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December 31, 2008

IITA develops striga-resistant maize varieties

Two new maize varieties developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria in conjunction with the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria, aim to significantly cut annual yield losses in maize production in Africa due to the infestation of Striga hermontica.

The varieties known as IWDC2SynF2 (SAMMAZ 15) and TZLComp1Syn W-1 (SAMMAZ 16), have been developed to resist parasitic weeds that substantially cut maize crop outputs in farms across Africa, according to a statement by IITA on Sunday.

Striga, also known as witch-weed, attacks cereal crops with annual maize yield losses in the savanna regions estimated to reach $7bn and with negative impact on the lives and livelihood of over 100 million people in Africa.

The parasitic plant is endemic in Africa and it constitutes the most important biotic constraint to maize production with infested areas on the continent estimated at between 21 million and 50 million hectares.

IITA’s maize breeder, Mr. Abebe Menkir said,“Several options are available for the control of Striga in maize, but the most economically feasible, safe, easily accessible and sustainable approach is the use of resistant or tolerant cultivars that the resource-poor farmers can cultivate solely or in combination with cultural management options as well as in rotations with legumes that elicit suicidal Striga germination.”

IITA and its Nigerian partners said the release of the varieties earlier this month, would boost farmers’ incomes and increase the production of maize in Nigeria.

Under researcher-managed on-station trials at Samaru, the statement noted that Sammaz 15 tasseled at 69 days and silked at 73 days; it is tolerant to both root and stalk lodging with good ear and plant aspect and good husk cover.

Sammaz 15 out yielded all the late maturing varieties evaluated. It has five per cent yield advantage over the existing Striga resistant checks Sammaz 11.

At Turunku in 2005, Sammaz 15 had the highest yield of 4.42 t/ha, which was 23 per cent more than the average of all the varieties included in the trial.

Sammaz 16 is the second late maturing variety with a plant height of 1.85m, good plant and ear aspects, no root and stalk lodging.

This variety had the highest grain yield under Striga infestation (3.2 t/ha). The grain yield reduction for this variety under Striga infestation is less than 10 per cent, IITA said.

Sammaz 16 sustained significantly less Striga damage symptoms, supported significantly fewer emerged parasites and produced significantly higher yields than the susceptible check, 8338-1.

“The results show great prospects for increased maize production in Nigeria and West and Central Africa in general,” Menkir stressed.

As a staple food crop for both rural and urban consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, maize has seen increased demand in recent times from the food industry with global utilisation of the crop as human food, animal feeds and industrial usage touching over 100 million tonnes per annum.

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