NEWS SERVICE REPORTS
FROM THE AFRICAN
identify early maturing maize lines
study comes as hundreds of thousands of small
farmers in Kenya have started growing drought
crops in order to mitigate against effects of
Researchers have identified maize parental lines
and hybrids with high levels of drought tolerance
that could save farmers in Africa.
early and the extra-early maturing maize genotypes
developed and conserved by the International
Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) will help
in production of maize, one of the key staples in
successful identification has led to the
availability and the possibility of sustainable
development of more resilient maize varieties
with dual characteristics of escaping and
tolerating drought in the near future,” said
Muhyideen Oyekunle of IITA’s Maize Improvement
said in a study received in Nairobi on Tuesday
that the discovery of a high level of drought
tolerance among early maturing maize parental
lines is also seen as “good news” for farmers,
especially in drought-prone areas of Africa where
maize is a key staple.
said that 48 percent of the early maturing lines
under study from IITA were drought tolerant with
tolerance indices ranging from 0.17 (low) to 15.31
study comes as hundreds of thousands of small
scale farmers in Kenya have started growing
drought resistant crops in addition to maize in
order to mitigate against effects of climate
2012, the Kenyan government said it will begin to
engage farmers in order to promote climate smart
agricultural technologies which allow them to
adapt to the effects of climate change.
former Minister for Agriculture Dr Sally Kosgei
said the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
(KARI) will supply seeds and planting material of
drought tolerant crops for the vulnerable arid and
semi arid lands of the country.
will assist its farmers to adopt climate smart
technologies through drought tolerant seeds in
order to help reduce the accumulation of
greenhouse gases,” Kosgei in October last
challenge is that maize crop in particular, which
is grown in almost every small scale farmer in
Kenya is very vulnerable to change in weather
patterns. For instance, lack of rains at any stage
of the crops development makes it to dry up.
latest study, which was supervised by Drs B.
Badu-Apraku, IITA Maize Breeder; S. Hearne, CIMMYT
Geneticist; and Professor M. E. Aken’Ova,
University of Ibadan, involved screening of over
150 early maturing maize inbred lines and hybrids
for drought tolerance over a period of two years
across six agroecological zones of Nigeria.
activities undertaken by researchers to spot the
promising parental lines included assessment of
early maturing drought tolerant hybrids under
drought stress, molecular characterization of
early maturing maize inbred lines, and genetic
analysis of early maturing maize inbred lines for
drought tolerance genes.
found that under drought conditions, hybrids
performed better than open-pollinated varieties
and could provide safety nets for farmers during
bouts of drought.
also identified five diverse groups among the
early maturing maize inbred lines studied and two
inbreds as the best in terms of combining ability
for future hybrid production.
said the study would offer significant
contributions to efforts to address drought
effects on maize production.
of maize, one of the key staples in Africa, is
being thwarted by the recurrence of drought along
the maize- growing belt of Africa with farmers
reporting losses close to 90 percent in severe
to IITA, measures being adopted by researchers to
prevent the negative consequences of drought
include the development of early and extra-early
maturing cultivars that complete their life cycles
before the onset of drought, and the development
of drought tolerant cultivars that possess drought
said that general considerations in breeding for
drought tolerance in maize include information on
genetic diversity among tropical maize lines and
populations, hybrid performance, and inheritance
of drought tolerance.
collaboration with national programs,
(NGOs)/community-based organizations (CBOs), and
seed companies, IITA has made early and
extra-early maturing maize varieties and hybrids
available to farmers in West Africa.
are being widely adopted to the extent that maize
cultivation is largely replacing sorghum and
millet in the savanna ecologies.
and extra-early maize varieties fit into the
hunger gap in the savanna zones that normally
occurs before the year’s crops mature.
are also used for early planting and late planting
when the rains are delayed, and fit very well into
intercropping systems because they are less
competitive with the component crops.
varieties are used as green maize in the forest
zones and in peri-urban areas of West Africa.
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