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 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Copyright
 Table of Contents
 Executive summary
 History and structure of AMBIO...
 Framework for impact assessmen...
 Impact on Asian maize research...
 Impact on research output...
 Impact on farmers
 Conclusions : Impacts and...
 Reference
 Back Cover






Title: Asian Maize Biotechnology Network (AMBIONET) : a model for strengthening national agricultural research systems
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Title: Asian Maize Biotechnology Network (AMBIONET) : a model for strengthening national agricultural research systems
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Creator: Pray, Carl E.
Publisher: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
Publication Date: 2006
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
    Title Page
        Page i
    Copyright
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Executive summary
        Page 1
        Page 2
    History and structure of AMBIONET
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Framework for impact assessment
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Impact on Asian maize research capacity
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Impact on research output and productivity
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    Impact on farmers
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
    Conclusions : Impacts and the future
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Reference
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    Back Cover
        Back cover
Full Text


The Asian Maize Biotechnology Network

(AMBIONET):
A Model for Strengthening National
Agricultural Research Systems


Carl E Pray
Department of Agricutural, Food & Resource Economics
Rutgers University


Blo4w IACRIIICAI poU










The Asian Maize Biotechnology Network

(AMBIONET):

A Model for Strengthening National

Agricultural Research Systems





Carl E. Pray
Department of Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics
Rutgers University
Cook Office Building
55 Dudley Road
New Brunswick NJ 08901
USA


Acknowledgments
Editing: Mike Listman.
Layout/design: Eliot SAnchez.
















SAID
FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

This study was generously supported by USAID, through linkage funding.



























CIMMYT (www.cimmyt.org) is an international, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and
training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. Drawing on strong science and
effective partnerships, CIMMYT works to create, share, and use knowledge and technology to increase
food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural
resources. CIMMYT is one of 15 Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org). Financial support for CIMMYT's work comes from the
members of the CGIAR, national governments, foundations, development banks, and other public and
private agencies.

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) 2006. All rights reserved. The
designations employed in the presentation of materials in this publication do not imply the expression of
any opinion whatsoever on the part of CIMMYT or its contributory organizations concerning the legal
status of any country, territory, city, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its
frontiers or boundaries. CIMMYT encourages fair use of this material. Proper citation is requested.

Correct citation: Pray, C. 2006. The Asian Maize Biotechnology Network (AMBIONET): A model for
strengthening national agricultural research systems. Mexico, D.F.: CIMMYT.

Abstract: This report reviews the impacts of the Asian Maize Biotechnology Network (AMBIONET),
organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) with funding from the
Asian Development Bank to strengthen the capacity of public maize research institutions in China, India,
Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to produce high-yielding, disease resistant, stress tolerant
maize cultivars. It was found that, during its lifetime (1998-2005), AMBIONET clearly benefited
researchers and institutions in participating countries, as well as CIMMYT. In addition, there was good
progress toward developing improved cultivars. Asian farmers are just beginning to gain from the work,
but their future benefits will likely pay for AMBIONET's relatively modest expenditures many times over.

ISBN: 970-648-138-9
AGROVOC descriptors: Zea mays; Plant breeding; Biotechnology; Breeding methods; Research methods;
Disease resistance; Yield increases; Research institutions; China; India;
Indonesia; Philippines; Thailand; Viet Nam; Asia
AGRIS category codes: F30 Plant Genetics and Breeding
F01 Crop Husbandry
Additional Keywords: AMBIONET
Dewey decimal classification: 633.15950

Printed in Mexico.












Contents




1. Executive Sum m ary ......................................................................... ...................... 1

2. History and Structure of AMBIONET........................................................ 3
H isto ry ............................................................................. .................................. ........... 3
The structure of AMBIONET ................................... ....................................4

3. Framework for Impact Assessment................................... ............................. 10
C conventional breeding .................................................................. ...................... 10
Breeding with molecular tools ...................................................... 11
P athw ays to farm ers ....................................................................... ...................... 13
M ethods of im pact analysis ............................... .... .................................. 14

4. Impact on Asian Maize Research Capacity .......................................................... 17
Asian maize research before AMBIONET .......................... ........................... 17
Impact of AMBIONET on NARSs' research priorities ............................................... 18
Fin an cial resources ........................................... .................................................... 19
H u m an cap ital ................................................................................. .......................... 2 1
Strength through the network ............................. .................................... 23
Impact on research capacity outside AMBIONET partner institutions.................... 23

5. Impact on Research Output and Productivity ..................... ......... ............ 26
Progress toward improved cultivars ................................... ............................... 26
Increasing knowledge, improving research tools ..................................................... 28
R research productivity .................................................................... ...................... 29

6. Im p act on farm ers .............................................................................. .............. .......... 31
Potential value of new varieties from AMBIONET ............................ ............. 31
Actual and potential impact of AMBIONET activities .............................................32
Will the technology reach the poor? .................................................................. 34
R research p priorities ............................................ .................................................... 36

7. Conclusions: Impacts and the Future ................................................................. 38

R eferen ces ................... ......................................................................................................... 4 1

A appendix table 1......................................... ...... ...................... 42

A p p en d ix tab le 2. .................................................................................... ............... .......... 43












Tables and Figures




Table 1. Summary of AMBIONET research activities, 1998-2003. .......................................................... 6
Table 2. ADB AMBIONET budget categories. .................................................. ................................. 7
Table 3. Research inputs from AMBIONET. ............................................................... ...................... 8
Table 4. Steps in marker-assisted breeding for disease resistance in maize,
with examples from India and China. ......................................................... ..................... 12
Table 5. Public and private-sector maize research institutes and scientists, 1997/98 ........................ 17
Table 6. Direction of research funding and competitive grants in AMBIONET.................................... 19
Table 7. Scientists and technicians in the AMBIONET teams before and
after joining A M BIO N ET. ................................................. ........................................................ 21
Table 8. Participants in training programs by country. ............................................. ........................... 22
Table 9. Thesis research and short-term training supported by AMBIONET teams.......................... 24
Table 10. Pathways from AMBIONET research to improved cultivars................................................... 26
Table 11. Numbers of journal articles published by AMBIONET partners. ............................................ 28
Table 12. Number of maize varieties developed and marketed in Asia by
public and private sector, 1990-98. .............................................................. ...................... 32
Table 13. Estimates of losses from downy mildew and sugarcane mosaic virus.................................. 32
Table 14. Area planted to maize, by maize type, based on estimates of national
public-sector researchers (adjusted using FAO area data), selected
A sian countries and region, 1997. .................................................... ................................... 35

Figure 1. Pathways for marketing germplasm. ................................................ ................................. 13
Figure 2. Hypothetical example of costs and benefits from molecular breeding. ................................ 14
Figure 3. Research productivity: journal articles per scientist. ......................... ........................... 29
Figure 4. Costs and potential benefits of disease resistance research conducted
as p art of A M B IO N E T .................................................... .......................................................... 33











1. Executive Summary


Supported by the Asian Development Bank, the
Asian Maize Biotechnology Network
(AMBIONET) included molecular biologists and
maize scientists and was organized in 1998 by
CIMMYT and the national agricultural research
systems (NARSs) of China, India, Indonesia,
Philippines, and Thailand. Vietnam joined during
the second phase of the project, which started in
2002. The network ended in 2005.

The objective of AMBIONET was to strengthen the
capacity of key public maize research institutions
in Asia to produce maize cultivars that would be
higher yielding, resistant to diseases, and tolerant
to abiotic stresses. The research capacity building
component focused on the use of molecular
markers and molecular breeding.

The major research question of this study was: in a
climate of shrinking funding for the CGIAR
centers, were these AMBIONET projects a good
use of CIMMYT's limited resources? To answer
this question we looked at three components:

1. Is the Asian maize breeding capacity stronger
than it would have been in the absence of
AMBIONET?
2. Are the research programs that are part of
AMBIONET likely to develop technology that
will improve the income and well-being of
resource-poor farmers in Asia?
3. Is CIMMYT's research program stronger because
of AMBIONET?


The primary method to answer these questions
was through interviews conducted over November
2003-August 2004 with many NARSs and
CIMMYT scientists involved in AMBIONET and
with public sector scientists and officials in private
firms outside the network. We also developed a
questionnaire that was completed by the
AMBIONET coordinator for each country. Finally,
we reviewed the reports and some published
papers of the AMBIONET team and of other
networks.

The main findings are:

1. Although AMBIONET was developed and
expanded in two projects funded by the Asian
Development Bank; the resources provided to
AMBIONET by ADB and CIMMYT in the two
projects were quite small: US$2.4 million from
ADB and about US$1.3 million in kind from
CIMMYT.
2. Despite the limited resources invested, maize
research in Asia was strengthened, particularly
at the institutes participating in AMBIONET in
China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
AMBIONET also strengthened the research of
individual scientists in the Philippines and
Thailand, even though it was less successful at
building research institutions.
3. Much of AMBIONET's research focused on the
problems of small farmers. Good progress was
made toward developing improved, disease
resistant lines that can be used in breeding
programs. It is too early to tell whether the
breeding priorities pursued were the best to
obtain maximum social benefits.











4. Farmers are just starting to benefit from
AMBIONET research. The size of future benefits
is difficult to predict, but the benefits will
probably cover the costs of AMBIONET
expenditures many times over.
5. CIMMYT has also benefited from this program.
It has gained knowledge about Asian maize
germplasm and knowledge and molecular
markers relating to drought and important
diseases. AMBIONET has helped CIMMYT
move toward its goals of stronger maize research
programs and improved technology for the poor
in developing countries.


This report is organized as follows. Section 2 is a
history of AMBIONET and the research inputs that
it provided. Section 3 develops a framework for
impact assessment based on the biotechnologies
and their possible impact. Section 4 examines the
impact of AMBIONET on Asian research capacity.
Section 5 presents an analysis of the impact of
AMBIONET on research outputs and productivity.
Section 6 describes the way increased research
outputs and productivity could benefit farmers
and the possible level of potential benefits from
AMBIONET research. Section 7 reviews the
evidence on the impact of AMBIONET and looks
at some alternative futures for the network.











2. History and Structure of AMBIONET


History
The AMBIONET project built on two previous
Asian biotechnology networks. The first was the
Rockefeller Foundation Rice Biotechnology
Program. This program started in 1984 as a
comprehensive research, capacity building, and
technology transfer program that included the
entire spectrum from fundamental research to
plant breeding and socio-economic evaluation of
potential benefits. Between 1984 and 1999 the
Rockefeller Foundation allocated almost US$100
million to this program. Part of the money went
to laboratories in high-income countries to
develop techniques and knowledge that could be
used for the molecular biology, genetic
engineering, and molecular breeding of rice. The
other large part of the money went to fund
capacity-building and research at institutes in
developing countries, primarily in Asia. In
addition networking activities like annual
meetings of participants and a rice biotechnology
newsletter were developed to improve
communication among participating scientists.

This program was a major success in terms of
capacity building. The 1999 evaluation of this
program stated (Mohan et al. 1999):

"As far as the capacity building in rice
biotechnology capacity in low income countries
(LICs) is concerned, the impact of the Rice
Biotechnology Program has been profound,
often with spin-off benefits to other crops.
Many individuals have benefited from both
formal training and research grants while we
estimate the combination has had potentially a
major impact in about 46% of the Rice
Biotechnology Program supported LICs


institutions. However, we believe that major
challenges still exist in many institutions in
ensuring that such individual and institutional
biotechnology capacity results in useful
contributions to final products, the primary
problem being of forging effective interactive
linkages with rice breeders and development
oriented agencies."

The program was less successful at developing
"products" in the form of new technology for
farmers. The impact as of 1999 was an impressive
list of intermediate products including an
immense amount of knowledge about rice
genetics, many new research tools, and improved
lines of rice. According to Mohan et al. (1999):
"...as a result, work on the rice genome has
become a model for other cereal crops." Many
transgenic rice varieties and hybrids with
resistance to insects, disease, herbicides, and
improved nutritional qualities have been
developed by scientists, but no transgenic rice
lines have been commercialized, primarily
because of biosafety regulatory procedures, which
are driven in part by consumer concerns about the
safety of genetically modified products. Some
disease resistant, non-transgenic rice varieties
developed using marker assisted selection (MAS)
were being tested for commercial release when the
Rockefeller Program was evaluated in 1999.

The second program upon which AMBIONET
built was the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network
(ARBN). International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) scientists, with funding from the Asian
Development Bank and German foreign aid, set
up the ARBN in 1993. It grew with a second phase
which started in 1997 and a third phase which











lasted from January 1999 to 2002. The initial
project aimed to address the fact that many biotech
research centers were started with well-trained
people, lots of equipment, and funding from Asian
governments and the Rockefeller Foundation, but
few of these centers did much research and or
produced new knowledge or technology. IRRI
scientists and their NARSs colleagues felt that
some type of on-going relationship with IRRI
biotech scientists and other research centers was
needed; that NARSs scientists should be able not
only to take training courses, but also to use the
techniques learned while working alongside an
IRRI scientist. The latter would provide
subsequent trouble-shooting assistance for the
national program researchers, once they returned
their home institutions. The ARBN also provided
enzymes or facilitated repairs for advanced
equipment, when such products or services were
unavailable locally, and helped the national
scientists to keep current with the literature and
maintain contact with colleagues.

