CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1940s-50s to raise Mexico’s farm productivity.
The wheat specialist in this program, Norman Borlaug, worked with Mexican researchers and farmers to develop strong, short-stemmed varieties that resisted the rust diseases and gave much more grain than traditional varieties.
Having been bred and selected at diverse Mexican locations, the new wheat lines were adapted to many types of farm settings. They helped Mexico attain self-sufficiency for wheat in the 1950s and were imported by India and Pakistan in the 1960s to stave off famine, soon bringing those countries record harvests. This led to the widespread adoption of improved varieties and farming practices, called the “Green Revolution.”
CIMMYT was formally launched in 1966. Borlaug received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the Green Revolution, worked as a CIMMYT wheat scientist and research leader through 1979, and remained a distinguished consultant for the center until his death in 2009.