The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is set, later this month, to release three new maize varieties with high and stable protein and vitamin content.
The experimental varieties are expected to provide alternative source of Vitamin A for low income consumers who cannot afford animal-based nutrients.
High prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency in Ghana is attributed partly to low content of the nutrient cereal, root, and tuber crops, consumed by many people.
Vitamin A deficiency is a serious form of malnutrition that retards growth and weakens the immune system.
Scientists suggest such condition may also cause blindness and poor metabolism.
“We have realized that Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem in Africa. Ghana, for instance, records about 17,200 deaths annually in children due to this deficiency,” revealed Manfred Ewool, a Maize Researcher and a Plant Breeder at the CRI-CSIR.
High poverty level, however, makes it virtually impossible for majority of Ghanaians to afford animal sources of Vitamin A.
Maize is a major staple food in Ghana, and a feasible approach to minimize Vitamin A deficiency is to develop and promote production and utilization of maize varieties with high levels of Vitamin A.
Mr. Ewool explains “the objective is to help address this deficiency problem by improving the nutritional aspects of our lives through the yellow maize”.
Preliminary evaluation of these varieties was conducted at the Crop Research Institute to ascertain the acceptability of the varieties in preparation and consumption of local dishes.
The yet-to-be-outdoored varieties indicate high approval rating by some Ghanaians for their unique taste and texture compared to existing maize varieties.
One of the partakers of the evaluation process, Ben Amoah, said, “it has a special flavor as compared to the one sold in the market. It has a peculiar taste, I can recommend to anyone.”
Scientists observes, it is necessary to assess pro-vitamin A contents of varieties and lines from local and international sources for high pro-vitamin A content.
In 2012, PVA maize, named ‘Honampa’, was produced and released to farmers.
The new varieties have pro-vitamin A content microns between 8 and 11 higher than ‘Honampa’.
The three new varieties are ready for release to farmers at the end of August 2015.