Tela maize variety cultivation , a choice left to farmers to make-IAR
The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Ahmadu Bello University says the newly released TELA Maize variety in Nigeria would expand farmer’s options to either grow Genetically Modified TELA varieties, conventional Drought TEGO varieties or the local open-pollinated varieties just like farmers in other part of the world.
The Executive Director of the IAR Professor Mohammed Ishiyaku disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja, Nigeria’s Capital.
Prof. Ishiyaku clarified that the choice of technologies to use or variety to cultivate rests solely with the farmers.
“Adopting those technologies is a responsibility left to farmers who are smart and know what is good for them once they see it. ‘’
He however noted that based on the mandate given to them by government, it is their obligation to develop those technology options that has high potential economic and food security benefits to farmers and our country.
Prof Ishiyaku explained that TELA maize varieties are genetically modified to tolerate mild drought and to self-protect against certain insect pests especially stem borer and fall armyworm (FAW).
While speaking on economic benefits of the TELA Maize he said Farmers in the country who spend up to 50,000 naira or more per acre to buy chemicals and spray against these target pests will get some relief and appreciate the TELA technology more in terms of higher yield and the savings from the purchase of chemicals for spraying their crop.
“It is estimated that two hundred and sixty-eight billion naira (N 268, 000,000,000.0) is spent annually in the purchase of chemical insecticides used to spray maize in Nigeria. This is a direct benefit from savings in that regard. The second major benefit is prevention of crop failure to the effect of drought which is becoming frequent these recent years,”
Prof Ishiyaku said that Africa is known as a drought prone continent because three out of the four global drought events in the last two decades have occurred in Africa occasioned by climate-change.
He said in addition to drought, incidences of insect-pests especially the recent out breakout of the invasive FAW are big threats to maize production in Africa with an estimated annual yield loss worth USD 2.48 – 6.19 billion in 12 countries including Nigeria.
“FAW poses significant risk to 12.5 million hectares of maize farms in Nigeria. What could be a better technological intervention that is safe for the environment, human health, and the local economy, to curb these major threats to maize production in Nigeria than the opportunity presented by TELA Maize varieties?’’
According to him, the TELA maize varieties if adopted by just 10% of Nigerian farmers will give additional cost benefit of fifty-eight billion naira annually to the country because of the yield advantage of 19% compared with conventional maize varieties currently grown by farmers.
While thanking the Federal Government for approving release of the variety to farmers, Prof Ishiyaku confirmed that the TELA Bt maize has been under cultivation in South Africa by smallholder farmers since 2016.
‘’Farmers are already benefiting from the varieties in protecting against the target pests, especially FAW. It is safe and hence Nigerian farmers should also benefit,” he added.
“The choice should be the responsibility of farmers, so they can benefit from Genetically Modified technology as South African farmers are doing.”
Also speaking, Prof. Garuba Sharubutu, Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) said that all agricultural research in the country is tailored towards achieving the federal government policies and programme on food security and sufficiency.
Prof. Sharabutu said Nigerians have no reasons to fear any product from any of the government funded research institute as all necessary measures are taken to ensure they followed approved regulations guiding such research.