The breeding of improved varieties of plants is central to the history of the CGIAR and represents its ongoing core niche as a provider of research outputs that are international public goods (IPGs). Improved germplasm for use by national programs, either for direct release or as parent material, is a classic IPG that has large spillovers across regions and countries.
The origins of the CGIAR lie in the Mexico-Rockefeller Foundation International Agriculture Program, a groundbreaking collaborative venture set up in 1943. After several years of research, the Program was able to develop semi-dwarf varieties of high-yielding wheat, with yields three times higher than those of traditional varieties, and Mexico was declared self-sufficient in wheat in 1956.
The transfer of knowledge from Mexico to India, where famine was widely anticipated, brought major productivity increases in India and other countries in Asia. Subsequently, new rice varieties from the rice research program headquartered in the Philippines with support from the foundations, improved food supplies even more. Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the breeding of the new strains of wheat, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
Since this early focus on breeding improved cultivars of the dominant staple grains – rice, wheat and maize – the CGIAR has expanded its commodity improvement efforts across a range of crops across roots and tubers, legumes and coarse grains, and also covering livestock and fish.
For an overview of the commodities covered by the mandates of the CGIAR centres, click here.
Seeds of improved variety disseminated
More information on outputs
Adoption of the improved variety by farmers
Direct (to adopters) and indirect (to non-adopters, labourers and consumers)
Positive and negative
Economic, social and environmental