BASF launches non-GM maize solution for Africa

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture

BASF has developed a non-GM solution to help African maize farmers
eradicate a disease that is costing them an estimated € 1.2 billion
a year.

A development and commercialisation agreement has been signed to introduce the non-genetically modified (GM) Clearfield trait into maize germplasm in order to control Striga (witchweed).

The agreement, with the international maize and wheat research centre CIMMYT, part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), will see the Germany-based chemical giant provide Clearfield technology directly to those that need it most.

The Clearfield system matches selected advanced seed varieties/hybrids with custom-designed imidazolinone herbicides. Local seed companies will produce commercial Clearfield maize seed, which will be treated with StrigAway, a novel seed coating to control Striga.

What makes this initiative interesting is the fact that all current Clearfield varieties and hybrids are recognised as non-GMO. BASF says that it possesses the world's largest portfolio of non-GMO herbicide tolerant traits and has established relationships with over 100 seed companies throughout the world.

Striga is a parasitic weed that attaches to the roots of the host plant and does damage before the plant has emerged. Striga causes yield losses ranging from 20 to 80 per cent. In contrast to crop spraying, BASF says that StrigAway seed coating is highly effective against Striga because it protects the plant throughout the entire growth process.

StrigAway is also suitable for smallholder farmers in agriculture because it is easy to use and does not require sophisticated equipment or training.

Due to ineffective control measures, Striga has infested over 40 million hectares of maize in Africa, resulting in damages of over € 1.2 billion a year. Maize is the most important food crop in sub-Saharan Africa and thus plays a major role in providing food security.

"This partnership with CIMMYT, AATF (African Agriculture Technology Foundation), local researchers and local seed companies enables BASF to offer African farmers a new, effective Striga control solution,"​ said Emmanuel Butstraen, Group Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing, BASF agricultural products division.

"The unique nature of Striga has rendered many other interventions ineffective. StrigAway offers farmers in affected areas the opportunity to realize consistent yield improvements and contribute to poverty reduction and increased food security."

Mpoko Bokanga, executive director of the AATF, said that linking poor smallholder farmers with technologies that improve their ability to produce food and working with these farmers would ensure that their productivity is increased.

CIMMYT is an internationally funded, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and training related to maize and wheat throughout the developing world. The AATF is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing the productivity of resource-poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

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