New Soya varieties to spur business growth in Malawi

Chief Agriculture Research Scientist on legumes in the Department for Agriculture Research Services (DARS), Laurent Pungulani has said new soya varieties being tried in the country under the Pan African Soybean Variety Program will help stimulate growth in the sector.

New soys varieties at Chitedze
Participants admire soya varieties at Chitedze

Pungulani was speaking at Chitedze Research Station on Thursday when the institution hosted an open day aimed at sharing notes with breeders, processors, researchers and farmers on progress.

The open day was organized by USAID-Feed the Future Malawi Ag Diversifcation Activity (AgDiv) and the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) to share notes with stakeholders on how the soy seed trials are going.

Pungulani said the trials, involving 36 varieties from countries such as Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, were showing excellent results with new varieties set to be released by next year.

“Malawi relies on sybean for processing of oils and other important products and the demand is high. For us to satisfy needs of farmers and processors, we need more varieties that are more yielding,” Pungulani said.

He said the soya variety trials were therefore necessary to provide choice to farmers and help improve productivity.

Among other specifics, researchers are looking at varieties that yield more and are resistant to pests and diseases.

Malawi has only three soy varieties: Nasoko, Tikolole, and Makwacha. This limits farmers’ choice of varieties that best suit their needs and agricultural ecological zones.

The African Seed Access Index observes that Malawi has been using the three varieties for close to 20 years (since the year 2000) – a sign of a stagnant sector.

Yamikani Jasi, project manager for one of the country’s leading soybean processors – Sunseed Oil said new varieties will ensure that farmers harvest more while processors have access to soybean that is commercially viable.

Jasi said Malawi’s overdependence on three varieties for too many years had restricted farmers’ options while denying processors a source for profitable raw material.

“The sector needs varieties with desirable oil and protein content and this calls for options for farmers to grow varieties the market demands,” said Jasi.

AgDiv and SIL are fast tracking the introduction of new, improved tropically-adapted soybean varieties into the soy value chain.

This is being done through collaboration and partnerships with, among others, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Malawian Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), and the private sector.

The trials started in the 2017-2018 summer season with 36 soy varieties from five African countries (Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) being evaluated at various Government sites – Chitedze in Lilongwe, Chitala in Salima, Bvumbwe in Thyolo and Baka in Karonga.

Some trials were implemented at three private cooperators namely; Alliance One tobacco farm in Kasungu, Good nature Agro and Horizon Farm. At least five performing varieties will be recommended for adoption.

AgDiv Chief of Party, Carl Larkins of Paladium, urged stakeholders – who included seed breeders, processors, farmers and government agencies, to collectively take results of the research and scale up their adoption once high performing varieties have been released by DARS.

The open day was attended by over 120 people representing various levels of the soy value chain, including seed breeders and scientists, seed producers, processors and farmers.

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