Seed Co senior maize breeder Dr Lennin Masundire educating farmers on the best varieties to grow in their respective areas during a field day at the company's research station, Rattray Arnold Research Station in Shamva on Tuesday. (Picture by Muchaneta Chimuka)

Seed Co senior maize breeder Dr Lennin Masundire educating farmers on the best varieties to grow in their respective areas during a field day at the company’s research station, Rattray Arnold Research Station in Shamva on Tuesday. (Picture by Muchaneta Chimuka)

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Emilia Zindi: Agriculture Editor

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New maize varieties that are tolerant to drought are on the cards as the country’s leading seed producer Seed Co gears up for climate change which has seriously affected the 2014/15 agricultural season.

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Preliminary assessment of the crops has revealed that more than 300 000 hectares of crops were now a right off with government already putting in place measures to curb hunger by way of grain importation.

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Seed Co managing director Mr Denias Zaranyika said his company would soon release 200 series maize variety which take only 90 days to mature.

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Speaking at a Communal Field Day held at the company’s research station in Shamva yesterday, Mr Zaranyika said the company’s solutions were to circumvent effects of global warming that have taken toll with most countries in the region facing serious drought this season.

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“Seed Co is working towards releasing 200 series that mature in less than 90 days which are also water use efficient, nitrogen use among other characteristics,’’ he said.

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The varieties are SC301, SC529, and SC643. The SC301 is drought tolerant and ultra early as well as high grain yield. Other varieties are SC727 whose yield is up to 18 tonnes per hectare if all is applied thereby becoming the highest yielding hybrid seed maize in Africa while SC637 weighs in at around 17,5 tonnes respectively.

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He said his company would continue putting emphasis on breeding of small grains as well to ensure food security at household level. These crops assist in crop rotation in the fields especially leguminous like sugar beans and cow peas which release nitrogen in the soil.

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In that area, the company was also in the process of developing hybrid sorghum which is of high yield and tolerant to abiotic and biotic stress. This would be the first hybrid sorghum variety in Africa.

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“Seed breeders are working tirelessly to breed and identify varieties within our basket that are nitrogen use efficient as we have realized that our farmers are unable to afford the required nutrients per given area due to high cost of fertilizer,’’ he said.

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He said with the release of these varieties on the market, the challenge was now on farmers to complement the researchers’ and breeders efforts by increasing productivity to ensure that Zimbabwe attains its bread basket of Southern Africa status.

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Farmers were also urged to work closely with agricultural extension workers and other stakeholders in making sure that the state of the country’s soils were still fertile.

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“In the event that the soils are not as fertile as expected, we recommend that farmers apply lime so that our soils have the requisite levels of nourishment. Without doubt, lime serves the same purpose as oil to any machinery, otherwise we may be wasting our resources in unproductive ventures,’’ said Mr Zaranyika.

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Farmers were also urged to observe the basics in terms of crop management. In this respect issues like crop rotation, weeding and naturally the application of fertiliser were an important facet of farming operations if yields were to increase.

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It was equally critical for farmers to grow suitable varieties for their respective agro-ecological regions as these were one way to improve production levels.

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The field day which has become an annual event at the company’s research station draws communal farmers across the country as they get the opportunity to get free agronomist advice from Seed Co’s employees while the farmers also give feedback on the performance of the company’s varieties.

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