Tackling aflatoxin, the killer poison in Africa’s food

Aflatoxin in food was among the prominent issues discussed at the recent First All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28th to 31st March 2017. The Congress attracted about 600 participants from 22 countries including outside Africa. Its theme was Reducing food waste and losses: sustainable solutions for Africa. Two African staples – groundnuts and maize – are particularly aflatoxin-prone.

New selection method allows for rapid development of improved maize varieties

Farmers Nuri Bekele, Tefera Tamirat & Melaka Bekele harvest drought tolerant maize in Ethiopia. Photo: P. Lowe/CIMMYT

Marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) is helping maize breeders develop higher yielding and drought-tolerant improved varieties faster than ever before, according to a recent study from scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center(CIMMYT).

“With conventional breeding, it often takes up to 7-8 years for varieties to reach farmers,” said Yoseph Beyene, a CIMMYT maize breeder working with the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and one of the authors of the study. “With MARS, those varieties take only 5 years to reach farmers, and display greater genetic gain, even under drought conditions”