IITA improves maize genotypes in developing countries

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”Y” dropcap_content=”ELLOW maize varieties are widely grown particularly in tropical lowlands of West and Central Africa, and they contain very low levels of provitamin A. CGIAR-IITA, in fulfilling its mandate to transform agriculture and increase food production, is developing a wide range of staple varieties and bio-fortified crops that address micronutrient deficiencies.”]

Using conventional breeding techniques, IITA researchers harnessed the novel genes controlling high levels of – carotene and other carotenoids from both temperate and tropical maize germplasm to boost provitamin A in tropical-adapted maize.

This has led to the development of many varieties and hybrids with increased provitamin A content without compromising in grain yield. According to IITA’s Principal Scientist on Maize Breeding Program,

Abebe Menkir, the Accelerated Breeding Initiative (ABI) has recorded remarkable success developing Striga-resistant, provitamin-A, enhanced and early maturing varieties, enabling maize production to expand into new areas in Sub Saharan Africa.

Through ABI project, 18 varieties and 22 hybrids with intermediate to high levels of provitamin A have been released in Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Zambia between 2012 to 2022.

The program has helped reduce the incidence of vitamin A deficiency which causes developmental disorders in children and vision impairment. To accelerate multiplication and commercialization of these products to farming communities in rural areas with limited market access, IITA researchers have provided breeder seeds of provitamin A maize varieties and parents of hybrids to startup local seed companies and other seed producers for mass production. Currently, there are indications of increased market demand for orange maize in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and other countries.

Between 2014 and 2021 alone, a total of 27,337 tons of certified seeds of provitamin A maize varieties was produced in

Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria and sold to farmers that planted an estimated 1,093,464 ha benefiting 2,733,661 households in the rural areas and urban centers estimated based on an average household size of 10.3 in these countries. Also, in a preliminary report of the National Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey conducted in Nigeria in 2021 and 2022, 13.4% of the respondents consumed provitamin A range maize or foods produced from it in the past 30 days of the interview.

The consumption of provitamin A maize was 38% in the Northeast of the country due to support programs from the federal government of Nigeria and donor agencies in response to the insurgency in this zone. Provitamin A maize has also increased competitiveness through its use in diverse food products and targeting niche markets in the country.

While the acceptability of biofortified maize is generally good, Menkir advised that more efforts should be made to develop a diversity of food products that would incorporate Provitamin A in their formulations. That way, utilization of these crops would significantly increase dietary consumption.

This story was originally published on the IITA website.

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