02.04.2010 Agriculture

Ghanaian farmers get quality protein, drought-tolerant, and Striga-resistant maize varieties to boost production

02.04.2010 LISTEN
By Godwin Atser

Ghana has released four Quality Protein Maize (QPM) varieties tolerant of drought and resistant to Striga hermontica (a parasitic weed that reduces maize yield) to farmers to boost maize production in the drought-prone and Striga endemic areas of the country.

The varieties, which are early and extra-early maturing, were released by the Ghanaian Crops Research Institute (CRI) in collaboration with the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of Ghana.

Of the four varieties, three were developed by IITA in the Earlies Program and have the IITA designation, EV DT-W 99 STR QPM Co; TZE-W Pop STR QPM C0; and TZEE-W Pop STR QPM C0 ( an extra-early maturing variety).

The fourth, an intermediate maturing drought-tolerant QPM hybrid, was developed in the National Maize Program of Ghana.

The IITA varieties were developed through the funding support of the Nippon Foundation QPM Project during the period 2003-2006 and were extensively tested in on-station and on-farm trials in Ghana by the SARI and the CRI between 2008 and 2009 through the funding support of the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA Project).

Besides resistance to Striga and tolerance to drought, the varieties also have high levels of lysine and tryptophan.

“With the release of these varieties, farmers in Ghana now have options not only in terms of maturity, grain color and type but also varieties which can tolerate the two major stresses which prevent increased maize production and productivity in the sub-region,” says Dr. Baffour Badu-Apraku, IITA Maize Breeder.

Endemic to the savanna agroecological zone of West Africa, Striga has become an important constraint to maize production, accounting for yield losses of between 20 and 80% in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and affecting the welfare and livelihood of over 100 million people.

Also, unpredictable bouts of rainfall in SSA because of climate change are equally reducing productivity gains.

Dr. Robert Asuboah of the Grains and Legumes Development Board of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana says farmers are eager to get the new varieties.

“We are excited because the varieties are 'insurance' crops. We are now experiencing droughts even during rainy seasons so the varieties will enable farmers to harvest more and make more money,” he says