Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New maize varieties to boost grain production in West and Central Africa

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture: 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 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 region….

Maize and other grains being sold at a farmers market in Nigeria. From the IITA website

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