The Federal Government has granted environmental approval for evaluation and open cultivation of a new maize variety, Tela Maize developed by researchers at the Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria that resists fall armyworm, stem borers and tolerate moderate drought.
The Director-General, National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Dr Rufus Ebegba, stated this while presenting the TELA Maize approval certificate to Executive Director, IAR, Prof. Ishiyaku Mohammed.
Dr Ebegba said the approval was granted following consideration of advice by the National Biosafety Committee, the National Biosafety Technical Sub-Committee and the risk management report provided by the applicant.
According to him, “The Agency was convinced that there are no known adverse impacts to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, taking into account risk to human health. The permit, pursuant to this decision, is without prejudice to other extant legal requirements.
“This permit authorises the permit holder and persons covered by the permit to commercialise the TELA Maize genetically modified for drought tolerance and insect resistance,” he said.
Earlier, during the public presentation of the new variety, the NBMA Director-General however warned that the agency will not hesitate to withdraw the permit and prosecute should there be any reason to do so.
In his remarks, the Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Ishayaku Mohammed said the new Tella maize variety, resistant of pest, would save the country about N268 billion spent annually on importation of insecticides to spray the farm produce against a pest that destroys and responsible for the low productivity or yield.
Ishayaku maintained that the new variety also has the capacity to bridge the gap that exist in the nation’s maize demand deficit which stands at 4 million tonnes.
He said the variety has the potential to shoot up the productivity to 3 tons and 30 bags per hectare as against what is obtainable of 1 ton and 16 bags per hectare respectively.
The University Don said, “It is really inspiring for IAR to secure NBMA approval for the commercial release of the drought-tolerant and insect-resistant Maize (TELA MAIZE).
“This goes to further highlight IAR’s capacity and commitment to providing effective solutions to agricultural problems facing our farmers and optimising food security for Nigerians. The approval will open the way to combating the devastating effects of both drought and insect pests through the deployment of this new variety of Maize into our farming system.
“The next step is to further evaluate the performance of this new variety by farmers on their fields in all the major maize growing belts in Nigeria. Thereafter we shall seek another approval by the National variety release committee before making the seeds commercially available for farmers to plant in the 2023 cropping season,” he said.
Similarly, the Executive Director, AATF, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, said the approval has shown that Nigeria is really the giant leading the way in Africa and ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit from life-changing technologies that have transformed farming in other parts of the globe.
“The approval by the government of Nigeria is a sign that we are making good progress especially in our quest to expand the options for smallholder farmers on the continent to profit from their labour by using affordable technologies that enhance productivity and reduce incidents of insect pests’ infestation.
“TELA Maize is coming at a time when farmers are spending so much to reduce insect and pest attacks as well as battling with the issue of drought. With TELA Maize, farmers in Nigeria will have relief from frequent constant chemical sprays which affect their health. The saving from chemical use can be converted to address other family needs,” Dr. Kanangire added.
Meanwhile, the TELA Maize Project in Nigeria is part of an international Consortium coordinated by AATF, involving Bayer, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the National Agricultural Research Systems of seven countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda since 2018. The Project builds on gains from a decade of excellent breeding work to develop conventional climate-smart drought tolerant maize known as Drought TEGO varieties.