The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is using data from nearly 200,000 plots to offer Mexican farmers site-specific recommendations to make their farming systems more productive, resilient, and sustainable. In 2019, 483 field technicians and farmer leaders collected data from 632 demonstration modules and 2,437 extension areas, covering more than 26,000 hectares across the country. This initiative is part of MasAgro, Mexico’s integrated development partnership with CIMMYT, funded by the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER).
Data collectors can register up to 500 data variables from each plot monitored, describing management practices and important moments of the crop cycle. These records are fed into the MasAgro Electronic Field Book, a monitoring system that CIMMYT and its partners developed in 2012 to standardize data collection and management practices in Mexico. Since then, more than 218,000 logs have been entered into the system. To complement this information, CIMMYT-trained extension agents and field technicians load geographic information onto an open data collection system called ODK Collect.
CIMMYT collaborates with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to look for correlations and patterns in the datasets, to identify possible limiting factors and best management practices for each plot monitored. The resulting analytics feed a multi-platform application called AgroTutor that assists farmers’ decisions by offering recommended agricultural practices, ideal periods or windows of opportunity for performing specific activities, historic yield potential records, commodity price forecasts, and historical data for local benchmarks.
The use of machine learning algorithms for data analysis is common in different fields, including agriculture, but has rarely been accessible to small and medium-sized farmers. For that reason, the tools developed by CIMMYT for the MasAgro project have been acknowledged for producing predictive and prescriptive site-specific analytics for the benefit of resource-constrained farmers.
In addition to increased productivity and profitability for farmers, applying these insights has contributed to the sustainable use of natural resources and has led to more informed and effective public policies and projects.
The United Nations (UN)-sponsored Counting on the World to Act report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) describes CIMMYT’s data management systems and tools as examples of “frontier technologies” that effectively contribute to sustainable farming in Mexico and respond to the Sustainable Development Goals. “As part of the data revolution, efficiencies are being derived from lower-tech approaches such as using citizen-generated data and smartphones to speed up existing survey-based approaches,” reads the introduction to CIMMYT’s sidebar story in Chapter 4 of the report, Incentives for Innovation, presented in September 2019 during the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly.
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On September 24, 2013, the newly formed United Nations (UN) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held its ﬁrst meeting. At the Rio+20 Conference, Member States also agreed to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were to build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were established in 2000 and expired in 2015.
Of the 17 individual goals, 10 relate directly to CGIAR activities and to CIMMYT’s mandate. The SDGs have set the pathway for the next 15 years of agricultural, social, and economic development. Likewise, CGIAR has transformed its approach to ensure that its work aligns with the ambitious goals.
CIMMYT, through its research for development activities, is working toward a world free of poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. CIMMYT and CGIAR efforts help bring the world closer to reaching the goals, such as the empowerment of women, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the improvement of health and nutrition for the world’s poorest people.
CIMMYT’s work contributes to the following SDGs:
CIMMYT — the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center — is the global leader in publicly-funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR System and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat and the Excellence in Breeding Platform. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.
For more information, visit www.cimmyt.org.