Researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, say maize lines and hybrid developed in the institution offer hope of saving African farmers from the challenges of drought.
A press release issued on Monday by IITA?s Communications Officer, Godwin Atser, said the maize were of extra-early maturing genotypes developed and conserved at the institute?s gene bank.
The release noted that identification of the maize lines had led to the possibility of sustainable development of more resilient varieties with dual characteristics of escaping and tolerating drought in the near future.
It said the discovery of the maize parental lines was also seen as ?good news? for farmers, especially in drought-prone areas of Africa, where maize remained a key staple.
An IITA scientist, Muhyideen Oyekunle, said 48 percent of the early maturing lines under study at IITA were drought tolerant with tolerance indices ranging from 0.17 (low) to 15.31 (high).
Oyekunle and other researchers, according to the release, found that under drought conditions, hybrids performed better than open-pollinated varieties and could provide safety nets for farmers during drought.
He also identified five diverse groups among the early maturing maize inbred lines studied and two inbreds as the best in terms of combining ability for future hybrid production.
Oyekunle explained that general considerations in breeding for drought tolerance in maize include information on genetic diversity among tropical maize lines and populations, hybrid performance and inheritance of drought tolerance.
He said IITA and other stakeholders had made early and extra-early maturing maize varieties and hybrids available to farmers in West Africa.
The varieties, he said, were being widely adopted to the extent that maize cultivation was largely replacing sorghum and millet in the savanna ecologies.