As of February 2016, researchers in Nigeria developed two new varieties of sorghum with three times more iron content. Eva Weltzien Ratttunde and Henry Frederick Weltzien Rattunde while working in a joint research project in Nigeria were able to develop two enhanced strains of sorghum with potentially high nutritional value. This will be a boost for Nigerian farmers as well as malnourished populations within the country. It is estimated that both varieties would produce double yields within equally shorter duration than current seeds.
One of the new varieties – 12KNICSV-188, Improved Deko – is naturally bio-fortified and has three times iron content than existing typically grown sorghum at 129ppm compared to 40ppm. Both varieties are drought resistant with average yields of 2.4 to 2.8t/ha, compared to the less than 1 ton per hectare from local varieties. This means that they can withstand drought and adverse conditions and will be much more economically viable for farmers and better health for the low income population.
With improved open pollination, these new varieties were developed by a team of scientists in the Nigerian national system and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
The 12KNICSV-188 can overcome long periods of drought prevalent in the Sudan and Sahel regions of Nigeria ecosystem. While they mature early with 50% flowering in 67 days against the 90 days of average varieties, they are expected to be used in tough conditions.
The newly improved sorghum varieties are found to withstand the deadly striga weed and thrive very well with or without these weeds surrounding them.
The Nigerian government has approved these varieties through the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds and Fisheries.
In order to produce these fortified varieties of sorghum, the local Nigerian germplasm or seeds were cross bred with improved seeds from ICRISAT’s collection in Mali. The first variety, the 12KNICSV-188 also known as SAMSORG 45 has much higher iron content and yield than the second improved variety, the 12KNICSV-22 also known as SAMSORG 46. These two grains while improved also retain desirable features such as bold traits and white color grains as preferred by farmers and markets.
ICRISAT Nigeria team has acknowledged the efforts of former ICRISAT scientists Eva Weltzien Rattunde and Henry Frederick Weltzien Rattunde for their contributions towards the development of these two improved sorghum varieties.
The development project was a combined research efforts of the Nigerian Sorghum Value Chain, Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program (ATASP-1) and the HarvestPlus, USA