The first ARBN project was funded by ADB and
concentrated on strengthening selected public
research labs, biotech scientists, and rice breeders
in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Later
projects expanded the program to 10 institutes in 6
countries. The research focused on biotic stresses;
specifically, bacterial blight, tungro, blast, and gall
midge. ARBN had a full-time scientist/manager
and scientists at IRRI who backstopped the
manager. The first phase of the project was
primarily capacity building. The second phase
comprised collaborative research and some
capacity building with newer partners. The third
phase was mainly networking and maintenance of
research. Approximately US$100,000 was invested
in the labs of each of the early partners. The project
sponsored many training courses and financed


research projects at the collaborating institutes. A
lab at IRRI received network partners for extended
periods of research. The IRRI lab also furnished
access to expensive, sophisticated equipment that
partners needed only occasionally.

AMBIONET was modeled fairly closely on ARBN.
CIMMYT had a long history of training and
supporting maize breeders and other maize
scientists from the center's regional office in
Bangkok. In the mid-1990s CIMMYT closed that
office, but tried to continue to support maize
breeders in the region by proposing an Asian
maize network to be funded by ADB. The agency
declined to fund that network, so in 1997 CIMMYT
put together the proposal for AMBIONET. Like
ARBN the aim was to strengthen public maize
breeding through applied biotechnology. To join
AMBIONET, countries had to have some biotech
research capacity, as well as be clients of ADB. The
institutes in each country were selected to ensure
that the biotechnologists and plant breeders
worked closely together on applied research
problems. In each country a biologist and a plant
breeder were selected as joint team leaders. On the
advice of Rockefeller and ADB and due, in part, to
the limited budget, the project did not include a
large central laboratory for AMBIONET. The Bank
also decided not to fund genetic engineering
research, because of concerns in the agency about
potential health hazards. AMBIONET was
accepted and the project started in early 1998.

The Structure of AMBIONET
The first AMBIONET project included China,
India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The Asian Development Bank project that funded
it was called "Application of Biotechnology to
Maize Improvement in Asia." The objectives and
scope of the first project were (CIMMYT 2001):











"To build and support the capacity of national
maize improvement programs in five Asian
countries to apply biotechnology for variety
improvement, with the goal of increasing maize
productivity through the development of high
yielding cultivars that are resistant to disease
and tolerant to abiotic stresses. The scope of the
project includes training, collaborative research,
and information sharing through the Asian
Maize Biotechnology Network.

The project focused on the application of
molecular markers to develop improved maize
varieties that have high yield, resistance against
diseases, and tolerance to abiotic stresses.
Primary research areas were the genetic
characterization of maize lines, and mapping
and marker-assisted selection for resistance to
downy mildew, sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV),
and maize rough dwarf virus (MRDV), in
addition to tolerance to drought and low
nitrogen conditions."

David Hoisington, head of the Applied
Biotechnology Center at CIMMYT, was the
scientific advisor and administrator of the project.
Luz George, who had worked for the Asian Rice
Biotechnology Network, was hired in late 1998 as
AMBIONET coordinator in Asia, located at IRRI in
the Philippines, with chief responsibility for
project implementation. A maize breeder and a
molecular biologist from public research institutes
were identified as team leaders in each project
country. In 2000 a sixth team located at the
Sichuan Agricultural University in southern China
was added.

The objectives and scope of the second project
(2002-05) added enhanced nutritional qualities
and banded leaf and sheath blight (BLSB) as
research areas. At this time institutes in Vietnam
joined AMBIONET.


The AMBIONET was funded by a three-way
partnership among the Asian Development Bank,
CIMMYT, and national partners. The first project
was funded primarily by ADB, which contributed
US $1.4 million over four years, and by CIMMYT,
which made an in-kind contribution of scientific
advice and training of about US $400,000. The
national partners were budgeted to contribute
about US $200,000. In the second project ADB
provided US $1 million over three years.
CIMMYT was to contribute in-kind services of
about US $900,000. The national partners were
budgeted to contribute US $720,000 in in-kind
resources, and it was hoped that the private
sector would contribute US $180,000 over the
three years of the project.

Research capacity building was to be achieved
through a combination of collaborative research
projects, training, networking, and in some cases
the provision of equipment or assistance in
identifying suppliers. Varietal development
research was done by national programs in
collaboration with CIMMYT, which contributed
training, information, DNA markers, germplasm,
and other scientific and technical backstopping.
AMBIONET provided the research focus and
facilitated collaboration. Molecular markers were
used in (1) fingerprinting, particularly
characterizing maize germplasm in genetic
diversity studies; (2) mapping, which is the
identification and characterization of genomic
regions involved in the expression of target traits;
and, ultimately, (3) marker-assisted selection
(MAS), also know as molecular breeding, which
is maize improvement using selection for
genomic regions associated with target traits.

The AMBIONET research agenda was developed
by the national breeders and biologists working
with CIMMYT biotechnology scientists (Table 1).












Projects focused on the improvement of locally-
adapted lines for country-relevant traits.
Components on diversity and downy mildew,
which were relevant to all or most of the
countries, were pursued through a sub-network
of research projects.


Priorities were set primarily according to supply-
side considerations: how difficult the problem
was to solve and the capacity of NARS
researchers. AMBIONET scientists chose research
projects that they believed had prospects for quick
success, both to encourage NARS partner
scientists and to show other scientists and
funding agencies the value of biotechnology tools.
For example, diversity studies in hybrid breeding
populations-classifying them into groups from
which breeders could choose lines to develop
higher-yielding hybrids-constitute a relatively
straightforward use of genetic fingerprinting. All
partner institutions had the scientists and
equipment needed to accomplish them, and the
information generated could be useful to
conventional plant breeders.


Developing markers for disease resistance and
using them in MAS is more complicated and
would take longer to produce results. Participants
started working on diseases about which much
was known and for which resistance was
controlled by a small number of genes. It was
expected that they would make progress by the
end of the first project and they did.


The last target was drought tolerance. This was
thought to be the most important problem
throughout Asia (and elsewhere), particularly for
small-scale farmers who lack irrigation. Drought
tolerance is genetically much more complicated
than resistance to most diseases. Many traits
contribute to drought tolerance at different stages
of plant growth, and most of these traits are
controlled by many genes. As a result the
AMBIONET team decided that larger, more
advanced research programs, such as those of
China and India, would start working on drought
immediately. The others would wait until they
had built up their biotech capacity through work
on diversity and diseases.


Table 1. Summary of AMBIONET research activities, 1998-2003 (x = started in phase I; xx = started in phase II).
Participating institutes are listed below.
Maize Downy Banded leaf Drought Low nitrogen Quality
Country NARSs diversity Virus mildew and sheath blight tolerance tolerance protein maize
China-North CAAS x x x xx
China-South SAU x xx x
India IARI x x xx x
Indonesia ICERI/IABGGRI x x xx xx xx
Philippines USM xx x xx xx
Thailand DOA x x x x xx
Vietnam NMRI/AGI xx xx xx
CAAS: Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
SAU: Sichuan Agricultural University
IARI: Indian Agricultural Research Institute
ICERI: Indonesian Cereal Research Institute
IABGRRI: Indonesian Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research Institute
USM: University of Southern Mindanao
DOA: Department of Agriculture
NMRI: National Maize Research Institute
AGI:Agricultural Genetics Institute
Source: CIMMYT 2001












During the second project, quality protein maize
(QPM)1 was added as a target trait, because
CIMMYT had good markers for protein quality
and good lines of maize with this characteristic.
The AMBIONET scientists thought it would be
relative easy to add QPM to good, local maize
lines. In addition, as success was achieved in
producing markers and resistant lines for downy
mildew and viruses, the network moved on to
BLSB, which was a more important disease than
downy mildew or viruses.


Not every country worked on every project,
because in some countries a particular disease was
not a problem or researchers had not developed
the capacity required.


Research priorities could have been improved by
considering the economic significance of the
problem, the time and difficulty of delivering the
science-based solutions to the poor, and the
availability of alternative technologies for
addressing the problems. However, given the
short period of ADB funding and the need to
provide some initial results which could be used
to justify a second phase of the project, the
priorities chosen may have been the best.



Table 2. ADB AMBIONET budget categories.
Phase 1: 1998-2001 Phase II:
Categories (revised budget) 2002-2005
Project coordinator 210,000 210,000
Travel 140,000 80,000
Research work, equipment
and materials 420,000 190,000
Training NARSs scientists 230,000 140,000
Disseminating results and
technical support 215,000 175,000
Administrative support 185,000 110,000
Contingencies 0 95,000
Total 1,400,000 1,000,000
Source: CIMMYT 2001.


The major budget categories of the ADB money are
found in Table 2. A major component of the project
and one of the keys to its success was the
appointment of the project coordinator, Luz
George. Her duties included:
* Act as the communication node among the
network participants.
* Monitor the progress of country teams and assist
in troubleshooting.
* Plan and organize annual meetings, workshops,
and training activities.
* Facilitate the procurement and distribution of
equipment / supplies.
* Supervise the AMBIONET service lab.
* Conduct training and research of relevance to
the network and publish papers.
* Produce technical progress reports and grants
proposals.
* Publish the network newsletter.
* Design, development, and maintain the
network's web site.


In addition to these tasks, she led network research
programs on genetic diversity and downy mildew
in collaboration with CIMMYT and NARSs, and
published several high-quality journal articles.


The biggest category was initially for NARS. This
declined during the second phase, partly because
most NARS labs had the equipment they needed
by then. Funding to each individual program was
quite limited (Table 3). In interviews, NARS team
leaders emphasized the importance of
AMBIONET's flexibility, which offered different
types of assistance to different institutes. For
example, in India, B.M. Prasanna, of the Indian
Agricultural Research Institute, emphasized the
importance of being able to buy equipment for his
lab. In contrast, for Shihuang Zhang, head of the


1 QPM looks, tastes, and grows like normal maize, but its grain contains nearly twice the levels of lysine
and tryptophan, essential amino acids for protein synthesis in humans and many farm animals.











Chinese group, one of the most important uses of
the money was to hire post-doctoral fellows with
experience using molecular marker techniques. In
Indonesia, access to some of the key chemicals was
a major constraint, and AMBIONET funds and
assistance addressed those needs and enabled
researchers there to progress.


The research programs were also supported by the
AMBIONET service lab, located at IRRI. The lab
purchased and delivered equipment and supplies
in the region, and conducted research to fill gaps
and benefit the whole network. In a 25 August
2004 email, George gave several examples of the
role the lab played:


"....in our network-wide research to identify
QTLs for DM resistance, we consolidated and
analyzed the individual country data, conducted
additional work to locate linked markers in the
strongest QTL [which happened to be expressed
in all locations] which the countries can then use
in marker assisted selection. Another example of
work in the service lab is the development of
standard alleles and kits which we distributed to
the network countries. By using the standard
alleles and standardized protocols, the different
countries could combine their genetic diversity
data. The importance of this is that, by merging
datasets, there is no duplication of effort (if
teams want to see the relationship of their inbred


lines with those of another country or CIMMYT,
there is no need to fingerprint the lines of others
anymore, one can simply combine the specific
country data with others)."


Training programs were another large component
of the budget. The first of these training programs
was designed by CIMMYT and aimed to put the
participating breeders on equal footing with the
molecular biologists with whom they would serve
as joint team leaders for country programs. It
provided an overview of molecular markers and
related techniques, and particularly their role in
plant breeding. The course also described how to
assemble a molecular marker laboratory for maize
breeding and detailed associated costs.


Other training programs responded to specific
NARS needs and enabled them to carry out their
part of the project research agenda. A list of all
courses is found in Appendix Table 1. This list
includes workshops and country training
programs on maize and downy mildew
fingerprinting, QTL mapping, functional
genomics, and genetic diversity. The last regional
workshop was on grant writing. The skills that
scientists gained were utilized in their research
programs. As a result of this and other network
contributions, participants used similar techniques
and research protocols, facilitating region-wide
collaboration and sharing of results.


Table 3. Research inputs from AMBIONET.
China- China-
North South India Indonesia Philippines Thailand Vietnam
Research funding for national programs 80 20 80 80 80 80 0
Phase I (US$'000)
Research funding for national programs 27 27 27 27 27 27 27
Phase II (US$'000)
AMBIONET training programs 17 47 14 21 23 19 3
(number attending)
AMBIONET annual meetings 20 9 9 25 25 24 7
(number attending)
On-site visits by CIMMYT staff 6 7 12 to 14 11 11 13 4
Source: Survey by author and CIMMYT 2004.











Annual meetings comprised an integral part of the
capacity building process. There participants
assessed and reinforced new skills when they
reported their results, with questions and
suggestions from other teams and the CIMMYT
staff. CIMMYT staff and the project coordinator
spent time for each country team for more detailed
feedback. Presentations by CIMMYT scientists
covered new techniques and advances in
knowledge on genetic diversity, biotic stresses
such as downy mildew and viruses, abiotic
stresses such as drought and low nitrogen, and
grain quality. Future plans and collaborative
research were discussed.


Visits by the project coordinator and CIMMYT
staff provided additional support. In the initial
stages of each institute's participation, George and
Hoisington visited and helped identify the best
equipment, chemicals, and training programs
needed. Visits from other experts were arranged to
solve specific problems. For example, the CIMMYT
maize pathologist might be sent to help the local
collaborators identify a pathogen or set up the
related experiments.


Finally, scientists from one country spent time
working in the labs of other AMBIONET
partners. Several Indonesian scientists received
training at the University of the Philippines, Los
Banos (UPLB), in the first phase of project. In
Phase II, Indonesian scientists spent a month
working and learning in Prasanna's lab in India.

