Insect Resistant Maize for Africa - IRMA

The Foundation has been supporting CIMMYT since 2005 to develop and deliver corn varieties resistant to stem borers. The aim is to increase production and improve smallholders' food security.

Background to the project

In Kenya, moth larvae known as African stem borers can significantly reduce corn (maize) yields. IRMA, a partnership between CIMMYT* and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), is developing improved varieties resistant to these destructive pests.

  • The project focuses on Kenyan open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) and hybrids.
  • The researchers use both transgenic and conventional breeding techniques.
  • They released their first conventionally bred resistant corn in 2007. 

IRMA has closely involved farmers in seed evaluations, in order to tailor the new varieties to their needs. The project also devotes careful attention to consumers' questions and possible concerns. 

Progress reports, lessons learned and future prospects

  • In 2012, IRMA leader Stephen Mugo reported on progress at the CIMMYT Maize and Wheat Launch Programs Meeting in Mexico. Stephen also ensures that IRMA passes on expertise in other ways. Page 2 of this CIMMYT newsletter shows how young African scientists benefit by improving their writing skills.  
  • At the "End-of-Project Conference" in early 2014, the partners exchanged experiences, achievements, and lessons from IRMA III. They also discussed future prospects for the release, dissemination, and use of insect-resistant maize in eastern and southern Africa. Maria Luz George from CMMYT comments: "IRMA III has contributed to food security".  
  • The Syngenta Foundation's Mike Robinson adds: "A very valuable combination of 'conventional' traits now seems to be maturing. They can help maize cope better with drought, disease, and insects. We want to see how we can take these traits forward in seed systems, getting the best available material into smallholders' hands."   

* Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center