Mutant crop varieties to be introduced to farmers

18 Apr 2017 20:10pm
WINDHOEK, 18 APR (NAMPA) - A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) will introduce mutant crop varieties that withstand harsh climatic conditions with the benefit of high yields to farmers.
This was revealed at a meeting between these experts here on Tuesday.
MAWF Senior Scientific Officer and project counterpart for Namibia, Dr Lydia Horn said they will have a farmers’ field day on Wednesday at the Omahenene Research Station in Outapi and on Friday at the Mannheim Research Station in Tsumeb.
There they will showcase mutant crop varieties to farmers, after which farmers would select the ones they prefer.
“From those varieties, we will be able to use them as Namibian varieties,” Horn noted.
The research collaboration was initiated between the Government of Namibia and the IAEA under the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) /IAEA Technical Cooperation project NAM5009 which was approved in 2009.
She explained that under this project a selected variety of food security crops such as pearl millet, sorghum, Bambara groundnut and cowpea were subjected to induced mutation techniques through Gamma-rays in Austria.
In her report, Horn said the objective of the project was to apply the mutation breeding technique to develop better yielding and resilient crop varieties against drought and insect pests, amongst others.
“What we did when we got some promising variety is we took the seeds to the farmers from Kavango down to Omusati Region. We selected some constituencies where the crops are planted and the farmers guided us on what they wanted us to plant,” Horn explained.
On her part IAEA Technical Officer, Dr Fatma Sarsu noted that their aim was to develop new crop varieties for drought tolerance because Namibia is one of driest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
That was the reason they decided to first focus on drought tolerant crops, she added.
Sarsu further said the breeding team of MAWF made good progress and candidate mutant varieties were identified, which they want to introduce to farmers.
MAWF Deputy Permanent Secretary, Abraham Nehemia said the whole aim is to do proper research in terms of having proper seeds to be able to produce food in Namibia.
“If you don’t have strong genetic materials than you have a problem and research is the only solution”.
He also mentioned that young people need to be educated on research as they are the future.