This project did not provide money for degree
training, but supported the thesis research of
AMBIONET participants, such as Marcia
Pabendon and M. Azrai (Indonesia, MSc theses)
and Dedi Ruswandi (UPLB, the Philippines,
PhD thesis).

International teams collaborating in research
projects on downy mildew resistance and
genetic diversity took advantage of the network
and the diversity of research locations available
through it to do work that could not have been
done in any single country, as well as benefiting
from the scrutiny and advice of other scientists
on their work.












3. Framework for Impact Assessment


The major goal of AMBIONET was to increase the
capacity of maize research in Asia to produce
improved maize varieties for the poor. The major
focus of AMBIONET's capacity building was
molecular breeding. To assess the impact of
AMBIONET, this study first had to determine
whether collaborating maize breeders in these
countries improved their capacity to develop
useful cultivars over what that capacity would
have been without AMBIONET. Is their capacity
and skill greater than it was in the past? If so, then
has it improved the maize varieties and their
economic value?


Assessing the impact of a project on research
capacity is a difficult task. The research capacity of
a scientist or institution depends on the intellect,
skill, and training of scientists, the state of
knowledge in their field, the ability to obtain the
tools that are needed for their research, and the
availability of information, germplasm, etc.
Indicators of research capacity include tangible
products such as multiple plant varieties,
molecular markers, research tools, publications,
research awards, and patents. Equally important
indicators are scientists' assessments of their own
growth in research capacity and their assessment
of their colleagues' growth due to this program.
Has it influenced their research priorities? What
can they do now that they could not do before they
joined AMBIONET? Has AMBIONET made it
easier or less expensive for them to do their


research? Is it easier to get scientific information
and short-term training, now that they are
members?

To understand the potential impacts, a brief
description of conventional and molecular
breeding is necessary.

Conventional breeding
Plant breeders define and characterize their target
environment. Next they identify the characteristics
that farmers need in crop varieties to improve
their incomes and well-being. These crop traits
may include higher yield, improved resistance to
pests or diseases, or improved nutritional
characteristics. They may also have differing
requirements for cultivar or variety types; say, for
example, hybrids vs. open pollinated varieties
(OPVs).2 They then collect sources of genetic
variation for these characteristics, conduct
recurrent selection or other breeding methods to
improve the populations collected, cross them if
necessary, and select the genotypes-inbred lines
or subsets of the population-that possess the
desired characteristics. The selected genotypes are
used to produce hybrid varieties or OPVs. These
varieties are tested for several years to eliminate
genotypes with undesirable traits, and seed of the
selected genotypes is produced and marketed to
farmers. OPVs are constructed by any of various
approaches, including selection of a sub-set of
plants or families from a source population, or


2 Hybrids are produced by crossing carefully selected, highly-inbred lines. With proper management, they can show
outstanding performance in the first generation, but this performance drops off in subsequent filial generations. Farmers
must purchase fresh seed each season from the company that controls the inbred parents, to get the full advantages of a
hybrid. Improved OPVs generally perform at a lower level, but farmers who save the seed for sowing in subsequent
seasons will not notice such a steep drop-off in performance as with saved seed of hybrids. OPVs may thus be preferable for
farmers who lack the disposable income to invest regularly in hybrids or the inputs that hybrids require to yield their best.











combining several pure-lines which have useful
characteristics. Experimental OPVs also must be
tested, multiplied and marketed. The entire
process to produce hybrids or OPVs commonly
takes 8 to 10 years.

Breeding with molecular tools
One of the major goals of crop biotechnology has
been to make plant breeding more efficient.
Molecular markers were used in AMBIONET to
increase the efficiency of breeding in two ways.
First, genetic fingerprinting was used to assess the
genetic purity of inbred lines, which theoretically
should be completely inbred and hence true-
breeding. This helped inform breeders whether the
lines they were using had become contaminated,
and if so, to correct this problem. This helps make
their program more efficient and really helps other
breeders or seed companies who use their lines.
Second, fingerprinting provides information about
the genetic distance between different groups of
lines. In general, crossing lines separated by a
greater genetic distance will result in more
vigorous, higher-yielding hybrids. Experienced
maize breeders know which genetic stocks
combine well, and they perform carefully-planned
trials to predict which lines will combine to
achieve excellent hybrid vigor, but for newer
breeding programs and inexperienced breeders,
information about genetic distances among lines
can be especially valuable when initiating a
breeding program and making preliminary choices
among dozens or even hundreds of potential
parent lines for hybrid formation. Finally,
experienced breeders find this type of information
helpful for deciding how to efficiently incorporate
lines from CIMMYT or other countries into their
breeding programs.

The second way AMBIONET attempted to increase
breeding efficiency was through marker-assisted
selection (Table 4), involving several steps from the


identification of markers to the production in
farmers' fields of new varieties with a desired trait.
Examples include resistance to viruses in China
and to downy mildew in India-two AMBIONET
molecular-assisted breeding projects that advanced
the most in developing improved varieties.

The first step in marker-assisted selection is to
identify a resistant line that can be crossed with a
susceptible one to produce a population of plants
differing widely for resistance, from very
susceptible to highly resistant. By studying the
DNA of these different lines and using publicly
available software, scientists seek to identify DNA
segments that are uniquely present in resistant
plants. The next step is to identify molecular
markers precisely located on the flanks of the DNA
segments associated with resistance. The markers
must then be evaluated for other maize
populations to confirm or validate that they are
associated with the trait in a wide range of maize
genotypes. This may take some time and if no
resistant maize line can be found, it will not be
possible to breed for resistance. In India, it took a
year or two of screening varieties and inbred lines
to select a good, downy mildew resistant line for
use in this project. In China, inbreds resistant to
SCMV had already been identified by the time
AMBIONET started.

Once markers are identified and validated, they
can be used to accelerate the process of selecting
new and resistant lines among progeny of
resistant-by-susceptible breeding crosses. Markers
can also be used to screen existing breeding lines
or other material for additional sources of
resistance. Using molecular markers to select the
lines with the desired trait can lead to the
development of breeding lines that are then ready
to be used in hybrid breeding programs.












Next, new OPVs or hybrids are developed. Both
the Chinese and Indian AMBIONET teams chose
to develop improved breeding lines and hybrids to
demonstrate the value of molecular tools for
breeding. The final stage in most countries is
testing in government variety registration
programs to make sure the hybrid's performance
is equal or superior to that of currently-used
varieties, which takes several years. While testing
is going on, companies start producing commercial
seed, which they market to farmers when they
receive government approval.


Conventional breeding for disease resistance
requires step 1-identification of lines with
resistance (Table 4). Conventional breeding does
not require step 2, but often does require steps 3
through 6-backcrossing, developing hybrids,
government testing, and marketing. For certain
traits, molecular markers may cut the time and the
cost of steps 3 and 4 (Dreher et al. 2003). If the cost
savings are greater than the cost of step 2, then


MAS is clearly superior. If markers are already
available, then step 2 is eliminated and any cost
savings in steps 3 and 4 will be cost savings for the
project.


For improving many economically important traits
of maize, there is no advantage to using molecular
tools. Hoisington et al. (1998) suggest two
conditions under which MAS will be more cost-
effective than conventional breeding:


1. "If the heritability of the trait being selected for
is high but costly field conditions are required to
ensure its expression...A good example is
resistance to certain viruses, which obviously
will not express in locations where the virus does
not occur....
2. If environmental effects are high, the trait being
selected for will tend to have low heritability,
making classical selection inefficient. In such
cases marker-assisted selection could improve
selection efficiency, even though the percentage


Table 4. Steps in marker-assisted breeding for disease resistance in maize, with examples from India and China.
Years


Activity
1. Identification of sources of
resistance to the disease.

2. Identify QTLs* and molecular
markers associated with
the target trait.


3. Marker-assisted backcrossing
for transfer of disease resistance
into elite lines for use in
commercial breeding.
4. Breeders use resistant lines)
to develop new hybrids or
improved versions of their
best hybrids.
5. Government varietal trials and
seed companies produce seed.
6. Seed companies market
the seed with the trait.


required SCMV, Northern China
0 -2 CAAS team had resistant and susceptible
lines when program started in 1998,
identified Huangzao 4 as SCMV resistant line.
2 CAAS team in 2000 shows that Huangzao 4
has 2 major QTLs for SCMV resistance.
CAAS team identifies markers closely linked
to resistance genes/QTLs in 2001.

2 -3 Using Huangzao 4 and a line with good
combining ability, researchers developed
CAR 107, resistant to SCMV, by MAS in 2003.

2 -3 CAAS developing model hybrids ready for
commercialization in 2006; 16 other government
institutes have been given resistant lines to use
in their breeding programs.
2 -3 Trials could be complete in 2008.

Possibly by 2008.


Downy mildew, India
NAIl16 and four CIMMYT lines identified by
AMBIONET-India team during 1999-2000.

AMBIONET-India team identifies QTLs in collaboration
with the CIMMYT and AMBIONET teams in Indonesia,
the Philippines, and Thailand during 2001-2002;
validates the major QTLs on different mapping
populations during 2002-2003.
Major QTLs for downy mildew resistance transferred
to CM139 from the donor parent NAIl16 during
2003-2004; identified improved lines of
CM139 in 2004.
Collaboration with SAUs and other ICAR institutes to
develop disease resistant hybrids possible hybrids
in 2006-2007.

Multi-location All-India Coordinated Maize Trials for
approval of the disease resistant hybrids (2007-2009).
2010.


* QTL = quantitative trait loci; these are genome regions that contain genes associated with traits of interest.


re












of phenotypic variance controlled by the QTL
(quantitative trait loci) would be low. A good
example is drought tolerance, which appears to
be controlled by several genes and whose
expression is frequently confounded by
environmental variables that are difficult to
control...."


Molecular-assisted breeding also can help
breeders to "stack" or "pyramid" multiple genes
for resistance to a disease or pest, thereby
reducing the likelihood that the resistance in that
variety will soon be overcome by the evolving
pest or pathogen.


Pathways to farmers
There are a number of pathways by which the
gains in research efficiency from AMBIONET
might be translated into gains for farmers. These
are shown in Figure 1. First, in step 1 in Table 4
AMBIONET breeders may identify
lines that can be used directly as inbred
parents for producing good hybrids.
The lines could go to public plant
breeding institutes that develop the
hybrids, whose seed is multiplied and Biotech
sold to farmers. The lines could also go research
directly to private companies with
breeding programs, which would
develop the hybrids, produce the seed, Germpla
enhancer
and sell it to farmers. A line with useful
characteristics may also be crossed
Inbred lir
with valuable commercial lines and the develop
progeny used as inbreds by public or and hybr
progy OPV bree
private seed producers. AMBIONET
partners may also develop their own
hybrids and provide the inbred parents Seed pro
to public or private seed companies for and mar
sale to farmers.


Figure 1 illustrates different paths by which
improved germplasm can eventually reach farmers
and plots some of these pathways in India and
China. The different levels of the AMBIONET
collaborating institutes and the different structures
of the seed industries in these countries also
illustrate how the paths to commercialization are
different in different countries. The AMBIONET
teams in North China (CAAS) and in India
developed commercial hybrids only to
demonstrate a new concept. They primarily
develop techniques and lines for use by plant
breeders in public universities, government
research institutes, and local private companies.
They move these products out to breeders through
collaborative research, training programs, and
germplasm dissemination programs. In contrast
the Indonesia, Thai, and Vietnamese AMBIONET
teams already formed part of government maize


Public sector Private sector


sm
ment


ne
nent
id or
ding


duction
keting


Figure 1. Pathways for marketing germplasm. Solid lines show the
flow of techniques and technologies and dashes show the flow of
information.












breeding programs; that is, those countries did not
have different public institutes for germplasm
enhancement and breeding. They put the
techniques directly to work in breeding programs;
collaboration with other institutes or large training
programs were not necessary.


The role of seed companies also varies greatly
between countries. Most countries have three
types of companies: government owned
companies, multinationals, and local seed
companies. Government seed companies typically
take hybrids or OPVs that have been developed by
the public sector, multiply the seed, and sell it.
Some local seed companies have small biotech
programs and conventional breeding programs
that use inbred lines developed by the public
sector. Small companies often use finished hybrids
from the public sector. Large multinationals like
Monsanto and Pioneer may occasionally get some
useful germplasm from CIMMYT or national
programs, but often their own stress-tolerance
breeding research is more advanced.


Methods of impact analysis
One possible impact from molecular breeding is to
reduce the cost of research. Precise figures on the
costs of conventional breeding versus those for


molecular breeding are very difficult, time
consuming, and expensive to produce. Obtaining
them was outside the scope of this small project.
Other types of impact are the economic benefits
from developing varieties more rapidly than in the
absence of AMBIONET, or developing varieties
with more durable resistance to pests and disease.
To measure these impacts, we have to compare the
value of AMBIONET varieties with the value of
similar varieties that would have been developed
in the absence of AMBIONET.


