The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said on Thursday it had developed an aflatoxin resistant maize variety to be released to farmers in 2015.
It said this was in view of the fact that more than five billion people in developing counties were at risk of chronic aflatoxin exposure.
Quoting the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Institute also said that 25 per cent of world food crops had been affected by the exposure.
Dr Silvestro Meseka, a maize breeder at the institute stated this in an interview on the sideline of a visit to the IITA farm by some fellows of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA), in Ikenne, Ogun state.
According to Meseka, Aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungus called Aspergillus flavus, which causes liver cancer, suppresses the immune system and retards growth and development in children.
”We are seeing a situation in the next two years, we should be able to present to the nation that we have developed aflatoxin resistant maize for Nigeria,” he said.
”Aflatoxin contamination can occur before harvest when the crop undergoes drought stress due to elevated temperatures at the grain filling stages and when wet conditions occur at harvest periods.
”Contamination also occurs when there is insect damage, delayed harvesting and high moisture levels during storage and transportation.
”Aspergillus flavus which produce these mycotoxins thrive under favourable conditions on a wide range of foods and feed such as maize and groundnuts; it is a worldwide problem.”
According to Meseka, aflatoxin infection goes along side drought. He added that as the institute is working on drought resistant varieties, it has identified the varieties for aflatoxin resistance.
He explained that the varieties were hybrid and high yielding, adding that they were selected through conventional breeding.
This he said was in addition to the 370 maize varieties the institute had released so far.
Meseka however said that while the institute was working towards providing a lasting solution to aflatoxin infection, it had currently developed a bio-control product ‘aflasafe’ to fight aflatoxin contamination.
”Aflasafe is a biological control product that could reduce aflatoxin contamination by between 80 to 99 per cent. Good drying and storage could reduce the level of aflatoxin contamination.”