International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
CIMMYT works throughout the developing world to improve livelihoods and foster more productive, sustainable maize and wheat farming. Their portfolio squarely targets critical challenges, including food insecurity and malnutrition, climate change and environmental degradation.
Through collaborative research, partnerships, and training, the center helps to build and strengthen a new generation of national agricultural research and extension services in maize- and wheat-growing nations. As a member of the CGIAR System composed of 15 agricultural research centers, CIMMYT leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat, which align and add value to the efforts of more than 500 partners.
CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1940s and 1950s aimed at raising farm productivity in Mexico. The wheat specialist in that program, Norman Borlaug, worked with Mexican researchers and farmers to develop hardier, short-stemmed wheat varieties that resisted devastating rust diseases and yielded much more grain than traditional varieties. The new wheat lines were bred and selected at various Mexican locations in a range of climate conditions, which meant they were adaptable to a range of farm settings. The higher yielding varieties helped Mexico attain self-sufficiency in wheat production in the 1950s. Additionally, the varieties were imported by India and Pakistan in the 1960s to stave off famine, soon bringing those countries record harvests. This led to the widespread adoption of improved varieties and farming practices, which became known as the “Green Revolution.” CIMMYT was formally launched as an international organization in 1966. Borlaug, who worked at CIMMYT as a wheat scientist and research leader until 1979, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize because, more than any other single person, he helped to provide bread for a hungry world. He remained a distinguished consultant for the center until his death in 2009.
Turning research into impact
- By conservative estimates, this work provides at least $2 billion in annual benefits to farmers.
- CIMMYT alumni include a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and three World Food Prize winners.
- CIMMYT’s success depends on the longstanding partnerships and trust of public agricultural research systems, private companies, advanced research institutes and academia, and non-governmental and farmer organizations.
- More than 70 percent of the wheat grown in developing countries and more than 50 percent of improved maize varieties derive from CIMMYT breeding materials.
- More than 10,000 scientists have trained at CIMMYT and gone on to become leaders in their own countries. The center empowers thousands of students, extension workers and farmers through courses, workshops and field days.
It starts with seed
CIMMYT crop-breeding research begins with its Germplasm Bank, a remarkable living catalog of genetic diversity comprising over 28,000 unique seed collections of maize and over 140,000 of wheat. From its breeding programs, each year CIMMYT sends half a million seed packages to 600 partners in 100 countries. With researchers and farmers, the center also develops and promotes more productive and precise maize and wheat farming methods and tools that save money and resources such as soil, water, and fertilizer.