Over the years, many wild plants have been domesticated through the activities of man to ensure its survival. Maize, a staple food crop used in most Ghanaian homes for the preparation of local delicacies such as banku, tuo zaafi, kenkey, aprapransa and porridge, existed in the wild as teosinte. Domestication of teosinte, which has only a few grains, resulted in the modern maize with hundreds of grains. This was achieved by saving the cobs that had more grains and planting those in the next season, in the hope that the plants will bear more grains.
The culture of saving the best seeds for the next planting seasons by farmers has been a practice since then. Gone are the days when farmers will select the best maize considering factors such as higher yields, resistant to pest and disease, uniformity of grain, size, drought resistant etc and save the maize cob by hanging it very close to a cooking fire in an ancient kitchen popularly known in Ghana as “mukaase” by the akans.
During the process of cooking a meal, the heat and smoke that emerges from the burning firewood penetrate to keep grains free from insects and pest infestation and preserve the grain for the next planting season with the hope of obtaining good yields. But that is not the case most of the time as there is a decrease in resilience and the seed loses its viability over a period.
This is as a result of the challenges that comes with traditional ways of storing seeds by many farming communities. The limited protection of these traditional storage against fungal growth, insect and rodent damage may render the seeds inferior influenced by temperature and humidity.
Planting seeds that were carefully selected from the previous season with traits such as high yielding, drought resistant, pest and disease resistant is unlikely to exhibit same traits as seed losses its vigor and increases its susceptibility to pest and diseases.
In this era of technological advancement, one of such tools that can be deployed to curb the challenges farmers encounter in ensuring food security is agricultural biotechnology.
Unfortunately, it has become the last resort in the improvement of crops when all other techniques have been exhausted.
In ensuring the maintenance of a good harvest amid the realities of climate change, availability of arable land, increased susceptibility of pest and diseases among other factors, improved varieties should be vouched for as it promises food security.