Scientists develop fertilizer friendly maize in sub-Saharan Africa

by charles on July 19, 2013

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SCIENTISTS DEVELOP FERTILIZER FRIENDLY MAIZE IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Three new maize seed varieties that use fertilizer more efficiently have been unveiled in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe with support from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

The seeds so far released are Kenya’s Western Seed WH 507, Tanzania’s HB 513 and PGS 63 in Zimbabwe. The East African regional seed company, Kenya Seed is due to release another variety later this year. Das revealed that besides leading research under IMAS project that aims at developing and deploying traits to enhance yield of elite maize varieties under severe nitrogen depletion in the soil, CIMMYT opted to support the three seed companies in coming up with the traits as a way of transforming farming in the region.

In sub Saharan Africa, maize farmers deal with drought, weeds and pests, but their problems starts with degraded, nutrient starved soils and inability to purchase enough nitrogen fertilizer. Poor soils are believed to be behind the low maize production and increase food insecurity and income for the poor people in the region.

Sub Saharan Africa uses only nine kilograms of fertilizer per hectare, far less compared to Latin America that uses 73 kilograms and South East Asia that uses 300 kg. He revealed that a smallholder farmer who uses fertilizers harvests an additional one ton of maize per hectare.

The project is expected to boost the declining maize yields under the severely nitrogen limited soil conditions facing most African maize farmers.

The scientists are cutting edge biotechnology tools such as molecular markers for traits of interest and transgenic approaches to develop verities that yield 30-50 per cent more than currently available varieties with the same amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied. Both varieties offer 20 percent yield advantage over the current seed varieties.

For more information contact AFSTA Secretariat on afsta@afsta.org

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