Figure 2 shows a hypothetical example of the costs
and benefits of AMBIONET. The white bars are the
costs of research, which are shown as negative
values. In this example we assume that the costs
savings in some parts of the research process are
offset by cost increases in others. The striped bars
represent the value of increased net income that
farmers gain by adopting pest or disease resistant
varieties developed using conventional plant
breeding. The size of these bars would be the
economic surplus from adoption of the new
varieties calculated using the methods described
by Alston, Norton, and Pardey (1995). The benefits
rise as more farmers adopt the technology, but
then they fall after 2013 in this example, because
pests start to evolve around the genetic resistance


US$100,000
1,800
E R&D Cost
1,600---- -- -- ----------
E Farm benefits CB
1,400- -------------- -- -------
1 Farm benefits MB
1,200- --- -------------------------- -- ------
1,000 ----------------------- - ------
800---------------------- - ---
600 ---------------------- - ---
400 ----------- --------- -- -
200- ------------------- ---


-200
1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020
Figure 2. Hypothetical example of costs and benefits from molecular breeding.











and yields from this cultivar start to decline. The
solid bars are the benefits that farmers gain if the
same characteristic was developed three years
earlier using molecular approaches. They are
higher than the striped bars until 2012, when both
are equal. The solid bars could be higher later if
the AMBIONET collaborators stacked a number of
different sources of resistance into one cultivar,
thus ensuring a longer period of resistance. The
benefits from AMBIONET calculated in the present
study are the differences between the solid and
striped bars-the extra money farmers would earn
from cultivars produced through AMBIONET, in
comparison with what they would have earned if
they waited for the conventional varieties.

If some of the new maize cultivars developed
based on AMBIONET outputs are now being used
by farmers, it is possible to use the standard
methods of measuring social costs and benefits
(Alston, Norton, and Pardey 1995) to calculate the
value of these cultivars to society. To do this, data
on the yield increases or reductions in crop losses
due to adoption of stress resistant hybrids are
needed. In addition, data on the area sown to new
hybrids are needed, as well as data on the farm-
level price of maize. If new cultivars are not yet in
the field but a reasonable estimate could be made
about potential yield increases or reductions in
losses as well as the area of adaption, the future
benefits from biotechnology could also be
calculated.

AMBIONET could also have had several other
important impacts, such as pulling more public
and private money into maize research.
Governments and companies respond to
technological opportunities and the new tools
might have induced added funding for research on
the problems of resource-poor maize farmers,
which tend to be neglected. Second, lessons from


AMBIONET may now be finding their way into
the training of graduate students who will be the
future breeders in their countries. Third, scientists
play important roles in the development and
implementation of policies and regulations
surrounding biotechnology, biosafety, and
intellectual property rights. If scientists from the
network subsequently contributed to formulating
or applying those policies, they could bring
valuable perspectives on other countries'
activities and what might be done in collaboration
with other research institutes, including those of
the CGIAR. These impacts are not readily
quantifiable but can be described.

To assess the impact of the project, we reviewed
information in published and unpublished
documents about AMBIONET. For an overview of
what the project provided and its impact on Asian
research capacity, we interviewed Hoisington and
George. Because the network is relatively recent
and because of the inherent difficulty of
measuring research capacity, in-depth case
studies were conducted with participating
researchers in China, India, and Indonesia, prior
to the termination of the project. Using a semi-
structured questionnaire, we interviewed
scientists about AMBIONET impacts on their
research agendas, what they received from the
project (inputs), how the project affected their
research methods, and whether it increased their
efficiency. The scientists were also asked if the
project was developing new technology for
farmers and when the technology would be
available. Finally, the scientists were asked about
the sustainability of their research-had the
project helped them obtain more resources from
other sources? Colleagues of participating
scientists and research administrators were also
interviewed to obtain their assessment of the
impact of AMBIONET on the collaborating
scientists.











Measures of research inputs and outputs were
gathered from a questionnaire completed by all
country collaborators; this was supplemented by
information from project reports, online databases,
and interviews. Research inputs included research
expenditures and numbers of scientists before and
after AMBIONET, inputs from AMBIONET, and
inputs from other sources. Research outputs
included publications, new molecular markers,
new techniques for using those markers, new
OPVs and hybrids developed using MAS, and
reductions in breeding time due to MAS. The data
were analyzed for indications that AMBIONET
increased maize breeding funding, influenced
research priorities, or increased research


productivity. To identify the impact of this project,
research inputs and outputs in maize breeding
before and after the beginning of the project were
compared.


Initially, we had hoped also to compare the inputs
and outputs of project scientists with non-
AMBIONET peers in the same institutes, which
would have required interviews with the non-
network scientists. However, resources were
lacking to do this systematically. We were able to
speak to some participants from the Asian Rice
Biotech Network in the Philippines, India, and
Indonesia, and some wheat biotech scientists in
China. In addition we interviewed private sector
maize scientists in most countries.












4. Impact on Asian Maize Research Capacity


Based on the interviews and survey data, it is clear
that AMBIONET has increased the maize research
capacity of these countries. This impact is not
always possible to quantify, because in many cases
the increase is not yet visible in numbers of
scientists, budgets, or new varieties. This section
combines the numbers that do exist and quotes
and comments from the interviews to make the
case that AMBIONET has really done an
impressive job making research exciting and
productive for maize scientists in Asia.


Asian maize research before AMBIONET
Maize plant breeding research in Asia started
before World War II in India, China, and several
other countries. Applied research and technology
transfer by government institutions and private
firms expanded in the 1950s throughout Asia,
when many countries attempted to copy the
hybrid maize revolution in US agriculture.
Government maize research financed both by
national governments and donors continued to
expand in the 1960s and 1970s but private research
was very limited. CIMMYT began to play an
important role supporting Asian maize research
programs (except China) in the 1970s. China was
by far the most successful in introducing and
adapting hybrid technology, in part because most
of their maize was grown in temperate regions
similar to the U.S. In Southeast Asia US hybrids
could not survive the diseases and pests -
particularly downy mildew. Most national maize
programs in Asia other than China and Burma
placed more emphasis on open pollinated
varieties (OPVs) than hybrids.


In the 1980s and 1990s, public sector maize
research continued to grow, but the growth was
slow in most Asian countries. In China, maize
breeding research grew rapidly during the 1990s
at the provincial and sub-provincial levels. In
countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and
India, private sector research grew very rapidly,
as both multinationals and private seed
companies increased their investments in Asian
maize research.


The structure of maize research in Asia when
AMBIONET started (1998) is shown in Table 5. In
India and Thailand more scientists worked in the
private sector than in the public sector. In
Indonesia and the Philippines, the private sector
was closing in on the public sector in numbers of
scientists and probably outstripped the public
sector in annual research investments. Public
research dominated only in the transitional
economies of Vietnam and China.




Table 5. Public and private-sector maize research institutes
and scientists, 1997/98.


Public sector
Number Number of
of scientists
agencies (FTEs)


Private sector
Number Number of
of scientists
agencies (FTE)*


China-South 65 270 1 na
India 27 56 28 74
Indonesia 1 13 1 11
Philippines 12 50 7 34
Thailand 4 35 6 40
Vietnam 2 68 5 1
Asia 116 505 49 166
Asia
(excluding China) 51 235 48 166
Source: CIMMYTAsia Maize Impact Survey 1998-99.
*FTE = full-time equivalent.











Biotechnology research on maize in Asia started
around 1990. Chinese government scientists at
CAAS have been working to develop Bt maize
since then. Central China Agricultural University
started using molecular markers in the mid-1990s.
Basic research on transposans in maize was
conducted at the Central University of Hyderabad,
India, since about 1990. Some Indian agricultural
universities, general universities, and the IARI
conducted research on transgenic maize in the
1990s. The Chinese and Indian governments
invested heavily in basic research laboratories for
plant, animal, and human biotechnology; a small
amount of that went to maize research. The
governments of Thailand, the Philippines,
Indonesia, and Vietnam started investing
substantial amounts of money in plant biotech
research but not much went specifically on maize.

In the late 1990s a number of companies started to
investigate the potential of transgenic maize in
Asia. So far this investment has started to payoff
only in the Philippines, where Bt maize is starting
to spread to farmers. Bt maize has been in
government field trials in China since 1999, in
India for the past several years, and in a number of
countries in Southeast Asia. In addition herbicide
tolerant maize is in government field trials in the
Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Impact of AMBIONET on NARSs' research
priorities
One clear impact of AMBIONET has been to
increase the number of scientists working on maize
germplasm enhancement and breeding. One of the
early criticisms of biotechnology was that it pulled
resources away from conventional plant breeding,
rather than helping plant breeding become more
effective. There was concern that biotech research
was too basic and would not provide technology
that farmers needed. AMBIONET seems to have


increased the resources devoted to enhancing
maize genetic variability in China and India and
maize breeding programs in all of the countries. In
China the number of plant breeding programs was
increasing in the public and the commercial sector.
According to Zhang, the CAAS Institute of Plant
Breeding in Beijing did not have a strong program
to increase the genetic diversity of maize
germplasm before AMBIONET, and that is
precisely what AMBIONET was able to
strengthen. In Indonesia all crop programs have
had difficulty attracting young people to plant
breeding, but there were many maize scientists in
other disciplines. The Indonesian maize program
used AMBIONET money to finance research that
attracted bright, young scientists from plant
pathology, agronomy, and other disciplines to
plant breeding that used molecular tools. In the
Philippines, the breeder at the University of
Southern Mindanao had been doing rice breeding
before he joined the AMBIONET team.

The network also led biotech scientists to change
their focus from basic to applied research. For
example, Prasanna changed from academic
research on maize landraces in Northeast India to
research on the actual disease and drought
problems of subsistence and commercial maize
producers. Biotech scientists who used
AMBIONET money to pursue research in isolation
from plant breeders in the first phase were not
asked to join the second phase of AMBIONET.

Perhaps even more important has been the impact
of inducing biologists to work on maize. With the
exceptions of Li and Prasanna, the biologists on
AMBIONET teams were previously not working
on maize. CAAS recruited Tian from the wheat
biotech program, Wanchen Li at SAU in Southern
China had worked on silkworm genetics, and
Sutrisno in Bogor worked on rice.











The project also appears to have changed
breeders' priorities somewhat from traits like
yield, which are complex and controlled by many
genes, to traits such as resistance to biotic stresses,
controlled by a few genes. The Indonesian maize
breeders reported that before AMBIONET they
focused on yield, acid soils, and resistance to the
main pests and diseases. After joining
AMBIONET they focused more specifically "on
increasing genetic resistance of maize to downy
mildew and the molecular study of genetic
diversity of Indonesian inbred lines." It is not
clear whether this is a more effective use of
research resources or not.

Financial resources
Participation in AMBIONET is clearly related to
increasing budgets. Before AMBIONET, the
budgets of all the programs except Vietnam's
were decreasing or stable. After joining
AMBIONET, all programs except the maize
program of Thailand (which suffered because of
the Thai fiscal crises) increased their budgets
(Table 6). During the same period almost all of the
budgets of their colleagues in similar programs
declined or were stable.


Part of the increase in collaborators' budgets was
due to AMBIONET funds, part of it was due to
increases in institutional funding by their
governments, and another part was through


grants from their governments (Table 6). Funding
for partners' research came primarily from their
government departments: specifically, ministries of
agriculture or education. Traditionally they had
not obtained support through competitive grants.
Most grants were small, but they were still
significant because they were competitive grants.
In China and Indonesia grants came from non-
traditional sources, specifically the ministries of
science. This represents a new source of funding,
rather than just reorienting existing agricultural
research money.


The Chinese and Indian case studies show how
major programs were built based on AMBIONET.
In part this is a result of their governments
viewing science as an engine for economic growth
and designating biotechnology as a major area for
investment. With the help of AMBIONET,
scientists there took advantage of the opportunities
offered by the national governments.


In an interview at the AMBIONET annual
meetings in Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2003, Shihuang
Zhang, leader of the Chinese team, said:
"AMBIONET came along at the ideal time for us.
We were able have some of our young people
trained and start our lab. Then in 1998 and 1999
China changed the way research was funded. We
had to compete for funds and we were able to get
big projects for molecular breeding." The Chinese


Table 6. Direction of research funding and competitive grants in AMBIONET.
Survey question China-North China-South India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand
BeforeAMBIONET, budget was.... Down Stable Stable Stable Down Up Stable
Your budget during AMBIONET went.... Up Up Up Up Up Up Down
Budget of comparable programs? Stable Stable Down ??? Down Up Down
Grants from national/international US$30,000 US$33,735 Yes Yes (some) US$43,000 US$15,000 US$5000/year
grants programs
Sources of grants Natural Natural Indian International Dept. of Ag., Govt. of Thai. Govt.
Science Science Council of Fund for Science Philippines Vietnam
Foundation, Foundation, Agricultural (Sweden),
MOST Sichuan Research Ministry of
Dept. of Ed. Research & Tech.
Source: Survey by author.











team at CAAS used the initial money, equipment,
training, and advice from AMBIONET to start the
fingerprinting, mapping, and markers lab.
AMBIONET money was used to hire Xinhai Li,
PhD in maize genetics and breeding from
Northeastern Agricultural University in Harbin
who had worked as a postdoctoral fellow using
molecular markers at Central Agricultural
University in Wuhan, and Quinzhen Tian, who
had worked on molecular markers in wheat at
CAAS. Under Zhang's leadership, these scientists
and others converted the Institute of Plant
Breeding's maize program into China's major
maize molecular breeding and enhancement
program. This initial combination of breeding and
molecular biology capacity, the early output of this
lab, and its links to international scientists at
CIMMYT gave it a competitive advantage at a
time when the research funding in China was
changing from institutional funding to
competitive grants.

