Maize varieties picked by farmers for farmers in western and eastern India

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Client-oriented breeding in maize: improved varieties, GM-6 for western India, and BVM 2 for eastern India
Validated RNRRS Output. Home List by Audience List by Topic

Tribal hill farmers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in western India, and Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal in eastern India, helped select and test maize specifically for these areas where droughts are frequent and soils are poor. The new varieties have spread over thousands of hectares because they were picked by farmers for farmers. They are earlier than the strains they used previously, they’re drought-tolerant, and meet preferences for taste and cooking quality. Plus, they intercrop well with important later crops such as horsegram and blackgram. These new maize varieties have major potential to improve the lives of small farmers who can’t irrigate their crops: around two-thirds of the population in these hill areas.

Project Ref: PSP15:
Topic: 1. Improving Farmers Livelihoods: Better Crops, Systems & Pest Management
Lead Organisation: CAZS-NR, UK 
Source: Plant Sciences Programme


Current Situation
Lessons Learned
Impacts On Poverty
Environmental Impact


Research Programmes:

Plant Sciences Research Programme and DFID India bilateral projects

Relevant Research Projects:

R8099, Programme Development

  • UK
    • CAZS-Natural Resources: Prof J.R. Witcombe and Dr D.S. Virk
  • Western India
    • Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT), West: Mr K.S. Sandhu (Project manager) and Dr J.P. Yadavendra (Plant breeder)
    • Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), Indore: Dr M. Billore
    • Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology (MPUAT), Banswara: Dr R. Pandya
    • Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Anand: Dr D.B. Patel
  • Eastern India
    • Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT) East: Mr V.K. Vij (Project manager) and Dr S.C. Prasad (Plant breeder)
    • Birsa Agricultural University (BAU): Dr M. Chakraborty and Dr J. Ghosh

Research Outputs, Problems and Solutions:

Early-maturing and drought-tolerant maize varieties bred by client oriented breeding (COB)for western and eastern India (Table 1). The new COB varieties are adapted to low input and drought conditions but they respond to higher inputs and better conditions. The earlier maturity of the new varieties provides grain and fodder earlier in the season and this shortens the hunger gap. The new varieties are very suitable for selling green cobs in the market very early in the season (Table 1). The new varieties have good cooking quality and taste.

There are many other varieties produced from COB programmes in the west and the east that are at an advanced stage of testing including varieties with higher essential  amino acid content and high oil content.

Table 1. Characteristics of two released maize varieties bred by COB in western and eastern India

Variety Description
GM-6 andBVM 2
  • Very early maturity (75-80 d) with high drought tolerance
  • High grain and fodder yield, flint grains with good cooking quality and taste, resistance to lodging and diseases
  • Respond to better conditions.
GM-6 and BVM 2
  • Released in Gujarat in 2001, in Rajasthan and MP in 2005
  • White grained
  • Released in Jharkhand in 2003
  • Yellow grained

Client-oriented maize breeding (COB) (Witcombe et al., 2005) was started in western India in 1993 and in eastern India in 1997. In western India a base population was developed by random mating of varieties preferred by farmers in participatory varietal selection (PVS) (Joshi and Witcombe, 1998) trials. Farmers were involved in selection in the segregating generations of COB and in testing the outputs using participatory varietal selection (Witcombe et al., 2003). A similar process was followed in eastern India in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa (Virk et al., 2005). Varieties were produced from 1997 to 2005 in western India and from 1999 to 2004 in eastern India.

Problem addressed:

In western India, maize is the most important crop of tribal farmers in hill districts of western India in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (Fig. 1). Maize is the second most important crop after rice in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. In both regions the crop is grown on low fertility soils on undulating land under rainfed conditions where severe droughts are frequent.

Low-resource farmers grow low yielding and disease susceptible old varieties of maize or local varieties because of lack of suitable modern varieties (Joshi et al., 1998; Witcombe et al., 1998). Most of the released varieties are not adopted by farmers because they do not suit drought-prone, low fertility conditions.

