricultural University, expressed delight at the Conference being held in India for the second time, after 24 years. “What brings us together today is maize, a crop with an evolution bordering on the magical that belongs even more to the future than to the past. We are looking to use maize to solve many current challenges, which will be the theme of this conference,” he said.
Earlier, the organizers presented Dr B.S. Dhillon, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, with the MAIZE Champion for Asia Award for his pioneering work in maize breeding throughout his career. Dr Dhillon thanked his mentors and colleagues for the guidance and team work. “We are so lucky to work with a crop that has contributed so much to humanity, Dhillon said in his address to participants. He also discussed the importance of climate resilient maize varieties to help small farmers suffering from the effects of climate variability.
Dr Sujay Rakshit, director of the ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research gave the vote of thanks to the conference organizers and particularly the funders that made the event possible.
Apart from the technical sessions, the conference highlight is a field day on October 10, 2018, at the BISA farm in Ladhowal, Ludhiana. Nearly 100 improved maize varieties developed by CIMMYT, ICAR and public and private sector partners will be on display, in addition to scale appropriate mechanization options, precision nutrient and water management techniques, decision tools, sensors and automation-based management systems. On the same day, winners of the 2018 MAIZE-Asia Youth Innovators Award will be awarded and given the opportunity to present their research. These awards have been launched in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and YPARD (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) to recognize the contributions of innovative young women and men who can inspire fellow young people to get involved with maize-based agri-food systems.