New maize seed varieties get approval from govt, to beat climate worry

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: May 7 2013, 09:07am hrs
With climate playing havoc in key maize-growing areas, the government has introduced four new seed varieties that would protect the crop from excessive rains, drought and heat.

Directorate of Maize Research (DMR), under the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), has given the breeder seeds for multiplication before introducing them for large-scale cultivation by 2014.

It takes about two years to multiply seeds for usage by farmers.

For sustaining the health growth in maize production, we have decided to introduce new breeder seeds that would help farmers in dealing with fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, OP Yadav, project director, DMR told FE.

At present, 75 varieties of hybrid seeds are available to maize-growing farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Since the introduction of hybrid seeds about a decade back, maize production has seen a quantum jump.

According to agriculture ministry data, maize production has jumped from 11.15 million tonne (mt) in 2002-3 to 21.82 mt in 2012-13, a jump of more than 93%.

Yadav said the demand for maize is growing at around 8% annually mainly because of the demand in poultry feed and starch industry. Only about 15% of maize produced is used for consumption.

We need new varieties in the future that deal with biotic and other stresses from the climate change so that our output remains unaffected, Yadav said.

DMR, along with 30 collaborative research centres located across various agro-climatic zones in the country, studied the performance of maize hybrids to adapt to rainfall changes.

The research found out that in cases of normal dates of sowing, medium and late-maturing hybrids gave higher yields, but in cases of delayed sowings owing to delayed rainfall, early and extra-early maturing hybrids performed well.

After the introduction of single-cross hybrid since 2006 by DMR, the production has significantly increased. Yadav said cross-hybrid works well with varying soil and weather conditions and it can withstand drought-like conditions as well.

Due to the rising demand for maize, the crop has been preferred by many farmers, particularly in the paddy region, because of the price it commands and also because it needs much less water in comparison to paddy.

Under the crop diversification plan, Haryana and Punjab are expected to shift a major chunk of paddy area to corn because of depletion of water table.

There has been high growth of maize cultivation in the non-traditional states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal. Andhra Pradesh is currently the largest maize producer, contributing 21% of annual production.