Ten to 15 stress tolerant maize varieties and 10 higher yielding legume varieties available to farmers in the selected farming systems through farmer- and seed company-participatory variety evaluation and release. Pre-release and newly released maize hybrids and OPVs and legume species/varieties with potential suitability for the targeted farming system will be selected based on past regional and national trial data. Best-bet varieties with adequate amounts of seed will be utilized for experimentation in Objective 2 whereas a wider range of varieties will be assessed for performance, farmer preference and marketability in collaboration with farmers in the selected communities. Ease of production will assessed with seed companies supplying those communities. Per country, a minimum of three producible maize hybrids and OPVs and at least two legume species/varieties suitable for the targeted farming system will be identified and variety release supported. Based on GxE analyses and socio-economic characterizations, recommendation domains for varieties and hybrids will be developed both within each country and across the region to support rapid scale-out. Released varieties will be licensed to seed companies and one ton of breeder seed per variety produced in support of rapid scale-up. Associated training to be executed in Objective 5 will include a regional course for new breeders and seed company personnel and five in-country courses for farmer-participatory variety evaluation.
Regional nursery for further improved (2nd generation) maize and legume varieties and hybrids. Characteristics of new maize and legume varieties and hybrids will be identified in response to household surveys and value chain studies conducted in Objective 1. Using regional nurseries, elite inbreds, testcrosses, hybrids and maize and legume varieties will be characterized for performance, marketability and farmer acceptance in target countries, and in various systems including legume-intercrop and conservation agriculture conditions, and the data entered into an appropriate database. Web-based access to regional germplasm characterization databases and information will be developed and seed companies assisted for identifying varieties that meet marketing needs. Opportunities for incorporating national germplasm into regional nurseries will be assessed.
Environmental characterization: Four tropical maize hybrids and OPVs and 16 strategic maize testing sites in Africa and Australia will be parameterized for use in APSIM models across the program, to assist germplasm exchange and scale-out of best varieties. The analytical approach will be extended to legumes after analytical capacity has been established using maize.