By; SANI ALIYU, Zaria
The third set of harvest of the trial for the TELA Maize Project has been successfully conducted at the Institute For Agricultural Research (IAR) Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
Speaking at a Press Conference held after the harvest, the Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, said biotechnology and its tools have opened a window of opportunities for Nigeria to address challenges facing food crops.
He said agriculture was one of the major employers of labour, but in recent times, agricultural processes started encountering challenges of insects/pests, drought, weeds, flood, gully erosion, oil spillage among others.
According to him, NABDA would continue to work with IAR and other institutions across the country and beyond to promote biotechnology usage and research development in agriculture as one of the most potent options available to revive agriculture and make it a net contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Professor Mustapha said IAR has taken the lead in the country in the development of genetic modification in agriculture and they are proud of the Institute’s achievement in modern biotechnology.
Also speaking during the press conference, the Executive Director, IAR, Professor Mohammad Ishiyaku, said that the savings farmers will make from the TELA Maize is estimated to be over N3 billion from insecticide spray of 500 hectares land and over N6 billion from drought effects.
Ishiyaku who was represented by the Assistant Director, Research, IAR, Professor Bitrus Tarfa, said IAR as a leader in agricultural biotechnology in the country is ahead amongst Nigerian Agricultural Research Institutes in the deployment of biotechnology tools to provide solutions to farmers.
He noted that the institute has recorded enormous success in the release of cotton that is resistant to bollworm which causes up to 80 per cent yield loss in cotton, adding that It has also successfully developed and released the first pod borer resistant cowpea SAMPEA 20T.
Faguji Ishiyaku said IAR is bringing to the notice of the public, its success on the development of maize that is resistant to the notorious stem boring group of insects including the dreadful fall armyworm which is known to decimate farmers maize production.
“This is our humble contribution through the dedication of our scientists to achieving results and ensuring food security. In addition, this new maize variety which we harvested this morning, is also tolerant to drought which will go a long way in increasing farmers production by 90 per cent even with little rain.
“The savings farmers will make from this maize variety is estimated to be over 3 billion naira from insecticide spray of 500hectares land and over 6billion naira from drought effects,” he said.
He however, assured Nigerian farmers that the institute will continue to seek their inputs so as to provide them with the best results from research.
“This is to ensure that we continue to expand government resources strictly on those problems that will lead to national economic growth and self-sufficiency in food production”, he added.
The Principal investigator of the project, Professor Rabiu Adamu said Fall armyworm and drought could cost 80 per cent yield loss if not properly managed.
He noted that the project is aimed at alleviating the two major problems militating against food crops.
“We are doing this trial for the third time, we started the first one during the dry season, we did the second in June 2020, and the third one from November 2020 to April 2021,” he added.
TELA maize is a transgenic crop that is developed primarily to resist Fall Armyworm and also thrive during drought.