Bringing hope to frustrated maize farmers in West and Central Africa (WCA) through IITA Striga resistant genotypes: A battle against the deadly parasitic weed.

With thousands of farmers in West and Central Africa (WCA) battling the invasion in their farms by the deadly parasitic weed Striga,  the introduction of two new resistant varieties; TZLComp1Syn W-1 (Sammaz 16) and IWDC2SynF2 (Sammaz 15) developed by IITA in partnership with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria in Nigeria brought hope to frustrated maize farmers in the region. As a result, the farmers are getting high maize yields. Maize being one of the most important staple and cash crops in Nigeria, more than 112,000 farmers have been reached with these varieties through multiple activities and pathways. In partnership with community-based seed producers and private sector seed companies, about 1243 tons of seed of Striga-resistant maize have been produced and disseminated to farmers through community, government, and commercial channels. The project has been disseminating to farmers Striga-resistant maize varieties that increase grain yield to about 126% more under Striga infestation, compared with the common farmers’ varieties and commercial hybrids. 

Sammaz 16, a late-maturing maize variety, produces 3.2 tons per hectare under heavy Striga conditions. Even under extreme infestation, harvest loss from this variety is less than 10%. It also exhibits significantly less Striga damage and supports fewer emerged parasites than the susceptible farmers’ varieties. It also has good plant and ear qualities and is highly-tolerant to root and stalk lodging. The crop could be harvested within 110-120 days.

On the other hand, Sammaz 15, an intermediate-maturing variety, could yield 4.42 tons per hectare, which is 23% higher than the average production of local varieties under Striga infestation. Aside from being resistant to the pest, Sammaz 15 is also highly-tolerant to root and stalk lodging, has good ear and plant aspects, and excellent husk cover. The crop is ready for harvest within 100-110 days after planting.

As these varieties have been released over the years, their evaluation for stability over time was carried out early this month in crop trials conducted by IITA in Nigeria. “The results of trials of Sammaz 15 and Sammaz 16 show great potential for increased maize production not only in Nigeria but also in other countries in the WCA Region by cutting losses due to Striga and, consequently, boosting farmers’ incomes,” says Abebe Menkir, IITA head of maize breeder.

As a graduate trainee under the maize improvement program, I had the opportunity to join the research team of this project. My involvement in a number of tasks was really an eye opening and career strengthening experience. In the course of variety stability evaluation, data were collected from both the field and screenhouse at various maize growth stages for the different genotypes. In the field, data collected included parameters like days to anthesis, ear aspect including weight, plant height, grain yield among others. In the screenhouse, data collected included those taken in the field in addition to whole plant biomass, striga emergence counts and number of striga attachments. I was also involved in data analysis for the project and this resulted in the utilization of statistical software like R-Studio and SAS. A number of models which include analysis of variance for split plot and alpha lattice were run in addition to descriptive statistics, Genetic by Environment interaction plots and heritability analysis for the different traits of interest in the breeding program.

I greatly appreciate the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) for their unwavering support. I also appreciate IITA for providing this learning opportunity.

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