International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

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International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo, CIMMYT
Front gates of CIMMYT in El Batán. Maize test fields seen far-center.
Formation 1943 [1]
Type Non-profit research and training center [1]
Purpose To develop improved varieties of wheat and maize [1]
Parent organization
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
100 specialized research staff and 500 support staff from about 40 countries [1]

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (commonly called by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT for Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo) is a non-profit research and training institution dedicated to both the development of improved varieties of wheat and maize, and introducing improved agricultural practices to farmers, thereby improving their livelihoods.[1] It is also one of the 15 non-profit, research and training institutions affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).[2]


The first steps toward the creation of CIMMYT were taken in 1943 when cooperative efforts of the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation led to the founding of the Office of Special Studies, an organization within the Mexican Secretariat of Agriculture. The office’s goal was to ensure food security in Mexico and abroad through selective plant breeding and crop improvement.

The project developed into a collaboration between Mexican and international researchers. It established global networks to test experimental crop varieties. One of its researchers, Norman Borlaug, developed shorter wheat varieties that put more energy into grain production and responded better to fertilizer than older varieties, won the Nobel Prize for that work in 1970. The program was renamed and morphed into CIMMYT in 1963, though it was still under the Secretariat of Agriculture’s jurisdiction. As international demand grew and it became apparent CIMMYT required internal organization and increased funding, the center was reorganized and established as a non-profit scientific and educational institution in its own right in 1966.

In the early 1970s, a small cadre of development organizations, national sponsors, and private foundations organized CGIAR to further spread the impact of agricultural research to more nations. CIMMYT became one of the first international research centers to be supported through the CGIAR. Today, the CGIAR comprises 15 such centers, all dedicated to sustainable food security through scientific research.[1]


CIMMYT focuses on 1) the conservation and utilization of maize and wheat genetic resources, 2) developing and promoting improved maize and wheat varieties, 3) testing and sharing sustainable farming systems, 4) analyzing the impact of its work and researching ways for further improvement. In Mexico in the late 1980s, CIMMYT began working on better varieties of maize and wheat that helped small peasant farmers, using genetic engineering to resist pests and diseases, as well as raise the protein content of maize.[3] CIMMYT partners with national agriculture research institutions across the globe. Though its headquarters are in Mexico, the center supports 13 regional offices (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nepal, Turkey, and Zimbabwe).

CIMMYT programs and units[edit]

Global Wheat Program and Global Maize Program[edit]

The core of CIMMYT is its two main programs: the Global Wheat Program[4] and the Global Maize Program.[5] Both programs specialize in breeding varieties of their respective crop that are high yielding and adapted to withstand specific environmental constraints, such as infertile soils, drought, insects, and diseases. Center scientists use, traditional cross-breeding, molecular markers, and potentially genetic engineering to develop new varieties. Additional efforts focus on a variety of agricultural aspects such as proper seed storage, natural resource management, value chains, the benefits of using improved seed, and appropriate machine use and access.[6]

Conservation Agriculture Program[edit]

CIMMYT’s Conservation Agriculture Program[7] studies and supports sustainable cropping practices. The idea behind this program is that in the long run, intensive farming can damage the soil and hurt farmers’ livelihoods and food productivity. On-going test trials conducted by this program since the 1990s have shown that conservation agriculture practices seem to perform better than conventional practices. The Conservation Agriculture Program defines conservation agriculture as a farming system that reduces soil disturbance (less tillage), incorporates suitable crop rotations, and retains crop residues as a soil cover.

Socioeconomics Program[edit]

The Socioeconomics Program[8] used to belong to the former Impacts Targeting and Assessment Unit, which was dissolved in 2009 to form the Conservation Agriculture Program and the Socioeconomics Program. The mission of this program is to evaluate the center’s work and to increase its positive global impacts. Areas of focus include public policy, efficient use of resources, monitoring of global maize and wheat trends, and the understanding of economic, political and institutional environments in which CIMMYT operates.

Genetic Resources Program[edit]

The Genetic Resources and Enhancement Unit (GREU) is support unit that holds the maize and wheat collections of CIMMYT in trust for humanity under UN-FAO agreements. The program works on genetic traits that are identified as priorities by the eco-regional programs, such as drought tolerance. GREU units include the Crop Research Informatics Lab (CRIL),[9] the Germplasm Bank,[10] the Applied Biotechnology Center (ABC),[11] the Seed inspection and distribution unit,[12] and the Seed Health Lab.[13]

Partners and donors[edit]

Main donors include the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, the European Commission and the national governments of the United States, Switzerland, Japan and Mexico.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "About Us". Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo. Archived from the original on 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Research Centers". CGIAR. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  3. ^ Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002. Contributions in Latin American Studies, No. 22. Westport CT: Prager 2003, p. 290.
  4. ^ [1] Archived July 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ [2] Archived August 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Global Maize Program". CIMMYT. Archived from the original on August 8, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  7. ^ [3] Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ [4] Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Crop Research Informatics Laboratory". Retrieved 2014-04-09. 
  10. ^ [5] Archived December 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ [6] Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ [7] Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ [8] Archived December 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.