New aflatoxin-resistant maize

A local partner holding a cob of aflatoxin-contaminated maize. Photo by Godwin Atser, IITA.
A local partner holding a cob of aflatoxin-contaminated maize. Photo by Godwin Atser, IITA.

Aflatoxins, poisons produced by th Ralph Lauren Mens Polo Shirts Australia wide portions  e fungus Aspergillus flavus, infect agricultural commodities such as groundnuts, cassava, yam, and maize. They pose serious potential health hazards to both humans and animals, and have far-reaching negative implications on the global trade contaminated crops (see related article “Towards safer African food crops” under Agriculture and Health).

Various solutions have been proposed to minimize aflatoxin contamination in food crops. Host resistance remains as the most widely explored strategy as A. flavus infects susceptible crops before harvest.

Our researchers in partnership with colleagues from the US Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS-SRRC) have developed and released six new maize inbred lines with resistance to aflatoxin contamination and adapted to the lowlands. These lines, named TZAR101 through TZAR106, have also been registered in the United States. The research was co-funded by FAS-USDA-ARS, USAID, and IITA.

Collaborating for almost a decade, USDA-ARS plant pathologist Robert Brown and IITA maize breeder Abebe Menkir developed the new maize lines through conventional breeding by crossing the best aflatoxin-resistant lines found in the US (GT-MAS:gk, MI82 and Mp420) with tropical elite lines found in Central and West Africa (1368, 4001 and KU1414-SR).

Aside from demonstrating good resistance against aflatoxin accumulation under laboratory and field tests, most of these new maize lines also possess other commercially-desirable traits and resistance to diseases such as leaf blight and southern corn rust.

As these inbred lines involve parents of both tropical and temperate origin, they are likely to contain new combinations of complimentary alleles imparting resistance to aflatoxin accumulation. These can be exploited by maize breeders as new  may shopbust be b lace which  sources of resistance for developing maize cultivars with higher levels of resistance to A. flavus infection/aflatoxin contamination.

They can also serve as sources of resistance to foliar diseases as well as desirable agronomic traits to expand the genetic base of adapted US and tropical maize germplasm to accelerate the development of productive new cultivars. The resistant lines with good agronomic traits could be used as parents to accelerate breeding efforts against aflatoxin contamination of national programs in West and Central Africa.

Better livelihoods from improved dual-purpose cowpea

Women farmers in a cowpea field. Photo by Sato Muranaka.
Women farmers in a cowpea field. Photo by Sato Muranaka.

Resource-poor cowpea farmers in northern Nigeria have seen their profits jump an average of 55 percent due to impro
Cheap Ralph Lauren Companies  ved dual-purpose cowpea varieties that we and our partners developed and introduced.

Farmers who use traditional varieties earn about US$251 per hectare, while those who are growing the improved cowpea are getting matters, which is shopbust because   US$390, or US$139 more, per hectare with proper crop management.

The improved varieties: IT89KD-288, IT89KD-391, IT97K-499-35, and IT93K-452-1 produce high-quality grains that are used by farmers for food and fodder. They are also resistant to Striga, a parasitic weed that reduces yields of susceptible local cowpeas by as much as 80 percent.

Over 100,000 farmers in Borno and Kano states in northern Nigeria and in the Niger Republic are currently using the improved varieties, where their adoption rate is conservatively estimated at 65 percent.

Farmers in the savannah region view cowpea as both food and cash crop. When the varieties were introduced, farmers took to them readily since they serve both ends well. Those who cultivate the dual-purpose cowpeas are basically better off than those who do not.

The improved cowpea varieties were developed and deployed in partnership with the Borno State Agricultural Development Project, Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, Kaduna State Agricultural Development Project, the Institute of Agricultural Research – Zaria and the University of Maiduguri.

Other local development partners are promoting the improved varieties by organizing farmers’ field days, exchange visits, training and farmer-to-farmer diffusion.

Cowpea is a grain legume grown mainly in the savanna regions of the tropics and subtropics in Africa, Asia, and South America. Its grain contains about 25 percent protein, making it extremely valuable to those who cannot afford more expensive animal-derived protein sources such as meat and fish. It is tolerant to drought, fixes atmospheric nitrogen, and improves poor soils.

The FAO, about 7.56 million tons of cowpeas are produced worldwide annually, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 70%, or about 5.3 million tons, of global production.

New soybean offers respite from deadly Asian rust

Asian rust-resistant TGx 1835-10E, at right, compared to a susceptible variety. Photo by IITA.
Asian rust-resistant TGx 1835-10E, at right, compared to a susceptible variety. Photo by IITA.

