Maize is the second most important food crop in Nepal, after rice. It contributes approximately 25 percent of Nepal’s food basket and occupies around 26 percent of the total cropped area. Maize productivity (2.3 tons per hectare) in Nepal is still quite low compared to the global average of 5.5 tons per hectare (t/ha).
Growing demand from Nepal’s poultry industry cannot be met by growing only open-pollinated varieties. Because of their high productivity, quality and profitability, higher-yielding hybrids have become increasingly popular among farmers. However, most maize hybrids are only approved for sale and cultivation in the central and eastern Terai, east of the Narayani River. To meet market demand, farmers in many areas, especially in western Nepal, sometimes purchase non-approved hybrid seeds. These hybrid seeds are not registered at Nepal’s Seed Quality Control Centre and are traded through informal channels.
Not wishing to risk a government penalty for violating the seed policy, traders have not distributed many high-performing hybrids, thereby restricting their local production, fair distribution and widespread availability, which could benefit many farmers in Nepal. Of the estimated 2,500 tons of hybrid maize grown in Nepal annually, only 1,000 tons are registered hybrids.
In 2014 and 2015, the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and Nepal’s National Maize Research Program (NMRP) partnered to evaluate maize hybrids in six additional districts (Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Surkhet and Dadeldhura) in western Nepal. Trials were conducted in spring in the Terai and in summer in the mid-hills; they were monitored by a team of NMRP stakeholders. Performance data for variety release and registration were shared with Nepal’s National Seed Board (NSB).
Of the ten hybrids evaluated, four (TX 369, Bioseed 9220, Rajkumar and Nutan) were found to be agronomically superior, producing more than 6 t/ha. They also had tight husk cover, which provides moderate resistance to northern leaf blight and grey leaf spot. Based on the evaluation results, the NSB has registered and approved the four hybrid varieties for sale in western Nepal.
Highlighting the need to increase farmers’ access to registered hybrids, Dilaram Bhandari, NSB member and Director of the Crop Development Directorate of Nepal’s Department of Agriculture, said, “We have to adopt this modality for other hybrids as well, since new hybrids expand outside the recommendation domains quite frequently.”