News Article

QUALITY PROTEIN SEED MAIZE PRODUCTION IN GHANA: A DISHONESTY OR VERACITY

Seed production has always been the weakest node in the Ghana’s agricultural transformation agenda. The development of small and medium scale seed companies has proven to be key in facilitating the availability and accessibility of improved crop varieties to smallholder farmers. In recent times, successive government made an attempt to transform  Ghana’s agricultural activities but failed to recognize essence of high quality seeds not just seed but good quality seeds. We sometimes do not understand the difference between grains and seeds.

Good quality improved seeds can deliver state of the art technology to farmers: higher yields, disease and pest resistance, climate change adaptation, improved nutrition, longer shelf life etc. In 2017, the government of Ghana launched a program dubbed “PLANTING for FOOD & JOBS and just a year after it has been launched, there is a great concern among various stakeholders about quality of seeds supplied under the project. The officials in charge claimed that they are supplying good quality seeds to farmers but farmers are not accepting the seeds. So the question is, if these seeds are that great, why adoption rate so low? The data available revealed that 98% of seed supplied under this project is open pollinated varieties (OPV). For instance, these seed maize are not only OPV but quality protein maize (QPM) varieties. These gemplasm require specialized techniques for seed production. Production of QPM seed is more technical/ difficult than to produce hybrid seed maize. But what we do see happening? People with no technical-know-how claimed to be seed experts and producers. In some cases, grains are bought from markets and bagged as seed, then sold to the farmers. In recent meeting held by MOFA and contracted seed growers, the officials lamented about high level of apathy among farmers towards seed adoption under 2018 PFJ program. We think that farmers are the problem but failed to acknowledge that seed producers, government and donors are one number problem to smallholder farmers. We make decisions without consulting smallholder farmers. Farmers are rational beings, we can’t impose so called technology on them but we must involve them in the process. In some cases, data for new varieties are cooked/massage and do not reflect actual performance of the varieties in the field. Collectively from seed research/breeding to seed marketing/ distribution, we failed farmers in this country. 

For the  past 75 years (1942 – 2017), 63 maize varieties has been released and registered in this country, in which 12 varieties are quality protein maize (QPM).

Table 1: Quality Protein Varieties Released and Registered in Ghana

Germplasm Name

Year of Released

Obaatanpa

1992

Mamaba

1996

Dadaba

1997

Cidaba

1997

Golden Crystal

2007

Aziga

2007

Akposoe

2007

Etubi

2007

Enii Pibi

2010

Omankwa

2010

Aburohemaa

2010

Abontem

2010

The most popular variety on this list is Obaatanpa which is 26 years old. This variety is no more in existence but its brand is being marketed in various agro dealer shops in the country. A  very good variety promoted by SG 2000 but later deteriorated through bad activities of actors/players in the seed sector. Though Obaatanpa is  white seed maize with dent kernel type with opaque character, but don’t be surprised to find yellow maize/corn in shops labelled Obaatanpa. Omankwa and Abontem are also getting ground in terms of their brands but not the content and quality. In production of quality protein seed maize, strict standards must be followed to ensure reproduction of true-to-type, high quality seed. Also, various class of seeds of particular variety must be sent to the laboratory for tryptophan and protein analysis to ensure that values above the required minimum.  

2.0. SEED PRODUCTION OF QUALITY PROTEIN MAIZE (QPM)

2.1. Breeder Seed Production

To ensure protein quality and endosperm modification of seed, it is important that breeder’s seed be produced in half- sib isolation blocks. This is done in 3 stages described below:

Stage 1

v Plant 300-500 representative plants in isolation in breeder’s seed production field.

v At harvest, shell each ear separately.

Stage 2

v Plant each ear as a single female row

v Bulk equal quantities of each ear to plant as male rows for pollen pollination

v Plant 3 rows of female to 1 row of male in a half-sib isolation block. Female rows must be detasselled.

v Conduct mild selection by rejecting all rows that deviate from the variety description.

v At harvest, select the best representative rows and plants within rows of the variety under production to provide seed for the next seed production cycle.

v Select 1-2 ears from representative rows to constitute the 300 -500 female rows for the next production stage

v Conduct laboratory analysis of seed sample of the selected ears. Use only ears that have acceptable protein and tryptophan levels for the bulk seed to have unacceptably low protein quality. Note that laboratory analyses could be limited to every third cycle of breeder’s seed production to save time and money.

Stage 3

v Proceed to plant the third cycle of seed production as in cycle. After counting seed to plant as female in storage, and bulk the rest of the seed together with the remaining seed of the male rows to constitute the breeder’s seed for seed producers.

3.0. Foundation Seed Production

Foundation seed must be produced from a fresh stock of breeder’s seed and can be used re-used for 2 generations/cycles.  The foundation seed producing companies should also maintain a quality check on their foundation seed blocks by conducting laboratory analyses. This will not only ensure that the benefits of protein quality are passed on to seed producers and, eventually, to farmers and consumers, but will also help breeder seed producers maintain the required quality standards of the variety. At this point we clear in my minds that no seed producer of QPM go through above criteria to ensure good quality protein seed maize to farmers. This changes genetic composition of the variety and we turn to blame farmers for low seed adoption.

What are we doing wrong?

The formal seed system is not offering farmers the quality product that they deserve at the right time, and in right quantity.

To optimize seed adoption rate, there is a need for industry players to consider traits that command price advantage and also traits that are essential for retaining comparative advantage.

What farmers pay for in the seed is genetic gain for consistent yield increases. Genetic gain could only happen through research!

Author

Amos Rutherford Azinu

Team Lead, LCIC


LIFE SUPPORTING MAIZE; YELLOW CORN

Modernization and advancement in technology has affected people’s diets. Majority of our population, now look out for convenience in food preparation and consumption. On this note, most people prefer processed breakfast which is mostly made up cereals which have been designed to minimize the time and labour involved in breakfast preparation. Breakfast cereals are usually eaten as the first meal of the day with grains as the main ingredient.

The most common cereal used in breakfast meals in Ghana are maize, rice, millet, sorghum and maize been mostly widely grown  and consume staple food. There are two common types of maize in Ghana; the white and yellow maize.  White maize is widely grown in Ghana whiles the yellow type is not, due to low patronage and subsequent neglect. However, yellow corn is more nutritious and tasty compared to white maize. It is rich in minerals, vitamins and carotenoids, particularly beta carotene which is a precursor of retinol or vitamin A.  Yellow maize has gelatinization, pasting and crystallization functionalities which makes it useful in breakfast cereal production. These functionalities are as a result of the amylose and amylopectin components of the corn starch. The carotenoids; beta carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin act as antioxidants and react with reactive singlet oxygen, thereby protecting against oxidative. In addition, carotenoids exist as natural colorants and their antioxidant functionality is also known to play a role in limiting cancer, cataracts, atherosclerosis, and the processes of aging.

In addition, a cob of boiled yellow maize contains almost 4g of protein, 3.5g of dietary fiber, about 30g of carbohydrates, 1.5g of fat and 3.6g of sugar and 100 grams of water. It contains no cholesterol and has about 126 kilo-calories.

Most of us prefer white corn, mind you carotenoids are mainly found in yellow corn and white maize has little or no carotenoid. 

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