Maize (Zea mays L.) is the third most important cereal crop in India after rice and wheat in terms of area and production. However, to provide gainful employment and doubling farmers’ income maize holds higher potential than rice and wheat. Maize is widely used as food, feed and fodder besides use as industrial raw material and also for bio-ethanol production. In recent past maize is gaining much popularity for silage and fodder purpose. Among cereals maize has highest compound annual growth rate for area, production and productivity in last over two decades. The phenomenal increase in maize area and production has been commensurate with the growth in poultry and allied industry in the country as maize is the highest contributor in poultry and animal feed due to its high energy content. Growth of starch industry is also a contributor in fast progress of maize production in the country as maize starch has maximum use in this industry.
Two important policy interventions have brought major changes in maize production scenario, establishment of All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Maize in 1957 and introduction of National Seed Policy in 1988. The AICRP on Maize was initially named as All India Coordinated Maize Breeding Project. It was established with the recommendation of a high powered committee constituted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1953 under the chairmanship of Dr. EJ Wellhausen from Mexico and Dr. UJ Grant from Columbia as member to recommend ways to augment food grain production in the country. The committee considering the highest productivity of maize among all cereals and its wide adaptability gave emphasis on maize. Genesis of AICRP on Maize is the recommendation of this Committee. Dr. RW Cummings was the founder Coordinator of this project. Success of this project led to establishment of AICRPs on various crop commodities in due course of time.
Development and release of widely adapted high yielding cultivars resistant to major diseases and insect pests through extensive multidisciplinary and multi-location testing was the objective of AICRP on Maize. It also aimed at shorten time of adaptation, exchange of ideas on germplasm and avoiding duplication of breeding efforts. Besides crop improvement, it is also involved in development of location-specific/climate resilient technologies for improved production and protection practices. These activities are currently carried out at 32 regular and 29 volunteer centres located in different agro-ecological regions of the country to meet the challenges of growing demand for maize at the national level.
The AICRP on Maize has certainly marked its glorious presence with its substantial progress resulting in maize production from 1.73 mt in 1950-51 to a new level of 28.75 mt by 2018, which signifies the resilience of maize cultivation against climatic variability. Till date, 429 improved cultivars have been released with potential yield of 5-8 t/ha for different agro-ecologies through AICRP network in order to achieve nutritional and food security. Continuous improvement of inbreds for yield and stress tolerance remained the focus of AICRP on Maize besides breeder seed production and outreach activities. Nutrition enhancement through bio-fortification has remained the focus of attention of the programme. Development and release of biofortified maize cultivars in form of quality protein maize (QPM) has remained as major achievement of AICRPM. Some of the popular field corn cultivars released through the project are DHM-117 & -121, CoMH-6 & -9, PMH-1, -3 & -6, DMRH-1301, -1305 among others. Work on biofortification has given rise to several nutrionally riched hybrids like Shaktiman series, HQPM-1 & -7, APQSH9, Pusa HM-8 & -9 etc. Specialty corn research yielded popcorn hybrids BPCH6, DMPCH 1402; baby corn hybrids VLBC-27, IMBH-1532 & -1530; sweet corn hyrids FSCH-75, ASKH-4 to name a few. AICRPM has developed improved location specific production technologies. Zero till maize has been proved to be a boon in conservation agriculture. In recent past the project has taken a lead role in awareness creation and combating the menace of new invasive pest, fall armyworm.
AICRP on Maize continues its efforts towards overall of progress of maize in the country so that it contributes towards progress and prosperity of maize farmers in the country and the nation as a whole.