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January 24, 2011

Better soybean varieties offer African farmers more opportunities

Malawi and Nigeria have released new improved soybean varieties to increase the production of the legume.
The three varieties, one in Malawi and two in Nigeria, outperformed the popular varieties being grown in the two countries during on-station and on-farm trials.

Soybean  is an inexpensive source of protein and is being increasingly used for animal feed, food and as a raw material for producing high-quality protein products. The plant also improves soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. smile.

 The varieties were developed by the International Institute of Tropical of Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with the Malawian Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) and the Nigerian National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI).

The Malawi Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee (ATCC) officially approved the release of the variety TGx 1740-2F on 18 January 2011 while the Nigeria Varietal Release Committee released TGx 1987-10F and TGx 1987-62F on 2 December 2010.

According to Hailu Tefera, IITA Soybean Breeder based in Malawi, the varieties consistently did better than the standard and local checks, giving high grain yield in multiple locations under on-station and on-farm trials.

In Nigeria the two medium maturing varieties proved highly resistant to rust, bacterial blight and cercospora leaf diseases. The varieties are preferred by many farmers because they smoother weeds and reduce the cost of weeding. Farmers that participated in the on-farm trials of the varieties said they preferred them especially for their golden color at maturity.

In Malawi, TGx 1740-2F exceeded the grain variety Nasoko and the widely grown promiscuous variety Magoye which were used as checks by 10% and 32% respectively during the two-year multi-location on-station trials with a mean grain yield of 2464 kg/ha.

The variety performed equally well during on-farm participatory variety selection trials in four districts of central Malawi. In 2009/10 season, it out-yielded all the new types of soybean varieties under testing by giving 2248 kg/ha. It also surpassedNasoko and Magoye by 15% and 38%, respectively.

“Farmers had many reasons for falling in love with this variety: it matures early, has more pods per plant up to the top of the plant, performs well under poor and erratic rainfall, and has better lodging resistance. This means it remains standing upright for the better part of its growth and maturity.” says Tefera. “It is a big milestone for IITA as this is the first time that an IITA developed promiscuous soybean variety is released in Malawi,” he adds.

Promiscuous legume varieties work with the wide range of nitrogen-fixing bacteria - they capture the nitrogen in the air and make it available to the plants - in the soil while the non-promiscuous ones are selective and need specific strains which, if not present have to be introduced through inoculation. They are important for boosting productivity in Africa where poor soils are common and fertilizers are out of reach for many small-holder farmers.

The two countries are among the top five producers of the crop in Africa with Nigeria being the first and Malawi the fifth after South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The development of these varieties serves as a boost to African nations as they strive to attain the Millennium Development Goal number one, which seeks to reduce hunger and poverty.


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