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New maize varieties to boost grain production in West and Central Africa
15 February 2010
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Maize production in West and Central Africa is set to get a much-needed boost with the release of improved varieties by the Nigeria National Variety Release Committee. The improved varieties address many of the major constraints to maize production such as drought, low soil fertility, pests, diseases, and parasitic weeds.
Researchers developed the varieties through conventional plant breeding by tapping naturally-available traits.
The varieties were developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, Nigeria.
The released maize include 13 open-pollinated varieties of extra-early-, early-, intermediate-, and late-maturity with resistance to the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica and stem borers, tolerance to drought, and with good adaptation to sub-optimal soil nitrogen. Four hybrids with drought-tolerance have also been released.
The committee also approved two Striga-resistant and two white and two yellow productive hybrids developed at IITA in partnership with Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited. The company will commercially produce and market these hybrids.
Abebe Menkir, IITA maize breeder, says that the release of these varieties will hasten the adoption of improved maize cultivars by farmers in Nigeria, consequently increasing yields, raising farm incomes, and improving food security. The release of the improved varieties has sparked renewed optimism for maize farming in the WCA region.
“These varieties have the potential to provide farmers with opportunities to overcome the challenges to maize production in West and Central Africa,” he added.
Maize farmers often suffer from infestation of parasitic weeds and prolonged droughts, rendering farms almost harvestless and farming households with little food and insufficient income for most of the year. Low soil fertility is often as devastating as droughts, while stem borers in the forest regions also hurt productivity.
Every year, IITA distributes improved open-pollinated varieties and hybrids to national partners and the private sector within and outside of the region through regional trials. These trials have been used as vehicles for selecting promising varieties and hybrids adapted to specific conditions in the different countries for extensive testing and later release.