As Africans, not all of us are lucky enough to farm close to the equator where rainwater is in abundance. The further we move away from the centre line of the earth, the bigger the risks and the tougher it becomes to plan our farming operations ahead, since rainfall can stay away for inconvenient long periods; not to mention the heat waves, droughts and other extreme weather patterns. 90% of African farmers rely solely on rainfall to irrigate their crops.
Luckily for African farmers, a few organisations came together in 2013 to launch the WEMA (Water Efficient Maize for Africa) project. A few countries around Zambia, like Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania, bought into project. Organisations like the AATF (African Agricultural Technology Foundation), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Howard G Buff et Foundation, USAID (US Agency for International Development), ARC (Agricultural Research Council in South Africa), CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) and Monsanto combined their resources to develop an amazing maize hybrid. This product is royalty-free and is distributed at a low cost to the farmers in Sub Sahara Africa.
The Drought TEGO™ hybrid was launched during the 2014/2015 planting season. It is drought-tolerant in the sense that it uses rainwater more efficiently, can last longer between rain bursts and is more resistant to pests and low nitrogen levels in the soil. Another positive spin-off is the bigger cobs which mean more tonnage per hectare and more bang for your buck.
The breeders used both conventional and biotechnology to develop the seed and more than 90 conventional DroughtTEGO™ varieties have been approved for commercial release in the participating countries. DroughtTEGO™ hybrids have proven to off er 20 to 35 percent more grain under moderate drought conditions compared to other traditionally planted seeds.
We should rethink biotechnology. The weather keeps on changing and we have to put our scientific abilities to the test to survive as a human species.
The end of the year is upon us, but your ProAgri edition for this month is packed with holiday reading material. We share important points to heed when you buy a second-hand tractor and Novatek, Bonnox and Dairy Board are once again showing how they improve the livestock industry.
Du Preez de Villiers – email@example.com
Read ProAgri Zambia 036 here: ProAgri Zambia Issue 036