Fig. 1. Crops (as percentage of total cropped area) in the rainy season in three districts of western Indian, 2004.

Types of Research Output:

Product Technology Service Process or Methodology Policy Other
x x

Major Commodities Involved:

The main commodity is maize. In western India the early-maturing maize varieties are more suitable for intercropping than later varieties as they are less competitive. Intercrops include horsegram and blackgram (PSP08 and PSP14) and pigeonpea. In eastern India the maize crop is sometimes intercropped with blackgram and pigeonpea.

The process of COB, tat includes the technique of participatory varietal selection (PVS) can be applied to any crop (PSP33 and PSP34).

Production Systems:

Semi-Arid High potential Hillsides Forest-Agriculture Peri-urban Land water Tropical moist forest Cross-cutting

Farming Systems: 

Smallholder rainfed humid Irrigated Wetland rice based Smallholder rainfed highland Smallholder rainfed dry/cold Dualistic Coastal artisanal fishing
x x

Potential for Added Value:  

The introduction of new varieties of maize in the rainfed conditions can be linked with the rainfed rabi fallow projects (cluster PSP35) where the maize varieties can be followed by the cultivation of pulses. It can be combined with seed priming (clusters PSP28 and PSP30). The new maize varieties can also be intercropped with improved legumes. For example, there is a synergy between maize and horsegram where an intercrop of improved maize (GM-6) with improved horsegram (AK-42, IVH-1 and IVH-2) is much more attractive than intercropping maize with horsegram landraces(clusters PSP08 and PSP14).

In PVS, the new intervention is a crop variety which can combine with the testing of other interventions that are synergistic with new crop varieties, i.e., crop protection and improved crop agronomy interventions. Since farmers evaluate varieties for all traits including fodder quantity and quality then clustering with outputs relating to improved livestock nutrition would be synergistic.

Clustering can be done with the following RNRRS outputs:

  • CPP, Good seed initiative, R8480
  • CPP, Increasing food security and improving livelihoods through the promotion of integrated pest and soil management in lowland maize systems Phase II, R8452, R8215
  • CPP, Linking demand with supply of agricultural information, R8429, R8281
  • CPP, Strategies for feeding smallholder dairy cattle in intensive maize forage production systems and implications for integrated pest management, R7955
  • NRSP, Participatory Technology Development, R7412


How the outputs were validated:

The COB varieties were developed by involving farmers in the selection in segregating generations. In addition, farmers conducted participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials immediately the new varieties were ready for testing.

The PVS trials were conducted by the resource poor in villages where GVT was working. Farmers conducted mother and baby trials (Witcombe, 2002). In the mother trials farmers grew the complete set of varieties and in baby trials just one variety to compare with their local variety. All farmers� trials were conducted under farmers� own management. The on-farm trials were jointly evaluated for the quantitative and qualitative traits using household level questionnaires and focus group discussions.

In western India, Farmers collaborated with researchers from GVT and three State Agricultural Universities. State departments of Agriculture were involved to a limited extent. Further validation is being undertaken during the process of seed provision to farmers by:

  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Rajasthan, Gujarat and MP;
  • Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihood Project (MPRLP) and the Action for Social Advancement (ASA) in MP;
  • SEWA MANDER in Rajasthan,
  • SARTHI, PRYAS, the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), and the National Watershed Mission in Gujarat.

GM-6 was validated in research and on-farm trials in Gujarat (Table 2). It was later tested in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in more trials that led to its recommendation in these two states. The new �BVM� varieties were validated in on-station trials, AICMIP trials and on-farm PVS trials (Table 2).

GM-6 yielded 10-29% more than the local check in on-farm trials (depending on the year) and 9-21% more than the modern variety check on-station (Table 2). It was 13 days earlier to mature than the local check in farmers� fields in 2000.

