Guillermo Breton, a no-tiller in central Mexico, wonders if the farmers who have made Ukraine the 5th largest exporter of wheat, will be able to produce anything during a war.
“The problem would be much worse if a remarkable group of scientists had not dedicated themselves in the last century to the improvement of agriculture,” Breton says.
Breton is referring to Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Norman Borlaug's groundbreaking research on wheat in the 1950’s and 60’s. Breton’s family had a front row seat for the legendary work.
“I wasn’t born at the time, so I couldn’t meet Dr. Borlaug at our farm, but he came many times across several summers,” Breton details in a column for Global Farmer Network. “I’ve heard the stories. My father worked with Borlaug in the fields, growing the seeds that would help Borlaug produce a better kind of wheat. My mother made sure that our house was in order so that Borlaug and his companions had proper accommodations.”
Borlaug’s work is credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives. Widely described as “the father of the Green Revolution,” he found ways for farmers around the world to grow stronger, healthier wheat.
“Drought, disease, and war still possess the horrible potential to inflict suffering, but we’re in fact much more capable of dealing with them because of what Dr. Borlaug and his fellow researchers accomplished decades ago."
Their work continues today at the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center, also known as CIMMYT (in its Spanish acronym). Breton lives within driving distance of CIMMYT’s headquarters. The fifth-generation farmer praises CIMMYT for not only adapting cutting-edge technologies in agriculture, but for “taking it to the farmers,” some of Dr. Borlaug’s last words before he passed away in 2009.
“Because of CIMMYT, I’m a better farmer today than I was just a few years ago, and I’ll be even better in the years ahead. CIMMYT’s Karim Ammar taught me about triticale, which is producing great results on my farm. CIMMYT’s Director General, Bram Govaerts, introduced me to the value of no-till, which is making my farm both more productive and sustainable.”
Breton grows corn, barley, sunflower and triticale on his farm in Tlaxcala, the state with the lowest organic matter percentage in Mexico. He feels better equipped to deal with challenges and believes other farmers around the world are as well, thanks to the work of Borlaug and CIMMYT.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a globally important farming nation, is adding stress to the challenge of global food security. As we watch a country and its innocent people suffer, we aren’t thinking much about wheat germplasms – but we should be grateful that CIMMYT’s agronomists have made us all a little more resilient.”
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