Edition 12Research

West Africa researchers develop dwarf sorghum varieties for insurgency-prone regions

By Murimi Gitari

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_content=”esearchers in West Africa have developed three sorghum and three pearl millet varieties, promising better nutrition and higher yields for farmers.”]

The sorghum and pearl millet varieties are suited to the country’s SudanoSahelian/semi-arid ecologies and are touted to be high-yielding, nutritionally enhanced, and well-adapted to local conditions.

Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director-General at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said the new varieties would boost production.

“This collaboration exemplifies the commitment of ICRISAT and the Nigerian National Agricultural Research System through the Lake Chad Research Institute, the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, and others, to bring innovative technologies and crops to help farmers meet the challenges of the future while improving their yields and livelihoods.

We anticipate more breakthroughs for Nigeria and West Africa more broadly, helping to future-proof food and nutrition security in the face of climatic and other challenges affecting food production,” said Dr Hughes.

The dwarf sorghum varieties named SAMSORG 52, 53, and 54 are suitable for insurgency-endemic regions where tall crops are prohibited. They additionally exhibit high grain and fodder yields, are early maturing, and are Striga tolerant with SAMSORG 52 also being a good ingredient for weaning food due to its high iron content.

The pearl millet varieties offer high yield, early medium maturity, and specific traits such as high iron and zinc, and high-tillering traits or the production of side shoots along with dense panicles to help protect against damage from birds.

ICRISAT Deputy Director-General for Research, Dr Arvind Kumar, said the new varieties would help West Africa become food secure.

ICRISAT Research Programme Director for Accelerated Crop Improvement, Dr Sean Mayes, said the new varieties demonstrated the importance of genetic advancements for improving crop productivity and nutrition, especially in Africa and Asia to adapt to climatic changes and other environmental stressors.

The varieties have now been approved by Nigeria’s National Committee on Variety Naming, Registration, and Release and are now available for promotion and commercialisation through the country’s seed systems.

Dr Ramadjita Tabo, ICRISAT’s Research Programme Director for West and Central Africa, said these diverse varieties marked a pivotal moment in the pursuit of enhanced food security in Nigeria’s semi-arid regions.

“We look forward to building upon our successes to develop new innovative solutions that overcome nutrition, production and other hurdles facing dryland farmers,” said Dr Tabo. The development of these sorghum and millet varieties was a collaboration between ICRISAT, the Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University, Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, and Harvest Plus in Nigeria.

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