The China AMBIONET team obtained a series of
increasingly large competitive grants from the
government. They received a small grant from the
Chinese Natural Science Foundation and the
Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) for
US $24,000 in 2000, for maize germplasm
improvement. The grant was for 4 years and 16
institutes. They were then able to obtain US $1.2
million to continue their germplasm improvement
project. Some of the research financed by this
grant used molecular markers. In 2003 MOST
financed a much larger project to commercialize
crops developed using molecular breeding. The
total funding was US $4.9 million, of which this
group received US $363,000 to work on maize. The
rest is spread between different important
commodities in China. The last grant-the first
large project specifically for molecular breeding
and commercialization-seems to reflect a change


in government policy on biotech research;
previously, public investments went largely for
genetic engineering. The shift may be due to the
success of molecular breeding in maize, wheat,
and rice; to effective lobbying by Zhang and his
colleagues; and to increasing consumer concerns
about genetic engineering.

In India, AMBIONET had similar impacts on
Prasanna's lab and research budget, among other
things enabling him to be the only person from the
Genetics Department of IARI to have a lab at
IARI's Biotechnology Center. He became co-
principle investigator for AMBIONET-India with
N.N. Singh, also head of IARI's maize breeding
program and a long-time CIMMYT partner. When
Prasanna started working with AMBIONET, he
had a lab and limited, antiquated equipment, but
no reliable electricity or modern equipment.
Through Singh he obtained money from the
Directorate of Maize Research to redo the electrical
system. He used US $40,000 from the first
AMBIONET project and US $10,000 from the
second to buy or update equipment. He also
recruited IARI grad students to work in his lab.

The capacity of Prasanna's lab to conduct
sophisticated research and to do training and short
courses has enabled the group to win two new
projects approved by the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research (ICAR) in October 2004:
1. A molecular breeding project involving a
network of 12 ICAR institutes and a budget of
US $866,000 for 12 crops. Of this US $55,000 is
for maize research and training at Prasanna's
institute.
2. Prasanna's work with AMBIONET has given
him functional genomics skills, allowing him to
obtain an ICAR-approved grant of US $400,000
for maize functional genomics research and the
purchase of the new equipment needed.











Human capital
The scientific capacity of research institutes
increases through the addition of new scientists or
by increasing the capacity of current scientists, via
training and/or learning-by-doing. Only the
Chinese and Philippines labs of AMBIONET
reported increases in the number of scientists
(Table 7). In Indonesia and Vietnam, the number
of scientists remained the same. The Indian lab
lost one permanent staff to retirement, while the
Thai program lost people to administrative
positions. What does not show up in these
numbers of permanent staff is that in both India
and China the actual number of people involved
in research is augmented by graduate students.
Both CAAS and IARI give postgraduate degrees
in the agricultural sciences. Prasanna at IARI had
Indian, Vietnamese, and Iranian students working
with him from the beginning of the AMBIONET
program. Since the start of AMBIONET he has
had five MSc students and five PhD students,
three of whom are still working on PhD theses.
AMBIONET paid for their research expenses.


In North China the lab has gone from no graduate
students to 18 students who are in CAAS PhD
programs or from other agricultural universities
around China. When AMBIONET-China country
coordinator Shihuang Zhang visited Prasanna's
lab he said: "I saw all these young people in his
lab and I thought I should take this back to China.
Our universities have many graduate students
but they do not have enough money to support
research. On the other hand, under recent


reforms, my institute is cutting back on paid staff.
So we opened our doors and have the students
work with us, and in turn we help them prepare
their theses. Perhaps this approach is already
popular elsewhere, but for China this is very new
and very useful."


Even more important than the number of scientists
has been the growth of maize scientists'
knowledge and research skills. The scientists in
these programs have higher degrees in more basic
areas of science. This is particularly clear in the
Chinese case. At the time AMBIONET started, a
number of senior scientists were retiring. These
scientists had made major contributions to Chinese
agricultural development, including the
introduction and development of single-cross
maize hybrids that boosted yields in the 1980s and
1990s. They were knowledgeable and skilled
breeders, but few had PhDs or training in
molecular biology. In contrast, four of the young
scientists who have joined the maize section of the
Institute of Plant Breeding with AMBIONET
support have PhDs in genetics or plant breeding
and at least two have post-doctoral research
experience in molecular markers and mapping.


In Indonesia, both the degree training and research
experience of scientists have been important. Four
young scientists from the maize research system in
Maros, Suluwesi, have obtained MSc degrees in
plant breeding from Padjadjaran University and
one from the University of the Philippines, Los


Table 7. Scientists and technicians in the AMBIONET teams before and after joining AMBIONET.
China-North China-South India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand
Number of scientists before joining AMBIONET 2 6 2 8 1 30 5
Number of scientists after joining AMBIONET 5 8 1 8 4 30 3
Number of technicians before joining AMBIONET 1 6 3 No info 0 10 3
Number of technicians after joining AMBIONET 5 7 2 No info 3 10 1
Increase in number of scientists 3 2 -1 0 3 0 -2
Increase in number of technicians 4 1 -1 No info 3 0 -2
Source: Survey by author.












Banos (UPLB). The research of the two
Padjadjaran students used molecular markers and
was financed by AMBIONET. They continued
their work at the biotechnology laboratories in
Bogor, while the Indonesian maize program and
AMBIONET equipped the labs in Maros. In
addition, a faculty member from Padjadjaran
University, Bandung, West Java, obtained a PhD at
UPLB working on an AMBIONET-financed
project in molecular breeding.


The contributions of AMBIONET to the skills of
participating scientists through short courses and
actual work in advanced labs probably equals or
exceeds degree training in importance (Table 8).
At the beginning of AMBIONET, Prasanna and
Desiree Hautea (Philippine team leader in
AMBIONET Phase I) were the only partner
scientists with training in the use of molecular
markers, knowledge acquired during a course at
CIMMYT in the early 1990s. The country teams
assembled the few scientists who had experience,
if they could. In China some young scientists with
post-doctoral experience were available. In other
cases, scientists trained by Rockefeller or ARBN in
the use of markers for rice helped the program get
started. Frequently, the institutes hired people and
sent them for training. Indonesian scientists who


had worked in ARBN got the project started, while
other scientists went for training in the Philippines.
The first researchers sent for training did not stay
with AMBIONET, so others trained with Prasanna
(see below). In short, almost all scientists who
actually did the work, except a few in China and
India, had to be trained in AMBIONET mapping
and marker training programs.


In addition to formal training, longer training
programs, where scientists from one program
worked in another AMBIONET lab, were
important. The Indonesian team sent two of their
young scientists to Prasanna's laboratory in New
Delhi, India. Indonesian scientist Firdaus Kasim
reported this to be extremely useful, particularly
for his colleagues Marcia Pabendon and M. Azrai,
who went for one month to a genomics workshop
for Indian scientists. "Prasanna showed our
scientists how to do downy mildew and genetic
diversity research. He was a very good teacher-
strong in genetics and statistics. After they came
back they made a lot of progress." Prasanna
provided the second set of lines that Pabendon
fingerprinted in diversity studies and also 400
primers (markers) for downy mildew resistance.
The groups remain in close contact through email.


Table 8. Participants in training programs by country.
China China
Course, location, year North South India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand
Molecular Marker Applications to Plant Breeding, Mexico, (1998) 4 3 2 4 4
DNA fingerprinting, Thailand (1999) 2 2 2 2 2
Utilization of DNA-based Markers for Crop Improvement and
Candidate Genes, Thailand (2000) 10
The Master Class in Molecular Plant Breeding, Australia (2000) 1 1
QTL Mapping Workshop, Philippines (2001) 3 3 2 5 6 4
Genetic Diversity, Thailand (2002) 3 4 4 5
Proposal development workshop, Thailand (2003) 3 1 1 3 3 2 4
In country training on SSR Protocols 2
In country training on Data encoding & analysis 5
Molecular marker technologies, Vietnam 10
Laboratory exchange visits 3 2 1 3 5 1 1
Total 15 5 13 20 30 13 31
Source: Survey.











Strength through the network
All participants interviewed commented on the
value of collaborative research with other national
programs and CIMMYT. Being forced to present
results to peers from other countries energized the
young scientists in China and India and the senior
scientists in Indonesia. They received constructive
criticism, learned about how others overcame
problems, and arranged follow-up visits to their
programs by researchers from CIMMYT or other
countries.

Hautea emphasized the cumulative impact of
research that allowed young scientists to shuttle
between NARS and CIMMYT labs and to develop
contacts with other scientists. The first step for
most in AMBIONET Phase I was a training
program involving actual research in an advanced
lab. This gave participants the confidence that they
could apply the techniques, as well as contacts for
continuing consultation when they needed
assistance. Collegial links and exchange of
information and feedback were re-enforced at the
annual meetings. Research steps that could not be
carried out successfully in national program labs
could be done at CIMMYT or in the AMBIONET
service lab at IRRI.

At Bogor, Indonesia government scientists listed
several other advantages of networks. Technicians
or scientists from CIMMYT could come to Bogor to
help solve problems. Consumable supplies-
particularly imported chemicals-could be
ordered through the AMBIONET Support Lab at
IRRI for much lower prices and with much less
hassle. Machine repairs could often be done at
IRRI more quickly than by sending the apparatus
to a factory in the US or Europe.

When the Chinese team encountered a technical
problem, they contacted CIMMYT for assistance
by phone, email, or, on occasion, through direct


visits. Zhang cited an example of the latter, in an
incident pertaining to virus resistance. The Chinese
researchers thought they had identified sugarcane
mosaic virus (SCMV), but the sample tested
differently from SCMV elsewhere; some local
scientists said it was actually maize dwarf mosaic
virus (MDMV). CIMMYT maize pathologist Dan
Jeffers traveled to China with AMBIONET support
and confirmed that the disease was SCMV. Upon
his return to CIMMYT, he developed a new
method for inoculating plants with SCMV to test
lines and populations for susceptibility. The
method is still used in China and represented an
important breakthrough in research to develop
virus resistant maize.

Impact on research capacity outside
AMBIONET partner institutions
AMBIONET partners are starting to contribute to
the research capacity of other institutions in their
countries, through training and collaborative
research. Thesis research funded and numbers of
students and scientists who received short-term
training from AMBIONET teams are shown in
Table 9. The Chinese and Indian institutions, which
have major graduate training programs in their
institutes, support PhD and MSc thesis research.
The graduates are taking jobs in other universities
and government research institutes using the
molecular marker techniques learned from
AMBIONET partners. The programs also teach
these techniques to graduate students. Sichuan
Agricultural University reports that about 350
students have been introduced to the techniques.
The AMBIONET teams are also spreading the
techniques to other breeders, both for maize and
other crops, through short-term training programs.
The Indian team seems to have done the most
short-term training. The Chinese institutes
provided training to private sector scientists. The
Thai and Indonesian programs have supported a
few theses or training courses (they do not belong
to institutions with teaching responsibilities).











Table 9. Thesis research and short-term training supported by AMBIONET teams.
China-North China-South India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand
Thesis research
MSc 8 9 5 2 0 3 0
PhD 2 3 5 0 0 1 0
Short-term training courses
Number of students 10 350 100 4 100 150 0
Number of public sector scientists working on maize 15 20 20 0 3 10 0
Number of public sector scientists working on other crops 0 20 30 0 10 15 0
Number of private sector scientists 12 3 0 0 0 0 0
Source: Survey by author


The CAAS team has provided training in marker
use to public and private scientists through a series
of short-term programs. Two scientists from
private firms (Denghai Seed Co. and Tunyu Seed
Co.) and one scientist from another public institute
have worked in their labs for several weeks, in
preparation for setting up their own labs. The
CAAS team has provided the companies and
institutes with a list of equipment and chemicals
needed and have helped them buy equipment and
supplies. Denghai Seed Co now has an operating
genetic fingerprinting lab which the author visited.
PhD and MSc students from all over China are
conducting their thesis research in the lab of the
CAAS team (four students were from Xinjiang
Agricultural University, three from Shenyang
Agricultural University, and three from the
Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin),
many with AMBIONET funding.


The Indian government is now establishing
networks modeled loosely on the AMBIONET,
ARBN, and the Rockefeller Foundation Rice
Biotechnology Network to reinforce their formal
training programs. Prasanna is involved in a maize
genomics project that will provide training,
backstopping, and a central lab facility for a
network of government research institutions
working on maize functional genomics.


Private firms in the AMBIONET countries are
beginning to use molecular breeding technologies.
Most interested are local companies whose maize
breeding programs are too small to justify the
investment in molecular markers. This includes
companies with annual sales as high as US $20-40
million, such as MAHYCO in India, the Denghai
Seed Company and Tunyu in China, and
Dominguez in the Philippines. The multinationals
have their own MAS programs more advanced
than the AMBIONET work.


The Denghai Seed Company was investing in this
technology to strengthen their control over the
inbred parents of their maize hybrids. They were
fingerprinting all inbred lines for which they were
obtaining plant variety certificates, to help
establish their ownership in the courts. They
currently have more certificates on maize than any
other company, and they also have taken more
legal action than other companies to enforce their
certificates. Their leader Li Denghai reported in
June 2004 at his headquarters near Qingdao that
stronger property rights through plant breeders
rights had allowed him to increase revenues from
maize sales dramatically and augment investments
in maize breeding from US $2.5 million in 2000 to
about US $12 million in 2004.











