A group of agriculturists has advised farmers to embrace evolving technologies as a means to boost productivity and meet the growing demands of the population for food and livestock feed.
This advice was provided during a town hall meeting with maize farmers, marketers and processors in the maize value chain, focusing on the safety and benefits of TELA maize, held in Kaduna.
Addressing the audience on the topic of “Importance of Maize in the Nigerian Economy: Role of TELA Maize,” TELA maize principal investigator, Prof. Rabiu Adamu highlighted Nigeria’s status as the second-largest producer and consumer of maize in Africa after South Africa. He pointed out that in 2020, Nigeria produced 11.6 million metric tonnes of maize.
Adamu explained the benefits of TELA Maize, which include better drought tolerance, protection against stem borers, and significant defence against fall armyworms (FAWs). He emphasised that TELA maize would lead to economic savings for farmers, as they would spend less money on procuring and using harmful insecticides and pesticides, reducing their exposure to hazards. Improved yields and grain quality would result in higher returns and premium prices for maize products, reversing the economic losses of over $268 million incurred by Nigerian farmers from fall armyworms in previous years.
The principal investigator concluded by stressing that maize farmers would greatly benefit from the commercial release of TELA Maize hybrids (MON 87460, MON 89034, and MON 810).
The AATF TELA maize project manager, Dr. Sylvester Oikeh provided insights into the progress in developing and deploying climate-smart maize varieties for African farmers. He reaffirmed the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops that have received commercial approval. Oikeh cited EFSA’s confirmation that biotech maize with multiple GMO traits poses no threat to human health and the environment.
In his presentation, Dr. Sylvester highlighted the positive economic impact of GM crops in developing countries, with farmers receiving $5.06 for every extra dollar spent on biotech crop seeds. He noted that South Africa had accrued $695 million in welfare benefits from GM white maize from 2001 to 2018, reducing environmental damage by approximately $292,000 annually compared to conventional hybrid white maize.
Oikeh emphasised that approved biotech crops are safe for humans, livestock and the environment. He called for greater support for GM technology from African governments and urged them to embrace biotechnology, among other technologies, to address food insecurity and counter the negative impacts of NGOs opposing GMOs in Africa.
Prof. Maimuna Mohammed Abdulmalik (RAO) discussed the effects of drought on maize productivity, highlighting the significant impact of drought as a serious abiotic stressor on both human health and crop productivity. She noted that drought caused direct agricultural losses of USD 29 billion in developing countries from 2005 to 2015 and stressed the urgent need for drought-tolerant varieties like TELA maize to sustain maize production.
Dr. Oyekunle spoke on the importance of maize hybrids and seed quality for maize productivity, encouraging farmers to adopt TELA maize seeds. He explained the multiple benefits of quality seeds, including uniform plant populations, easy yield prediction, efficient post-harvest handling, and improved product preparation.
The director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Department at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Dr. Rose Gidado, expressed satisfaction with Nigeria’s progress in commercialising GM crops like Bt cotton and PBR cowpea. She reassured participants that there is no cause for concern regarding the consumption of GM crops.