Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Day 30 More Time at CIMMYT - Obregon

Our second day at the CIMMYT Obregon site started with Matthew Reynolds who is a wheat physiologist.  It was very interesting to meet Matthew and to talk about the wheat research being completed here at Obregon but also at the other CIMMYT research stations around the world.  There are close ties with India as some of Dr Borlaug's original varieties were used there.  All of the wheat varieties had been harvested and were all bagged up in the new laboratory space in preparation for cleaning and processing over the coming months.  There must have been several hundred brown bags, all labelled up in this one area.  
CIMMYT produces about 1,000 new genotypes each year to be distributed around to approximately 200 test sites.  There are three main aspects that the breeders here are looking at.  Firstly the new varieties must have disease resistance.  Many farmers in the developing world do not have access to or the finance for fungicides so the plant has to fend for itself.  It is self pollinating so no matter what situations it grows in it will do it's best to produce seed.  This is unlike Maize who if in doubt releases lots of spores to try and recreate that way.  The second aspect of their breeding is for quality.  There's no poin in a great variety that can not be used for japatti or bread.  Finally there is the yield.  It was interesting to hear the order that these traits are placed.
We had a drive around the farm to look at Matthew's field where the trials are to be planted next season.   Matthew had instructed the farm manager Rodrigo to subsoil the field twice and there was poultry litter waiting to be applied.  We talked about zero tillage and if it had a place in the cycle of the wheat and what came out was that we really didn't know much about wheat plants and the way the behave in certain systems.  I did find out that the most critical influence on yield is the period between booting and flowering.  That's when the plant needs to be pushed to create lots of grain sites and it will nearly always do it's best to fill those sites form there.
On the tour around we came across quite a large area of Agave plants that are used to make the famous local drink Tequila.  The leaves are stripped back exposing a sort of large pineapple like structure that is  processed and distilled to make the drink.  Finally we stopped off the take a few pictures of the great Dr Norman Borlaug himself.  I hadn't realised that he only passed away in 2009 and up until that point was still very interested in what the next generation of plant breeders where doing.

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