The Burundi Institute of Agronomic Sciences (ISABU) is currently testing varieties of a high-yielding, fast-maturing hybrid maize seed that is also resistant to maize streak virus.
The seeds were developed by companies Pannar and Naseco, which are based in Kenya and Uganda respectively.
Nkurunziza Gelase, a researcher and maize breeder at ISABU, says four varieties are being tested in low- and mid-altitude regions in Burundi. “Although these varieties have already been tested in Kenya and Uganda, we need to test them again in Burundi because the conditions are not the same in the three countries.”
The release of the seeds will be the first major use of hybrid rather than open-pollinated seeds in the country, and the move is hoped to boost food security. Open pollination is uncontrolled and the pollen (male parent) source is unknown, meaning it can result in plants that vary widely in genetic traits. Hybrid seeds, on the other hand, are the result of controlled pollination, where seed producers choose the parent plants for their desirable traits.
Concerns have been raised about affordability of the new seeds. Cyprian Banyiyereka, head of the Department of Land Management and Cropping Systems at ISABU, has called on the government to consider subsidising the cost of these hybrid seeds, to create awareness among farmers of their benefits. “Changing farmers’ attitudes from using the open-pollinated variety seeds they are accustomed to, to adopting the hybrid seeds will be a challenge. Although with the government’s help, we can facilitate the change.” – SciDev.Net