A foremost maize breeder, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, has said that the striga and drought, as well as other production stresses related to maize cultivation will not cause nightmare to farmers in Africa as a result of the laudable achievements recorded by the Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) Project in the continent.
IITA’s scientist, Dr, Badu Apraku who disclosed this at the Annual Review and Planning Meeting for the West and Central African Regional Stakeholders of the Project, held at the IITA headquarter in Ibadan, Nigeria.
He said, the field data across Africa are saying one thing, as farmers are adopting the superior varieties developed and promoted by the STMA project.
“There is no more fear of striga and drought, as well as other stress. Indeed, the future of Africa agriculture is becoming brighter by the day, and we as a team are happy that tremendous progress is being made,” he said.
According to him, STMA Project is a collaboration between IITA, CIMMYT, and several other organizations, with the purpose of developing, producing, testing and promoting mainly four varieties of maize (that are tolerant to climatic stresses) in sub-Saharan Africa.
The scientist said the varieties are drought-tolerant, striga-resistant, disease/pest-resistant, and low-nitrogen tolerant.
“One of the most visible stresses of climate change to farming is drought while one of the priority of STMA is to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties to mitigate this stress and help increase farmers’ productivity and income. he said..
One the dry savannas of Nigeria and other parts of Africa, where low soil fertility is major constraint to maize production, the problem of low nitrogen soils is widespread.
The scientist said, the Project develops tropical maize genotypes with high and stable yield under low-nitrogen condition to tackle the problems.
According to the research the Striga (witchweed) is a parasitic weed that seriously constrains the productivity of maize in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Apraku said, weed attaches itself to the roots of host plant and siphons the nutrients and water intended for plant growth and this stunts and discolours the plant, finally causing it to wither.
On the general problem of pests and diseases, ranging from bacterial, fungal and virus or virus-like diseases to nematodes or parasitic diseases, the scientist said several ST varieties are specifically developed to address the challenges of diseases and pests in maize.
The STMA project is operated in 13 African countries (Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe).
In Nigeria, the project covers the Sudan savannah, Northern Guinea savannah, Southern Guinea savannah and the forest areas.
The 2019 meeting in Ibadan had in attendance members of the STMA maize breeding, testing, demonstration and promotional teams in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Mali, each country scientists, communication and socioeconomic experts and stakeholders in the national agricultural seed system were in attendance.
Each country presented their 2018 work reports, as well as 2019 plan of activities with regard to the thrust of the project.
In his contributions an agricultural extension communication expert, Dr. Godfrey Onagwa, Nigeria has developed about seventeen (17) improved varieties, of which thirteen (13) are available to the market between 2014 and 2019.
Dr Onagwa is also a scientist with the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the institute that is tasked with the STMA promotional activities in Nigeria.
“We have over 40 improved maize varieties that are tolerant to stresses of various degrees in the Nigerian market.
He said, out of these, about 17 were released in the last five years. Everywhere you go, farmers are demanding for stress-tolerant varieties, as the harsh realities of climate change bite harder.