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NBMA Receives Application To Introduce GM Maize That Resists Armyworm

Maize farming

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) said it has received an application from the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, to commence the Confined Field Trial (CFT) of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA).

WEMA is a public-private partnership that started since 2008, to develop and deploy royalty-free, African drought-tolerant and insect-pest protected (climate-smart) white maize varieties for small scale farmers.

The project is currently being implemented in six countries in East and Southern Africa including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.

Dr Rufus Ebegba
Director-General of National Biosafety Development Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus Ebegba

Announcing this to journalists, the director-general of NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba said the Agency was reviewing the application, upon completion, the Agency would publish it on its website.

“We received an application from Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, for Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), and we are reviewing the application, once we are done with it, we put the result in the website for people to see, there is going to be a public notice before we complete the process,” Dr Ebegba said.

According to the scientist that developed the maize variety, Dr Sylvester Oikeh, “under moderate drought, the WEMA product (varieties) should be able to give us a yield advantage of between 20-35 per cent over the yield of the commercialized varieties that were in the market in 2008 when the project started.”

Dr Oikeh explained that, “when we were carrying out this trial, we now have maize variety that combines drought-tolerant trait and the stem borer trait, the stem borer trait is insect protection, while the drought-tolerant (BT) trait also confers additional benefits of drought-tolerant, this was brought together into maize variety that when it grows you will see the advantage, we are testing the maize in Uganda, we did not infest with insect, we withdrew water to look at the effect of drought, when armyworm attacked the farm, we tried to analyze the insect because it is not the usual stem borer, we took sample of the insect, analyzed it and found out is called armyworm.

“After the analysis it was discovered that the maize that has the BT gene did not suffer much damage from the armyworm attack but the one that does not have the BT gene was completely damaged by the pest, so we discovered that the BT maize which was originally developed to protect against stem borer attack could also protect the crops from armyworm.”

Armyworm over the years has threatened maize production in Nigeria. It destroys almost all the grains on the farm. The Nigerian government said it would spend N2.98 billion to control the worm.

With the introduction of this new maize variety, it is a wake-up call for the Nigerian government to adopt the maize, distribute to farmers for maximum yield and controlling get of the deadly armyworm.

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