DuPont and CIMMYT Announce $1.3 Million Maize Collaboration for Africa
Public-Private Partnership to Speed Product Development

DES MOINES -- DuPont and the global wheat and maize improvement center, CIMMYT, today announced a $1.3 million research, product development and technical support collaboration for Africa.

Over the next three years, researchers at DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and CIMMYT will work together to develop novel traits to improve production agriculture and address food challenges in developing countries globally.

Africa, where an estimated 200 million people are undernourished and 33 million children suffer from famine, is a primary target for this work. The initial research projects will focus on maize nitrogen utilization to increase and stabilize maize yields with subsequent research projects on drought tolerance, Striga tolerance and protein enhancement.

"Production agriculture improvements are the first steps to solving economic and health problems in Africa," said Masa Iwanaga, CIMMYT director general. "With the right products for the diverse African growing environments, there is enormous potential to turn the existing situation around."

The collaboration will help bring crop solutions to Africa sooner.

"Together we can do much more for Africa and other developing countries than either of us could have done on our own," said William S. Niebur, vice president, DuPont Crop Genetics Research & Development. "CIMMYT has a fantastic track record of putting science to work for the people who need it most. Combined with our cutting-edge technology and know how, we're going to make significant progress in a relatively short time."

Global Importance of Strong Plant Breeding Activity

Numerous studies have shown agriculture to be the most effective driver of growth in the world's poorest countries. Raising agricultural productivity is essential for reducing rural poverty and enhancing food security. Few countries have developed diversified economies without first achieving growth in agriculture.

Maize breeding and agriculture in developing nations is, at best, in a similar condition to that of the U.S. during the 1920s-1940s when growers were averaging approximately two to three tons per hectare, said Iwanaga.

"Most of the world's poor rely on agriculture for income and sustenance," said Iwanaga. "Globally, there is enough food for everyone. However, locally, hundreds of millions of people lack the resources to grow or buy enough food. Many cannot grow crops in environmentally safe ways."

This reality couldn't be more evident than in Africa.

Agricultural production for the continent is increasing at slightly more than 2 percent per year, while the annual population increase is more than 3 percent annually. Farming is becoming simultaneously less productive and more damaging to natural resource biodiversity as most production increases have come from taking more land into cultivation. The whole continent of Africa currently produces less maize than the state of Iowa.

African soils have declined in fertility over the past 30 years because the ground has been repeatedly farmed without the adequate replacement of plant nutrients. Farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa apply 10 to 15 times less nitrogen fertilizer to crops than their counterparts in developed countries. Fertilizer costs can be as much as three to five times higher than those seen in the United States or Europe, which is a barrier to cash-strapped farmers. African average maize yields continue at around the same low levels they have been for at least 30 years. At the 2006 African Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, African Heads of State reiterated that solving fertility challenges is the catalyst needed for an African Green Revolution.

Agricultural Solutions

The collaboration between CIMMYT and Pioneer brings together the latest tools, technologies and insights to develop better maize hybrids and critical traits that will help growers combat environmental challenges, improve the protein quality in maize as well as open new avenues for income generation.

"We have made and continue to make incredible gains through genetics and plant breeding, combined with new molecular approaches. With the new tools, technologies and information available today, this important public-private partnership will achieve increased productivity and better products for global maize farmers," said Niebur.

The collaboration's goal is to develop maize hybrids that offer significantly increased yields in nitrogen stressed situations in Africa. While these hybrids will not eliminate the need for fertilizer entirely, they have the potential to significantly improve productivity in fertility stressed areas, such as those typically found in marginalized subsistence farming areas.

Nitrogen use efficiency screening trials were planted in Africa by CIMMYT in 2005 and will continue over the next three years.

CIMMYT, (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo) the international maize and wheat improvement center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is an internationally funded, not-for-profit organization with headquarters in Mexico that conducts research and training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. CIMMYT works to create, share, and use knowledge and technologies to increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, is the world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock producers and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics, crop protection solutions and quality crop systems to customers in nearly 70 countries.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.

SOURCE: DuPont via PR Newswire.