Maize is not a major crop for MAHYCO, but it
does have a small breeding program to develop
hybrids for farmers with marginal water
resources. Brent Zehr, head of MAHYCO's
research program, said in a 29 July 2004 email:

"The one area where we have used DNA
markers has been in fingerprinting our
parental lines, so that we can better
understand underlying genetic diversity and
develop heterotic group clusters in order to
make more informed crossing decisions. This
is well established in hybrid maize programs
globally; and DNA markers in this crop are
published such that it is relatively easy to
perform the tests in-house."


In response to the follow-up question: Have you
seen the work that Prasanna of IARI has done in
this area and if so, was it helpful to your program?
Zehr replied: "Yes, we had seen the work a few
years back, and had decided to utilize some of the
same markers, as his work included Indian based
germplasm. So I would say that it helped give us
some direction for initiation of the work. Beyond
that, we have developed further marker profiles
and taken directions that are useful for our goals
in breeding of hybrid maize."












5. Impact on Research Output and Productivity


For maize in Asia, the ultimate goal of CIMMYT
and the national AMBIONET programs is to
develop new cultivars that improve the well-being
of the poor. Thus, AMBIONET research will
hopefully result in new varieties for farmers and
consumers that improve their diets, health, and
incomes. Developing a new maize variety typically
takes at least 8 to 10 years, after which in most
Asian countries it goes through several years of
government testing. Following this, new cultivars
take a while to spread to farmers and increase their
incomes and the availability of food. Even if this
process is accelerated a bit through molecular
breeding, it is still early to expect a project that
started late in 1998 to have produced new cultivars
or impact on farmers. The project has, however,
produced knowledge, research tools, and lines of
maize that will contribute to the development and
spread of new cultivars and the improved well-
being of farmers.


Progress toward improved cultivars
Interviews and questionnaires have revealed that,
despite the short life of the project, each step of
molecular breeding has produced new lines or
hybrids, and that there is substantial progress
toward developing disease resistant and QPM
cultivars using MAS. Most partners have
established a program that can be the basis for
developing higher-yielding hybrids and drought
tolerant cultivars in the future. There is evidence
of improved research tools, such as useful new
molecular markers, and additions to knowledge
about maize in the form of refereed journal
articles. Both will help increase the efficiency of
future research.


AMBIONET programs contributed to the
development of improved OPVs and hybrids for
farmers through four pathways (Table 10). The
first pathway leads directly from genetic diversity
studies. Information developed in those studies


Table 10. Pathways from AMBIONET research to improved cultivars.
Contribution of AMBIONET to Research institutes usingAMBIONET lines Year of approval or
breeding material and names of new hybrids/OPVs Intended impact/benefits expected approval
1. Information about combining South China: hybrids SAU 23 and SAU 27. 2002 (SAU 23).
ability leads to new hybrids. Higher yield.Higher yield. 2004 (SAU 27).
2. Lines identified in studies to Thai Department of Agriculture: hybrids NS 72 DM resistance. 2001 (NS 72).
develop QTLs. and NSX 982013. DM resistance + higher yield. 2003 (NSX 982013).
India: University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore; DM resistance. Expected 2006.
Composite NAC3002. Hybrids under development.
3. Resistant lines identified and Breeders at public research institutes and universities. DM resistance.
incorporated into lines with good
combining ability using markers.
China: CAAS, 16 institutes are using lines. SCMV resistance.
AMBIONET team develops resistant lines that can DM resistance.
be used in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 2011?
4. Hybrids and OPVs developed IARI producing hybrid to demonstrate DM resistance. 2010.
using MAS. molecular breeding.
CAAS producing hybrid to demonstrate SCMV resistance. 2008.
molecular breeding.
Indonesia maize research program and Stacked DM resistance and QPM. Unknown.
Padjadjaran university.











was used to choose parents of hybrids with better
combining ability. The other three pathways come
from molecular breeding programs. The second
pathway was the identification of lines for use in
research to produce molecular markers. These
lines and combinations of lines could be used in
conventional breeding programs to produce
commercial hybrids. The third pathway used lines
identified by AMBIONET teams as having disease
resistance using molecular markers and then
backcrossing the lines identified to other lines with
good combining ability. The resulting progeny are
given to breeders to produce finished hybrids. The
fourth pathway is when the AMBIONET teams
produce finished hybrids or OPVs developed
through backcrossing and MAS programs and
provide these to seed companies.

The only technologies related to this program that
have reached farmers were developed through the
first two pathways. Chinese scientists from SAU in
Sichuan developed two new hybrids, SAU 23 and
SAU 27, based on their studies of genetic diversity.
SAU scientists took advantage of the information
about genetic distance based on the fingerprinting
data of their lines and the lines of other maize
programs in China to identify and cross inbreds
that were the greatest genetic distance apart. This
allowed them to obtain greater hybrid vigor and
higher yields. The Vietnamese team has identified
two hybrids that resist lodging and possess
drought tolerance; they are refining them, based
on information from the diversity studies.

The Thai hybrids were developed from lines
identified at the beginning of the research to locate
QTLs for downy mildew resistance. While
screening for resistant and susceptible parents to
make a mapping population for resistance QTLs,
they found a line-NEI 9202-that had good
resistance and other good commercial


characteristics. This line was probably based on
downy mildew resistance screening programs
carried out by earlier generations of Thai breeders
with CIMMYT assistance. The current breeders
were able to use this line as a parent of two
commercial hybrids: NS 72, released in 2001; and
NSX 982013, grown by farmers for the first time in
2003. Seed of the NSX hybrid was multiplied and
marketed by government agencies and sown on
about 5,000 hectares this year (Pichet email). It
replaced NS 72 and other hybrids because it yields
10% more than NS 72.

One of the Indian research stations that is
collaborating with the Indian AMBIONET team
has used the downy mildew resistant line, NAI 116,
which the Indian AMBIONET team identified as a
parent for a molecular mapping population, to
develop improved hybrids and OPVs. The
University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore's
Regional Research Station at Mandya, and the
Agricultural Research Station at Nagenahalli
developed a downy mildew resistant composite
NAC3002 using NAI116 as a parental line. They are
also developing hybrids using this line. NAC3002
is being tested in advanced field trials and will
probably will be released in the next few years
(Prasanna email, 02 September 2004).

The two groups of cultivars under development
using pathways three and four backcrossingg and
MAS) that are closest to being commercialized are
downy mildew resistant cultivars in South and
Southeast Asia and SCMV resistant cultivars in
China. Table 4 shows the progress that the Chinese
and Indian programs have made towards
developing commercial cultivars. Several years ago
they identified disease resistant lines and reported
their names-NAI 116 and Huangzao 4-and
sources in journals, so that public and private
sector breeders could use them.











The lines had serious limitations-NAI 116 will
only pollinate at cool temperatures and Huangzao
4 had poor combining ability-so AMBIONET
teams backcrossed them with better inbreds for
commercial uses. As part of this, they used
molecular markers they had developed to screen
the segregating material for resistance. They made
the selected material available to other public
sector breeders in India and to public and private
sector breeders in China. In India the lines were
being used by AMBIONET partners. As of June
2004, 16 government research institutes and no
private institutes had requested SCMV resistant
lines from the AMBIONET-China lab.


The CAAS and Indian AMBIONET teams are also
producing disease resistant hybrids using MAS.
CAAS plans to have SCMV resistant hybrids ready
for commercialization in 2006 and IARI plans to
have downy mildew resistant hybrids ready in
2006 or 2007. These hybrids will then be tested for
several years in multi-location trials for yield and
pest and disease resistance, before they can be sold
to farmers. Thus, at the earliest these hybrids
would be available to farmers in 2008 in China and
2010 in India.


The Indonesian, Philippine, and Vietnamese
AMBIONET teams worked on downy mildew
resistant hybrids and OPVs using the lines and
molecular markers developed in AMBIONET. In
addition, the Indonesian AMBIONET team was


close to releasing a QPM line, originally from
CIMMYT, that they had selected and tested in
Indonesia.


Many teams produced considerable data about
their own inbred lines and the genetic relationship
of those lines to other maize lines from CIMMYT
and Asia. Interviews with Asian and CIMMYT
breeders showed this information was influencing
Asian breeders' thinking and making their
programs more effective.

Increasing knowledge,
improving research tools
The other important AMBIONET output is
knowledge about maize and maize breeding. This
knowledge takes tangible form in research tools,
presentations at meetings, and publication in
academic journals, but much of it is intangible.
One of the few quantitative measures of
knowledge in a research program is the number of
articles published in refereed academic journals.
Table 11 shows that the number of articles in
national journals published by AMBIONET
partners increased or stayed the same in all
countries, except Thailand and Vietnam. In
addition, only a few of the AMBIONET scientists
had previously published articles in international
journals, but now all but the two newest
programs, Vietnam and the new Philippines team
at the University of Southern Mindanao, have
international publications.


Table 11. Numbers of journal articles published byAMBIONET partners.
China-North China-South India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand
National journals for 5 years before AMBIONET 8 10 5 3 3 10 4
National journals after joining AMBIONET 15 35 5 3 3 7 0
(adjusted for 5 years*) (58.3*) (7.5*) (17.5*)
International journals for 5 years before AMBIONET 0 0 3 0 1 0 0
International journals after joining AMBIONET 5 3 13 1 0 0 2
(adjusted for 5 years*) (5)
We adjust publications by assuming the output per year will be the same throughout the period of time after joiningAMBIONET and then multiply output per
year by five. When the survey was done the founding teams had been on board for 5 years, south China for 3 years and the new Philippines team and Vietnam for
2 years.
Source: Survey by author.











With leadership from Luz George and David
Hoisington, AMBIONET partners published
articles on downy mildew resistance in Theoretical
and Applied Biotechnology (George et al. 2003) and
Euphytica (George et al. 2003). The team used a set
of common markers, common research
procedures, and a common set of maize lines, and
conducted multilocation field research to identify
QTLs and DNA markers for downy mildew
resistance. Similar studies on maize genetic
diversity were published in Theoretical and
Applied Biotechnology (George et al. 2004)


In developing disease resistant cultivars, the
AMBIONET teams have generated a set of tools
that will be useful to maize breeders wherever
downy mildew and SCMV are a problem
(CIMMYT 2004):


"Teams used molecular data from a cross
previously mapped by CIMMYT, combined
with phenotypic data produced in five locations
in India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand,
to identify genes for downy mildew resistance.
Five quantitative trait loci (QTL) that
significantly influence downy mildew
resistance were identified, three of which
explain up to 50% of the phenotypic variance
for reaction to downy mildew disease. With
genetic linkage maps constructed in
the AMBIONET-China lab and 2
phenotypic data from Beijing, 18
researchers identified five QTLs 16
conferring resistance to sugarcane 14
mosaic virus, explaining up to 27% 12
of the phenotypic variance." 10
8
6
4
2
0


Research productivity
Was the increase in output of publications due
mainly to the increase in scientists and resources
previously described, or did the scientists produce
more per person? Figure 3 shows that in most
countries research productivity, as measured in
publications per scientists, has increased. Three
programs-those of South China, India, and
Indonesia-raised their publication productivity
after joining AMBIONET. North China increased
published output substantially from 8 to 20, and
the number of articles in international journals
went from 0 to 5, but the number of scientists also
expanded rapidly from 2 to 5, so productivity
appears to be constant. If international journals are
weighted more heavily than national journals, then
the productivity of the North China program also
went up. If we use the productivity measures
adjusted for the number of years in AMBIONET,
Vietnam's productivity also goes up. In the
Philippines, productivity goes down despite the
increase in articles, due to the fact that the number
of scientists in the new team at USM grew from
one to four. The Thailand team has only public
plant breeders at the moment, and their job is to
produce varieties rather than journal articles. So, it
is not too surprising that Thai productivity
declined slightly.


SBeforeAMBIONET
EAfter AMBIONET
[:After AM B IONET Adjusted



1 07
j^ j


China China (2) India Indonesia Philippines Vietnam Thailand

Figure 3. Research productivity: journal articles per scientist.
Note: National and international journal articles from Table 12 were added together and
then divided by the number of scientists reported in Table 7.











As formerly mentioned, comparing the results
between countries is misleading because different
types of institutes have different research goals
and different methods of measuring scientists'
numbers, and were members of AMBIONET for
different lenghts of time. For example, the Indian
program had only two permanent scientists in the
lab when AMBIONET started and one scientist
during the second phase. These scientists worked
with a number of other scientists in other
institutions and with a number of graduate
students to produce the journal articles. In contrast
almost all of the maize scientists in Indonesia work


in the collaborating lab and so cannot collaborate
with many scientists outside of their labs. Thus,
the differences in productivity between Indonesia
and India are not as great as they would appear,
judging from the graph. Programs in South
China, Vietnam, and the Philippines did not have
a full five years to produce articles, so Figure 3
presents adjusted productivity measures for
those countries. The unshaded bar shows
adjusted productivity measured in output/
scientist, assuming that their output per year
after AMBIONET continued at the current level,
and multiplies output per year times five (see
Table 11 above).











6. Impact on Farmers


Will the technologies developed by AMBIONET
partners improve the well-being of the poor? This
chapter argues that it is likely. When the new
cultivars are marketed, they are likely to provide
substantial benefits and rapidly pay off the
investments of Asian governments, ADB, and
CIMMYT in AMBIONET.

