Targeting aflatoxins in maize

A maize farmer happily showing a tub of Aflasafe before applying it in his field. Photo by R. Bandyopadhyay. IITA






A maize farmer happily showing a tub of Aflasafe before applying it in his field. Photo by R. Bandyopadhyay. IITA


Farmers in Nigeria participating in the biocontrol of aflatoxins using Aflasafe™— a fungus-based biocontrol product developed by IITA— say the quality of their maize grains has significantly improved after the product's application in their fields.

Produced mainly by the fungus Aspergillus flavus in maize, groundnuts, cassava, and yam chips, aflatoxins are potent causes of cancer and they also suppress the immune system causing humans and animals (through feeds) to be more susceptible to diseases.

Economically, high levels of aflatoxins contamination in agricultural products act as international trade barriers with global trade losses estimated at US$1.2 billion annually.

The trials, which are being conducted on about 85 hectares of farmlands across Nigeria, are coordinated by the Kaduna State Agriculture Development Program and funded by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and European Union’s MycoRed project.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) see the improvement in grain quality as a welcome development. It adds that reducing aflatoxins in grains will benefit the country in many ways including improved health and incomes.

“With the application of Aflasafe™, my maize cobs are cleaner," attested Christie Kpatuwak, a maize farmer in Kaduna State, who is among many that are participating in the field testing of Aflasafe™.

Another farmer, Sanusi Liman of Zaria, adds: “Since the application of Aflasafe™, the quality of my maize have really improved, with cleaner seeds. The seeds do not have disease on them as before.”

“We are impressed with the results on the field and a final analysis is under way. A reduction in aflatoxin contamination means better food and health for the farmers,” says Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist, who is leading the trials.

Aflasafe™ was developed by IITA in partnership with the Agriculture Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Ibadan. The product contains non-toxic strains of the A. flavus fungus commonly found in Nigeria. Aflasafe™ is a registered trademark of IITA. - IITA

Article courtesy © IITA

September 2009