The National Variety Release and Registration Committee of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, has approved and recommended three new WACCI hybrid maize varieties to be released onto the market for cultivation and consumption.
The varieties, which are now waiting to be gazetted by the National Seed Council, were developed by the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, following eight years of extensive research and on-farm trials at Legon, Wenchi and Tamale; which represent the three main major agro-ecological zones in Ghana.
The initial funding for the project was from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and later by Scaling Seeds and Technology Programme (SSTP) of AGRA.
The three new WACCI hybrid maize varieties are WACCI-M-1205, WACCI-M-1210 and WACCI-M-1218.
These hybrids are the first ever hybrid maize seeds to be produced by a university in the history of Ghana.
Mr Seth Osei-Akoto, the Chairman of the NVRRC, made the announcement of the approval and recommendation of the new WACCI maize hybrids in Accra at the University of Ghana, Legon, after the Committee’s final validation meeting.
These white maize hybrids have yielded above nine tonnes per hectare in regions where moisture stress was not a problem.
Areas like the Coastal Savanna and the transitional zones were ideal for maximum productivity of these hybrids.
WACCI-M-1218 is early maturing, flowering in about 45-50 days after planting and matures in about 80-85 days after planting, whereas WACCI-M-1205 and WACCI-1210 were high yielding and mature between 90-95 days after planting.
The WACCI hybrid maize research team comprises Prof. Eric Y. Danquah, Founding Director of WACCI, Prof. Pangirayi B. Tongoona, Dr Beatrice E. Ifie, Dr Daniel K. Dzidzienyo, Dr John S. Y. Eleblu, Dr Agyemang Danquah, and Mr Amos R. Azinumuzu.
Mr Osei-Akoto, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, praised WACCI for the innovation and further urged the Centre to put up a promotion and marketing strategy to ensure that the seeds reached the average farmers in the country for cultivation.
Mr Osei-Akoto, who is also the Acting Director for Crop Services Directorate, MoFA, said the nation’s challenge was how to get improved seed varieties for farmers adding that the NVRRC was looking for varieties that were high yielding, which could be promoted for the benefits of farmers in the country.
Prof Danquah expressed gratitude to his team of staff for the great feat chalked adding; “I am very excited. Today is a very important day in the life of WACCI; this is the first time that a university in this country would be making such huge contributions to our development by releasing maize hybrids to farmers.
“And these are not ordinary hybrids. These are hybrids which even under farmers’ conditions are giving us yields higher than all of the varieties that they have access to.”
He said: “The sky is our limit; we are looking for funds to scale-up this breeding project. And if government were to support us, we believe that we can even release better varieties than these in the near future. Of course, we need an ambitious plan to multiply seeds.”
“We want to make this University the hub for seed multiplication,” in order to get foundation seeds before they got to the farmers, he said.
Prof. Danquah said quality improved seeds were the bedrock of government’s policy of “Planting for Food and Jobs”.
He said the hunt for quality seed should continue unabated stating that; “And we have put all our efforts into working hard so that we put back smiles on the faces of farmers”.
Prof Danquah said: “We believe that it is only quality research underpinned by science and innovation that can take Ghana forward,” and expressed the hope that
the Government would support the research to improve the food security of the country.
Dr Robert Agyeibi Asuboah, the Acting Executive Director of Grains and Legumes Development Board, MoFA, commended the University of Ghana for being the first university in the country to produce hybrid varieties of maize.
He said maize is the main staple food of the country and, therefore, research institutions and the universities must take its research very seriously.
Prof Tongoona said the release of those new hybrids would increase yields, farmer’s livelihoods and the local seed sector in Ghana.
Madam Evelyn Anfu, the Deputy Country Coordinator, SSTP, said the new hybrid maize varieties would go a long way to contribute to the success of government’s “Planting for Foods and Jobs” programme.
Mr Patrick Osofo Apullah, the President of Seeds Producers Association of Ghana, said: “Ghana is moving forward and, therefore, we have to move forward with high yielding seed varieties that are climate – change friendly”.