ICRISAT releases drought resistant sorghum varieties with higher iron and yield

ICRISAT has released two drought resistant sorghum varieties in Nigeria which have three times higher iron content and can increase the yield two to three times
ICRISAT releases drought resistant sorghum varieties with higher iron and yield

The release of two new nutritionally high sorghum varieties, one with three times higher iron content, will be a boost for farmers as well as the malnourished populations, especially children in  Nigeria. Both varieties have yields that are double the local varieties are also short duration allowing farmers to adapt better to climate change.

Naturally bio-fortified, one of the new varieties (12KNICSV-188, Improved Deko) has iron content three times higher than typically grown sorghum at 129ppm compared to 40ppm. Both are drought resistant with average yields of 2.4-2.8 tonnes per hectare, compared to the less than 1 tonne per hectare from the local varieties. This means more income for the farmers and better health. 

The improved open pollinated varieties were developed by a team of scientists in the Nigerian national system and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“The newly released varieties can help overcome periods of drought especially terminal drought problems prevalent in the Nigerian (Sudan and Sahel) ecologies because they are early maturing, with 50 per cent flowering in 67 days against the 90 days on average of other varieties,” says Dr. Ignatius Angarawai, Scientist – Sorghum Breeding at ICRISAT Kano.

 “Sorghum has been recommended for infants, the elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers because of its high caloric and nutritional value. There are cases of ‘hidden hunger’, a deficit of iron and zinc which naturally exist in sorghum, among low income farmers who sell most of their production for household consumption,” says Dr. Angarawai.

“We are very happy with Improved Deko because of the uniformity, extra earliness and panicle size. The variety will ensure that we have food even in years with low rainfall like in 2015 and we will harvest before there is any damage to the late crops. ICRISAT, the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) and the Government of Nigeria as a matter of urgency should ensure seed availability for farmers. We are ready to buy.” says Mohammed Madaki, farmer and Ward Head of Baure, Gombe State.

Initial screenings also encouragingly showed that the new varieties had less emergence of the deadly striga weed compared to other varieties in the trial.

The registration of the varieties was recently approved by the Nigerian government, through the National Committee on the Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds and Fisheries.

The new varieties involved crossing local Nigerian germplasm, or seeds, with improved lines from ICRISAT’s collection in Mali. Further research and testing led to the development of the new sorghum varieties 12KNICSV-188 (known as SAMSORG 45), which has the much higher iron content and yield, and 12KNICSV-22 (known as SAMSORG 46). The new varieties retain traits such as bold and white grains preferred by farmers and markets.

ICRISAT Nigeria team acknowledges the efforts of former ICRISAT scientists Eva Weltzien Rattunde and Henry Frederick Weltzien Rattunde for their contribution towards the development of these two improved sorghum varieties.

The development of the two varieties was a combined effort of several projects including the Nigeria Sorghum Value Chain, Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program (ATASP-1), and HarvestPlus, USA. 

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