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New maize to cut import bill, pesticide use

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By Juliana Agbo, Abuja

The Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) has said Nigeria is expected to save huge import bill it spends annually on over four million metric tons of maize.

It also said farmers will reduce the use of pesticides as the institute is currently working on a new maize variety with capacity for pest resistance and drought tolerance.

The new variety, TELA Maize, builds on progress made from breeding work under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA).

The project which was adopted in Nigeria in 2019 is currently being developed in six African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia and South Africa.

The principal investigator of the project at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Professor Rabiu Adamu explained that Nigeria lost about 80 per cent of maize production annually to devastating impact of biotic and abiotic agents including army worm and droughts adding that the proposed solution would eliminate farmers constraints and enhance maize value chain in the country.

Professor Adamu who made this known at a capacity building training for journalists in Kano noted that preliminary findings from the first phase of the trials showed that maize farmers in the country stand to benefit when the new variety is commercialised as it would save farmers production cost up to hundreds of Million of naira from pesticides spray to the control stem borer and the fall armyworm.

He pointed out that the objective of Tela Maize was to further enhance food security in the Sub Saharan Africa, adding that the new crop variety will boost production yields by 50 per cent compared to non-transgenic varieties due to protection from insect damages.

He noted that the Tela project had so far released five improved maize varieties in Africa as of 2019.

He added that in spite of the identified benefits of the innovation, it was important to enlist the support of stakeholders prior to the release of the crop variety.

He said Africa currently produces 7.5 per cent of the world’s maize out while Nigeria is currently the largest producer in the continent with 18 million metric tonnes in 2019 from 11 million metric tonnes in 2018, adding that the demand for maize will double by 2025.

The renowned Nigerian scientist said while the production of maize must double by 2050, average yield of the regular maize crop is currently about two tonnes per hectare stressing that we need about five tonnes per hectare to meet up with demand.

Adamu said the stem borer, a major maize disease had been found to reduce maize yields by between 13 per cent and 18 per cent, assuring that the new variety would resolve the challenges of pest and droughts on production going forward.

However, he emphasised that the new maize variety would standout particularly during droughts and pest outbreaks adding that the GMO crop will be protected from the hazards compared to other less fortified varieties which will be devastated.

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