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Mexico for More

April 7, 2011

Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

Speaking to a large audience of scientists and government officials at the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Texcoco, Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa announced the official launch this week of a major collaborative research initiative – for which the government expects to provide about US$140 million in financial support over the next decade.

The country’s Secretariat for Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) considers this to be Mexico’s most important initiative of recent years in support of the agricultural sector. Called MasAgro (mas means “more” in Spanish), the new program will offer substantial benefits to farmers and consumers in Mexico, other Latin American countries and at the global level as well.

Its overall aim is to deliver sustainable increases in the maize and wheat productivity of smallholder farmers to strengthen food security despite the expected impacts of climate change. MasAgro will work toward this end through several closely intertwined strategies, which it will pursue in collaboration with a half dozen key Mexican research institutions as well as the country’s seed industry.

One strategy will involve a major effort to promote conservation agriculture in Mexico’s diverse maize- and wheat-based systems, together with the adoption of improved crop varieties and techniques for more efficient use of fertilizer. At the same time, MasAgro will strengthen the seed sector and widen the array of maize varieties available to farmers in other countries of the region.

Two components of the initiative promise to generate global benefits. One will focus on boosting the yield potential of wheat by as much as 50 percent through cutting-edge science. And the other will entail an unprecedented effort to open the “black box” of maize and wheat genetic resources and make them more useful for crop improvement worldwide by using state-of-the-art techniques to characterize these resources comprehensively.

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