By Crusoe Osagie
The first generation of pro-vitamin A-rich orange open-pollinated maize varieties was released by the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) in Nigeria last month; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has disclosed.
IITA, in partnership with IAR, developed these varieties using conventional breeding in a project funded by the HarvestPlus Challenge Programme of CGIAR. The development of these varieties is part of strategies to prevent the prevalence of vitamin-A deficiency, the institute stated.
“These varieties were released by the National Variety Release Committee of Nigeria as Sammaz 38 and Sammaz 39 and are recognised as IITA synthetic PVASYN2 and PVASYN8. The pro-vitamin A-rich orange maize varieties are the product of more than eight years of development and testing of varieties formed from inbred lines with enhanced levels of pro-vitamin A. Other collaborating partners involved in testing include the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T), University of Maiduguri, and National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB),” IITA said.
According to the Ibadan-based institute, the HarvestPlus project works with the private sector and community-based seed producers in Nigeria to speed up the process of production of good quality seeds of pro-vitamin A-rich varieties for smallholder farmers.
It said the two varieties can supply increased vitamin A levels in the diets of millions of children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers who consume maize every day in various traditional forms and as local weaning food in Nigeria. These varieties are easy to multiply and disseminate and will provide not only increased levels of pro-vitamin A but also higher yields to farming communities.
The national food consumption and nutrition survey in Nigeria show that nearly 30 per cent of children younger than five years suffer from the ravages of vitamin A deficiency along with 19 per cent of pregnant women and 13 per cent of nursing mothers living with a high risk of vitamin A deficiency.
These pro-vitamin A-rich maize varieties will contribute to preventing the adverse effects of deficient diets, particularly for women and children living in rural and urban centres that depend on maize as a major source of their sustenance, he added.