Improved maize varieties, developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partners, that will help enhance food security and incomes of maize farmers in West and Central Africa have been released by the Nigerian National Variety Release Committee.
The release of the improved varieties has sparked optimism for increased maize productivity in the sub-region. The varieties, which were developed at 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, aimed to overcome the major constraints to maize production in the sub-region, including drought, low soil fertility, pest, diseases and parasitic plants.
Researchers developed the varieties through conventional plant breeding by exploiting traits that are naturally available.
The improved maize include 13 open-pollinated varieties of extra-early-, early-,Â intermediate-, and late-maturity with resistance to Striga hermonthica and stem borers, tolerance to drought and with good adaptation to sub-optimal soil nitrogen.
Also four hybrids with drought-tolerance were released. The committee also released two Striga-resistant and two white and two yellow productive hybrids developed at IITA in partnership with Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited for production and marketing by the company.
The release of these stress-tolerant varieties and hybrids will promote the rate of adoption of improved maize cultivars by farmers in Nigeria, which will contribute to productivity increases in maize on farm and also improve food security, says Abebe Menkir, IITA Maize Breeder.
â€œThese varieties have the potential to provide farmers with opportunities to overcome the challenges to maize production in the WCA,â€ he added.
Yield losses due to Striga and prolonged droughts could render a farmerâ€™s field unproductive with nothing to harvest.
Also the impact of low soil fertility is often as devastating as droughts while stem borers in the forest regions hurt both productivity and farmersâ€™ incomes.
Every year, IITA distributes improved open-pollinated varieties and hybrids to the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and the private sector in and outside of West and Central Africa 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 release.