This agreement will focus on developing high-productivity and eco-efficient pastures, in line with global initiatives to mitigate climate change and build sustainable food systems.
As global population grows so will demand for animal protein (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, 2009), making livestock farming intensification a central part to a sustainable food future. Breeding and mainstreaming of tropical forages are essential for improving productivity and lowering the environmental footprint while reducing the number of hectares dedicated to livestock production and the pressure over highly valuable ecosystems. This is a not only a priority in Latin America but in Africa and Asia as well, where the demand of forages with high nutritional quality and with resistance to different stresses is growing.
CIAT has a history of more than 45 years on forage research. Starting from the genetic resources conserved at CIAT’s genebank and applying cutting edge technologies in phenotyping, genotyping and breeding, the forage breeding program generates new hybrids under three grass-breeding programs (Brachiaria humidicola, B. interspecific and Panicum maximum). However, supporting these programs not only implies a significant investment in key resources on research and development -like evaluation on a wide range of sites under different agro-ecological conditions and livestock digestibility tests, far beyond those operated by the Center- but also having a key partner to scale out their major outputs, including multiplication and dissemination of new cultivars. Here is where interaction with partners is key! The biology of tropical forages, characterized by the need of longer days and temperature shifts to induce flowering, demands a partner who is able to work both in a latitude sufficiently distant from the equator for seed production and across tropical regions for commercialization and distribution.
The Papalotla Group, a worldwide leading company in the production of improved seeds for tropical hybrid pastures, has a long-term collaboration with CIAT, achieving a wide dissemination of hybrid pastures developed by CIAT and distributed by Papalotla, such as Cobra, Cayman, Mulato, and Mulato II. Since the release of Mulato, the first hybrid bred and selected through this partnership and launched in 2001, it is estimated that CIAT-Papalotla hybrids have been planted in more than 900,000 hectares worldwide. To this date, the Papalotla Group has disseminated CIAT hybrids in over 50 countries around the world to meet the growing demand for improved forages, technology, and knowledge that guarantee profitable and sustainable livestock production and thus improve farmers’ livelihoods.
Under the new agreement signed on October 1st, 2018, CIAT will focus on the research of new hybrids, while the multi-environment phase of hybrid development and livestock feeding evaluations will be a joint effort between Papalotla and CIAT. The research for production, and final production and commercialization phases will be in hands of Papalotla. Through this partnership CIAT seeks to streamline the links between CIAT’s Tropical Forages Breeding and the end users, to guarantee delivery and adoption of the products optimizing the program’s impact. The Forages Breeding Program is characterized by being the only one to successfully handle a complex biological system (tetraploid apomictic hybrids) to potentiate multiple desirable characteristics in forages, such as resistance to drought, flooding, and pests; higher productivity and nutritional quality; among others.
Besides the desirable characteristics of improved forages, the work under this new agreement will focus on developing products that also reverse environmental degradation, such as higher productivity per area to use less land, and contribute to reducing greenhouse gases from livestock activity, in line with global initiatives to mitigate climate change and build sustainable food systems.
Under a limited exclusive arrangement for only multiplication and commercialization, CIAT safeguards the original accessions at the international collection, which remain available to all under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Likewise, outputs will be available for non-commercial research by public sector organizations and in case of food emergencies. Further, as a recognition of the heritage of the improved forages, downstream commercialization is subject to monetary benefit sharing towards the International Fund created for this purpose and administered by the Secretariat of the ITPGRFA Treaty.
Finally, CIAT and Papalotla will promote accessibility and use of the improved forages by building a dissemination strategy that include synergies with key national and private partners in targeted countries, and exploring the possibility of seed multiplication in different continents to lower production costs and therefore, making high-quality seeds more accessible to smallholder farmers, while scaling out the impact of CIAT’s research and meet Papalotla’s market goals at the same time; a win for all.