Improving Crops

Increasing cowpea productivity in sub-Saharan Africa

The use of chemical fertilizers is a simple and quick method to enhance plant nutrients in the soil. However, in rural areas of Africa, the prices of chemical fertilizers are usually twice the international prices making them unaffordable for most farmers. In addition, there are many places where farmers do not have access to chemical fertilizers due to the inadequate infrastructure and difficult economic conditions.

Multiple stress tolerant soybean varieties on the horizon

Developing high-yielding, multiple stress tolerant soybean varieties through multidisciplinary partnerships is at the core of IITA’s soybean breeding program. The specific objectives include: (i) developing well coordinated and characterized soybean trait pipelines that include drought tolerance, rust resistance, phosphorus use efficiency, and high biological nitrogen fixation (BNF); (ii)accelerating cultivar development pipelines by putting together the must-win traits; (iii) establishing an effective breeding management and bioinformatics database for soybean; and (v) capacity and capability building through training postgraduate students and mentorship of breeders in the national agricultural research systems (NARS).

Mapping the white Guinea yam to speed up breeding

However, despite its value and critical role in both food security and income generation for smallholder farmers, its cost of production is much higher than other crops in the region. It has high labor requirements—land preparation, planting, staking, weed control, and harvesting.  In addition, farmers must save up to one-third of their harvested crop as seed for planting in the next season. Yam is also highly vulnerable to a plethora of pests and diseases as well as population pressure and climate change; and its growing demand has driven cultivation of this crop onto less fertile land.

First-ever Tanzanian Mchare banana hybrids produced

In the regions of Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Mbeya these bananas can provide up to 30% of the caloric intake, bringing a premium price in the local markets. However, Mchare growers face serious obstacles as these bananas are susceptible to almost every major disease and pest of banana in Africa, as well as being particularly vulnerable to a new strain of Fusarium that has been reported in Mozambique.

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