Farmer perceptions and the agronomic potential of provitamin A-biofortified maize on small holder farming systems of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Zuma, Mthokozisi Kwazi.
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Pro-vitamin A biofortified maize (PVABM) has the potential to reduce Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) for the vulnerable groups of Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). It is therefore important to understand the willingness of farmers to incorporate PVABM into their farming systems and the agronomic potential of these varieties under different environmental conditions to motivate their introduction in smallholder farming systems. The objectives of the study were to (i) determine smallholder farmer perception of the incorporation of PVABM in in two distinctly different climatic regions of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, (ii) evaluate production potential and selected seed quality characteristics of PVABM compared with common maize varieties across two seasons (2015/16 and 2016/17) and (iii) access the potential acceptability of PVABM as part of traditional household diet by smallholder farmers. Results showed that farmers have positive perceptions of the incorporation of PVABM into their farming systems and there was a willingness to adopt these varieties. With respect to seed quality, although there were no significant pro-germination characteristics as determined by tetrazolium test for metabolic activity, PVABM showed better germination vigour index and final germination. Germination performance was significantly correlated with crop establishment during field trials over both seasons. This was shown by highly significant differences observed for plant growth and chlorophyll content index in both study areas across two seasons. However, the study showed no significant differences in biomass and grain yield. Sensory evaluation showed that PVABM traditional foods (green mealies and cooked maize meal) were accepted for consumption and the farmers expressed the willingness to consume PVABM in their diets. The study indicated that PVABM can be accepted by farmers into farming systems. It is recommended that plant breeding to identify genetic differences and potential to improve PVABM for a wide range of agro-ecological conditions in regions where poor smallholder farmers grow maize is performed with a view to improve food security.