Remarkable Plant Varieties Developed for Africa
Researchers at UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) and Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) have released two new advanced sorghum pure lines (TARISOR1 and TARISOR2), which have been nominated and posted on the Southern Africa Plant Breeders Association (SAPBA) Wall of Fame.
‘Varieties posted on the SAPBA Wall of Fame are trendsetters in their specific market,’ said Dr Marike Visser on behalf of the SAPBA Executive Committee. The seeds of the two varieties are now under commercialisation in western Tanzania.
The project was financially supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Technology Innovation Agency (South Africa). The principal investigators were ACCI Deputy Director Professor Shimelis Hussein and Dr Emmanuel Mrema of the TARI. UKZN Emeritus Professor Mark Laing was a co-investigator.
Laing explained that a parasitic weed known by its genus name, Striga, is one of the major biotic constraints limiting production and productivity in Africa in cereal crops, with yield losses of 30 to 90% being reported. The research team used a combination of partial resistance in the host crop and a biological control agent, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp strigae (FOS) to screen many sorghum genotypes. They rigorously evaluated these under controlled and field conditions in Tanzania and Ethiopia using Striga infested field soils, with or without inoculation of the sorghum seeds with FOS.
The team found that inoculation of sorghum seeds with FOS significantly enhanced sorghum growth and productivity, suppressed Striga growth and developed FOS compatible sorghum genotypes.
Promising lines were selected, controlled crosses were done and studies such as those combining ability tests, generation mean analysis and maximum germination distances were used to determine potential parents and families with farmers’ preferred traits, FOS compatibility and Striga resistance.
The new sorghum varieties, TARISOR1 and TARISOR2 have been approved and registered through the Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI) agency and seed multiplication and commercialisation has commenced. Interest from farmers has been high as the seeds carry all the traits required, such as Striga resistance, FOS compatibility, grain quality, high yield and tall stems.
The released sorghum will be used for food and brewing and the new varieties will be registered in southern African countries.
Words: Sally Frost