Written by Adeleke Mainasara
Researchers using maize inbred lines have developed two early maturing hybrid maize varieties that have been released by the Malian government to boost maize production.
The improved hybrids, which are locally named sanu and mata, are resistant to Striga, a parasitic weed, and possess genes that enable them to withstand drought which occurs at the flowering and grain filling periods. They are also tolerant of low soil nitrogen, and are high yielding with good cooking qualities.
Sanu, which means ‘big man,’ has a yield of between 5 and 7 tons per hectare while mata— meaning mama— has a yield of between 4 and 5 tons per hectare. Local varieties have yields of between 1.5 and 2 tons per hectare.
Sanu and mata are recognized as IITA hybrids TZEI 86 x TZEI 60 and TZE-Y Pop DT STRC4 x TZEI 13, respectively.
“The release of these hybrids will help Mali and the west Africa region to boost the production of maize,” Dr Badu Baffour-Apraku, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said.
The IITA Maize Breeder who is also the West Africa Coordinator of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project said, “This is the first time early maturing hybrid maize with combined resistance/tolerance to Striga, drought and low soil nitrogen has been released in the sub region,” he added.
Consumed in several forms including boil/roast and eat, or processed into flour, couscous, bread, beer or animal feed; maize is an important crop for the sustenance of livelihoods in Mali.
Mr Ntji Coulibaly, the head of the national maize program with the Institute of Rural Economy, Mali, who led the testing and release of the hybrids, noted that the new hybrids would contribute significantly to improved food security and would be part of the solution to the problems of climate change.
“They should solve some of the problems associated with maize production in the sub region,” he explained.
Prior to their release, researchers and farmers jointly carried out extensive varietal testing across the various agroecological zones of Mali.
“Farmers love the hybrids for their excellent cooking and agronomic traits so we are optimistic that adoption of the hybrids will be high,’ Mr Coulibaly said.
With drought increasingly becoming a common reoccurrence in Mali and other parts of Africa, the improved hybrids aim to build resilience and provide safety nets for farmers while at the same time offering high yields.
Potentially, the impact of this research is huge and adoption by farmers would further amplify current benefits with a positive spin off effect on farmers’ incomes and livelihoods. For instance, between 1990 and 2011, annual maize production in Mali rose from 197,000 tons to 1.3 million tons, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Mr Coulibaly explained that the increase in maize production could be partly attributed to research that brought improved germplasm to the country.
The new varieties were developed with funds from the DTMA project, which is being implemented by CIMMYT, IITA, and national agricultural research systems across 13 countries of sub Saharan Africa.