New maize hybrids for DR Congo on the horizon
Efforts to improve the productivity and production of maize in DR Congo have received a boost as trials across the various agroecological zones in that country show promising results.
Dr Silvestro Meseka, IITA Maize Breeder who is back from the field, reports that the results are the product of a collaborative research project on the introduction of improved maize hybrids and varieties that was initiated by IITA in early February 2013 under the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE. First, two senior technicians were invited and trained after which hybrid and variety trials of different maturity groups for evaluation at Mvuazi (Bas Congo), Kipopo (Katanga), and Ngandajika (Kasai- Oriental) were deployed.
According to him, the main purpose of this research was to evaluate and identify high-yielding, adaptable maize hybrids and varieties for release to farmers that will contribute to food security as well as increase income of maize-growing smallholders in DR Congo.
Maize hybrids trials
More than 150 maize hybrids were evaluated in varying agroecological environments at the Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques (INERA) testing sites during the main season (November 2013 – February 2014). Most of the hybrids combined tolerance to multiple stresses including drought tolerance (DT) with high yield potential.
During the harvest (March 2014), six DT hybrids with superior performance were selected from more than 150 hybrids with the active participation of the maize breeder, Dr Kankolongo Mbuya, and the support staff of the national maize breeding program at Ngandajika Research Station (NRS). The criteria used for selection included ear aspect traits (good and uniform ear fill, uniformity of grain color and ear size, low number of ear rots, ear tip cover) and standability. Similar results were also reported at Mvuazi Research Station.
Potential maize productivity
Dr Meseka said the potential for maize productivity is high in DR Congo, especially in Kasai-Oriental, Katanga, and Bas Congo Provinces. “The performance of some maize varieties seemed to be relatively stable even in fields where inorganic fertilizers were not being applied,” he added.
Because most improved varieties were lost during the civil unrest, most farmers (85 percent) use saved seeds from local varieties. Currently, there are three improved high-yielding maize varieties being grown in DRC; two quality protein maize (QPM), and one resistant to downy mildew. Most farmers prefer white kernel maize for food and this helped in the rapid adoption of the two QPM varieties. However, there is growing interest in yellow maize as livestock feed due to the advent of poultry and piggery industries in DR Congo.
A longer version of this article originally appeared on the IITA website IITA on 25 April 2013.
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