By Taonga Sabola:
The International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) has released three improved sorghum varieties.
The varieties are Pilira Three, Pilira Four and Pilira Five.
Icrisat Country Representative for Malawi, Patrick Okori, said the release of the varieties follows clearance by the Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee (ATCC), under Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
The varieties will replace Pilira One and Pilira Two, which are the major sorghum varieties in the country.
“As farmers diversify their production systems in the face of climate variability to meet their needs for food and household income, agricultural research must take a pivotal role to identify technologies that can improve farmer productivity,” Okori said.
He said Icrisat is replacing old varieties as they are not copping with the current climatic conditions, leading to a significant decline in yields potential from three tonnes per hectare, at time of release, to an average of two tonnes per hectare.
Okori said the three varieties have potential of producing four tonnes per hectare.
He said the new varieties are also tolerant to Grey leaf spot and rust, which are common problems faced by sorghum farmers in Malawi.
“The new varieties have been released after extensive trials for ecological adaptability and farmer preference conducted by Icrisat – Malawi with backstopping from its Regional Office in Nairobi— Kenya, and in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Research Services. These trials were conducted within a period of three years (2015/16, 2016/2017 and 2017/18 cropping seasons),” Okori said.
Irish Aid funded the trial process to the release of the varieties through the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project.
Led by Icrisat, the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project aims to improve legume and cereal seed systems and complementary agricultural innovations to catalyse productivity improvement and associated social benefits of improved food, nutrition and income to smallholder farmers.
Other key players in the project consortium include the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, the Department of Agricultural Research Services, the Department of Agricultural Extension Services and the Legumes Development Trust.