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 gate of CIMMYT's global headquarters in Texcoco, Mexico.
Formation1943 [1] and 1966
TypeNon-profit research and training center [1]
PurposeTo develop improved varieties of wheat and maize for improving livelihoods [1]
HeadquartersEl Batán, near Texcoco, State of Mexico, Mexico
Director General
Martin Kropff
Parent organization
1,580 staff members working in offices in 19 countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, and projects in over 50 countries [1]

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (known 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 with the aim of contributing to food security, and the introduction of improved agricultural practices to smallholder farmers to help boost production, prevent crop disease and improve their livelihoods.[1][2][3][4] It is also one of the 15 non-profit, research and training institutions affiliated with CGIAR.[5]

CIMMYT's eighth director general, Martin Kropff,[6][7] replaced agronomist Thomas Lumpkin in 2015.[8] Lumpkin served as director general from 2008.[9][10]


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 goal of the office 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, wheat breeder Norman Borlaug, developed dwarf wheat varieties that put more energy into grain production and responded better to fertilizer than older varieties, won the Nobel Peace Prize for that work in 1970.[11] 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 CGIAR. Today, 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 developing better varieties of maize and wheat that helped small peasant farmers, using breeding to increase crops' resistance to pests and diseases, as well as raise the protein content of maize.[12]

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, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Turkey, and Zimbabwe), as well as number of experimental stations.

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[13] and the Global Maize Program.[14] 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.[15]

Sustainable Intensification Program[edit]

The Sustainable Intensification Program was previously the Conservation Agriculture Program.[16][17] Research priorities within the Sustainable Intensification Program focus on methods to increase crop and agricultural productivity while maintaining the three pillars of sustainability; preservation of the environment, delivery of positive economic outcomes, adaptation to cultural and society. With a broad mandate, CIMMYT's sustainable intensification research have corresponding diverse focal points. These include climate change,[18][19] natural resource management,[20][21] conservation agriculture,[22][23] soil fertility management, water resource management,[24] integration of remote sensing data,[25] and many other topics.

Socioeconomics Program[edit]

The Socioeconomics Program[26] was once part of 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 program[27] holds the maize and wheat collections of CIMMYT in trust for humanity under UN-FAO agreements.[28] The program works on genetic traits that are identified as priorities, such as drought tolerance. Other units include the Crop Research Informatics Lab (CRIL),[29] the Germplasm Bank,[30] the Applied Biotechnology Center (ABC),[31] the Seed inspection and distribution unit,[32] and the Seed Health Lab.[33]


Despite its noble goals of sustainability and self-sufficiency, one of the organization's founders and researchers, Norman Borlaug, has faced criticism. Borlaug's obituarist, Christopher Reed argued in an interview with The Guardian from 2014 that although his Green Revolution and high-yielding agricultural techniques averted poverty in the short term, in the long time they might have added to it.[34] Critics of CIMMYT argue that it is important to consider the social and ecological changes that the green revolution, and subsequently the CIMMYT, create for local farmers. A dependency on expensive 'high-yielding' seeds that demand expensive fertilizers has pushed local farmers who cannot afford them out of the market, causing further social inequalities. The seeds, which require a lot of water, has also increased soil erosion and water wastage.[34] At the time Norman Borlaug began the Green Revolution, the US agricultural science establishment and agribusiness industries supported him, because it allowed their industries to grow around the world as dependency on their patented seeds and herbicides increased.[34] Today, CIMMYT still relies on these private companies for seeds and herbicides, such as StrigAway.[35]

Partners and donors[edit]

Main donors include Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,[36][37][38][39][40][41] CGIAR, the World Bank (through cross-cutting, theme and project-based CGIAR funding),[42][43][44] Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture,[45] and the national governments of Australia, Britain, Canada,[46][47][48][49] Germany,[50][51][52] Japan,[53][54][55][56] Mexico,[57][58][59] Switzerland[60][61][1][62] and the United States.[63][64][65][66][67][67]

Historically, CIMMYT received funding from the European Commission and the Rockefeller Foundation.[68][69][70]

Notable scientists[edit]

See also[edit]


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  18. ^ Ortiz, Rodomiro; Sayre, Kenneth D.; Govaerts, Bram; Gupta, Raj; Subbarao, G. V.; Ban, Tomohiro; Hodson, David; Dixon, John M.; Iván Ortiz-Monasterio, J. (2008-06-01). "Climate change: Can wheat beat the heat?". Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. International Agricultural Research and Climate Change: A Focus on Tropical Systems. 126 (1–2): 46–58. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2008.01.019.
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  23. ^ Andersson, Jens A.; D'Souza, Shereen (2014-04-01). "From adoption claims to understanding farmers and contexts: A literature review of Conservation Agriculture (CA) adoption among smallholder farmers in southern Africa". Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. Evaluating conservation agriculture for small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 187: 116–132. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2013.08.008.
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  25. ^ Jain, Meha; Srivastava, Amit K.; Balwinder-Singh; Joon, Rajiv K.; McDonald, Andrew; Royal, Keitasha; Lisaius, Madeline C.; Lobell, David B. (2016-10-20). "Mapping Smallholder Wheat Yields and Sowing Dates Using Micro-Satellite Data". Remote Sensing. 8 (10): 860. doi:10.3390/rs8100860.
  26. ^ [4] Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Genetic resources". CIMMYT. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  28. ^ "Agreement Between the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN" (PDF). October 16, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  29. ^ "Crop Research Informatics Laboratory". Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  30. ^ [5] Archived December 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ [6] Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ [7] Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ [8] Archived December 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
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External links[edit]