Breaking Ground: Aparna Das leads efficient and demand-driven maize research
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United States of America
Getting a good maize harvest, or just enough to feed the family, has always been a challenge for maize small farmers in developing countries. Faced with variable rainfall, heat waves, insect attacks or diseases, they rarely yield more than two tons of maize per hectare, and sometimes lose their crops altogether. Climate change, invasive pests like fall armyworm or new diseases like maize lethal necrosis could jeopardize even further the livelihoods of maize farmers and trigger severe food crises.
In this scenario, the lives and income of maize farmers rely on good seeds: seeds that are climate-resilient, pest- and disease-resistant, and that grow and yield well under local conditions, often with minimum inputs.
“That is where the maize improvement research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) plays a crucial role in this challenge of food security. You need to develop the right location-specific varieties that farmers want, that partner seed companies are willing to produce, in a cost- and time-efficient way,” says Aparna Das. She joined CIMMYT’s Global Maize research program in August 2018 as Technical Program Manager.