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New highly productive sorghum varieties released
Saturday, 2020/08/01 | 06:04:35

ICRISAT - Jul 3, 2020


Figure: Farmers like Elinati Mbewe from Dedza will see their sorghum productivity increase, as a result of the new varieties. Photo, ICRISAT.


Three improved sorghum varieties with a yield potential of approximately 4 tons per hectare and tolerant to grey leaf spot, rust and other common diseases were released in Malawi early this year. These new varieties replace two varieties released in 1993, and have since been the only improved sorghum varieties available in Malawi.


ICRISAT Country Representative for Malawi, Dr Patrick Okori, said ICRISAT and government are keen to replace the old varieties because they no longer meet today’s production needs, leading to a significant decline in yield from three tons per hectare, at the time of release to an average of two tons per hectare, today.”


“As farmers diversify their production systems to meet their livelihood needs, including food and household income, agricultural research remains pivotal for development of technologies that secure productivity,” Okori said.


ICRISAT and the Department of Agricultural Research Services developed the new sorghum varieties (Pilira 3, 4 and 5) to replace the old varieties (Pilira 1 and 2). The Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Malawi, officiated the release.


Brief history


During its formative phase, the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP) investments increased adoption of improved varieties, an essential trigger for unlocking crop productivity and livelihood opportunities in agriculture. An impact study conducted in 2016, reported high use of improved varieties of different crops, positively affecting livelihoods with –


  • 35% increase in the use of improved groundnut varieties at national level and 62% in project impact areas;
  • 46% increase in productivity for groundnut, 43% for pigeonpea and 86% for rice in project impact districts;
  • 45% increase in farmer income associated with groundnut, 66% for pigeonpea and
  • 60% for rice;


An estimated US$ 40 million per annum, up from US$ 17 million in 2009, was infused into Malawi’s economy during Phase I, from legume export.


Thus far, the project has contributed significantly to improving smallholder farmer livelihoods in Malawi, as shown in the following tables.


Quick Stat:


Through the project, €843,000 (USD 1,006,945) has been transferred to farmers mostly through seed related initiatives. Beneficiary farmers generated €72,000 (USD 86,000) from grain sales in the 2017- 2018 cropping season.


Read more about ICRISAT work in Malawi on EXPLOREit



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