The Asian soybean rust is a fungal disease that is capable of laying waste as much as 80 percent of infested crops. This year, a soybean variety resistant to the disease that we developed was approved for release by the Nigerian National Variety Release Committee (NNVRC). The rust-resistant soybean is the first of its kind to be made available for cultivation not only in Nigeria but also in West and Central Africa.

Tagged TGx 1835-10E, our scientists bred the variety and further developed it in collaboration with the National Cereal Research Institute. Its release for general cultivation was approved in December 2008 and notified in June 2009 by the NNVRC.

Field trials in Nigeria showed that aside from being resistant to the Asian rust, the variety is also high-yielding, averaging 1655 kg/ha grain and 2210 kg/ha fodder. It is also early-maturing, has good promiscuous nodulation character, and resists pod shattering and other prevalent diseases.

The variety can be used for direct cultivation in tropical Africa or as a source of resistance genes in soybean breeding programs. It was previously released in Uganda through the initiative of Makerere University, a local partner, and has already shown excellent performance in trials carried out in Southern Africa, suggesting that it is well-adapted.

Its resistance is effective against all currently known types of the rust fungus in Nigeria. We have bred several other lines with rust resistance genes from various sources, which can be deployed quickly if this variety succumbs to newer forms of the rust fungus.

It was in 1996 that the Asian soybean rust first arrived in Africa, rapidly spreading through Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The disease was first noted in Nigeria in 1999.

The causal fungus of the Asian soybean rust, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, is very aggressive and can produce billions of spores capable of turning lush green crops with healthy foliage into brown fields with bare stalks in 2-3 weeks.

For most African farmers, using resistant varieties is the most viable method to control the disease as applying fungicides proves very costly.

PROSAB: demonstrating the effectiveness of our R4D approach

Some members of a women farmers' group organized under PROSAB are all smiles, proud of what they have achieved under the project. Photo by Amare Tegbaru, IITA.
Some members of a women farmers' group organized under PROSAB are all smiles, proud of what they have achieved under the project. Photo by Amare Tegbaru, IITA.

The successes recorded by the five-year run of the “Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Borno State” (PROSAB) project that we coordinated proved the effectiveness of our research-for-development (R4D) approach in tackling not only livelihoods and food security but also social empowerment and gender equality. PROSAB started in 2004 and ended this year.

Farmers in the project area who adopted the technologies and management practices espoused by the project experienced increased food availability and incomes. Considerable progress was also made in addressing the problems of declining soil fertility and Striga infestation.

Our socioeconomic analysis involving about 17,000 households, or more than 100,000 farmers, that participated in the project showed that poverty levels dropped by an average of 14 percent, while food security improved by 17 percent.

Farmers who participated in the project increased their average incomes by an average of 81 percent compared to what they were earning before PROSAB started. They attributed this mainly to the project’s interventions.

More importantly, the knock-on effect on other non-participating farmers in the region has been tremendous.

PROSAB seed producer Marcus Dawi Mbaye. He was able to put his four children through university from the income he earned from the various agro-projects under PROSAB. Photo by Amare Tegbaru, IITA.
PROSAB seed producer Marcus Dawi Mbaye. He was able to put his four children through university from the income he earned from the various agro-projects under PROSAB. Photo by Amare Tegbaru, IITA.

PROSAB introduced improved crop varieties, trained farmers on improved agronomic practices and promoted gender equality in agricultural development.

Apart from reducing poverty in households from 63 percent to 49 percent, the project also made significant inroads in enhancing women’s roles in agricultural activities.

Ruth Dasika Mshelia, a mother of five and a participant of the project, attested, “PROSAB has helped us freely interact with our male counterparts in development projects. We are not ashamed anymore,”

Borno state, where the project was centered, is predominantly Islamic, with social interaction between men and women largely restricted by religious norms.

Farmers, policy makers, nongovernment organizations, and other local partners hailed it as a major success story in northern Nigeria where climatic and cultural factors are major challenges to development.

Some local governments have signified interest in out-scaling PROSAB’s approach to other states. It has also been touted as a model that could be adopted in agriculture-based communities in other African countries.

The CA$ 7 million (about US$6.33 million) project was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. Our implementing partners included the International Livestock Research Institute, Borno State Agricultural Development Program, Community Research for Empowerment and Development, the Institute of Agricultural Research – Zaria, and the University of Maiduguri.