Farmers’ persistent demand for early maturing, high-yielding, and stress tolerant maize varieties for northern Ghana has finally been met. Over the years, many farmers continue to record very low or no yields from their toil due to non-availability of stress tolerant seed varieties. Today, the story has changed. Researchers at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI) have released four new maize hybrids to increase availability of varieties with multiple tolerance to drought and Striga. The new hybrids are expected to address the prevalent low soil nitrogen, drought, and Striga stresses ─ in order to lessen the drudgery, and improve yields and livelihoods of smallholder maize farmers in that part of the country.

The National Variety Release and Registration Committee (NVRRC) accepted the hybrids for commercial production, once approval is given by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Maize production in the Guinea and Sudan Savannah zones of Ghana is constrained by these stresses. At farmer level, for instance, all three stresses can occur simultaneously, and the combined effect can cause yield loss of up to almost 100%, leaving many farmers, mostly women, poorer than before. The four new varieties, which include two early and two extra-early maturing drought and Striga tolerant hybrids, will bring back some relief, and make farming a worthwhile effort to farmers.

Attributes of the hybrids
Suggested Name Maturity Period Potential Yield Special Attribute
CSIR- Denbea 90 days 6.5/ha Drought and Striga tolerant
Golden yellow grain colour
Suitable for poultry and livestock nutrition
CSIR-Similenu 90 days 6.0/ha Drought and Striga tolerant
CSIR-Komnaaya 85 days 5.5 Drought and Striga tolerant
CSIR-Wang-Basig 85 days 5.5 Drought and Striga tolerant

Results of participatory variety selection trials revealed high farmer preference of all four varieties for cultivation, and high consumer acceptability for local dishes.

Appropriate use of the hybrids ─ which are generally appealing to farmers, traders, processors, and input dealers ─ will improve farmers’ resilience to climate change, as well as their productivity. The hybrids also have broad adaptation to other countries including Nigeria, Mali and Benin.

With the harmonization of the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS) seed policy, the new varieties could be targeted by regional private seed sector players for multiplication and marketing in broader regional markets within the ECOWAS region. Of course, there will be a huge impact on the Ghanaian local seed sector as well as employment opportunities for the growing number of unemployed youth.

Efforts will soon be directed at producing early generation seeds of parental lines of the hybrids for mass production, promotion, and commercialisation.