A set of four high-yielding hybrid rice varieties with excellent grain quality, developed by AfricaRice, elicited strong interest from key stakeholders, especially seed companies and farmers, during field days at AfricaRice research station in M’bé, Côte d’Ivoire, 26-27 June 2019.
The field days to showcase the performance of AfricaRice-developed hybrids were organized by the Rice Value Chain Compact of the ‘Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT)’ program, which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) as part of its ‘Feed Africa’ strategy.
The hybrids showcased in the field days included AR051H, an aromatic variety with high-yield potential (12-13 t/ha under favorable conditions and about 9 t/ha in farmers’ fields) and milling recovery of 80%. Developed by AfricaRice, AR051H, was released by the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) as ISRIZ-9 in 2017.
“This is a wonderful effort of AfricaRice, which is very promising for Africa, as until now we had heard of hybrid rice success only in China and India,” said Abdoulaye Sawadogo, head of NAFASO seed company, after the field visit. “We want our governments to support this initiative, which will improve our capacity to meet market demand and reduce rice imports.”
Representatives of 11 seed companies, two milling companies, two farmers’ organizations, national seed system partners and research and development organizations from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal attended the field days to observe first-hand the performance of the AfricaRice-developed hybrids in the demonstration plots as well as hybrid seed production fields.
The participants from Nigeria, including two policy-makers, showed a keen interest to test the hybrids in Nigeria. “This is a milestone for Africa in terms of raising rice productivity,” said Hon. Munir Babba Dan Agundi, Member, House of Representatives, Nigeria. “The hybrids should be made available to farmers in Nigeria as quickly as possible, along with training.”
The four hybrids showcased in the field days are early-maturing (110-120 days), which will allow farmers to grow two crops per year. They have 15-20% (1.0-1.5 t/ha) yield advantage compared with the best non-hybrid (inbred) variety grown under the same conditions, and good grain quality traits (medium and long grains with intermediate to high amylose content) and high milling recovery.
“Developed after nearly 10 years of intense research by AfricaRice, these high-yielding hybrid rice varieties adapted to African conditions are ready to be rolled out,” said Dr Sidi Sanyang, who is leading the Rice Sector Development Program at AfricaRice and is coordinating the TAAT Rice Value Chain Compact.
“The release of the AfricaRice-developed consumer-preferred hybrid, ISRIZ-9, in Senegal, offers new opportunities for smallholder farmers to increase production and access national markets,” he added. “Capacity building of our partners in hybrid rice technology is a key component of our strategy, so that we can support our farmers and seed producers.”
Dr Sanyang explained that an effective public-private partnerships (PPPs) strategy is critical for the successful deployment of these hybrid rice varieties in Africa. “In partnership with national programs, we wish to actively engage with the private sector to expedite the adoption of promising hybrid rice varieties in Africa.”
At the end of the field days, seed companies expressed their willingness to host demonstrations of these hybrids within countries for which PPP modalities will be worked out with support from African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), which is coordinating the TAAT Policy Enabler Compact.
Because of heterosis (hybrid vigor), hybrid rice can significantly out-yield inbred varieties. It can thus provide an avenue to African rice farmers to raise rice yields and profitability and play a central role in feeding Africa’s growing population. Hybrid rice seed production can be a profitable business and create employment opportunities for Africa’s youth.
Considering all these factors and in response to the strong demand from its member countries, AfricaRice established its own hybrid rice breeding program for Africa, which was led by Dr Raafat El-Namaky from 2009 to 2018. About 50 high-yielding hybrid rice lines/varieties have been developed by AfricaRice and evaluated in several African countries. The four hybrids showcased during the field days are part of this set.