K-State Research and Extension News
January 25, 2010
Share  Email the story

K-State Ag Economist Studying Economic Impacts Of Drought-Tolerant Corn in Africa

Research Effort Could Have Wide-Reaching Implications

MANHATTAN, Kan. – It’s not unusual for researchers to try to determine the best crops to plant in a particular climate, but a Kansas State University agricultural economist will go a step further.

Tim Dalton, international development specialist with K-State Research and Extension, soon will be working to calculate the potential economic impacts of drought-tolerant corn, also referred to as maize, in target African countries and will estimate the distribution of those benefits between poor farmers, poor consumers and the rest of society.

“The data and statistics we collect on the economic impacts of drought-tolerant maize will help policymakers and other stakeholders make informed decisions about the appropriate levels of investment and support needed to help the distribution of these varieties and hybrids,” Dalton said. 

“Corn is an incredibly important food source in many African countries,” he said, adding that about 50 percent of the calories consumed in some African countries come from corn-based products. In addition, about 40 percent of the area planted to maize is produced in dryland areas prone to drought without irrigation.

“With global climate change expected to increase temperatures by at least two degrees and shorten the length of the rainy season by 2030 in Southern Africa, we could see nearly a 30 percent reduction in corn production within the southern Africa region without new crop technologies. That’s not very far off. It could be devastating to African farmers,” he said.

The two-year research effort is funded by a $498,006 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Under this grant, Dalton’s research will calculate the potential impact on producers and consumers of maize developed through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in Nairobi. The research will include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa and evaluate several economic, climatic, social, technological and regulatory scenarios.

Dalton is collaborating with Rutgers University in New Jersey, scientists at the University of California- Berkeley, Wellesley College and the University of Pretoria in addition to agricultural research organizations in the five countries.  He is already gathering information from small farmers he refers to as “smallholders,” producing less than 12 acres of maize. Much of their production goes toward feeding their families, he said.



K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research & Extension News

Tim Dalton – 785-532-6941 or timothydalton@agecon.ksu.edu.