Nigeria’s quest to introduce maize varieties resistant to insects/pests such as Stem Borer and Fall Army Worm (FAW) and drought recorded promising result at the confined field trials (CFT) currently being conducted at the research farms of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru, Zaria.
The trial carried out in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and IAR is under the TELA Maize Project that is being implemented in seven countries in Africa. Nigeria became a member of the project in 2019 and the project was launched in the country this year.
IAR, having acquired a permit from the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to conduct the confined field trials, used double stacked maize hybrids, fortified with Bt gene for insect/pest (maize stemborer and FAW) protection and drought resistance gene in the trials which have proven to be promising. Once the trials are completed and approved, the project will avail the improved seed that is high yielding and climate-resilient to withstand drought conditions and produce good yield for farmers in drought-prone areas of Nigeria, to maize farmers in the country.
Preliminary findings indicated that under stem borer and fall army worm infestation, the TELA genetically modified (GM) maize varieties gave over two tonnes yield advantage relative to the best varieties currently being grown by farmers.
These promising preliminary findings from the first phase of the trials have shown that maize farmers in the country stand to benefit immensely when the maize is commercialised as the varieties will save farmers production cost of hundreds of millions of naira from pesticides spray to the control of stem borer and the fall army worm.
Nigeria suffered great devastation from FAW, in the 2017/2018 planting season, when over $268 million was lost from 7.8 million hectares of farmland damaged by the pest in just four states of Abia, Ekiti, Ondo, and Oyo as reported in November 2018 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It is a big threat to maize production and food security in Nigeria.