In Eastern India, farmers collaborated with researchers from GVT and Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi in on-farm validation. Research station trials were done by BAU and All India Coordinated Maize Improvement Project (AICMIP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The State Departments of Agriculture in Jharkhand has also tested the variety.

BVM 2 gave 17% higher grain yield over the modern check variety and 42% over farmers� local in trials conducted from 1998 to 2005 (Table 2). Increases for the other varieties in eastern India over the modern check variety were up to the level of 28% in on-farm trials. In the research trials COB varieties were 5 to 12% superior to modern check variety (Table 5).  Grain yield increases for COB varieties over the best national check in the AICMIP trials were 11 to 22% depending on the year.

In both eastern and western India the yield increases from the COB varieties tended to be higher in farmer field conditions than in the research station trials because the new varieties have better adaptation to poor fertility fields. 

Table 2.  Details of testing of GM-6 in western India, 1997 to 2004 and BVM 2 in eastern India, 1998 to 2005

When tested Where tested Tested by

Research  trials (No.)

On-farm trials (No.)

Grain yield increase

(% over check)

1997, 98 Guj GAU


21 over GM 1

1998 Guj, Raj GVT


29 over local

2000 Raj GVT


16 over local

2002 to 2004 MP JNKVV GVT



  9 over local

10 over local

1998-2005 Jharkhand, Orissa,

W. Bengal



17 over BM 1; 42 over local

1999-2003 Jharkhand BAU, GVT


  9 over BM 1

2000-2002 All India AICMIP


12 over Surya

� Includes front-line demonstrations.

The new varieties also excelled in a number of other traits than grain yield particularly in the earlier maturity, drought tolerance and grain and cooking quality (Table 3). Both GM-6 and BVM 2 can be grown as baby corn due to their earlier maturity and good ear size. Farmers around Ranchi who grew it for this purpose in 2006 have reported high profits and are keen to start commercial cultivation.

Table 3. Some of the additional features of new varieties

Name of output Special features
Western India
GM-6 Early maturity, escaping terminal drought, white-flint seeded with high cooking quality, lodging tolerant, fully husked ears that avoid diseases and insects, responds to high fertility
Eastern India
BVM 2 First COB variety released in Jharkhand in 2003; Extra early to mature (75-80 d); high grain quality (high tryptophan content). It is also good baby corn. Drought, lodging and disease resistant.

Where the Outputs were Validated:

The outputs were validated in the semi-arid system of smallholder from 1997 to 2005 in rainfed dry systems. All testing was carried out under rainfed conditions mainly on sloping, low-fertility fields in the uplands.

The target groups of farmers were mainly the resource-poor farmers in the villages of western and eastern India where GVT was working. The work in western India was centred on adjoining areas of three western Indian states; eastern Gujarat, southern Rajasthan and western Madhya Pradesh in the districts of Jhabua (MP), Panchmahals (Gujarat) and Banswara (Rajasthan). About 0.7 M people live there.

The work in eastern India was targeted for 13 districts of Jharkhand (Ranchi, Palamu, Hazaribagh, West Singhbhum, Kharsavan, Goda, Gumla, and Bukaro), Orissa (Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj) and West Bengal (Midnapur and Purulia) for improvement of livelihoods of 0.4 M people.

Farmers that were targeted were indigenous peoples typically having smallholdings with little or no irrigation facilities, who are food deficit and poor (as about 65% households live below the poverty line) and have agriculture as one of the most important enterprise in their livelihood strategies. Seeds were provided to all categories of male and female farmers (resource-rich and resource-medium). The varieties were then evaluated by the farmers that grew the trials, and their male and female neighbours, friends and relatives, for pre-harvest traits such as fodder yield, earliness, various plant and ear traits. The evaluation of the post-harvest traits always involved women.

Current Situation

Who are the Users?

