Tela Maize: Nigerian farmers to use biotechnology to meet 20m MT target

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By Bukola Adewumi

Kano, Nov. 6, 2020 The Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, says Nigeria requires urgent adoption of biotechnology to meet the maize consumption target of 20 million metric tonnes in the country.

The Executive Director of IAR, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, made this known at a 2-day Capacity Building Training for Journalists on TELA Maize Reporting in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), held in Kano on Friday.

He said Africa currently produces 7.5 per cent of the world’s maize output, adding that Nigeria, is currently the largest producer in the continent with 18 million metric tonnes in 2019 from the 11 million metric tonnes produced in 2018.

He said that the demand for maize would double by 2025.

Ishiyaku, represented by Prof. Rabiu Adamu, the Project Principal Investigator in the institute, said the average yield of the regular maize crop currently is about two tonnes per hectare, stressing that the country needed about five tonnes per hectare to meet up with the demand.

He said the Stem Borer, a major maize disease, had been found to reduce maize yield by between 13 per cent and 18 per cent.

He assured that the use of technology through tela maize would resolve the challenges of pest and droughts on production in the future.

”With the increasing population of over 200 million, Nigeria requires about 20 million metric tonnes of maize consumption.

“However, the country relies largely on importation with less than 11 million metric tonnes local production.

“For Nigeria to scale through challenge of food insecurity, it requires urgent adoption of biotechnology to meet the maize consumption target,” he said.

The IAR executive director explained that Tela Maize is a home-grown maize specie researched by Nigerian scientists.

He said the objective was to further enhance food security in the Sub Saharan Africa, adding that the new crop variety would boost production yield by 50 per cent compared to the non-transgenic varieties due to protection from insect damages.

Dr Muhyiddeen Oyekunle, a scientist with IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in a paper entitled “Conventional Maize Breeding” said biotechnology would feature more prominently in modern maize breeding.

He said the application of biotechnology to agricultural species had traditionally involved the use of selective breeding to bring about an exchange of genetic material between two parent plants.

He added that this would lead to production offsprings having desired traits to increased yields and resist disease.

“In view of challenges such as drought, pest infestation and climate change, which the conventional maize breeding cannot easily address, scientists took advantage of biotechnology to embark on Tela Maize research to increase yield and enhance production,” he said.

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