Nigerian farmers participating in the biocontrol of aflatoxins using Aflasafe â€” a biocontrol product developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), have said that grain quality after application of the product improved, signaling prospects of a significant drop in aflatoxins on the grains.
â€œThere has been an improvement in grain quality. With the application of Aflasafe, the maize cobs are neater,â€ said Christie Kpatuwak, a maize farmer in Kaduna State, who is participating in the trials. Another farmer, Mr. Sanusi Liman, who is also participating in the trials in Zaria said: â€œSince the application of the product, I have actually seen an improvement in maize quality, basically cleaner seeds. The seeds do not have disease on them as before.â€
The trials which are on about 85 hectares of farmlands across Nigeria are coordinated by the Kaduna State Agriculture Development Programme and funded by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and European Unionâ€™s MycoRed project.
Researchers and regulatory officials from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) see the improvement in grain quality as a welcomed development.
â€œWe are impressed with the results on the field and a final analysis is under way. A reduction in aflatoxin contamination means better food and health for the farmers,â€ said Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist, who is leading the trials.
Produced mainly by the fungus Aspergillus flavus in maize, groundnuts, cassava, and yam chips; aflatoxins are potent causes of cancer and they also suppress the immune system causing humans and animals to be more susceptible to diseases.
Besides, high levels of aflatoxins contamination in agricultural products act as international trade barriers with global trade losses estimated at $1.2bn annually.
â€œAflatoxins hurt farmersâ€™ health and pockets. It also harms children and adults. The good thing is that Aflasafe will eliminate the source of aflatoxin contamination in these crops and the farmers will benefit,â€ Bandyopadhyay explained.
NAFDAC said a reduction in aflatoxins in grains will profit the country in many ways including improved health status and incomes.
Using the bio control option developed by IITA, the Agriculture Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Ibadan, farmers will have a highly effective method of eliminating aflatoxins with Aflasafe â€” a product that contains basically non-toxic producing strains of the fungus A. flavus exploited from Nigeria.