THE Federal Government has released two new maize hybrids that could provide more Vitamin A in the diets of millions of people in the country, IITA said recently in a statement.
The statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, was signed by Mr. Godwin Atser, the IITA Communication Officer for West and Central Africa.
It said that the hybrids, the first generation vitamin A-rich maize, were released on July 4, 2012, by the National Variety Release Committee of Nigeria as ‘Ife maizehyb 3 and Ife maizehyb 4’.
According to the statement, they were recognised as IITA hybrids A0905-28 and A0905-32.
It said that the vitamin A hybrids were developed by IITA in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T).
It explained that the hybrid was developed using conventional breeding in a project funded by HarvestPlus, a Challenge Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) as part of strategies to address the prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency.
Other collaborating partners, according to him, included the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, University of Maiduguri, International Maize and Wheat Centre (CIMMYT), University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin both in the U.S.
He stated that the hybrids outperformed local varieties with yields ranging from six to nine tonnes per hectare compared to two tonnes per hectare recorded on most farmers’ fields.
He said that in Nigeria, Vitamin A deficiency afflicted about 30 per cent of children below five years of age, almost 20 per cent of pregnant women and 13 per cent of nursing mothers.
Vitamin A deficiency, it noted, lowered immunity and impairs vision, which could lead to blindness and even death.
The statement quoted Dr. Abebe Menkir, maize breeder with IITA, who led the development of the new maize hybrids, as saying that the hybrids were a product of nearly a decade of breeding for enhanced levels of pro-vitamin A.
Menkir noted that maize was the most frequently consumed staple in Nigeria with close to 20 per cent of households consuming it at different times within a week.
“These hybrids will provide, not only increased amounts of pro-vitamin A, but also improve productivity in farming communities,” it said.
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