The federal government has approved the environmental release and open cultivation of ‘Tela’ maize, a new maize variety developed by researchers at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

This was contained in a joint statement issued by the Communications Officer, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu, and Information Officer, IAR, Zaria, Yakubu Dodo, in Abuja on Sunday.

The new variety of maize is resistant to armyworm, stem borers, and is also tolerant to moderate drought.

The statement said the approval was contained in a certificate issued to IAR by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA).

“The certificate, dated October 8, 2021, with permit code no. NBMA/CM/003 was issued to IAR for General\Commercial Release of Tela maize, effective from October 8, 2021, to October 5, 2024,” the statement said.

In granting the approval, NBMA considered the advice of the National Biosafety Committee, the National Biosafety Technical Sub-Committee and the risk management report provided by the applicant.

“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,” the statement said.

It stated that the permit authorised the holder and persons covered by the permit to commercialise the Tela maize variety.

Reacting to the decision, the Executive Director, IAR, Prof. Ishiyaku Mohammed, said it was really inspiring for IAR to secure NBMA’s approval for the commercial release of the drought-tolerant and insect-resistant Tela maize.

“This goes to further highlight IAR’s capacity and commitment to providing effective solutions to agricultural problems facing our farmers and optimizing 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,” Mohammed said.

He disclosed that their intention was to seek another approval by the national variety release committee before making the seeds commercially available for farmers to plant in the 2023 cropping season.

The AATF Executive Director, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, said the approval had shown that Nigeria was really the giant leading the way in Africa and ensuring that smallholder farmers benefitted from the technology.

According to him, the approval was a sign that progress had been recorded, especially in the quest to expand the options for smallholder farmers on the continent.

The AATF Tela maize Project Manager, Dr Sylvester Oikeh, said this was the beginning of a new era for maize farmers in Nigeria.

The Tela maize Principal Investigator, Prof. Rabiu Adamu, also said with the release, the institute had been permitted to conduct multi-location trials to evaluate the yield and adaptability of the Tela hybrids.

“The highest yielding hybrids exhibiting tolerance to drought and resistance to stem borer and fall armyworm will be released to farmers for cultivation, ”Adamu said.

The Tela maize project in Nigeria was part of an international consortium coordinated by AATF, involving Bayer, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), and the National Agricultural Research Systems of seven countries since 2018.

The countries included Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. (NAN)

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