In western and eastern India the varieties are being grown by farmers that have maize either as a staple or a major part of their diets. They are growing the varieties in place of the landraces they previously cultivated. They utilise the crop for grain that, even when it is a staple, is often sold to raise urgently needed cash. The maize stover is a major source of animal feed. Many of the farmers maintain the variety they have been given from farm-saved seed, provided the initial seed quantity was adequate and also distribute seed to other farmers as a gift, exchange or by a cash transaction.

Maize is a cross-pollinated crop so even when farmers report that they are no longer growing a named variety they have tried, such as GM-6, it may well still be being used by them. An improved maize variety can make a big genetic contribution to the following crop not only because of cross pollination to the farmers� landraces but because some of the seed the farmer sows originates from the plants of the variety. This genetic contribution is, overall, probably very important in improving productivity but extremely hard to quantify.

The lessons concerning the process of COB in maize are being used to varying extents by the collaborating plant breeders from the four state agricultural universities. They are continuing to use the outputs in their programmes as source material and for seed multiplication and dissemination.

Where the outputs have been used:

In western India GM-6 has primarily been used in Gujarat where it was first released; for several years Gujarat Agricultural University (GAU) and GVT provided seed of this variety mostly in Panchmahals district. More recently, GM-6 was tested in MP and Rajasthan and in both states has now been recommended for cultivation for hilly areas (primarily Banswara district in Rajasthan, and Ratlam and Jhabua districts in MP).  Hence, GM-6 is now in at the beginnings of the official seed production chain in these two states. 

BVM 1 is being used in the rainfed uplands of Jharkhand, Orissa, and W. Bengal, India in eastern India by a very limited number of farmers and GOs because of constraints on seed supply. Since BVM 2 is a released variety it is in the chain of seed production but very little seed is being produced.

Scale of Current Use:

The scale of current use has not been estimated but it must be considerable in western India as the acceptance of GM-6 is high. From a survey we found that all the farmers given access to seed of GM-6 grew it in the first year in 2001 (Figure 2). After the first year a proportion of the farmers decided to no longer grow the variety. However, those that did decide to grow the variety again became continuing adopters and grew it on an increasing proportion of their maize land. The most probable explanation for this pattern is that the first farmers try the variety some do not prefer it while others that like it fail to save seed. Once farmers had grown it for a second time, all were convinced of its advantages. The high adoption patterns of GM-6 are clear from the 121 farmers given seed in 1998 (Table 4).

Figure 2. Adoption as a percentage of farmers who had been given seed of GM-6 and the proportion of maize land they devoted to this variety.

Table 4. Adoption of GM-6 in the rainy season of 2000 by farmers who were given 5 kg seed for testing in 1998 in Gujarat state


No. of farmers

Average proportion of farmers who continued to grow (%)

Average area of maize land devoted to GM-6 (%)

Average area of maize land devoted to GM-6 (ha)






Given this acceptance and the scale of promotion (see below) the scale of use is high and is measured in thousands of hectares. It also seems, from positive data on seed distribution from farmer-to-farmer that the variety is still spreading without the continuing supply of seed that is taking place.

Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:

In western India, the main activities for dissemination of seed have been through projects such as the western India rainfed farming (WIRFP) which has now completed. Ongoing projects include the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project (MPRLP) and Poverty Initiative Programmes (DPIP), National Watershed Programme and Community Resource Centres under District Rural Development Agency. Other GOs and NGOs that have assisted include: State Departments of Agriculture, KVKs; CRS (Jhabua), World Vision (Banswara), Dahod Cooperative Sangh (Dahod), Prikirti Foundation (Dahod), UTHAN (Limkheda, Guj), PRYAS (Dahod), SARTHI (Santrampur, Guj), SEWA MANDIR (Udaipur), DRDA (Dahod); ASA (Bhopal).

