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New Crop Varieties Unveiled

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Jeff Andrew Lule

New, enhanced crop varieties have been unveiled by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to boost productivity in the livestock and agricultural subsectors.

Two fodder fast growing and drought-resistant, types unveiled can increase the yield of milk and beef for cattle according to the researchers.

Others developed are rice, maize and sweet potato varieties, the NARO Director General, Yona Baguma revealed on Monday.

“The new rice variety is the latest of the aromatic varieties in Uganda,” he added.

The newly developed sweet potato variety has a high yield potential of more than 36 tons per hectare, matures relatively early, and is resistant to a number of different potato diseases, whereas the new maize varieties are unique in terms of high resilience, high yields, and regard to disease and pest resistance.

The varieties were unveiled and released at the 44th World Food Day, at the National Coffee Research Institute (NaCRI) in Kutusa Cell, Mukono district under the theme: “Water is Life, Water is Food, Leave no one behind”.  

Dignitaries from the World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), European Union (EU), and other various agricultural organizations attended the event.

“As we continue to innovate for the transformation of agriculture we keep on improving in the four main subsectors of: crops, forestry, fisheries, and livestock, focusing on the four “Fs” (food, feed, fuel, and fiber).”

“We have aligned our research to contribute to the principle areas of agro-industrialization in efforts to increase the total export value of processed products, increase labour productivity, increase the number of jobs, and increase the total proportion of households that are food security,” the NARO Director General added.

He emphasized that NARO’s development of a total of 10 wilt-resistant cultivars, which helped to raise coffee yields from 1.5 tonnes per hectare to 3.9 tonnes, contributed to the country’s total export value of products.

NARO through Rwebitaba Zonal Agricultural Research and Development, was also able to de-identify five commercial tea varieties that will significantly improve the tea sub-sector.

Baguma emphasized that NARO has also been successful in using biological control agents to manage water hyacinths in the national waterways like Lake Victoria, which has increased fish yields and contributed to the vital sub-sector of the nation’s economy.

Apart from developing highly nutritious, drought-tolerant pastures, NARO has also developed anti-tick vaccines and other goods, such as vaccines for the African swine fever and the Foot and Mouth disease (FMD).

Baguma claimed that NARO has also been successful in promoting 45 widely resistant maize varieties, including the well-known “Bazooka” type that is sweeping the nation.

Additionally, they have been successful in promoting 25 widely adapted superior high-yielding rice cultivars, such as WR-73 and NARO Rice-14.

 “These great varieties can yield between 4.5tonnes to 6.5tonnes per hectare compared to previous varieties that were yielding merely just 1.2tonnes per hectare. This has helped the country to move towards rice self-sufficiency in the country,” he noted.

Research in wheat

Baguma revealed that NARO scientists are making progress in developing varieties of burley and wheat.

“This work is being done at Buginyanya, in Bulamburi district and we hope when we finally make a breakthrough, we shall save the country on the importation of wheat and barley products,” he noted.

NARO has also developed a number of varieties of sorghum that are suitable for the breweries industry SESO-1 and NARO Sorghum-1.

“We have moved ahead to sign agreements of understanding with breweries, Uganda Breweries Limited, and Nile Breweries to integrate these in the production line of producing these exciting products for many Ugandans,” he added.

Towards the increasing proportion of households that are food secure, NARO has a record of 289 released crop varieties.

“All these 289 crop varieties are what have contributed to the food security of this country, increased economic and incomes of farmers, and the country. I notably wish to reintroduce to you the banana, cassava, sweet potato, maize and bean varieties,” he noted.

He noted that most importantly, the varieties are high in the most required nutrients, citing the seven bean varieties which are high in iron, while the potato varieties have pro-vitamin A levels of between five and 11.3 parts per million.

Need more funding

Baguma emphasized that while financing is now at sh166b yearly, the NARO strategic plan calls for a funding level of sh300 billion annually.

 “We are having a gap of sh144b annually. We believe if we are given that resource, we should be able to continue generating new technologies and generations to contribute to improved agriculture in this country,” he noted.

Open up idle land

The Minister of agriculture, Frank Tumwebaze commended the work done by NARO researchers to transform agriculture, saying that such achievement deserves national accolade. 

“Give us the names of those scientists behind the enablement of our food system so that we can forward their names to the medal awards committee,” he noted.

He called for more innovation among Ugandans to develop and apply technologies aimed at increasing food volumes and milk for export and local consumption.

Food is essential for achieving sustainable development, according to FAO Uganda Country Representative Antonio Querido, but it is impossible to produce enough food without water.

“In Uganda, we continue to protect the water ecosystems and the aquatic food systems from the impact of the climate crisis, while ensuring people equally access water in a complex journey,” he noted.

He noted that about 70% of the freshwater goes to agriculture, changing the way “we produce our food”.

He said there is a need to invest in innovative efficient water technologies including irrigation, and storage technologies among others to build a resilient society.

NARO

This agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) coordinates and oversees all aspects of public-funded agricultural research in Uganda.

Established in 2005, NARO comprises 16 Public Agricultural Research Institutes (PARIs) spread across the country.

NARO is mandated to undertake research in all aspects of agriculture including crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, agro-machinery, natural resources and socio-economics.

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