ZIMBABWE – International research organization ICRISAT has together with the Pan African Seed Company Seed Co Group developed a new hybrid of white sorghum (great millet) that is high yielding and promises greater resilience to erratic rainfall.

The new invention has a yield potential of up to 8 tonnes per hectare, offering farmers a 25% yield increase over existing varieties.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General of ICRISAT, said the release of this new sorghum hybrid is a significant achievement resulting from innovative research conducted through the Sorghum and Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (SPMHPRC).

“This breakthrough is a prime example of how ICRISAT’s research efforts are contributing to the well-being of farmers and their families across the Continent, to global food and nutritional security, and ultimately, to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“I thank the Seed Co Group and our other partners for this innovation which marks another significant step towards a more resilient and food-secure future for Africa,” said Dr. Hughes.

According to Dr. Gorden Mabuyaye, Head of Global Research & Development at Seed-Co, their collaboration with ICRISAT aims to sell novel and effective seeds.

“Our partnership is making a positive impact on farmers and their incomes and this new hybrid will go a long way in mitigating the effects of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Mabuyaye.

Dr. Hapson Mushoriwa, ICRISAT’s Principal Scientist for Eastern and Southern Africa, added that the new variety matures between 85 to 118 days, has good resistance to common leaf diseases and its strong straw structure helps maintain plant stability, which is necessary for effective and profitable crop production.        

“I am pleased that this new hybrid is well-adapted to the agro-climatic conditions of Zimbabwe and offers a promising solution to sorghum farmers, particularly in those regions with moderate to erratic rainfall patterns,” said Dr. Mushoriwa.

Dr. Rebbie Harawa, ICRISAT’s Regional Director and Country Representative – Kenya, Eastern & Southern Africa, applauded all stakeholders in the development of the hybrid and for their tenacity in managing its multi-environment trials over three successive cropping seasons.

“The SPMHPRC had been a key factor in enabling ICRISAT and its partners to pool their resources and expertise to develop new varieties that are well adapted to the needs of farmers and the market, and this is another example of this success,” said Dr. Harawa.

The African seed company now plans to produce the seed at scale to sell to small-scale farmers from the drylands.

Food innovators in Europe are also interested in sorghum as a less expensive grain alternative that offers dietary advantages and is a climate-resistant crop.

For instance, the UK-based challenger snack company Insane Grain produces sorghum-based puffed snacks that it markets as a “nutritional powerhouse” because of the grain’s high mineral and vitamin content and favorable effects on intestinal health.

To address the continent’s nutritional shortage, the EU-backed InnoFood Africa initiative is also producing gluten-free crackers from African crops including amaranth, sorghum, teff, Bambara groundnut, or cowpea.

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