By Ahubi Ugbagwu
Buoyed by the impressive results from the third confined trial of Tela Maize variety, Nigeria is set to conduct environmental release of the maize before the end of 2021, prior to its release to farmers for planting next year.
Tela Maize is a genetically modified maize variety that is protected against Fall Army Worm and Stem Borers, the two major challenges militating against production and increase in productivity in maize in Nigeria. It also has the ability to withstand drought.
Results of harvests from the third confined field trial of the genetically modified maize variety under the Tela Maize project led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria has shown that the variety produces more tonnage per hectare than all existing maize variety in Nigeria.
At the Harvest held on Tuesday April 20, Prof. Rabiu Adamu, who is the Tela Maize Principal Investigator said that in the past, the highest maize yields ever recorded in the country were less than 3 tons per hectare. But with Tela Maize, over 8 tons per hectare harvest are being recorded, more than double of what was obtainable with conventional varieties.
“Nigeria produces only 12 million metric tonnes of maize annually, the country requires at least 18 million, it means there is a deficit of almost 6 million, we need to bridge that deficit and we are hopeful, when Tela Maize is released next year, we will be able to significantly bridge the wide gap between production and consumption,” Prof. Adamu said.
He said plans are under-way to get the necessary certification to deregulate the variety to enable the researchers move it beyond Zaria, “This trial is under confinement because the crop has not been regulated, after this will go outside the confinement to ‘on farm’ trials outside Zaria.
According to him, the essence of the nationwide trial is to ensure that the result from other locations correspondent to what was obtained during the confined Field trial and that the variety is adaptable to all maize ecologies of the country.
On ground to witness the harvest was Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) who was full of praises for the scientists working on the Tela Maize.
“When we adopt this TELA maize, it means Nigeria will be self-sufficient in maize production that will greatly improve the economy of the country as it will halt capital flight for the importation of maize from other economies. The product is safe because there is no scientific report that says otherwise,” he said.
He said the bump harvest witnessed demonstrates the fact that the federal government never made a mistake when it decided to invest in agricultural biotechnology by creating the National Biotechnology Development Agency as well as the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to promote and regulate the technology in the country.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria said farming is more about productivity and yield. We know how fall army warm has deviated maize farming in Nigeria and farmers still suffering and by the time this maize variety is ready, and get to farmers, they will smile.