Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial Program Scaling to 21 Countries
The Soybean Innovation Lab has identified the limited quantity and poor quality of soybean varieties available to farmers as a main reason for low yields across the African continent. Under the leadership of SIL’s soybean breeding team, Dr. Brian Diers and Dr. Michelle da Fonseca Santos, the Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial (PAT) program is scaling to 21 countries across 80 locations this year. Dr. Santos joined the SIL team in 2018 from Uberlânia, Brazil and has been critical to the growth and success of the PAT program that started in just 4 countries in 2016.
The PATs fast-track the introduction and testing of commercial soybean varieties sourced from across Africa, the U.S., Australia, and Latin America to provide the private sector, farmers, and processors with access to a broader selection of seed than what is currently available. Four high-performing soybean varieties have already been registered and are accessible to farmers in Uganda and Ghana as a result of the research and findings from the PATs. An additional 27 soybean varieties are in the process of being registered in Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria.
In Malawi, the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), under the coordination of PAT operator Florence Kamwana Ngwira, is in the process of registering and commercializing a high-performing soybean variety that originated from IITA in Zambia. The current highest producing commercial variety in Malawi is Tikolore, meaning “let us harvest.” Tikolore, not officially released until 2011, has been the go-to soybean variety in Malawi for almost 20 years. Finding several varieties that out-performed Tikolore through the PATs was a significant achievement for the advancement of soybean development in Malawi.
The PATs in Cameroon, managed by Dr. Christopher Suh with the Institute of Agricultural Research Institute (IRAD), have identified a high-yielding soybean variety originating from private-sector partner Semillas Panorama in Colombia. This, along with 9 other varieties from Zimbabwe, Ghana, Uganda, and Zambia were selected to be registered in Cameroon upon the successful on-station and on-farm trials that are expected to be completed before 2021.
The agronomic data generated from the PATs in Uganda supported the identification of three new high-performing soybean lines from SIL’s private sector partner, Seed Co. in Zimbabwe. In November of 2019, these became the first private-sector soybean varieties to be registered in Uganda and are now available to farmers across the country.
SIL partner IITA in Nigeria has selected 10 high-performing PAT lines from Uganda, Colombia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia to test in multiple-location trials over the next 2 years, as is the requirement for registration in Nigeria. If successful, the potential to register 10 new soybean varieties in Nigeria at once could prove to be a very lucrative investment for private-sector partners interested in supporting these efforts.
SIL partner Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in Kenya has begun the process to register an EMBRAPA soybean variety from Brazil that performed well across various PAT locations in Kenya. Likewise, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) will also be registering a variety in Ethiopia originating from the University of Tennessee in the United States.
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