By Bello Hamza, Abuja
The quest to introduce maize varieties resistant to insect pests such as Stem Borer and Fall Army Worm (FAW) and drought recorded a very promising result at the confined field trials (CFT) currently being conducted at the research farms of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru, Zaria.
This in a statement signed by Communication officer West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu said that the trial carried out in a partnership between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the IAR is under the TELA Maize Project that is being implemented in seven countries in Africa.
The statement read that Nigeria became a member of the project in 2019 and the project was launched in the country in 2020.
According to the statement, IAR having acquired a permit from the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to conduct the confined field trials, used a double stacked maize hybrids, fortified with Bt gene (MON89034) for insect pest (maize stemborer and fall armyworm) protection and drought resistance gene (DroughtGard®, MON87460) in the trials which have proven to be quite promising.
“Once the trials are completed and approved, the project will avail the improved seed to maize farmers in the country that are high yielding and climate resilient to withstand drought conditions, and produce good yield for farmers in drought-prone areas of Nigeria.
“Preliminary findings indicated that under stem borer and fall armyworm infestation, the TELA genetically modified (GM) maize varieties gave over two tons yield advantage relative to the best varieties currently being grown by farmers.”
It further noted that these promising preliminary findings from the first phase of the trials have shown that maize farmers in the country stand to benefit immensely when the maize is commercialized as the varieties will save farmers production cost up to hundreds of Millions of naira from pesticides application to the control stem borer and the fall armyworm.
“The Nigeria suffers a great devastation from FAW, in the 2017/2018 planting season, over USD 268 million was lost from 7.8 million hectares of farm land damaged by the pest in just four states of Abia, Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo as reported in November 2018 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a big threat to maize production and food security in Nigeria.
“To effectively control the pest, farmers must spray at least three different types of expensive pesticides for a minimum of three times in each season. Experience showed that it requires at least 46,000 naira to spray one acre (0.405 ha) of farm each season to give good protection against the FAW,” the statement added