By AbduRahman Beshir, Hari Kumar Shrestha, and Shailaja Thapa
The demand for maize in South Asia is increasing, with the main driver coming from the growing need for poultry feed. Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan produce nearly 10 million metric tons of maize annually from an aggregated area of about 2.4 million hectares. This annual yield is achieved mainly through the use of hybrid maize seeds. However, the maize seeds that contribute to these national yields need to be imported, costing these countries millions of dollars annually. Nearly all the demand for hybrid maize seed in these countries has to be met via imports, which often makes retail prices – ranging from USD 4-8 per kilogram – expensive for small holder farmers.
When maize lethal necrosis (MLN) was first reported in Bomet County, Kenya, in September 2011 and spread rapidly to several countries in eastern Africa, agricultural experts feared this emerging maize disease would severely impact regional food security. However, a strong partnership across eight countries between maize research, plant health organizations and the private seed sector has, so far, managed to contain this devastating viral disease, which can wipe out entire maize fields. As another emerging pest, the fall armyworm, is making headlines in Africa, African countries could learn a lot from the initiatives to combat MLN on how to rapidly respond to emerging crop pests and diseases.
National agricultural research systems and seed companies are invited to apply for the allocation of these pre-commercial hybrids, after which they will be able to register, produce and offer the improved seed to farming communities.
January 3, 2019 is the deadline to submit applications to be considered during the next round of allocations. (Applications received after that deadline will be considered during the following round of product allocations.)
Vignesh Muthusamy was recently awarded the 2018 MAIZE-Asia Youth Innovators Award from the from the CGIARResearch Program on Maize (MAIZE) for his work on the development of biofortified provitamin A and quality protein maize (QPM) maize hybrids. A specialist in maize genetics and breeding, his research demonstrates the use of modern biotechnological tools in crop improvement. Vignesh is from a farming community in the Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu and isa scientist in the Division of Genetics, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. In a recent interview, he discussed the challenges and opportunities facing maize in Asia, as well as the importance of nutrition and involving young people in maize-based systems.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in maize-based systems?
I hail from a farming family and due to India being an agrarian-based economy, most of the rural household is involved in agriculture. Lack of access of nutritious food is one of the primary challenges causing severe socio-economic loss in the country and maize,with such diverse end uses as food and feed can serve as an effective means of delivering a nutritious diet while bolstering the economy.