Potential value of new varieties from
AMBIONET
The potential social benefits of higher-yielding,
downy mildew and virus resistant, drought
tolerant cultivars are significant. Measuring the
increase in yield due to new, higher-yielding,
stress-resistant hybrids is relatively
straightforward conceptually: one simply
measures the value of increased yield per hectare
due to use of a new hybrid or OPV and multiplies
that by the number of hectares sown. The first data
on the increased yields of a hybrid due to better
choices of inbred lines or stress resistance will be
experiment station yield comparisons, but is it is
possible to make a rough estimate of the size of
some of the benefits. The starting point for
measuring the potential yield increases from
disease resistance or stress tolerance is the value of
the losses that now occur from these stresses. It is
difficult to measure the extent of losses or their
frequency, but we have two sources of information.
The first is government agriculturalists and
scientists who have studied past disease and
drought incidence. The second source is the
farmers who are affected. The estimates of losses
reported by Dalmacio (2000) and Zhang (1998)
have been gathered in Appendix Table 2. Estimates
from farmers are available from a recent research
priority setting exercise conducted by CIMMYT
(IFAD-CIMMYT study).


The next challenge is to estimate how much of
this loss could be averted using the improved
lines from AMBIONET and when these savings
will take place. These estimates require
assumptions about:

1. What cultivars these characteristics will be
bred into, who will do the breeding, and when.
2. Who will produce and market the seed of the
new varieties and when.
3. How rapidly farmers will adopt these varieties.
4. How much of the loss will be averted and what
the value of that quantity will be.

The simplest set of assumptions is that the
government institutes of the AMBIONET teams
will develop new cultivars and pass then through
the variety registration process. Then government
or private seed companies will multiply and
market the seed, and farmers will buy the seed
because of the obvious benefits to them.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the world is more
complicated than that. As Table 12 shows, almost
all maize hybrids outside the transitional
economies of China and Vietnam were developed
by the private sector, and even in China hybrids
from private firms are popular in the north. As
discussed above, lines with the new traits are
likely to go to local seed companies with breeding
programs, after the traits have been bred into
lines with good combining ability that are
relatively easy to use in the private breeding
program. Or, small seed companies with limited
breeding capacity could wait until the
government institute has actually developed
resistant hybrids through MAS and then start
multiplying and selling the seed.












Actual and potential impact of AMBIONET
activities
CIMMYT scientists recently went through an
exercise where they interviewed farmers in
representative villages about their average yield
losses from various constraints (IFAD-CIMMYT
study). These estimates were reviewed by NARS
and CIMMYT scientists to assess how realistic
farmers' estimates were, to provide information on
how widespread the losses were, to calculate the
value of the losses, and then to discuss maize
research priorities. In these studies downy mildew
was identified as a serious problem in only a few
regions (Table 13). At the bottom of the table the
losses from SCMV were estimated. In India and
Vietnam the farmers who were interviewed did
not experience large losses from downy mildew.


These losses seem very consistent with those
reported by the private sector and in academic
studies. Geekay Bhatia, a scientist from Pioneer Hi-
Bred in India, said in an email (June 2004): "...the
private sector (Pioneer, Cargill) introduced hybrids
with good tolerance to DM and later other private
companies came up with DM tolerant products.


Over time, with the widespread planting of
resistant hybrids, mainly in Karnataka and
Andhra, incidence of DM was restricted to some
parts of southern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and
that to late-planted crops only." In addition, seeds
of most commercial crops is treated with the
fungicide metalaxyl, which provides further
protection from downy mildew. Sam Dalmacio,
plant pathologist for Pioneer Hi-Bred in the
Philippines, said in June 2004: "I believe downy
mildew is still a problem in some places in
Mindanao where farmers save their seeds from F1
hybrids. And recently there were reports of
downy mildew outbreaks in Cotabato where F1
hybrids have been infected....There have been
severe incidences of downy mildew in South
Sumatra, Indonesia, in the past, particularly in
Lampung area."


It is possible to illustrate the potential benefits
from the disease resistance research at
AMBIONET by making several assumptions. The
losses from downy mildew and SCMV are
assumed to be the losses shown in Table 13 and as
a result are only for Indonesia, Thailand, the


Table 12. Number of maize varieties developed and marketed in Asia by public and private sector, 1990-98.
Public sector Private sector
National Multinational
Improved OPVs Hybrids Improved OPVs Hybrids Improved OPVs Hybrids
China-South 3 34 na Na 0 0
India 20 17 0 73 0 29
Indonesia 6 12 na Na 1 22
Philippines 33 6 0 18 0 21
Thailand 1 8 0 5 0 29
Vietnam 5 26 na Na 0 11
Source: Gerpacio.


Table 13. Estimates of losses from downy mildew (DM) and sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV).
Country Region Disease Average loss (%) Value of loss (US $ millions)
Indonesia Lampung DM 5 10
Philippines South & Central Mindanao DM 10-20 21
Thailand Upper North & Northeast DM 10 30 11
China NE, N, NW &Yellow River SCMV 0.2 -2 44
Source: CIMMYT 2004.











Philippines, and China. It is assumed that half of
these losses can be eliminated by the adoption of
resistant cultivars from the AMBIONET program,
new cultivars will be introduced in the years
shown in Table 10, and that it takes five years after
cultivars' introduction to reach a 50% level of
coverage. Figure 4 shows the costs and the returns
to AMBIONET disease research up to the year
2015. The costs of the disease resistance research
were assumed to be about half of AMBIONET's
actual costs, which include ADB funds and in-kind
contributions from CIMMYT and NARSs. This was
about US $250,000 per year during the first phase
and US $500,000 per year for the second phase.
The benefits to farmers will surpass the costs to the
program around the year 2008 and rapidly reach
US $40 million.


Some gains could presumably have been made in
the absence of AMBIONET; conventional breeders
would have identified resistant hybrids at some
point anyway. However, for illustration purposes
we have assumed that AMBIONET sped the
discovery and development of these traits by five
years. The benefits from conventional breeding are
shown as the light bar in the figure. The actual
benefit attributable to AMBIONET would be the
difference between the light and striped bars. This
is still a substantial number: US $15 million in 2010
and hitting a maximum of US $27 million in 2012.
The internal rates of return from the investment of
in AMBIONET using these projections exceed 40%
percent. The Net Present Value of the investment
of a dollar in this project in 1998, assuming an
interest rate of 10%, was US $30, or US $15,
assuming 15%. If AMBIONET impacts achieve the
level projected here, it will have been a very good
investment for ADB, CIMMYT, and the NARSs.


To return to reality, it is useful to remember that
benefits to farmers have actually occurred in two
places: Thailand and Southern China. Assuming


that, on average, yields on the 5,000 hectares
scientists report as sown to the improved hybrids
would have been reduced 10% by downy mildew,
and the value of the new hybrids to farmers was
US$186,000, one year pays for most of the
AMBIONET investment in Thailand. Scientists
from South China estimate that their hybrids were
grown on 50,000 to 100,000 hectares in 2004.
Assuming a 5% yield increase over previous
hybrids, previous yields of 5 t/ha, and prices of
US$10/kg, the benefits would be between US
$1.25 and 2.5 million.


Whether the disease resistant hybrids are actually
approved for commercialization will depend on
whether they perform better in terms of yield,
insect resistance, and other characteristics, relative
to the check hybrids used in government trials. If
the hybrids pass this hurdle and are approved for
commercial use, the next question is how many
farmers will adopt them. This will depend on
farmers' perception of the price of the seed, the



Million US $
50

Cost
40 -- Benefit with AMBIONET
E Benefit without AMBIONET

30 -


20 .









-10999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015

Figure 4. Costs and potential benefits of disease resistance
research conducted as part of AMBIONET.











yield advantage of the hybrid, the grain quality,
and price of grain relative to farmers' current
hybrids or varieties. It will also depend on how
risk-averse farmers are. Disease resistance is
almost never main criteria farmers' for choosing
hybrids; yields are almost always the main factor.
In addition to farmers' perceptions of benefits and
risks of new hybrids; seed company decisions
about how much seed to produce and how to
market a new hybrid will also influence how fast it
spreads.

According to surveys with farmers, scientific
studies by scientists, and the perception of the
AMBIONET teams, drought generally inflicts the
greatest damage of any biotic or abiotic stress. To
illustrate the large impact of reducing drought, we
have taken the example of India, where most
maize is grown under inadequate irrigation. Small
farmers in the CIMMYT survey (2004) estimated
that drought reduced yield substantially; in most
places by one-third. Thus, the benefits of
addressing this problem could be huge. Even if
drought tolerant cultivars spread to only one-third
of maize-growing areas-which is realistic-the
benefits could reach as much as US $100 million.

In addition to increasing production by reducing
losses from disease and drought, AMBIONET will
also hopefully lead to increased yields through
more efficient conventional plant breeding. A
better understanding of the genetic diversity of
breeding lines and their combining ability by
public plant breeders could increase the efficiency
of current breeding programs and their ability to
integrate new exotic material into current lines.
Ensuring that inbred lines are homozygous
increases the efficiency of the public or private
plant breeding programs that make use of the
lines. An even 1% increase in annual yield growth
could easily increase benefits to Indian farmers by
US $10 million annually.


Has AMBIONET been a good investment? By the
end of the second ADB project, CIMMYT, ADB,
and the NARSs will have invested about US $6
million in AMBIONET. It is still too early to
estimate the size of the payoffs, but the simulated
benefits from reducing disease and drought-
occasioned losses, along with yield increases,
would quickly pay off the investment. Payoffs to
farmers are just starting, with some downy
mildew resistant hybrids in Thailand and higher-
yielding hybrids in southern China. These will
soon be followed by downy mildew resistant
OPVs in southern India. The first cultivars
developed through MAS will be virus resistant
varieties in China, which should reach farmers in
about 2008, followed by downy mildew resistant
hybrids in India in 2010. Increased yields through
improved conventional breeding programs could
start to appear fairly soon. Both CIMMYT
scientists and I felt that the Indonesian
conventional breeding program had benefited
greatly from the genetic fingerprinting exercise
and that the team's productivity might have
increased the most from AMBIONET support.

Will the technology reach the poor?
In all AMBIONET countries private firms are the
main source of purchased seed and the most
efficient way that new technology spreads to
farmers. However, one potential barrier to the
rapid spread of AMBIONET hybrids and varieties
to farmers-particularly the resource-poor-is that
the private sector has to make profits to survive.
This means that private firms focus on traits
needed by commercial farmers and almost
exclusively on the development and sale of hybrid
cultivars. Asian farmers outside of China and
Thailand primarily plant their own saved seed or
OPVs (Table 14). Thus, the AMBIONET teams and
other public breeders either have to try to
disseminate their improved varieties through











Table 14. Area planted to maize, by maize type, based on estimates of national public-sector researchers (adjusted
using FAO area data), selected Asian countries and region, 1997.
Area planted to improved germplasm
Total maize
Farm-saved seed OPVs Hybrids varieties Total modern area (adjusted FAO)
(000 ha)
China (non-temperate) 41.1 485.4 3,587.1 4,072.6 4,113.7
India 3,190.4 1,432.4 1,888.2 3,320.6 6,511.0
Indonesia 1,036.9 1,417.1 1,002.4 2,419.5 3,456.4
Philippines 1,728.6 324.1 648.2 972.4 2,701.0
Thailand 3.9 180.7 1,115.4 1,296.1 1,300.0
Vietnam 305.7 101.0 280.3 381.2 686.9
Asia 6,595.4 4,305.0 8,670.8 12,975.8 19,571.3
(percentage of maize area)
China (non-temperate) 1.0 11.8 87.2 99.0 100.0
India 49.0 22.0 29.0 51.0 100.0
Indonesia 30.0 41.0 29.0 70.0 100.0
Philippines 64.0 12.0 24.0 36.0 100.0
Thailand 0.3 13.9 85.8 99.7 100.0
Vietnam 44.5 14.7 40.8 55.5 100.0
Asia 33.2 21.8 44.9 66.7 100.0
Source: Gerpacio, R.


inefficient government seed companies and hope
that farmers will spread the varieties to other
farmers, or try to persuade private companies to
incorporate the traits into their hybrids. The latter
path does not necessarily exclude small-scale
farmers from the benefits of public research; in
China all farmers are small-scale farmers, and in
India some local companies like MAHYCO
develop hybrid maize for farmers with limited
water resources and many small-scale farmers buy
this hybrid maize seed. In addition there is
probably a process similar to the "creolization"
described in Mexico by Bellon and Risopoulos
(2001), where the useful trait from commercial
hybrids and OPVs are bred into local varieties by
farmers and small seed companies.


The problem is even greater in the case of the
traits that AMBIONET partners chose to address
- traits that would improve the income of
resource-poor farmers. They succeeded in
choosing traits important to the poor: downy
mildew is not a problem for most commercial
farmers, who purchase metalaxyl-treated seed.


Nor is drought a concern in the irrigated or good
rainfall areas where wealthier farmers work. This
means that the traits are less attractive to seed
companies targeting commercial farmers.


A further problem in some countries is the weak
relationship between AMBIONET and the private
sector. Government institutes are often reluctant to
share their lines with the private sector and
AMBIONET did little to change this situation. Still,
most private companies try to monitor the work of
the public scientists and make use of some of
technology developed.


In the Philippines there are informal relationships
between public and private scientists. Scientists in
both sectors were trained and worked at UPLB,
and public sector scientists are leaving the
university for the private sector all the time. In
Asia, the closest relationship between the public
and private sectors is in China. There are long-
term relationships between public sector breeders
and private seed companies that go back to when
they were all public sector and worked on











breeding and collaborative testing of new hybrids
and other products. As mentioned above, the
Chinese AMBIONET team has trained scientists
from two companies for several weeks in their lab
on DNA fingerprinting and use of molecular
markers in breeding. They also assisted in buying
equipment and supplies for the private lab.

