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René Smulders

Dr. M.J.M. (René) Smulders (PhD 1989 Nijmegen, The Netherlands) is group leader at Wageningen UR Plant Breeding, Wageningen, The Netherlands. His research interests include the use of genetic markers to study genetic processes in natural populatons, and to assist breeding of plant varieties. He is, amongst others, active in the development of wheat that is less toxic for people with celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten).

Border Sessions 2014 - Thu, 13 Nov 2014

How technology is changing the way we breed our plants
Three-quarters of the world’s most severe droughts over the past 10 years have occurred in Africa, making farming risky for millions of smallholder farmers, most of whom are women and rely on rainfall to water their crops. Maize is the most widely grown staple crop in Africa – more than 300 million Africans depend on it as their main food source. Maize production is severely affected by drought, which can lead to unpredictable and low yields, and at worst, complete crop failure.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa project (WEMA) is a public/private partnership, led by the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID.

It was created with a goal to enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa through developing and deploying drought-tolerant maize royalty-free to the smallholder farmers. Insect-protection is complementary to the efforts of developing more drought-tolerant maize varieties and will also be available royalty-free. This increased yield stability has the potential to help reduce hunger and improve the livelihood of millions of Africans.