The maize industry is currently challenged by an array of diseases and pests, especially armyworm caterpillar, stem borers; and Corn earworms, among others, which have dealt deadly and devastating blows on maize plantations across the country.
That the development is a serious threat to the country’s annual turnover of US$6b from the maize industry, is to say the least, as the diseases have been discovered in 22 states, with several hectares of maize plantations rendered malnourished, without maize buds for eventual harvest.
This development is not unconnected to the current soaring price of the produce in the market. Its effect is not only felt by the farmers who have been recording losses, as their profit margin had dropped maximally, even the end users, especially feed millers and poultry farmers are feeling the pang, as maize is one of the essential ingredients for the production of livestock feeds.
A metric ton of maize initially sold for between N30, 000 to N35, 000, has risen to around N255, 000 or more, depending on the area. This development has prompted a desperate search for maize substitute by various stakeholders.
With this, feed millers are folding up gradually, as a result of huge losses. Poultry farmers too that cannot cope with the price increase have abandoned the business for now, while some are adopting either the 1-0-0 or 1-0-1 feeding formula, to stay afloat.
One of the affected states, Benue, recently raised alarm that the stem borer disease ravaging maize farms in the state has resulted in low production in the current farming season.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, James Anbuain lamented the state had lost chunk of money to the disease, noting that the ministry had intimated the Federal Ministry of Agriculture about the development.
The development has been a big problem for the poultry industry, which accounts for up to two million metric tonne of maize consumption.
The Group Head, Strategy and Policy, Amo Byng Nig Limited and Amo Farm Sieberer Hatchery Limited, Francis Toromade, who spoke with The Guardian, said generally, there is scarcity of maize because Nigerians have never relied solely on locally produced maize, but always substituting with importation, noting that due to the devaluation of naira and the scarcity of dollar, its been difficult to cope with the trend.
He noted that since 2011 there has been importation of a minimum of 100,000 metric tons of maize, noting that since 2016 300,000 tons were imported and there is a projection for 300,000 again in 2016, of which as at today only 90,000 tons has so far entered the country.
“So, there is a shortfall of 410,000 tons. The truth is that the local production has not been able to satisfy the needs of the consumers locally, prompting us to look for the way out, to find alternative to maize.”
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is however, dousing the fears, if its planned intervention of controlling the diseases is anything to go by.
The institute’s Research for Development Director, Western Africa, Robert Asiedu recently disclosed that IITA is coming up with a short-term solution of introducing chemicals to control the diseases, adding that in the long run, it has embarked on developing disease resistant maize to control the diseases completely.
Just recently, the institute initiated breeding efforts to enhance the micronutrient content of maize varieties, to combat iron deficiency and Vitamin A deficiency. Success has been made with the development of provitamin A maize that had been released to farmers.
Based on its antecedents, IITA has a good record of breakthroughs in combating maize diseases. Its research accomplishment to combat the widespread outbreak of maize streak virus (MSV) disease in the 1970s, received the King Baudoui award in 1986. Over the last 20 years, IITA has continued to supply the national maize research programmes in Nigeria and other West and Central Africa with MSV-resistant maize Germplasm.
The institute also developed maize germplasm with resistance to Striga, blight, rust, and leaf spot. At the same time, IITA has transferred technologies such as screening and breeding techniques to enhance the capacity of Nigerian national partners to develop higher yielding and stable varieties.
To effectively control this disaster, Information and Communication Support for Agricultural Growth in Nigeria (ICS-Nigeria)-a project which seeks to increase the quantity and quality of information available for increased agricultural production, processing, and marketing and also strengthen the capacity of farmer assistance organisations, in collaboration with IITA Ibadan, has recommended steps to be adopted by farmers to deal with pests and disease in their maize farms.
Farmers experiencing armyworms are advised to control it immediately with monocrotophos (e.g. Azodrin at 533 ml/liter, Nuvacron 40EC at the rate of 40 ml per 10 litres of water and Ultracide 40 at 40 ml per 10 liters of water).
“If termites attack is detected during the growing season, spray the affected area with 30 ml of Nogos 50 in 4.5 liters of water. Termite hills in the field and surrounding area should be located and destroyed.
“Where stem-borer control is required, apply Furadan, 3G or 10g (carbofuran) at the rate of 0.75 kg ai/ha as side dressing, 10 cm away from maize stands. Corn earworms: For green maize production in particular and increased grain yield, apply three sprays of cymbush 10 EC of Ambush 25 EC at the rate of 20ml per 10 liters of water at weekly interval, beginning from 50 per cent silking and spray directly to the cobs.”