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Bigger yields with open-pollinated corn varieties could help South African farmers

(June 6, 2001 – CropChoice news) – Using traditional breeding methods, scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Association (CIMMYT) and their South African counterparts set out to develop corn that could increase the food and income of poor southern African farmers who grow food in drought-prone, nutrient-depleted soils.

They achieved their goal with two varieties -- Grace and Zm521.

The two varieties have maturity and yield characteristics that appeal to farmers. But above all, they are open-pollinated, which means the seeds are cheaper than commercial hybrids, and farmers can save and re-plant them without experiencing yield loss.

The Grace variety matures earlier than traditional lines and can be eaten green. Not only can this feed the farmers and their families, but green corn often commands a higher market price.

Zm521 yields 30 to 50 percent more than commercial hybrids that farmers grow in the region’s difficult conditions.

"These products are the result of a farmer- and South African-led development strategy that is helping to make a positive impact in the lives of thousands of poor farmers who have been bypassed by modern technology," said Timothy Reeves, director general of the CIMMYT.

For more information , visit www.cgiar.org