Book / Monograph

Suwan-1: maize from Thailand to the world


The CIMMYT Maize Program is committed to helping national programs develop and disseminate improved germplasm and production technology. Our contributions are well documented; our work could be deemed a success story. This is satisfying but, in a sense, source of little wonder. CIMMYT pools the energies of some of the world's most talented and dedicated researchers, supported by first-class facilities at selected locations. Our mission is clear and, although there may be room for improvement, we are simply doing the job we set out to do. The story of Suwan-l, though, cannot help but kindle a sense of wonder. Here is a maize product developed by Thai researchers for Thai farmers, yet so we.11 crafted that its welcome has extended far beyond the borders of that nation. In retrospect, this outcome may also seem natural. Several factors combined serendipitously in Thailand of the 1960s to make the development and diffusion of Suwan-l possible. The government began to promote maize as part of a national policy to diversify agriculture away from rice. The Rockefeller Foundation moved its InterAsian Corn Program headquarters to Thailand, bringing in financial resources and experienced human capital. The country's previously fragmented national maize breeding efforts were consolidated into a single program under Kasetsart University and the Ministry of Agriculture. The Rockefeller Foundation and Thai researchers established a collaborative breeding program at Farm Suwan, a state-of-the-art research station where irrigation permitted up to three crops each year. Close collaboration with CIMMYT began which, in addition to providing useful germplasm, opened training opportunities for many Thai maize researchers. Later on, fruitful cooperative arrangements between public and private entities in Thailand benefited farmers with a steady supply of quality seed. These circumstances alone, however, are not enough to account for the development and spread of a variety as successful as Suwan-l. The principal credit for this accomplishment belongs to a group of persons who saw an opportunity and worked hard and intelligently to bring it to fruition. I am referring, of course, to the collaborative breeding team at Farm Suwan. Theirs was the strategy of assembling a genetically heterogenous composite from which to develop a broadly adapted variety; theirs was the work that led to steady improvements in grain yield and other important characteristics of the composite; theirs was the successful incorporation of resistance to downy mildew as an additional trait that would ensure the usefulness of this material to farmers throughout Asia. It is therefore fitting that, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Kasetsart University, members of that team should undertake an account of the research that brought forth Suwan-l. This is the first time the story has been told in such detail. I hope that, in addition to providing interesting reading, the report will prove a welcome source of strategy and inspiration for breeders throughout the developing world in their efforts to offer farmers highly productive, resource conserving maize varieties