AMBIONET research did focus attention on
meeting needs of the poor. However, the real issue
in many countries is, if new, superior cultivars are
developed for the poor, will the government seed
system or the private sector make use of them and
spread them to the poor? At present, the best that
AMBIONET collaborators can do is to incorporate
the traits they have identified into attractive
commercial cultivars and make them easily
available to both public and private seed suppliers.

Research priorities
Two sets of research priority decisions influenced
the direction of AMBIONET. Neither was based on
a formal study of farmers' needs. The first was
ADB's decision not to fund research to develop
transgenic maize. Given the considerable
consumer resistance to genetically modified maize
and the difficulty in getting permits for
commercialization from the biosafety regulatory
authorities everywhere in Asia except the
Philippines, this looks like a good decision.

The second decision concerned which non-
transgenic research projects to pursue. Choices of
research priorities and techniques were essentially
supply driven-the least expensive projects with
the highest probability of success-and focused on
downy mildew and virus resistance and then
drought and QPM, despite the fact that those traits
might not be characteristics, like increased yield or
improving drought tolerance, most important to
all farmers and most useful to resource-poor


farmers. The sequence of research in each country
and in the region was also supply-driven, from
least expensive and most likely to be successful to
most expensive/most difficult.

There are potential problems with this method of
priority setting. To set research priorities so that
they give the highest social rates of return on
investment, policy-makers need three types of
information: (1) scientists' best estimates about
what science can do and what it would cost; (2)
estimates of social benefits from the technology
that could be developed, if the science were
successful; (3) society's judgment about what is
important; that is, is it better to maximize total
social returns or should improving the income and
welfare of the poor be given extra weight? The
AMBIONET priority-setting process explicitly
used the first information by gathering the best
judgment of leading maize breeders and biologists
in Asia and CIMMYT. I was not able to find out
about other scientific opportunities they failed to
take, such as other available molecular markers
that they did not use.

The second type of information-measurements of
possible social benefits by social scientists based
on experimental data and farmers' perceptions of
their needs-was not collected. This is not too
surprising, given that such studies take resources,
the budget for the project was quite small, and
social scientists from CIMMYT were in the process
of conducting a more general study on constraints
to maize production in Asia. There was some
implicit criticism from private sector plant
breeders interviewed about AMBIONET's
priorities. Scientists from companies with major
maize breeding programs in India said that they
no longer had downy mildew as a breeding
objective, since they had already developed
resistant lines and could fall back on the











fungicides. Likewise, Chinese maize breeders did
not believe that the viruses addressed by Chinese
AMBIONET teams were economically important.
They also had little interest in research on QPM.
Most major international companies are placing
emphasis on drought tolerance, and so they did
agree that this was a major research priority with
potentially high payoffs.

The divergence in private and public priorities
may be due to the fact that AMBIONET is
explicitly trying to work on problems of the poor,
whereas the private sector targets better-off
commercial farmers. The poor may have less


access to fungicides for protection from downy
mildew. They may also depend more on maize as
a source of protein and would benefit from QPM,
if they could get access to it. So, if we put more
weight on the needs of the poor, AMBIONET's
priorities may have the highest payoff. In
addition, if network research programs provided
efficient steps for scientists to learn to use
markers focused on big economic problems like
drought, they may have been justified. However,
the questions of the private companies suggest
that at least some type of economic study
quantifying the possible benefits of the research
projects might have been useful.











7. Conclusions: Impacts and the Future


The goals of AMBIONET were to strengthen the
research capacity of key public maize research
institutions in Asia, and thereby to improve their
ability to develop improved maize cultivars for
poor farmers in Asia. Despite the fact that
AMBIONET was a small investment (about US
$2.4 million from ADB and US $1.3 million from
CIMMYT), the network was successful in
increasing research capacity, increasing research
output, and initiating the development of
technology that should benefit small farmers and
consumers.

Maize research in Asia has been strengthened,
particularly at the institutes that took part in
AMBIONET in China, India, and Indonesia.
AMBIONET has induced more expenditure on
maize research, increased the number of scientists
working on maize, and strengthened the basic and
applied research skills of Asian scientists. It has
strengthened the research links between NARS
scientists of different countries and between
NARSs and CIMMYT. The strengthening of
research institutes in the Philippines and Thailand
has been less successful, but even in those
countries individual scientists have had their
research programs strengthened by AMBIONET.

We found evidence that AMBIONET is also
strengthening research capacity beyond the
collaborating institutes. The scientists of other
government institutes and universities worked on
PhD and MS theses financed and supervised by
AMBIONET collaborators. Public sector scientists
have received short-term training. AMBIONET has
also become a model for some research networks
in China and India attempting to do at the national
level what AMBIONET did at the regional level. In


addition, the research capacity of private firms in
China and India was strengthened by AMBIONET.

AMBIONET also increased research output, as
measured by publications, research tools, and
improved lines and hybrids. This is the easiest
type of output to document with quantitative
evidence-in this case, numbers of publications.
Most programs were able to publish in
international journals for the first time, after
joining AMBIONET. All programs increased the
total number of papers published, except for
Thailand's public plant breeding program, which
in any case emphasizes the development of
varieties rather than publications.

There was not yet enough evidence to be confident
that the number or quality of new maize cultivars
has been increased due to AMBIONET, but it was
encouraging to find that a few cultivars based on
research from this program are being grown by
farmers. These first few cultivars were based on
either the genetic diversity programs in southern
China or on the disease resistant lines that were
identified in Thailand while developing molecular
markers (rather than being developed through
molecular breeding). The second set of cultivars
from AMBIONET associates are disease resistant
cultivars in the pipeline in China and India. These
were developed through molecular breeding and
will be available to farmers in a few years.

Much of the AMBIONET research focused on the
problems of small-scale farmers. AMBIONET has
made good progress toward developing improved,
disease resistant lines that can be used in breeding
programs. Downy mildew is not a problem for
commercial maize producers in most of Asia,











because there are chemical seed treatments and
some genetic resistance. It is a problem, however,
for small-scale farmers who do not have access to
commercial seed every year and who likewise
need drought tolerance, because it is a key
problem for smallholders in rainfed areas.

Using numbers from farmer surveys
substantiated by expert opinion and experiment
station data, it was possible to project the benefits
from some technologies in a few countries. The
adoption of downy mildew resistant varieties in
Southeast Asia and virus resistant hybrids in
China could easily pay for the costs of
AMBIONET in a few years and give very high
rates of return to the investment in research.

Whether the AMBIONET program could have
had higher social benefits if participants had set
different priorities is not clear. ADB's restriction
that they not work on transgenic cultivars looks
sensible in hindsight, given that only the
Philippines has so far approved any transgenic
maize. The emphasis on working on relatively
less challenging problems at first also seems
sensible, but much more analysis would have to
be done (based on much speculation) to be
confident that this particular strategy had the
highest benefit-cost ratio.

AMBIONET's success in strengthening research is
primarily due to the national governments who
provided most of the funding and the scientists.
The programs that have done best by some
measures-the Chinese and Indian programs-
are the ones who had the strongest research
capacity initially and have rapidly growing
financial resources for their research. Their
research successes with AMBIONET led to more
funding for the future. Both programs will have
access to million-dollar grants for molecular
breeding research.


The success of the project was due to a number of
factors. The personal commitment and
involvement in research and all other aspects of
AMBIONET by George, Hoisington, and the other
CIMMYT staff was one important reason for
success. They were well trained, experienced
scientists who committed an immense amount of
time to the project. They got to know collaborating
scientists and their institutions well and treated
with respect the knowledge and skills that the
NARSs' scientists brought to the table. The mix of
disciplines, skills, and personalities of the Asian
scientists in the network was another important
factor. The CIMMYT leaders built on their contacts
in Asia and on the experience of IRRI with the
Asian Rice Biotech Network to identify people who
were willing and able to collaborate. In a few cases
they had to change collaborators, but in the end an
impressive team of NARS scientists formed
AMBIONET. The flexibility of the funding and the
ability of AMBIONET to move it quickly to where
it was needed was another important factor in
making this project work.

Beyond the numbers and the questionnaires, the
impressive thing about this project was the
enthusiasm of the participants. There was
Shihuang Zhang's quiet enthusiasm for the role
AMBIONET played in introducing the young
scientists in his research program to the
international research community. Prasanna's
enjoyment of competition with the Chinese team
and equal enthusiasm for teaching Indian,
Indonesian, Irani, and Vietnamese students about
the tools of molecular breeding are worth note.
Firdaus Kasim of Indonesia spoke highly of his
research collaboration with Dedi Ruswandi and
possible future international collaborations with
Pichet of Thailand. Perhaps most impressive was
the excitement of young scientists like Pabendon
and Azrai in Indonesia talking about their research.











AMBIONET's success in improving the well-
being of farmers depends not only on research
output but perhaps even more on the ability of
public extension to transfer public technology to
farmers or the NARS scientists' ability to get
private seed companies to make use of the
technology they develop. The private sector
organizations interested in AMBIONET and other
public research activities are primarily the
medium-sized Asian firms, such as MAHYCO in
India and Domingo in the Philippines. The local
branches of Monsanto and Pioneer had limited or
no knowledge of AMBIONET. They do not use
MAS in their breeding programs in Asia and the
disease problems that AMBIONET addressed are
not major concerns to them. Drought is an
important problem for them, but research on this
problem is being conducted by their central
research programs and, in the case of Pioneer,
with a collaborative research program at
CIMMYT's headquarters.


Another measure of the project's success was
the demand for participation. The participants
were unanimous in their desire to continue the
system, as might be expected. In addition many
other countries were seeking to join and were
willing to pay their own way or find donors to
support their participation. At the annual
meeting in Chiang Mai in 2003, AMBIONET
collaborators were joined by three scientists
each from Iran, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

The participants unanimously agreed that the
network structure was important. The research
projects provided the focal point for all
activities, with the training programs, the
annually meetings, and the technical
backstopping contributing to the programs'
success. The combination of collaboration,
cooperation, and competition that I found at the
annual meeting and in the interviews was
impressive. This is the way good, collaborative
research is supposed to work.













References


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Appendix table 1. Summary of training courses and workshops.
Date Place Training/Workshop
Training Course
9 Nov-4 Dec 1998 CIMMYT, Mexico Training Course on Molecular Marker Applications to Plant Breeding
Regional Workshops
Oct 1999 Kamphangsaen, Thailand Regional Workshop on Maize and Downy Mildew Fingerprinting
May 2001 IRRI, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines Regional Workshop on QTL Mapping
May 2001 IRRI, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines IRRI-CIMMYT Functional Genomics Workshop
August 2002 Thailand Genetic Diversity
November 2003 Thailand Proposal development workshop
In-country training
6-7 Mar 2000 Indian Agricultural Research Institute, India Molecular Marker Applications to Plant Breeding
?? Vietnam Molecular marker technologies
Annual Meeting
27-30 Apr 1998 Bangkok, Thailand FirstAnnual Meeting
27-30 Apr 1999 Beijing, China Second Annual Meeting
8-10 Mar 2000 New Delhi, India Third Annual Meeting
10-11 May 2001 Los Banos, Philippines Fourth Annual Meeting
2002 Indonesia Fifth Annual Meeting
November 2003 Chiang Mai, Thailand Sixth Annual Meeting
(b) AMBIONET Workshop on 'QTL Mapping' at IRRI, Philippines in May 2001
(c) AM B IONET Workshop on 'Diversity Analysis' at Thailand in August 2002
(d) AMBIONET Grant Writing Workshop at Thailand in November 2003













Appendix table 2. Losses from key diseases and drought in Asia.
Countries where Country of Estimated area
Disease problem example Year of problem Percent loss Source
MRDV China China 1996 400,000 ha 20-30 Dalmacio
MRDV China China 30-50 Dalmacio
Viruses China China 1975 1,000 ha 50 Dalmacio
SCMV Philippines Philippines 1990 55-57 Dalmacio
Bacterial rot India, China, Indonesia, Japan, India 80-85 Dalmacio
Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines
Bacterial rot Philippines 1981 40 Dalmacio
Bacterial rot Philippines 1985 20 Dalmacio
Philippines Philippines 1996 21 Dalmacio
Downy mildew China, India, Indonesia, Japan, 1974-75 8? Dalmacio
Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines,
Thailand, Vietnam
Downy mildew Indonesia 1977 40 Dalmacio
Java downy mildew Indonesia 1996 7,665 ha Dalmacio
Banded leaf and sheath blight India, Philippines, Vietnam, Dalmacio
Indonesia
Leaf blight and rot Philippines Philippines 1984 20 Dalmacio
Leaf blight and rot Indonesia Indonesia 11 Dalmacio
Fungal root and stalk rot Philippines Philippines 1995 13 Dalmacio
Fungal Root and stalk rot Philippines Philippines 1995 13 Dalmacio
Foliar diseases Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Dalmacio
Japan, Indonesia
Drought China China 30-40 Zhang
Stalk rot China China 10-20 Zhang
MRDV China China 10-15 Zhang
Asian corn borer China China 7-20 Zhang
Turcicum leaf blight China China 1974 20 Zhang







ISBN: 970-648-138-9


UICIMMYT.
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
Apdo. Postal 6-641, 06600 Mexico, D.F, Mexico
www.cimmyt.org




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