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Plans afoot to locally develop sugarcane seed varieties

There are only two sugar mills in the country which are Hippo Valley and Triangle and these mills provide milling services to Tongaat Hulett

ZIMBABWE Sugar Association Experiment Station (ZSAES) senior sugarcane plant breeder ZIMBABWE Sugar Association Experiment Station (ZSAES)  says the organisation will start developing seed varieties locally to cut the import bill.

“There is need for ZSAES to be able to develop varieties locally because currently we are importing crossed seed from outside Zimbabwe,” Mpofu told NewsDay Farming on the sidelines of the Lowveld Agricultural Show in Chiredzi on Friday last week.

“It has been acknowledged that we have to invest in what is called crossed seed facilities locally so that we can make our own crosses.

“You see, sugarcane is very sensitive daily for it to produce pollen. So in the Zimbabwean environment, it does not produce pollen out in the open. So, we need to invest in special infrastructure to enable it to produce pollen locally. We have not yet done that.

“And once we do that, it will make our progress in developing climate smart varieties faster and more efficiently. And that is something that we are aware of in the industries working along those lines.”

Mpofu said they would release 10 varieties this year which were drought tolerant and immune to diseases.

“We are aware of climate change and new technology. Our varieties are supposed to be sensitive, especially in terms of disease and pest pressure,” he said.

“But because we are 100% irrigated, the issue of drought tolerance becomes important, especially when there is a threat to the water bodies like our dams and decks that supply the water to our industry. But we are 100% irrigated; our biggest threat will be pest and disease pressure.”

ZSAES senior agriculture and industrial research chemist Washington Mutatu recently urged farmers to realise maximum estimated recoverable crystal (ERC) by applying best management practices from planting to harvesting.

The quality of a cane is expressed as the percentage of sugar which is extractable from the cane commonly referred to as ERC. This goes down when a crop takes a long time to reach the mill after harvest.

There are only two sugar mills in the country which are Hippo Valley and Triangle and these mills provide milling services to Tongaat Hulett, Green Fuel and more than 1 200 small-scale sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld.

ZSAES is a research institution serving the local sugarcane industry and is wholly owned by Zimbabwe Sugar Association. It achieves its goals through research by working through specialised departments, each having a specific focus.

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