Steep population growth and changing dietary preferences will quadruple maize demand in sub-Saharan Africa. Can production keep up? At what cost to climate change?
Using data from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria in West Africa and from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in East Africa, our research shows that average production of 1.7 t/ha of maize in 2010 must increase to 6.8 t/ha to meet estimated demand in 2050.
To achieve this, per-hectare maize output must grow by about 3.5% per year, a rate never witnessed at national or supra-national scales anywhere in the world in rainfed agriculture.
Corresponding nutrient inputs must grow by over 7% annually to prevent further soil depletion and degradation.
Are such yield increases possible?
Our answer is a resounding yes. Using the Global Yield Gap Atlas, we calculated an average rainfed yield ceiling of 9.2 t/ha for maize across the nine countries, with area-weighted country averages ranging from 6 t/ha in Tanzania to over 12 t/ha in Ethiopia.
Apolonia Marutsvaka shows off her drought-tolerant, heat stress maize cobs. Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT.
Apolonia Marutsvaka looks triumphant as she shows off one of her three bags of gleaming white maize. She harvested the grain in the midst of a drought and sapping heat that charred many other types of crop.
The secret of her successful harvest is simple: A type of maize seed that has been bred to tolerate high temperatures.
“It has never been this hot, but (this) variety of maize performs well in the heat,” said the 62-year-old Marutsvaka. “I am preparing my maize field to plant it again.”
Marutsvaka is hopeful the new variety will continue to ensure her a harvest even as temperatures soar above 30 degrees Celsius here in Masvingo Province and across Zimbabwe.
Listen to a podcast of CIMMYT maize breeder Biswanath Das discussing the importance of adapting maize breeding and seed systems to climate change here.
Investment in accelerating the adaptation of maize breeding and seed systems to climate change is needed a new report finds. Photo: Peter Lowe/ CIMMYT
Breeding and seed systems must be adapted to survive projected climate change if major loss of maize yields is to be avoided, a new report shows.
Tools that forecast the response of crops to different weather and climate conditions, coupled with crop yield modeling have enabled agricultural scientists to predict and formulate plans for potential future climate change.