Burkina Faso registers its first hybrid millet

Burkina Faso has recently approved the commercial use of its first hybrid millet called Nafagnon. With this approval, the hybrid from a single cross also became the first of its kind to be approved in West and Central Africa.

Nafagnon produces up to 45% more than the popular Misari-1 strain. It is more resistant to late blight and has higher yield potential and forage quality.

ICRISAT’s millet breeding program for West and Central Africa developed Nafagnon in Niger and the Institute for the Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA) evaluated and selected it in Burkina Faso. .

The name of the hybrid means beneficial millet in the Bamanankan language. It is also known by the scientific name of Millet Hybrid (ICMH) 147007.

Nafagnon ripens early, in 80-85 days and has a yield potential of over 3 tonnes per hectare; its early maturity helps to overcome the stress of terminal drought.

It is a dual-use hybrid (grain and fodder) resistant to downy mildew, the most harmful millet disease in AOC.

Grain size, yield potential, green conservation of leaves and stems, and hybrid precocity are characteristics highly preferred by farmers and end users in Burkina Faso, where the low yield of millet varieties compared to to other cereals forces farmers in certain areas to abandon one of the crops best suited to the difficult agro-ecological climate of the Sahel.

Nafagnon is a first generation cross of two genetically different inbred breeds (lineages). These crosses are called hybrids obtained from a single cross. It has been evaluated in the main millet producing countries in the region over the past three years.

This variety was submitted to the National Seed Committee of Burkina Faso which registered it in the national seed catalog, thus authorizing its cultivation in Burkina Faso and de facto, in the ECOWAS region; making it the country’s first millet hybrid to be approved and the first single-cross hybrid to be approved in West and Central Africa. 

Adapted to the region

“The first hybrid mils tested in West and Central Africa (AOC) were selected in India. Unfortunately, they ripened too early and were susceptible to late blight.

“Learning from these evaluations, ICMH 147007 has been developed, evaluated and selected in the West African region,” said Dr Gangashetty, Niger-based millet breeder for ICRISAT in WCA.

“It is well adapted to West African environmental conditions” added Dr Inoussa Drabo, millet breeder at INERA. It was he who led the evaluation of several hybrids and the breeding, and provided the necessary documentation for the registration of Nafagnon in Burkina Faso.

“Since the 1990s, researchers from national research institutes and research organizations such as the International Crops Research Institute of Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are working on obtaining millet hybrids,” explained Dr Issoufou Kapran, seed systems specialist at ICRISAT-Mali.

“The strong research-for-development partnership between ICRISAT and INERA has benefited smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso. Nafagnon, the first hybrid millet, is another important contribution to improving the living conditions of farmers,” said Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional and Research Program Director for ICRISAT in WCA.

The International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropical Zones (ICRISAT) is an international non-profit agricultural research organization.

ICRISAT works in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia with a wide range of partners to improve the food, nutrition and income security of smallholder farmers in particular. 

The arid or semi-arid tropics cover 6.5 million square kilometers in 55 countries and are home to more than two billion people.

Inclusive approach to varietal breeding

INERA’s approach to the development and marketing of millet hybrids in Burkina Faso involves partnerships with farmers and the private sector.

Nafagnon has been tested by over 500 farmers and three seed companies – NAFASO, FAGRI and EPAM – have been involved. 

“The evaluation of millet hybrids in Burkina Faso was made possible within the framework of the AVISA project,” said Dr Neya James, national coordinator of the project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ladji Sawadogo, a farmer from the village of Balla, about 40 km from Bobo Dioulasso, planted Nafagnon with the local variety the same day on one hectare of land.

“I am impressed with the growth rate of the hybrid plants. The leaves remain green when ripe and the kernels are well formed and filled on the panicles. Not only will my family eat their fill, there will be enough forage to feed the animals, ”said the farmer.

Following its approval in Burkina Faso, Nafiagnon will soon be included in the seed catalog of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The 147007 / Nafagnon hybrid (ICMH) is the result of the activities of the HOPE-2 project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, HarvestPlus, GIZ, CGIAR’s Research Program on Pulses and Cereals in Drylands , INERA and seed companies such as NAFASO, FAGRI and EPAM in Burkina Faso.

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