Incorporating male sterility increases hybrid maize yield in low input African farming systems
Maize is a staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa, but yields remain sub-optimal. Improved breeding and seed systems are vital to increase productivity. We describe a hybrid seed production technology that will benefit seed companies and farmers. This technology improves efficiency and integrity of seed production by removing the need for detasseling. The resulting hybrids segregate 1:1 for pollen production, conserving resources for grain production and conferring a 200 kg ha−1 benefit across a range of yield levels. This represents a 10% increase for farmers operating at national average yield levels in sub-Saharan Africa. The yield benefit provided by fifty-percent non-pollen producing hybrids is the first example of a single gene technology in maize conferring a yield increase of this magnitude under low-input smallholder farmer conditions and across an array of hybrid backgrounds. Benefits to seed companies will provide incentives to improve smallholder farmer access to higher quality seed. Demonstrated farmer preference for these hybrids will help drive their adoption.