High five for AAA hybrid
Maize (corn) that needs less water is attractive worldwide. For smallholders in dry parts of India, it can transform crop yields. In Rajasthan, AAA maize has rapidly become a reason to smile.
Farming in a drought-prone region of Rajasthan has never been easy. Tej Singh (photo, right) from the state’s Sirohi district had always wanted to grow crops that could do with less water. His traditional rotation was mustard and wheat during the Rabi season, followed by black and green grams as Kharif crops*. “But his dreams recently got a boost!”, says Parikrama Chowdhry from our Indian team.
The Syngenta Foundation introduced Tej Singh to ‘AAA’ maize: Affordable, Accessible and Asian, but importantly also drought-tolerant. His yield rose by more than 50%, from 12 to 19 quintals per acre: 1900kg. “My new maize crop was of good quality”, Tej is happy to report. “The cobs were long and orange-yellow.”
Bidya Devi has a similar story to tell. She farms 1.5 acres in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan. Her nearest Agri-Entrepreneur, Laxmi Devi, suggested she try changing from the local Desi variety to AAA. Bidya’s yield leapt up to 16 quintals per acre.
“AAA maize is a real boon for drought-prone areas”, comments our Seeds manager Raghavender Dantapuram (photo, left). “It is bringing smiles back to the lives of many farmers like Tej and Bidya. That’s happening across South Rajasthan, East Gujarat and West Madhya Pradesh.” Many large companies regard these areas as a low sales priority. The local smallholder and tribal communities therefore often miss out on important progress in crop breeding.
This hybrid maize is the result of collaboration between the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Syngenta, coordinated by SFSA. Intensive research and field testing showed its potential for small farms as well as larger commercial operations. “The new variety has increased smallholders’ food security from 45 to 60 days”, Raghavender adds.
“To make it accessible to small-scale farmers, we partner with local seed companies, NGOs and Agri-Entrepreneurs (AE)”, he explains. “We provide training on the product and help the seed companies keep the price affordable for smallholders. But the AE also play a key role. They are local people, well-known in the farming communities, and working to their neighbours’ benefit.” At present, six AE in Rajasthan are promoting AAA maize in the Udaipur and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan. A similar arrangement is planned for 2022 in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
*"Rabi" and "Kharif" come from Arabic words meaning spring and autumn (fall). Farmers grow Rabi crops from about mid-November to April. These require irrigation. Sowing of Kharif crops follows from the beginning of the first rains around the end of May. They are therefore often called "monsoon crops".