Improving on excellence: achievements in breeding with the maize race Tuxpeño
One of the most graphic symbols of achievement in the CIMMYT Maize Program, oddly enough, is a downward drifting line, representing the dramatic reduction in plant height brought about in a population based on the Mexican landrace Tuxpeño. Why that particular accomplishment and that particular landrace should be assigned any special importance is a question we may well ask, considering that in the course of 20 years Center maize scientists have improved many diverse materials in exemplary, and sometimes astonishing, ways. The answer to that question lies only partly in Tuxpeño itself. It is, without doubt, one of the outstanding germplasm complexes identified in Latin America, being widely adapted and inherently superior in many other valued characteristics. More important, however, are the ways in which various Tuxpeño materials have been manipulated and the benefits that have accrued from that work. The reduction of plant height is but one example (arguably the most important so far) in which a breeding project involving Tuxpeño has given rise, not only to germplasm that is useful in many parts of the world, but to new insights into the art of improving the tropical maize plant. In that case and many others, Tuxpeño has proved to be the right germplasm at the right time. The question posed above, then, should perhaps be framed differently. Instead of wondering, "why give prominence to Tuxpeño?" we should ask, "how could one follow the story of maize improvement at CIMMYT without it?" Attempting to do so would be like reading a novel from which a principal character had vanished. One would be hard pressed either to follow the action or discern its meaning. This booklet is not, however, intended to be a complete or systematic account of the Maize Program but rather touches fairly briefly on several important dimensions of its work over the years. Among the aspects considered are the nature of the germplasm with which CIMMYT scientists embarked on their improvement program and some of the assumptions and decisions they made about their work, goals and priorities they set, methods they applied, and results they achieved. Tuxpeño naturally enters into all of the issues discussed here, and in fact, one very convenient way of examining them is to focus on the attributes and various uses of that germplasm. It is hoped that this discussion will shed light on the progress of the Maize Program to its current position and offer some indications as to its future course.
|AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY, BREEDING METHODS, GENE POOLS, GERMPLASM, VARIETIES, ZEA MAYS, YIELDS, HYBRIDS,
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