Erle Frayne Argonza
We peoples of Southeast Asia have been caught up in the cycles of droughts and heavy rains for as long as our memories can recall. The El Nino comes every now and then, bringing either a rainy season or too dry a spell for an entire crop season, thus endangering our own agricultural production.
Biotechnology innovations incidentally are very dynamic in the region, or in East Asia as a whole. The breeding of maize varieties that are resistant to drought has been among the forefront of research & development. Below is a news caption of the R&D efforts in maize by exemplar countries Philippines, Indonesia, and China.
A-maizing: Asia’s drought-resistant maize varieties
16 June 2008 | EN | 中文
Maize is a staple crop in South-East Asia, both as a food and animal feed. But the farmers that grow the crop often live in drought-prone areas, where poor soil and disease exacerbate poor harvests.
To counter this, the Asian Maize Network was created, funded by the Asian Development Bank and led by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre).
The network, running from 2005–2008, brings together scientists from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties — and deliver them to farmers.
Genetic material from drought-tolerant varieties was supplied by CIMMYT and funds put into setting up testing programmes in all five countries.
The first varieties have already been released for further testing in individual countries, and many more are in the pipeline, with the eventual aim of providing them to poor farmers at affordable prices.
The scientists involved say the project has helped them both in terms of capacity and partnership building. Many agree that the training and working with researchers from other countries has given them a new perspective on their work.
“I’m motivated to see that what I’m doing will really help farmers,” says one.