Knowledge for Development

Agronomic performance of extra-early maize hybrids under stress and non-stress environments in Nigeria

Author: Ijeoma Chinyere Akaogu, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja, Nigeria

Date: 28/03/2014


Ms Akaogureceived the third prize in the Women in Science competition. She clarified to Knowledge for Development that she was the first to research extra-early maize hybrids with a resistance to Striga and a tolerance for periods of drought during the flowering and grain- filling periods. She considers her research important because the adoption and commercialisation of extra-early maize hybrids with these qualities could contribute significantly to food security goals and improved incomes and livelihoods of farmers. She explained that ’the award is a great motivation and encouragement for me. It also inspires me to work harder in order to be one of the winners of the world food prize in the next few years to come. In the next 5 years, I hope to become the head of the maize breeding programme in Nigeria or be working in one of the CGIAR centres developing improved maize varieties that will bring about a maize revolution in West Africa.’   


The availability of extra-early maturing varieties has facilitated the expansion of maize production into the savannahs of West and Central Africa. However, maize production and productivity in the region is greatly constrained by low soil nitrogen, drought, and severe infestation by Striga weed. Natural resistance of the host plant to Striga has been considered the most economically feasible and sustainable approach to combat the infestation.   

Research was initiated to determine the yield performance and stability of selected extra-early hybrids under drought conditions, artificial Striga infestation, and optimal growing environments. One hundred and twenty extra-early hybrids and an open-pollinated variety were assessed. The productive single-cross hybrids for commercial production under Striga infestation and managed drought stress were identified separately for each stress factor using a standardised selection index.   

Genomic study for all measured traits indicated that there was a large variation among the genotypes to allow good progress from selection for improvements for Striga resistance, tolerance to drought that occurs at the flowering including grain-filling periods, and improved grain yield across the test environments. Results are encouraging: the hybrids identified are not only drought escaping but also carry genes that are tolerant to drought at flowering and grain-filling periods as well as genes for Striga resistance.  

This is the first report on extra-early maize hybrids with combined resistance to Striga and tolerance genes that can withstand drought stress that occur during the flowering and grain-filling periods. The adoption and commercialisation of the Striga resistant/tolerant and drought tolerant extra-early hybrids should contribute significantly to food security goals and improved incomes of farmers.  

The potential vehicles for the dissemination of output from this research work are the agents of national agricultural extension services and non-governmental organisations. Strategies being adopted for promotion of the extra-early hybrids include on-farm trials, farmers’ field days, farmers’ open days, and demonstration plots.