The Namibian Agronomic Board and Partners embark on seed variety assessment in Namibia
The Namibian Agronomic Board (NAB) is a statutory regulatory body established in 1985 and it is governed by the Agronomic Industry Act, Act 20 of 1992. NAB is mandated to promote the agronomic and horticulture industry and to facilitate the production, processing, storage and marketing of controlled agronomy and horticulture products in Namibia through regulations. In line with its strategic plan for 2019-2024, seed research and production for agronomic and horticultural crops is one of the major priorities. Seed is the most important input in crop farming, however, the availability of improved quality seed varieties that are adapted to our local climatic conditions is one of the biggest factors that hamper crop productivity in Namibia. Consequently, Namibia is a net importer of both agronomic and horticultural seeds.
In this regard, it is logical for Namibia to accelerate the development of high yielding and adapted varieties. Therefore, the NAB entered into a 5-year partnership with the University of Namibia (UNAM), one of the leading National Research and Development institutions in Namibia, to set up a Crop Improvement Programme (CIP) that is intended to breed for and select high yielding and adapted seed varieties of agronomic and horticultural crops, with priority given to white maize, pearl millet, wheat and potatoes.
Pearl millet (mahangu): During December 2020, 24 elite pearl millet seed varieties were received from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Eastern and Southern African Regional office, Nairobi, Kenya. Planting took place during December 2020 to January 2021 and the varieties were tested for yield and adaptability to local climatic conditions, at Mashare Irrigation Pty Ltd (Kavango East), Zambezi Vocational Training Center (Zambezi), Ogongo UNAM Campus (Omusati) and Dorringboom UNAM Farm (Otjozondjupa). Zambezi trials were tested/conducted under rainfed conditions and all the remaining three research sites were under irrigation. Three local check varieties were included in the trials. Harvesting and final screening of the varieties commenced in mid May 2021.
White maize: During December 2020, 28 early and 28 intermediate maturing white maize hybrid seed varieties were received from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). They were planted in December 2020 to January 2021 and tested in the aforementioned four research sites under irrigation, except the Zambezi site that was under rainfed conditions. One local and three commercial check varieties were included in the trials. Harvesting and final screening of the varieties commenced during mid May 2021, particularly for the early maturing Varieties.
Wheat: In March 2021, 200 bread wheat varieties were received from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and these will be tested in Namibia during the upcoming winter planting season, of which two commercial checks will be included. Planting commenced at the end of May 2021 and the trials will be conducted on five sites; Hardap area, Mannheim Research Station (Tsumeb), Dorringboom UNAM Farm (Otjozondjupa), Mashare Irrigation PTY (Kavango East), and Zambezi Vocational Training Center (Zambezi). Planting is anticipated to be completed by end of May 2021, while harvesting and final screening of the varieties is expected to commence during October and November 2021 respectively.
Potato: During December 2020, NAB and UNAM in collaboration with a French company, Comptoir du Plant, and with assistance from the Namibian Embassy in France, embarked on seed potato variety trials in Namibia at four selected sites, namely; Hochfeld (Otjozondjupa), Guinas (Tsumeb), Tsintsabis (Tsumeb) and Dorringboom UNAM Farm (Otjiwarongo). The trials focused on yield and adaptability of the six French potato seed varieties in the Namibian climatic and soil conditions, and two commercial check varieties commonly grown in Namibia were also included. The six French seed potato varieties were donated to the NAB by Comptoir du Plant, and distributed by the NAB to all the participating Namibian farmers at no cost. The participating farmers conducted trials at their own cost, while NAB was responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of the trials at all the four sites.
Harvesting and final screening of the varieties for the Hochfeld and Guinas sites were conducted during the first week of April 2021. The harvesting and screening at Dorringboom UNAM site will only commence as from early June 2021, due to late planting. In addition, the trial at Tsintsabis site was not fruitful due to heavy rainfall that damaged the crops, and hence no harvest is expected. According to the preliminary outcomes of the trials conducted at Hochfeld and Guinas sites, some French varieties are performing very well when compared to the commercial checks in terms of yield, quality and adaptability, including the sensory evaluation that was also conducted for all the varieties.
In summary, the objective of the seed research trials is to evaluate various varieties of white maize, pearl millet, wheat and potato for high yield and adaptation in the four Namibian production zones and to select the best performersfor commercial production. Top performing varieties which are better than the local and or commercial varieties (checks) will be recommended for release after the second or third trials and official recognition in accordance with the Seed and Seed Varieties Act 23 of 2018 of Namibia.
Thereafter, seed multiplication for commercial purposes will be undertaken in Namibia, for the best performing varieties of white maize, pearl millet and wheat, while in terms of French seed potatoes, top performing varieties will be recommended to farmers for commercial production.