An open field day at our research station in Samanko, Mali, introduced local private seed companies and project partners to new crop varieties and hybrids that are high-yielding, climate-resilient and nutritious. The major aim of the event was greater visibility of the improved agricultural technologies promoted through these projects and better linkages for commercial relations.

The field day, held on 4 November 2021, was also attended by members of projects that contribute to increased production of dry cereals and legumes, thereby promoting commercialization of quality seeds to boost adoption and create greater impact for agricultural transformation in West and Central Africa (WCA).

“Along with our partners, we’ve successfully developed highly productive varieties to improve our farmers’ yields,” said Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-WCA, on the occasion. “Over the past decade, our efforts have been focused on developing crop varieties that are resilient to climate variability. Our researchers are also directing their attention towards improving the nutritional composition of grains and enriching our crops with important micronutrients in order to address the malnutrition issue in WCA. Apart from this, our research programs have developed dual-purpose open pollinated varieties and hybrids for high grain and fodder yields,” he said.

Interactions between media, visitors and scientists at ICRISAT. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Interactions between media, visitors and scientists at ICRISAT. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

“A significant portion of the seeds used by smallholder farmers in WCA is currently produced by farmer cooperatives and local seed companies recognized as valuable partners of research organizations and NGOs in the chain. This is really encouraging and proves that we are on the right track; the use of good agronomic practices supported by quality seeds can greatly improve producer yields, even in difficult environments,” explained Dr Tabo.

The open field day consisted of visits to the field trials and demonstration plots of pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut varieties and hybrids. Africa’s first biofortified pearl millet variety Chakti drew a lot of attention from the visitors. “Chakti is extra-early, drought-tolerant and rich in iron and zinc, which is very important in combating anemia and micronutrient malnutrition,” said Dr Mohammed Riyazaddin, Pearl Millet Breeder at ICRISAT-WCA. He highlighted the important role private seed companies can play with biofortified varieties or hybrids by producing the quality seeds and getting them to end users without diluting existing micronutrients.

At the sorghum plot, sorghum hybrid Fadda garnered many questions because of its dual-purpose attributes. “Fadda is a hybrid – a multipurpose variety of sorghum used for different consumption needs. Its porridge, for example, is very delicious and popular among consumers. It is a hybrid that is also suitable for local beverage production,” explained Mr Mamourou Sidibé, Research Assistant, Sorghum Breeding Program, ICRISAT-WCA. Other varieties of sorghum, such as Pablo, Samboni, Sangatigui, Sassilon, Seguifa, Soubatimi and Tiandougoucoura were also displayed and introduced for their attributes to improve the quality of their fodder.

Visitors in the field. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Visitors in the field. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

The field visit culminated in a presentation of improved groundnut varieties by Dr Keita Djeneba Konaté, Pathologist, Groundnut Breeding, ICRISAT-WCA, who mentioned the objectives of ICRISAT’s groundnut improvement program. “In the program, we have clear objectives; our selection targets include the creation of varieties with short or intermediate cycles. We also develop varieties that are tolerant or resistant to leaf diseases.” For example, she explained, among the varieties showcased, Fleur 11 was a drought-tolerant variety with high oil content. Seed producers and seed companies seemed to find other varieties such as the ICG 7878 (Waliyar Tiga), ICGV 99029, ICIAR 19BT and ICGV IS 96909 also interesting.

In collaboration with national research programs, ICRISAT has developed and made available to producers these varieties of sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut to improve food and nutritional security, mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and strengthen the resilience of targeted communities including the most vulnerable – the women and children. In this context, ICRISAT supports national research institutes for the production of first-generation seeds, strengthens the capacity of seed companies and cooperatives in the production of certified seeds and establishes the necessary links between them.

The day was organized by ICRISAT as part of the a) ISSD Project Sahel (Integrated Development of the Seed Sector in the Sahel) funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; b)CSAT (Climate Smart Agriculture Technologies), a project funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and implemented in Mali and in Niger by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and c) the EU-APSAN-Mali project (Improving Crop Productivity and Climate Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security), funded by the European Union and, the WFP-ICRISAT collaboration on Resilience & Nutrition Enhancement Program in Mali

Mrs Oumou N’Tji Coulibaly, Managing Director, Faso Kaba Seed Company, thanked ICRISAT researchers for the quality of their research work. “As seed companies, we are delighted to visit these plots of improved technologies in order to make our choice.”

Towards the end of the day, a discussion was held on the opportunities offered by new technologies and the perspectives of collaboration with seed companies for dissemination at scale.

This ICRISAT open field day gathered more than 40 participants including seed producers and seed sector stakeholders such as farmer organizations and seed companies, research partners (IER and IITA), the national agriculture authority, development partners such as NGOs and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Reported by Ms Agathe Diama, Senior Manager Regional Communications and Information, ICRISAT-WCA

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