Nigeria begins selling four genetically modified Tela maize varieties, Ethiopia, Mozambique expected to follow

By our staff reporter

Nigeria has started selling four genetically modified Tela Maize types. Ethiopia and Mozambique, who are working on the same project, are expected to make similar progress in the near future.

The commercial release of the maize varieties SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T, and SAMMAZ 75T was announced during a ceremony held on Tuesday, June 11 in Abuja, the most populous nation on the continent.

The National Varieties Release Committee (NVRC) approved the varieties in January of this year. They are resistant to drought, stem borers, and fall armyworms, which increases yield and has the potential to double Nigeria’s maize production.

During the launch event, Ado Adamu Yusuf (Prof), Executive Director of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Samaru, Ahmad Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, stated, “We are not only introducing maize varieties that will save Nigerian farmers the cost of production, by reducing chemical insecticide sprays by up to 2 billion Naira annually, but also ensuring sustainable food security in the country and across the West African sub-region.”

According to Ado, the program began over five years ago when Nigeria joined the TELA Maize Project Public-Private Partnership in 2019. The initiative was created to address the main challenges faced by African farmers at the time: drought and insect pests, including stem borers and fall armyworms.

The new maize variety, unveiled by Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security Sabi Abdullahi during the Tela Maize Nigeria Launch, is expected to provide sustainable crop production in Nigeria and significantly reduce production losses.

However, the challenge with Tela maize is that, with proper agronomic procedures, its high yielding potential could reach up to 10 tonnes per hectare, compared to the existing three tons.

The introduction of Tela maize varieties in Nigeria, supported by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), demonstrates the Federal Government’s and the agricultural foundation’s commitment to providing Nigerian farmers with advanced, resilient crop varieties.

While fall armyworms have the potential to destroy up to 20 million metric tons of maize annually in Africa, enough to feed 100 million people, stem borers also contribute to reduced maize output in various African countries.

According to AATF, the varieties are suitable for Guinea, the Sudanese savannas, and rainforests. The program is supported by AATF in many sub-Saharan countries, including Ethiopia.

The release and registration of the four varieties followed environmental release approval granted by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in October 2021.Through the TELA Maize Public-Private Partnership, coordinated by AATF, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, oversaw the development of the improved varieties.

The TELA Maize Project is currently being implemented in five countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa.

“We believe that effective regulatory oversight and sustained political goodwill are critical to promoting innovation for development. This is what has ensured timely delivery of the TELA Maize technology to an eager farming community in Nigeria,” said the AATF Executive Director, adding that TELA Maize varieties will boost maize yields, providing more food and income for farmers.

These varieties will reduce pesticide use, thus lowering the overall cost of maize production, making farming more profitable and sustainable, according to Canisius.

Ado Adamu Yusuf (Prof), stated, “I dare to say, if Nigeria is food secure, the entire West Africa region will be free from the challenges of insecurity.” The Tela Maize is also being tested in Ethiopia and Mozambique. The Latin word ‘tutela’, which means ‘protection’, is the source of the name ‘Tela’.

Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a common soil-dwelling bacterium, provides insect protection to the hybrid maize that eight seed firms in Nigeria will carry out the multiplication and supply to the farmer. BT products have a history of safe cultivation and consumption and have been deployed and used safely in many regions of the world for over 20 years. For more than a decade, BT maize has been produced and consumed in South Africa.

Aggrey Ambali (Prof), Chairperson of AATF Board of Trustees, called on other African nations to look to Nigeria’s example and consider the benefits that biotechnology can bring to their agricultural sectors.

“By embracing innovative technologies, we can collectively work towards a food-secure Africa, where our farmers are empowered, our economies are strengthened, and our people are well-nourished,” he said.

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