The National Seed Committee of Burkina Faso recently approved the commercial use of its first pearl millet hybrid called Nafagnon. With the approval, the single-cross hybrid also became the first of its kind to be approved in West and Central Africa (WCA). Nafagnon yields are up to 45 per cent higher than the popular variety Misari-1. It is more resistant to downy mildew and has higher fodder yield potential.
The Pearl Millet Breeding programme for West and Central Africa of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) developed Nafagnon in Niger and the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) evaluated it in Burkina Faso.
The hybrid’s name means beneficial millet in the Bamanankan language. It is also known as ICRISAT Millet Hybrid (ICMH) 147007. Nafagnon matures early in 80-85 days and has a yield potential of about three tons per hectare; early maturity helps overcome terminal drought stress. It is a dual-purpose (grain and forage) hybrid resistant to downy mildew, the most harmful pearl millet disease in WCA.
The seed size, yield potential, stay-green and earliness of the hybrid are traits highly preferred by farmers and end users in Burkina Faso, where the low yield of pearl millet varieties relative to other cereals is forcing farmers away from one of the best suited crops for Sahel’s harsh agro-ecologies.
Nafagnon is a first-generation cross of two genetically different inbreds. It was evaluated in major pearl millet producing countries of the region over the last three years. The National Seed Committee of Burkina Faso announced Nafagnon’s registration in the National Seed Catalogue, making it the country’s first pearl millet hybrid to be approved and the first single-cross hybrid to be approved in West and Central Africa.
“The first hybrid millets that were tested in West and Central Africa were bred in India. Unfortunately, they were too early maturing and susceptible to downy mildew disease. Learning lessons from those assessments, ICMH 147007 was developed, evaluated and selected in the WCA region,” said Dr. Gangashetty, millet breeder for ICRISAT-WCA, Niger.
“It is well adapted to West African environmental conditions," added Dr. Inoussa Drabo, pearl millet breeder at INERA, who led the evaluation of multiple hybrids and selection, and provided the necessary documentation for the release of Nafiagnon in Burkina Faso.
"Since the 1990s, researchers at national research institutes and research organizations such as the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have been working to obtain millet hybrids,” explained Dr. Issoufou Kapran, Seed System Specialist at ICRISAT-Mali.
INERA’s approach to millet hybrid development and commercialisation in Burkina Faso involves partnerships with farmers and the private sector. Nafagnon was tested by more than 500 farmers and three seed companies - NAFASO, FAGRI and EPAM. “The evaluation of pearl millet hybrids in Burkina Faso was taken up under the AVISA Project,” said Dr. Neya James, national coordinator of the project that is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr. Ladji Sawadogo, a farmer in the village of Balla about 40 km from Bobo Dioulasso, planted Nafagnon along with the local variety on the same day on one hectare of land.
"I am impressed by how fast the hybrid plant grows. Its leaves remain green at maturity and the grains are well formed and filled on the panicles. Not only will my family have enough to eat, but animals will also have enough to feed,” the farmer said.
Following its approval in Burkina Faso, Nafagnon will soon be included in the next seed catalogue of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).