IN WHAT could be a dream come true
for farmers, especially from poor countries, scientists have announced
that they are just a, step away from
creating a maize plant that can be
planted year after year without using a
new seed. Five years and a study of
50,000 plants later, scientists from the
International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Centre (CYMMYT) at
El Batan, Mexico, have hit upon the
process of 'apomixis', or asexual reproduction, to develop the high-yielding
maize. The significance lies in the fact
that this maize will be free of any
unwanted traits which otherwise creep
in the course of sexual reproduction.
A wild grass - Tripsacum was
found to resemble the characteristics of
the maize plant. This was then cross-
bred with the maize plant first and the
ensuing descendants were mated for
several generations to produce plants
which were more identical to maize but
also contained the gene for apomixis.
Says Yves Saviclan, head of the task
team at cymmyT, that apomixis will
allow poor farmers worldwide to
increase their harvests at no extra cost.
Apornictic maize seeds could be planted
every year and retain the same yield.