Biotech Updates

Improved Maize Varieties Give West and Central African Farmers Hope

February 19, 2010

New, improved maize varieties developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, Nigeria have sparked renewed optimism for maize farming in West and Central Africa. The varieties, which were developed through conventional plant breeding by tapping naturally-available traits, address many of the major constraints to maize production such as drought, low soil fertility, pests, diseases, and parasitic weeds.

The released maize varieties, which were approved by the Nigeria National Variety Release Committee, include 13 open-pollinated varieties of extra-early-, early-, intermediate-, and late-maturity with resistance to the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica and stem borers, tolerance to drought, and with good adaptation to sub-optimal soil nitrogen. Four hybrids with drought-tolerance have also been released.

Abebe Menkir, IITA maize breeder, says that the release of these varieties will hasten the adoption of improved maize cultivars by farmers in Nigeria, consequently increasing yields, raising farm incomes, and improving food security.

The press release is available at