Wednesday March 9 2016

Naro makes breakthrough on sorghum

Dr Michael Ugen, the director of research,

Dr Michael Ugen, the director of research, NaSARRI (middle) with Jonnie Ebiyau, a research officer, inspect a field of sorghum varieties in Mayuge District. PHOTO BY UMAR KYEYUNE 

By Umar Kyeyune

National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) has developed five sorghum types that are tolerant to Striga and drought.

This was revealed by Dr. Michael Ugen, director of research, NaSARRI, while meeting farmers in Mayuge and Namatumba districts during a participatory sorghum variety selection exercise.

Striga and drought are key production constraints in sorghum production with a potential to cause up to 100 per cent yield loss in sorghum particularly in the north, north-eastern and eastern Uganda where sorghum production is prominent.
The two constraints to production are highly reinforced by low soil fertility and weather variability.
“Climate change has highly affected sorghum production in many parts of the country but this breakthrough is a ray of hope to Uganda’s Sorghum farmers”, said Dr Ugen.
The candidate varieties are earmarked to address food security and improve household income since they are resilient to Striga and drought and also high yielding.

Reliable seed
The sorghum genotypes which are scheduled for release in 2017 are the result of more than two years of research.
“Sorghum is a major crop in the main producing areas and NaSARRI is determined to always provide reliable seed to farmers through research,” said Johnnie Ebiyau, a senior research officer, NaSARRI. “The sorghum lines are high yielding giving up to 3,000 kilogrammes per hectare.”

Sorghum is the third most important staple cereal crop after maize and millet and its production in Uganda is estimated to be at 376,000 metric tonnes annually.

Steven Koma, the chairperson, Ntalinga farmers’ group, Mayuge District, retaliated the urgent need for better sorghum varieties if the required production is to be attained.

“We are excited to have participated in the evaluation of these genotypes and can’t wait to have them in this region for production,” added Paul Magemeso, a farmer in Nakalama Village, Iganga district.
“Most of us depend on sorghum for food and income but Striga was frustrating us,”
Besides food, sorghum is gaining importance in the manufacturing industry for production of beverages, medicine, feeds, paper, ethanol, and food dyes.

NaSARRI is one of the research institutes under Naro and is based in Serere District.
Besides sorghum, the institute focuses on other crops namely groundnuts, sunflower, sesame, green gram, cowpea, pigeon pea, pearl millet, finger millet and cotton.