MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA — Nigeria plans to boost its wheat output and cut imports by half by 2017 as farmers ramp up production of two new strains that thrive well in warmer climates, according to the country’s Lake Chad Research Institute as reported by Bloomberg News.

Two wheat varieties released to farmers since 2014 can produce from 3.5 tonnes to 6.5 tonnes per hectare (2.471 acres) and could grow with rain water or irrigation, Oluwasina Olabanji, executive director of the institute based in the Nigerian northeastern city of Maiduguri, said in an e-mailed response to questions on Aug. 24. Previous strains had maximum output per hectare of 4 tonnes for irrigated farms and 2.5 tonnes per hectare for those using rain water.

“I hope that by 2017 our production will hit 1.5 million tonnes and reduce importation by 50%,” said Olabanji. “This is our target and it is achievable. Annual wheat production should grow at 20% from 2017.”

Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country of about 180 million people imported 3.8 million tonnes of wheat in the 2013-14, most of it from the U.S., with demand projected to increase in 2014-15, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Though wheat is a temperate crop, the rain-fed variety grows in highland areas of the West African country, such as Mambilla and Obudu to the east, and Jos Plateau in the center. The crop also thrives with irrigated farming in most of northern Nigeria from mid-November to mid-March, when temperatures are from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Lake Chad Institute.

The institute plans to release two new varieties of wheat with better yields by 2017, said Olabanji. These include an irrigated strain with potential yields of 7 to 8 tonnes per hectare and a rain-fed type that could yield 5 to 6 tonnes per hectare, he said.

Set up in 1975, the research institute has responsibility for the genetic improvement of grains such as wheat, barley and millet.