In eastern India, apart from GVT and BAU, seed of BVM 2 was supplied to the following in 2006:

  • North-East Hill Centre, Tripura
  • Social Welfare Centre, Chhattisgarh
  • Assam Agricultural University
  • Maize Research Station Kangara, HP
  • Western Orissa Rural Livelihood Project (WORLP) that is DFID funded

GVT has collaboration with about 30 NGOs in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal who may have assisted (it is difficult to document as many packets of seed have been distributed). These include the Poorest Area Civil Society Programme (PACS) of Govt India and supported by DFID. The village Panchayats, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, National Agricultural Banking for Rural Development (NABARD), National Agricultural Marketing Federation (NAFAD), Council for Advancement of People�s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART).

Capacity strengthening in the following is required:

  • Capacity building by training to GOs, GOs and farmer groups.
  • Capacity in creating awareness with the stakeholders through meetings, demonstrations and the publication of literature for:
    1. the new varieties
    2. the maintenance of quality seed of maize varieties from farm-saved seed.

Lessons Learned and Uptake Pathways

Promotion of Outputs:

GM-6 has been promoted in western India in Gujarat, Rajasthan and MP. To date the scale of promotion was sufficient to sow about 3000 ha (Table 5). The total area of maize in western India in Gujarat, Rajasthan and MP is 0.35 M ha in the districts where GVT is working. For a replacement rate of 10% of the maize area every year there is an annual demand for 900 t assuming a seed rate of 20 kg ha -1. This remains modest even if multiplied by 10 to account for likely expansion from farm-saved seed and farmer-to-farmer seed distribution.

Table 5. Quantity of seed of GM-6 distributed in the rainy seasons from 1999 to 2006 in western India by GVT



Quantity to farmers (kg)

Quantity to GO, NGOs  (kg)

Sufficient for (ha)

1999 MP



1999 Guj



2000 MP



2000 Guj



2001 MP



2001 Raj



2001 Guj




2002 MP



2002 Raj



2002 Guj




2003 MP




2003 Raj



2003 Guj




2004 MP



2004 Raj



2004 Guj



2006 MP



2006 Guj







The total area under maize in Jharkhand, Orissa) and W. Bengal is about 0.29 M ha. Using similar assumptions made for western India there is an annual seed demand of about 600 t of seed but dissemination of BVM 2 has been much less. In 2002, 4 t of seed (about 500 g of seed per farmer) distributed in Jharkhand, Orissa and W. Bengal by GVT. About 10% of the farmers are still growing BVM 2 from their own seed.

Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:

The promotion of varieties in these poor parts of western India has been inefficient as the areas are remote, the purchasing capacity of the farmers is low, and the demand for seed unpredictable because it varies with the rains. Farmers also have limited access to the government extension services. They are supposed to visit the local farm science centre (KVK) but few farmers have the resources to do so. Front line demonstrations by Departments of Agriculture are few and conducted in more favourable agricultural environments.

There is a long gap between release and dissemination in the GOs sector. Despite the release of GM-6 in Gujarat in 2001 little seed was initially produced by Gujarat Agricultural University. This was because of lack of seed orders (indents) because of lack of awareness of the new variety by the Department of Agriculture and no regard to the demand from farmers. Variety BVM 2 was released in 2003 but no certified seed was produced by BAU because it was not notified till 2005. For the first time its breeder seed is being produced in 2006 and some certified seed can be produced in the dry season for cultivation in 2007.

How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:

The most important factor to remove the barriers is to raise awareness of them at all levels (State Agricultural Universities, NGOs, Departments of Agriculture and the private sector). There is a lack of awareness of the new technologies but also a lack of awareness on the constraints to delivering them. This would also require the need to package the availability of all of the technologies (see for example Witcombe and Yadavendra, 2006).

There is one major remaining platform in western India, the MPRLP, and in eastern India WORLP. Like all rural development programmes, these are multifaceted and hence a focus on an important single issue such as the provision of new seed can be blurred. There is a need to raise awareness in these two major platforms of the scope for poverty alleviation presented by GM-6 and BVM-2.

