Farmers’ persistent demand for early maturing, high-yielding, and stress tolerant maize varieties for northern Ghana has finally been met. Over the years, maize farmers in the northern savannah zones of Ghana continue to record very low or no yields from their toils partly due to the effects of low soil nitrogen, recurrent drought and Striga hermonthica parasitism. Today, the story has changed. Researchers at the CSIR-Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) have released four new maize hybrids to increase availability of early maturing varieties with multiple tolerance to drought and Striga. In the past, there were only three of such varieties in the area. The new hybrids are expected to address the prevalent low soil nitrogen, drought, and Striga stresses ─ in order to lessen the drudgery, and improve yields and livelihoods of smallholder maize farmers in that part of the country. “I am relieved that, now a variety has been released which fears no drought and weed that cause stunting. It makes me feel hunger will disappear from this community forever,” said Alidu Zuwera, a leader of the Tungteeya farmer based organization at Kpatili in the Gushegu district.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture officially approved the production of the new hybrids in Ghana, after the National Variety Release and Registration Committee (NVRRC) accepted the release of the four hybrids for commercial production in Ghana in April 2017.

According to a CSIR-SARI researcher, Ms Gloria Boakyewaa Adu, maize production in the Guinea and Sudan Savannah zones of Ghana is constrained by these stresses. At farmer level, for instance, all three stresses can occur simultaneously, and the combined effect can cause yield loss of up to almost 100%, leaving many farmers, most of whom are women, food insecure and poorer than before. The four new varieties, which include two early and two extra-early maturing drought and Striga tolerant hybrids, will bring back some relief, and make farming a meaningful and worthwhile venture to farmers.

Attributes of the released hybrids include:

Released Name Maturity Period Potential Yield Special Attribute
CSIR- Denbea 90 days 6.5 t/ha Drought and Striga tolerant
Golden yellow grain colour
Suitable for poultry and livestock nutrition
CSIR-Similenu 90 days 6.0 t/ha Drought and Striga tolerant
CSIR-Kum-Naaya 85 days R5.5 t/ha Drought and Striga tolerant
CSIR-Wang-Basig 85 days 5.5 t/ha Drought and Striga tolerant

Results of participatory variety selection trials, which involved the participation of key actors of the maize value chain, revealed high farmer preference of all the varieties for cultivation, and high consumer acceptability for local dishes. Economic analyses, which determines the cost of production and profitability of the new varieties over existing ones, also indicated high net benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 1.1 to 1.3 as compared to BCR of -0.2 to 0.4 recorded by most local checks used in the study.

“Appropriate use of the hybrids ─ which are generally appealing to farmers, traders, processors, and input dealers ─ will improve farmer’s resilience to climate change and improve the productivity of farmers. The hybrids also have broad adaptation to five other countries in West and Central Africa, including Nigeria, Mali, Benin Republic, DR Congo and Egypt,” said Dr. Baffour-Badu Apraku of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria.

With the harmonization of the ECOWAS seed policy, the new hybrids could be targeted by regional private seed sector players for multiplication and marketing in broader regional markets within ECOWAS countries. Of course, there will be a huge impact on the Ghanaian local seed sector as well as employment opportunities for the growing number of unemployed youth of Ghana.

Plans are underway to produce early generation seeds of parental lines of the hybrids for certified seed production, promotion, and commercialisation.

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