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Drought tolerant maize makes farming profitable, seed companies say

By Godwin Atser

Drought tolerant maize makes farming profitable, seed companies say

Farmers cultivating maize are making profits despite droughts experienced in the northern Nigeria, thanks to drought tolerant maize.

“The drought tolerant maize varieties have mitigated the effects of drought on maize production and farmers are having better incomes,” says Mr. Olumide Ibikunle, Research and Development Manager, Premier Seeds.

“The seed industry is also better off because demand for maize has actually increased,” he added on the sidelines of the “Regional Planning Meeting of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Project” at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan.

Over the years IITA, CIMMYT and national partners have released several drought tolerant maize varieties including Samaz 16, ZM309 and ZM523 among others in sub-Saharan Africa to cushion the effects of drought on the crop.

“Investment in drought tolerant maize is a good thing especially for Africa,” Ibikunle says.

Drought remains one of the most limiting factors to maize production in sub Saharan Africa.

“Northern Nigeria, where maize production dominates is also prone to drought,” says Stella Thomas, Managing Director of Kano-based Seed Project Company Limited.

“To keep production profitable to resource-poor farmers, research on drought tolerant maize is important,” she says.

According to her, maize farming is profitable especially with the adoption of drought tolerant varieties.

Researchers and other stakeholders in the maize industry meeting in Ibadan say developing maize varieties with tolerant of drought will boost maize production in Africa—a continent where the crop is among the major staples.

Dr.Abebe Menkir, IITA Maize breeder says the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project will reduce the vulnerability of maize farmers to drought.

“Rainfall has a perfect correlation with maize production. So once there is absence of rainfall at the flowering stage, yield is affected. The solution is getting varieties that are tolerant of drought,” Dr.Wilfred Mwangi, DTMA project Leader, CIMMYT, says.

He says the varieties developed by the project aim to create safety nets for farmers especially in times of inadequate rainfall.

“What this means is that if there is no rainfall, the farmer should have some maize to harvest and if there is rainfall let him harvest bountifully. So, it is a win-win situation,” he says.

Mwangi says the project is building on the work earlier done by institutions such IITA, CIMMYT and national partners on drought tolerant maize.

He commended Nigeria’s seed companies for the interest shown in maize production, stressing that the success of the project depended on the level of private sector involvement in the project.

“This is one effective way through which the improved varieties will reach the farmers,” he adds.