In addition to awareness, the following will help in removing some of the barriers. Capacity building:

         for NGOs and private seed companies to take up truthfully labelled seed production.

         for community-based seed production for a more local and sustainable seed supply (see PSP36). The capacity of self-help groups to have profitable, private-sector linked seed ventures needs to be built up.

         for the integration of the COB approach in maize breeding programmes of the SAUs in western and eastern India.

Lessons Learned:

Using Rogers (2003) diffusion of information as a framework for the lessons learnt:

  1. The relative advantage of a technology compared to what it is replacing; This is extremely high. The replacement of old varieties produces very large increases in grain yield and quality of grain in a staple crop. It also adds immensely to the attractiveness of a new cropping system because early maize varieties are more suitable for intercropping with horsegram.  
  2. The compatibility of the technology with existing systems and ways of doing things, which is closely related to culture; The compatibility of these technologies is extremely high and allows people to continue with there traditional farming systems.
  3. The complexity of the technology in terms of what people need to learn to make it work; The complexity is very low. The adoption of new varieties does not entail any change in farmers� practice.  The COB process is simple but it needs a big change in mindset to make it work effectively.
  4. The observability of a technology in terms of how easy it is to demonstrate and observe performance; The observability is high.
  5. The trialability of a technology in terms of how easy it is to test it before deciding to adopt. The trialability is very easy as long as seed is available. Farmers can test the new variety alongside their customary variety without changing their management of the crop.

Hence, provision of a sustainable seed supply is the most important factor in getting this research into use.

Impacts On Poverty

Poverty Impact Studies: 

Impact studies on poverty were primarily conducted in western India through surveys. The following studies are relevant.

  • Yadavendra, J.P. and Witcombe, J.R. 2006. The impact of new maize and rice varieties on the livelihoods of poor farmers in marginal agricultural areas of western India. Paper presented in International Symposium on Participatory Plant Breeding, 17-19 June 2006 at M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai.
  • Witcombe, J.R. and Yadavendra, J.P. 2006. Cultivating partnerships: Better choices for rainfed farming. Gramin Vikas Trust, India, pp.1-24.
  • Yadavendra, J.P., Patel, V.P. and Witcombe, J.R. 2006. The impact of new maize and rice varieties on the livelihoods of poor farmers in marginal agricultural areas of western India. Paper presented in the Livelihoods Summit, Udaipur, Sept. 27-30, 2005. In: Livelihoods- as if the poor matter, Indian Farm Foresty Development Corporation (IFFDC) New Delhi, pp. 36-37.

Surveys were made in 26 villages with 130 farmers in MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat districts of the GVT project where the project had been working for several years.

Economic benefit of supply of seed of GM-6 to farmers:     

Economic benefits from the commercial seed supply to farmers would produce huge economic benefits for farmers (Table 6). The supply of 200 t of seed instead of 25 t of seed would cost an additional �37,000 even if this seed is all given to farmers free of charge, but generates an additional benefit to farmers of over �1 million pounds.

Table 6.     The benefits to farmers of growing GM-6 maize from varying quantities of initial seed supply.



year 1
year 1
year 2
year 2
year 3
year 3
Approx NPV



 (ha) (�)  (ha) (�) (ha) (�) (�)



1,250 29,464 3,125 55,246 7,813 74,581 153,934



2,500 58,929 6,250 110,491 15,625 149,163 307,868



5,000 117,857 12,500 220,982 31,250 298,326 615,737



7,500 176,786 18,750 331,473 46,875 447,489 923,605



10,000 235,714 25,000 441,964 62,500 596,652 1,231,473


  • Seed costs of 15 Rs/kg.
  • Farmers get 5.5 Rs/kg for their additional harvest (an early harvest gives a higher price than the usual 5 Rs/kg).
  • Local variety yields 1 t ha-1 and GM-6 yields: 30% more in year 1; 25% more in year 2; and 15% more in year 3 (variety  performance is pessimistically assumed to decline at this rate as it becomes less pure).
  • The variety spreads within farm and from farmer to farmer  and increases in area at 2.5 times a season.
  • Drought will reduce this rate and emphasises the need of a continuous seed supply (This can also be modelled but has not been done here).
  • Benefits are discounted at 10% per year after year 1.

