Aug 29 , 2020

The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research has availed 28 new improved varieties of grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses and oilseeds, which are five to 10pc more productive compared to the seeds currently being used.

The Institute, which has been conducting research on yield gaps and adaptability for the past six years, released these hybrid seeds whose main features centre on productivity, quality and adaptability. The improved seeds passed through five evaluation stages: pre-trial, trial, extension trial, verification trial and national variety trial.

These seeds were tested to be adaptive and productive in lowland, midland and highland ecology, as well as in warmer and cooler agro-climatic areas.

They sowed six to nine times to check that the varieties met the desired results, according to Taye Tadesse (PhD), crop research director at the Institute.

"The seeds will also be a competent, effective and suitable input to agro-processing industries, the export market, food and nutrition enhancement," he said.

The Institute released five grains: wheat, barley, maize, sweet corn and teff; three pulses: bean, chickpeas and cowpeas: and three oilseed varieties. It also produced five vegetable varieties, two cotton hybrid seeds, one teffhybrid seed, and two-finger millet varieties.

The wheat varieties will be critical in filling the yield and ecological gaps, according to Taye.

"Wheat is one of the most critical crops in food security," he said. "Ultimately, seed improvements reduce poverty and ensure food security."

The barley seeds, one of which is for malt, focuses on tech-led industrial quality and quantity by partnering with breweries and other facilitators. The maize and sweet corn varieties are the most advanced in terms of yield, accounting for 12pc to 15pc increases in productivity.

“This is because maize is genetically more productive than other seeds,” said Taye.

However, all the released improved seeds are at least 10pc or more productive than the existing seeds, except for teff, according to Mandefro Neguse (PhD), state minister for Agriculture.

“The teffseed is only five percent more productive, because it is genetically less productive than other seeds,” said Mandefro.

The Institute plans to supply the seeds to farmers in the form of a pilot test through pre-extension and extension projects.

The Ministry of Agriculture, for its part, will be introducing the improved seeds to farmers and multiplying them in cooperation with public and private breeding enterprises, according to Mandefro.

“We're also initiating agricultural clusters in Arsi, Bale, Shewa, Gojjam, Raya, Hararghe, and others for seed multiplication and productivity increases,” he said. “There is a high demand for improved seeds from farmers.”

The country needs improved varieties because of its location, according to Jemal Abdulahi (PhD), assistant professor of plant science at Haramaya University.

"As it is located around the equator, it has various soil types, climatic conditions and topographies," he said. "This makes it more susceptible to crop diseases, pests and weeds."

Farmers should work with the inputs they are using like seeds, fertiliser and soil types properly to increase their production, recommended the expert.

“Sowing improved seeds without implementing this package accordingly will be in vain," said Jemal, who thinks that the government should also provide farmers with different types of fertiliser.

"There are various types that are suited for different soils across the country," he said. “The farmers have difficulty getting other fertilisers than urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP)."

The performance of the new varieties should also be followed up on by the farmers and government agencies, he added.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 29,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1061]

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