Zimbabwe develops new bean variety

ZIMBABWE has developed a new variety of bean seed which is expected to improve yields and cut the country’s reliance on imported varieties for canning products.

By Freeman Makopa

The new seed variety was developed by government’s Department of Research and Specialist Services after there were growing concerns over the standard of imported consignments.

According to government data, the bean industry in Zimbabwe imports about 60% of its canning bean variery from Dubai, China, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Malawi.

On a monthly basis, the sector imports 100 tonnes of bean-grain.

“The commercial release of the improved canning bean variety- — protea — its extensive multiplication by seed houses and subsequent utilisation for canning purposes is improving canning bean production at national level,” the Department of Research and Specialist Services principal research economist, Freeman Gutsa, told the NewsDay.

“Canned bean exports are also expected to increase. By the end of that season in 2018, yield levels for participating farmers increased by about 137% from an average of about 1,9 tonnes per hectare to an average 4,5 tonnes per hectare. More farmers are expected to fall for the bean variety because of its ability to produce higher yields, even under stressful conditions,” he said.

Gutsa said local seed companies took up the opportunity and produced certified seeds of the bean variety, which is now being made available to farmers.

“A total of 100kg was given to seed houses, which then produced 5,5 metric tonnes of foundation seeds, which were then multiplied to produce 300 metric tonnes of certified seeds and as we speak, they are still multiplying foundation seeds into the required amount of certified seeds needed to meet the demand,” he said.

“This development will subsequently significantly reduce the canning bean import bill by 95%, saving the country around $1, 4 million annually. Also, navy beans and mesoamerican genepool such as protea are good sources of resistance to diseases such as rust and common bacterial diseases. This reduces costs of production per hectare by eliminating costs associated with chemical applications.”