How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):

Positive effects of new varieties: Farmers� perceptions for GM-6 showed that significantly more farmers preferred the new variety for earlier maturity, higher grain yield, higher fodder yield, better eating quality and higher market price over the local variety (Fig. 3). Although a considerable proportion of the farmers reported that the variety had better eating quality, this was not reflected in market price where the variety was reported to fetch the same price as the local variety. This reflects the market where grain merchants and consumers do not distinguish between different qualities of white maize.

Fig.3. Summary of farmers� perceptions for GM-6 maize variety relative to the local checks

Effect on livelihoods: Farmers reported considerable impacts on their livelihoods with seed sales in maize increasing by 51% and food self-sufficiency by more than one month. Over 70% of the farmers growing the new maize varieties reported an overall increase of more than 10% in their total income (Table 7).

Table 7. Farmers� perceptions on the impact of the new maize varieties on their livelihoods.

Seed sales (t)

Food self sufficiency months)

Impact on livelihoods  (% total income)

Before After Before After 0
(no & %)
(no & %)
(no& %)
(no & %)
& %)
& %)
34 52 10.0 11.3 0 27 41 4 1 14
+51% +13% 0% 24% 47% 26% <1% 12%

Similar surveys were not conducted in eastern India but the informal PRAs and focus group discussions during on-farm trials revealed similar livelihood impacts of maize varieties. Farmers trade-off many traits while adopting new varieties. The earlier maturity of new varieties developed by COB increased options of farmers in adjusting their cropping patterns.

Environmental Impact

Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:

Direct and indirect benefits:

  • The wide scale adoption of the COB process will reduce national wastage associated with the breeding and testing of varieties that farmers would ultimately reject. 
  • Increased productivity per unit area without the use of additional external inputs especially pesticides is environmentally beneficial. The new varieties use nitrogen more efficiently so they reduce the demands for inorganic N that is an important pollutant and its synthetic production is a significant contributor to global warming.
  • Increased productivity will reduce the pressure to increase the area under cultivation (Evenson and Gollin, 2003).
  • Varietal diversification will help reduce crop loss due to pests and diseases and thereby reduce the use of pesticides. Introduction of new varieties has always increased on-farm diversity.
  • The better disease and pest resistance of the new varieties can reduce the use of water and soil polluting agro-chemicals. Reduced use of pesticides and insecticides will also reduce the risk to human life and will help in creation of a balanced pest-predator cycle.
  • GM-6 is highly suited to intercropping with horsegram is an ideal crop for reducing soil erosion. It covers bare soil when intercropped with maize.

Adverse Environmental Impacts:

Any adverse environmental impact is unlikely in the present case as the new varieties are scale neutral and do not require any special cultural, management and production input.

Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:

Earlier maturing varieties have increased the resilience of farmers by making the crop less prone to end-of-season droughts. Varietal and crop diversification is a means of coping with climate change. Intercropping of horsegram with maize is a highly resilient system as it spreads the risk between two crops.

If COB increases the number of varieties in a farmers� portfolio then this can reduce risk and increase options within the farming system.



Evenson, R.E  & D. Gollin. 2003: Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000. Science 300: 758 � 762.

Joshi, A. & Witcombe, J.R. 1998. Farmer participatory approaches for varietal improvement. pp. 171-190 in Seeds of Choice. Making the most of new varieties for small farmers. J.R. Witcombe, D.S. Virk & J. Farrington (Eds). Published by Oxford IBH, New Delhi & Intermediate Technology Publications, London.

Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffussion of innovations. 5th Edition. New York: Free Press.

