As India consumes more and more maize, search on for better varieties

By TheHindu on 20 Jun 2017 | read

The Global Maize Programme, an initiative of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, is intensively pursuing the development of heat-stress resilient, high-yielding and nutritionally enriched maize varieties in order to face the challenges of global warming and meet the global demand for maize, the agency’s director Prasanna B.M. has said.

“With the financial assistance of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the CIMMYT has undertaken ‘Heat Stress Resilient Maize’ for South Asia, a five-year project, for developing heat tolerant and high-yielding maize varieties specifically suitable for South Asian climatic conditions. The project has commenced in 2012 and will end in 2017,” Mr. Prasanna said at a press conference at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) here on Monday.

Various public institutions from South Asia, he said, had collaborated in the project. The UAS, Purdue University in the U.S., the Bihar Agriculture University in Sabour, Bhagalpur, the Maize and Millets Research Institute of Pakistan, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, and National Maize Research Institute of Nepal were involved in the project. Four Indian private seed companies too collaborated.

Terming maize a crop for the future, Mr. Prasanna said the area under maize cultivation was expanding globally. “A two degree Celsius increase in temperature reduces the maize yields by 13 per cent. Changes in global climatic conditions have led to increased temperatures and increased frequency of droughts. These objective conditions have prompted us to take up development of new heat stress tolerant verities of maize through advanced genomic approaches.”

The increasing gap between increase in yield and consumption, he added, was widening the demand-supply gap. “While the growth of maize yield is just 28 per cent, the growth of its consumption is 70 per cent. The gap is triggering a great demand for maize globally. In China, with 32 million hectors of maize cultivation, the maize production and consumption has crossed that of rice,” Mr. Prasanna said.

In India, 80 per cent of the crop is used for feed and 20 per cent is for consumption, but in Africa it is other way around. “The production of maize needs to be doubled by 2050 to meet growing global demand,” he added.

Scientists are trying to develop heat stress resilient,

high-yielding and nutritionally enriched maize varieties to face the challenges of global warming