Seed trials to boost food security

The Namibian Agronomic Board and the University of Namibia are conducting seed trials in order to boost local food production.

19 May 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The progress made with white maize and pearl millet seed variety trials being conducted at several research sites in the country was recently assessed.

The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB), in collaboration with the University of Namibia (Unam), held an open day to at the Mashare irrigation project near Rundu assess the preliminary results.

The trials are being conducted at four research sites: Mashare, Unam’s Ogongo Campus, the Zambezi Vocational Training Centre and Unam’s Doringboom experimental farm.

Reliance on imports

The research stems from a needs assessment which identified limited availability of high-yielding seed adapted to Namibian climatic and soil conditions.

The assessment further found that seed is the most important agricultural input and that Namibia imports most seeds - a gap that the current research aims to address.

NAB’s general manager for agronomy and horticulture market development, Gilbert Mulonda, said the trials will boost the government’s efforts in establishing white maize and pearl millet seed varieties that are best suited to Namibia’s climatic conditions and most likely to produce maximum yields to ensure increased food production.

Mahangu and white maize

During the December 2020 to April 2021 growing season, 24 pearl millet seed varieties were received from the International Crop Research Institute’s regional office in Nairobi.

They were planted at the research sites, tested under irrigation for yield and adaptability to Namibian climatic conditions.

Three early-maturing local seed varieties, namely Okashana 2, Kangara and Kantana, were also included.

During the same period, 28 early- and intermediate-maturing white maize hybrid seed varieties were received from the International Maize and Improvement Centre and were similarly tested at all four research sites. One local seed variety and three commercial varieties commonly planted in Namibia were included.

Preliminary findings

According to the NAB, harvesting and final screening of maize and pearl millet varieties planted at the Mashare irrigation scheme and Zambezi Vocational Training Centre is currently under way.

Harvesting at the Doringboom and Ongongo research sites is expected in June.

The top-performing varieties will be recommended for release after the second trials later this year.

During the second trials, the seeds selected at the open day will be tested at more research sites and larger land areas.

The CEO of NAB, Dr Fidelis Mwazi, said seed production for agronomic and horticulture crops remain a key focus area in driving sustainable crop production.

He said the selected seeds to be produced as from 2022 will be increased yearly, packaged and offered to local farmers at affordable prices.

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