The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) of the University of Ghana will release at least three new high yielding varieties of maize to help boost production in West Africa.
The three new varieties coded – WACCI-M-1210, WACC-M-1205 and WACCI-M-1218 had been tried in Legon and Wenchi and would be scaled-up for delivery to farmers once the National Variety Release Committee approves of their release.
Alongside the three promising varieties were WACCI-M-1508 and WACCI-M-1601, which were still being tried on the field in Legon and Wenchi.
These new varieties were unveiled by Professor Pangirayi Bernard Tongoona, the Associate Director for Breeding Programs at WACCI, at their research farm in Legon during the Centre’s Open Day.
The event was for invited guests and the media to observe and be familiar with the promising maize hybrids that WACCI would soon recommend for release.
The WACCI-M-1210 grows to a height of about 2.5 metres, flowers within 56 days after planting, matures in 90-95 days after planting and gives a yield of about 10 tonnes per hectare.
The WACCI-M-1205 has an average height of 3.0 metres, flowers in about 57 days after planting, matures in 90-95 days after planting and has yield of about 10-11 tonnes per hectre.
The WACCI-M-1218 has a height of 1.5m, flowers in about 45 days after planting and matures in 80-85 days, and yields of 6-7 t/ha in Legon and Wenchi.
This variety is very early and suitable for production in drought prone areas. It has given yields of 3-4 tonnes per hectre in Tamale under dryland cultivation.
WACCI-M-1508 has a height of 2.8m, flowers in 56 days and matures in 90-95 days with a yield of 9-10 tonnes per hectre.
WACCI-M-1601, which is the only yellow maize among them, had a height of 2.3m, flowers in 48days, matures in 85-90 days and yields 5-6 tonnes per hectre. Yellow varieties are in demand because of increased poultry production in Ghana.
Prof Tongoona said the new varieties of maize would contribute significantly to help address the problems of food insecurity in the sub-region.
He said there was high demand for white and yellow maize varieties on the market and that the Centre would continue to conduct this research to come up with better varieties.
Prof Kwadwo Ofori, the Associate Director of Academic and Student Affairs, WACCI, said over the past four years the Centre had been topping the University of Ghana’s list of graduating postgraduate students at the PhD level.
He noted that the WACCI’s focus is to equip plant breeders with knowledge and field experience to lead the conversion of genetic and molecular discoveries into innovative solutions that would benefit agriculture in West and Central Africa.
Dr Kwasi Ampofo, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA- Ghana) Country Head, said they were highly impressed about WACCI’s success story in both the training of PhD students and research.
He said very often new varieties of maize were released onto the market but the capacity to move them to the next level (making the seeds available to the farmers) had been the challenge.
Dr Itai Makanda, the Deputy Chief of Party, Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership in Africa of AGRA, said following WACCI’s identification of some superior maize hybrids from the preliminary evaluations, his organisation, in 2015, gave the Centre additional funding to further test those hybrids in different agro ecologies in Ghana and recommend promising hybrids for release and commercialisation.
Mr Seth Osei Akoto, the Director of Crop Services and Chairman of the National Variety Release Committee, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, commended WACCI for the impressive performance.
He called on research institutes to come up with varieties of crops that were climate resistant and early maturing.
Mr George Prah of the National Variety Release Committee explained the procedures required for a variety to be released.
Representatives of seed companies and farmers expressed their desire to have the varieties on the market as soon as possible.
WACCI was established in 2007 with initial funding from AGRA as a semi-autonomous institute in the UG to train plant breeders at the PhD level for the West African Region.
The establishment of WACCI was inspired by the need to train new scientists required to develop high yielding varieties of indigenous crops adapted to the different agro ecologies in West Africa.
In 2009 WACCI received a grant from AGRA to establish a model maize breeding program for the training of students in field oriented plant breeding techniques for West and Central Africa.
In 2015 WACCI received additional funding from the SSTP-AGRA to further evaluate and release identified promising varieties.