Virk, D.S. Chakraborty, M. Ghosh, J. Prasad, S.C. & Witcombe. J.R. 2005. Increasing the client orientation of maize breeding using farmer participation in eastern India. Experimental Agriculture 41: 413-426.

Witcombe, J.R., Packwood, A.J., Raj, A.G.B. & Virk, D.S. 1998. The extent & rate of adoption of modern cultivars in India. pp. 53-68 in Seeds of Choice. Making the most of new varieties for small farmers. J.R. Witcombe, D.S. Virk & J. Farrington (Eds). Published by Oxford IBH, New Delhi  & Intermediate Technology Publications, London.

Witcombe, J.R. & Virk, D.S. 2001. Number of crosses & population size for participatory and classical plant breeding. Euphytica 122:451-462, 2001

Witcombe, JR. 2002. A Mother and Baby trial system. in: Breeding rainfed rice for drought-prone environments: integrating conventional and participatory plant breeding in South and Southeast Asia. Proceedings of a DFID Plant Sciences Research Programme/IRRI Conference,, 12-15 March 2002, IRRI, Los Baňos, Laguna, Philippines. Department for International Development (DFID) Plant Sciences Research Programme, Centre for Arid Zone Studies (CAZS) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Bangor and Manila. Appendix, 79.

Witcombe, J.R., Joshi, A. & Goyal, S.N. 2003. Participatory plant breeding in maize: A case study from Gujarat, India.  Euphytica 130:413-422.

Witcombe, J.R., Joshi, K.D., Gyawali, S., Musa, A. M., Johansen, C., Virk, D.S. & Sthapit B.R. (2005). Participatory Plant Breeding is Better Described as Highly Client-Oriented Plant Breeding. I. Four Indicators of Client-Orientation in Plant Breeding. Experimental Agriculture 41: 299-319.

Witcombe, J.R. & Yadavendra, J.P. 2006. Cultivating partnership: better choices for rainfed farming. Gramin Vikas Trust, India.

Relevant Research Projects, with links to the
Research for Development (R4D) web site
and Technical Reports:

R4D Project Title Technical Report
R6395 The Development and Testing of Seed-Priming to Improve Stand Establishment, Early Growth and yield in Semi-Arid Zimbabwe and India.
Main Report. Summary.
R7189 Cultivar competitiveness and interactions with on-farm seed priming for integrated weed management
R7412 Incorporation of local knowledge into soil and water management interventions which minimise nutrient losses in the Middle Hills of Nepal
R7438 Participatory promotion of “on farm” seed priming
R7440 The physiological basis for the effects of on-farm seed priming in tropical crops: interactions with seedbed physical conditions
R7540 Promotion of chickpea following rainfed rice in the Barind area of Bangladesh
  • Uptake and impact of the promotion of chickpea following rainfed rice in the Barind area of Bangladesh
R7541 Assessing the potential for short-duration legumes in South Asian rice fallows
R7955 Strategies for feeding smallholder dairy cattle in intensive maize forage production systems and implications for integrated pest management  A
R8098 Promotion of rainfed rabi cropping in rice fallows of India and Nepal: pilot phase
R8099 Participatory plant breeding in rice and maize in eastern India
R8215 Increasing food security and improving livelihoods through the promotion of integrated pest and soil management in lowland maize systems
R8221 Promotion of rainfed rabi cropping in rice fallows of eastern India and Nepal: Phase 2
R8269 Improvement of rainfed cropping systems in the High Barind Tract of Bangladesh
R8281 Linking the demand for, and supply of, agricultural production and post-harvest information in Uganda. Main Report. Annex.
R8429 Linking supply and demand in Uganda phase 2. Main Report. Annex.
R8452 Increasing food security and improving livelihoods through the promotion of integrated pest and soil management in lowland maize systems, Phase II
R8480 The Good Seed Initiative – sharing the learning from CPP programmes into pro-poor seed systems in East Africa